How to Remove Varnish Stains in Clothes

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Things You'll Need

  • Sponge or other absorbent pad

  • Acetone

  • Turpentine

  • Dry cleaning solvent


Treat quickly. Any varnish, lacquer or paint stain is more easily removable if treated before it fully dries.

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Varnish is a commonly used protective finish for wood and other hard surfaces. When applied to an object, the varnish interacts with oxygen to form a strong chemical bond resistant to scratches, heat, water, acids and other solvents. Unfortunately, those same chemical properties that make varnish so effective as a protective film also make it difficult to remove from objects such as clothing. If you do happen to get a varnish stain on your clothes, here are some methods for removing it, or at least making it less noticeable.


Step 1

Scrape off excess varnish with a flat-edged tool, utensil or gloved finger, if necessary.

Step 2

Place a sponge or other absorbent pad under the stained fabric.

Step 3

Rinse the stain as many times as needed with acetone (obtainable at any hardware store, or often sold alongside nail polish removers, which themselves contain acetone). Launder as normal.

Step 4

Try turpentine in place of acetone. Sponge it onto the stain, mix in a little laundry detergent, and then soak in hot water. Wash in a normal laundry cycle.


Step 5

Resort to a dry-cleaning solvent such as Afta Cleaning Fluid if either of the above methods fail to get out the stain. Flush the stain with the solvent and allow to dry. Then launder as usual.


Monica Miller

Monica Miller has been writing professionally for more than 15 years. She has been published in "Woman's World," "Country Woman," "San Diego Family," "Columbia," "The Liguorian," "Boys' Life," "National Geographic World," and many other print and online magazines. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of St. Thomas.