The best way to remove wood varnish from your clothes is to treat the stains as soon as you can -- ideally, while the varnish is still wet. It may take several different cleaning methods to remove it, depending upon whether the varnish is oil- or water-based, but the sooner you act, the better your chances of success.
A Spot on Clothing
Things You'll Need
Citrus-based cleaner or rubbing alcohol
Remove the stained article of clothing, if you're in a position to do so, so you can access both sides of the fabric.
Place folded paper towels under the affected area inside the clothing. Blot up wet varnish on the top side with additional paper towels. Continue blotting with fresh paper towels until you've removed as much as possible. If the varnish is dry, scrape it from the outside of the spot toward the center with the bowl of a plastic spoon.
if a large amount of varnish is on clothing, flip the affected fabric upside-down over a trash can and scoop as much of the varnish off as you can, using a plastic spoon, paint scraper or whatever scraping tool you can find quickly. Scoop the excess varnish into the trash.
Pour a small amount of a citrus-based cleaner or paint remover onto a white cloth or paper towel for a water-based varnish stain, or use rubbing alcohol for an oil-based varnish spot. Dab the varnish from the outside of the spot toward the center to avoid spreading it.
Rinse the spot with warm water. If the stain is still evident as the clothing starts to dry, apply a mixture of 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts warm water, scrubbing the item gently with a nylon-bristled brush. Rinse the area with warm water after a few minutes.
Treat any visible varnish with a small amount of acetone. Dab it on with a cotton swab, wiping from the outside of the spot toward the center. Rinse the area again with warm water after a minute or so.
Test liquid-based cleaners on an inconspicuous area of the clothing first to ensure they do not discolor the fabric. If your clothing is too delicate to wash or spot-clean, ask a professional dry cleaner if they can remove the stain.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.