Acetone and Furniture Do Not Mix

Dear Home Ec 101,
My daughter spilled finger nail polish remover on her dresser.  What can I do to repair it?  Thanks.
Signed,
Acetone ACK!

acetone spill Heather says:

There are a few options to make the best of the situation.

First, we have the “disguise it and pretend it didn’t happen approach.” With this method, you clean up any remaining acetone and find a knick knack or doily to place over the damaged area. Obviously, this solution is limited, besides who really wants a lot of doilies lying around, right?

A more costly approach is to call the manufacturer and ask if they offer repair services. Even if they don’t, they may be able to provide the color of the stain and the type of the finish and the type which will aid in repairing the piece yourself.

If the dresser is old, time, sunlight, humidity all take a toll on furniture, changing the coloration over time. This makes a perfect match unlikely, but it can be disguised. If the damaged area is small, there are markers available that stain dents and dings to hide the bare wood. For larger areas, sand and use a matching stain, followed by the appropriate finish to match the rest of the piece. Follow the stain and finish manufacturer’s recommendations for the best results.

furniture care guide

Click the picture for more tips!

You mentioned that this was your daughter’s dresser. If she is a child and the finish was badly damaged, consider stripping and refinishing the entire piece, either with a new color of stain or as a painted piece.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.





17 Comments

  1. Rav on May 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

    This is a great guide, If anybody would like help on improving their home with refinishing kitchen cabinets you can visit my site at http://erefinishingkitchencabinets.net or contact me via email at suneguy55@live.com, thanks.

  2. Thecloerts on September 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Reamalgamation is a process in which the damaged finish on wood is dissolved with a

    solvent for the original finish and then reapplied as the finish. If this process is well done it will

    be beautiful. It does not destroy the “patina” of the wood that has come with age, care and use

    and is often prized.

    First you must determine what the finish is because the correct solvent must be used to

    dissolve the finish. Test solvents in a hidden place. Finishes will dissolve in their own solvent.

    FINISH SOLVENT

    Shellac

    If the furniture was built before 1920

    and has its original finish, it’s

    probably finished with shellac.

    Denatured alcohol

    Lacquer

    Used on commercially made

    furniture because it dries so rapidly

    Lacquer thinner

    Varnish

    Not usually found unless the piece

    was custom or handmade or

    previously refinished.

    Difficult to dissolve. Try lacquer

    thinner or commercial stripper.

    Penetrating Oils

    This finish will probably never need

    to be reamalgamated because it is so

    easily and effectively over coated.

    Lacquer thinner or commercial

    stripper

  3. Thecloerts on September 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    solvent for the original finish and then reapplied as the finish. If this process is well done it will

    be beautiful. It does not destroy the “patina” of the wood that has come with age, care and use

    and is often prized.

    First you must determine what the finish is because the correct solvent must be used to

    dissolve the finish. Test solvents in a hidden place. Finishes will dissolve in their own solvent.

    FINISH SOLVENT

    Shellac

    If the furniture was built before 1920

    and has its original finish, it’s

    probably finished with shellac.

    Denatured alcohol

    Lacquer

    Used on commercially made

    furniture because it dries so rapidly

    Lacquer thinner

    Varnish

    Not usually found unless the piece

    was custom or handmade or

    previously refinished.

    Difficult to dissolve. Try lacquer

    thinner or commercial stripper.

    Penetrating Oils

    This finish will probably never need

    to be reamalgamated because it is so

    easily and effectively over coated.

    (See previous section.)

    Lacquer thinner or commercial

    stripper.

  4. Thecloerts on September 13, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    DON’T SAND it. thats far to intensive and chances are your sanding skills suck. Read up on remalagation.

  5. Richard JamesOakwood on May 30, 2011 at 4:10 am

    Using the dry iron method may work as well. Put a clean, white tea towel over the stain and work the hot iron in circular motion on top of the stain for a minute or so. Check the tea towel and the stain frequently, and keep doing this until the stain is gone. Nail polish evaporates really quickly and the hot iron dilates the wood grain hence this method works.

  6. K. Selman on September 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

    But how much would somthing likr that cost to have your finish professionally re-stained or painted

    • HeatherSolos on September 12, 2010 at 8:18 am

      Unfortunately there are too many variables for me to give even a ball park including the size and age of the piece, the type of finish, and the going rate in the region where the reader lives.

  7. le corbusier on July 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    if the dresser is old, can you leave the stain as it is? will it help making the dresser look like antique or something?

  8. eileen gray on June 25, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I guess the damage was big enough coz that’s the reason why you asked. It would be better it you will ask the manufacturer or the store where you bought it coz they can give you better answers coz its their product.

  9. Michael on April 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I ruined my PC case with acetone cause I wanted to rub off old stickers 🙁 I quickly realized that plastik or laque + acetone don’t mix very well.

  10. Carpet Cleaning NY on March 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    I’ll assume that you spilled the nail polish onto a fabric piece of furniture (The other comments assumed wood). You need a product called POG – Paint, Oil, and Grease. Google it and buy it. It costs about $14 or something. Make sure you where gloves and a mask. It smells and it’s not meant for skin.

  11. Retro Man on January 7, 2009 at 9:08 am

    For the sand, strip and re-finish option I’d recommend taking it to a place that will dip and strip. For years I used to had strip furniture, sand and re-finish. Its really rewarding taking an old peice of furniture, stripping it down and making it like new again, but its far too time consuming. Now I just take furniture to a place that will dip and strip it and thats most of the work done without me breaking sweat. Might be an extreme option though if this is just a small stain. mark.

  12. caryn verell on December 29, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    if the damage is on “real” wood, lightly sand and re-stain or paint. if it is “modern (cheap)” stuff, get a nice dresser scarf/doily and hide the stain. better yet, if child who did damage is age 9-18, have them participate in the repairs!

  13. Diaper Cakes Becca on December 26, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    If, like others have suggested, the top is modern (not an antique)….you can always “cover it up” by upholstering it. I did this with my girls’ bookshelf in ANTICIPATION of future spills.

    Find a fun and funky fabric…..and add some batting and a sheet of plastic underneath it all (to keep future spills off the wood underneath). You can do it professionally with upholstery tacks and tools or just use a staple gun. The best part is that you can always swap out the fabric as they get older.

    Good luck!

  14. Jan on December 18, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Just last week I was checking out at Hancock Fabrics and they had 3 “wood colored” magic marker type things for sale. I had never seen anything like this before. I have a solid cherry bedroom suite that has some knicks and I think I will go back and get these things.

    I used to work in a furniture store years ago. The old fellow in the back used shoe polish, pencils, etc to cover up nicks on furniture.

  15. Keter on December 17, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    The post doesn’t say whether the piece is painted, varnished, oiled wood, or what the damaged area now looks like. Without that information, it’s really impossible to know what to recommend. In most cases, I have found that acetone dulls or removes finishes, although it occasionally will discolor plastic or paint. If the finish is removed, you’ll need to sand (carefully, and with a fine grit) the edge of the damaged area until smooth and then lightly sand the rest of the surface. Finish with clear coat acrylic or a coordinating paint.

    If discolored, I would try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and some baking soda to see if you can polish out the discoloration without damaging the finish before going to the refinishing step.

    In the rare case where plastic has bubbled or a stone top has been etched, you may have to resign yourself to a creative cover up (such as decoupaging over the damage) or spending money for professional refinishing.

    Hint: When my son was growing up, I didn’t have a budget for real furniture, so we were stuck with the cheapest of the cheap particleboard, some of it secondhand. That stuff is notoriously easy to damage. So I put clear contact paper on the tops of his desk and dresser, and everywhere wear seemed likely, such as around knobs. Every so often, I would just peel it off (and with it all the spilled model paint and “unknown” goo boys generate) and put on a new layer. It doesn’t show much and it made the furniture last until he reached adulthood – at which time it was still in good enough condition to bring a few bucks at a yard sale.

  16. Mom of three on December 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Depending on her age, I’d go with the hide it route. This probably isn’t the last time ;( . If it’s a modern piece, it’s probably partical board, which is hard to sand, so you might be best off, hiding it till she’s in college, and then just replacing it with something more your grown up taste.

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