Nail Polish, Hair Dye and Fake Tan Stains

In the quest for beauty, we can often leave a few undesirable marks around the household and on ourselves! Here are ways to deal with three common beauty products that can leave unpleasant stains:

Nail Polish

Much as it might seem to make good sense, nail polish remover might not actually be the best thing to use. Most nail polish removers contain acetone which is very powerful and will damage some fabrics – particularly those containing acetate, triacetate or modacrylic, which will dissolve. For these fabrics, it is best to consult the dry cleaner. Acetone will also bleach any dyes already in the fabric, causing the colour to fade.

If you are sure the fabric is safe, lay it on white absorbent paper towels and apply some nail polish remover to the back of the stain, then blot. Repeat and the stain should gradually transfer onto the paper towels. Then repeat using a solution of one teaspoon of a mild pH balanced detergent (a mild non alkaline non bleaching detergent) in a cup of lukewarm water. Finally rinse and then wash as normal.

A safer alternative to nail polish remover might be to use amyl-acetate (banana oil) which is available from pharmacies. Attack the stain first with some dry cleaning solvent fluid in the procedure outlined above and then moisten the stain with amyl-acetate, leave for 15 minutes and then rinse again with the dry-cleaning fluid. If the stain is really persistent, you may have to use a solution of 1 tsp chlorine bleach mixed with 1 tbsp water, applied to the stain with an eye dropper. Only leave it on for two minutes and then flush with water. Repeat if necessary and then finally rinse with a vinegar solution of 1/3 cup white vinegar and 2/3 cup water, which will remove any remaining chlorine.

For nail polish spilt on a non-absorbent surface (eg, vinyl floor) it is actually best to let it dry and then gently peel it off. Nail polish spilt on carpet is trickier. Follow similar steps as for fabrics but take care to test any solution in an inconspicuous area first and be very careful about using nail polish remover containing acetone.

Finally, for nail polish stains on finger nails, the only real solution is prevention by using a good base coat before applying the colour. It is also a good idea to let clean nails rest for 24 hours before reapplying any sort of nail polish. However, it does not harm the nails to paint over them if they are stained so you can always use fresh nail polish to disguise your “yellowed” nails; otherwise it is really a matter of waiting for them to fade. Rubbing a fresh lemon wedge over stained nails may help.

Hair Dye

Beware – this is one of the toughest stains to remove, especially if the hair dye was the dreaded black. Prevention really is the best thing by wearing old clothes when dyeing your hair and applying Vaseline to the hairline to stop seepage onto your face. If you do manage to stain something, speed in dealing with it is vital.

If hair dye is spilt onto vinyl flooring, gently remove by rubbing the area with alcohol and a clean cloth. If the dye goes onto carpet, dab first with cold water and then apply some neat detergent to the stain before sponging off with warm water. You may have to repeat several times. If the stain persists, try some commercial stain remover and then carpet shampoo afterwards, if necessary. As a last resort, you can try lightening the stain with hydrogen peroxide solution.

For fabrics, immediately immerse in cold water and soak for as long as possible to remove as much colour as possible. Next, rub the stain with neat detergent and sponge off with cold water. If the stain still persists, try soaking in warm water this time, containing a biological detergent – possibly overnight – and then wash as normal. If the fabric is non-washable, again use the neat detergent on the stain and carefully rinse off and then take to the dry cleaners if the stain persists.

Another method is to blot first with some rubbing alcohol and then for natural fibres (such as cotton or wool), apply a solvent such a turpentine or mineral spirits to the back of the stain which will transfer it to the clean white cloth underneath. For synthetic fabrics, do the same using hydrogen peroxide. If a stain is really stubborn, you may have no option but to use a mild bleach solution although remember that there is always a chance bleach can damage clothes too.

If hair dye stains skin, the most successful remover is cigarette ash (strange as it may sound!) rubbed directly onto the skin at the stained area. Unfortunately, if you are regretting the hair dye on your hair, your best option is to wait for it to grow out, particularly if it is black or a very dark colour. If you try to bleach it out, you could seriously damage your hair, stretching it and thinning it until it falls out. There are certain commercial products which remove dye from hair and hot oil treatments as well as repeated washes will gradually fade the hair dye.

Fake Tan

With the huge market in fake tanning products, it’s only natural that there are commercial remedies for “orange mistakes”. Most of the major brands will sell special removers to go along with their tanning products.

In fact, if you could bear to do nothing (and cover up!), fake tan will usually fade of its own accord after a couple of days. Do not give in to the urge to scrub your skin raw – it won’t help! It is healthiest for the skin to slough off naturally. However, if you are really desperate to reduce the orange marks, you will need to tackle different body areas differently.

For blotchiness on the face and neck, try some baking soda gently rubbed onto damp skin. Or apply a product with Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids (AHA’s) before going to bed. You can also tone down “unnatural” colour by wiping with alcohol-free toner or liquid make-up remover. For hands and feet, body hair bleach works well – leave for 10 mins and then wash off. For areas like ankles, wrists and knees, you can use a bit of hydrogen peroxide. Beware, however, that hydrogen peroxide is very powerful and can irritate skin so always test on a small area first and never use on a large area of skin. You can also copy the mechanics and use the products they use to clean their hands. For fake tan stains on nails, body hair bleach works as well. For the rest of your body, coat yourself in baby oil and wait for 30mins, then take a long bath, gently exfoliating with a washcloth. Daily long baths or gentle exfoliation in the shower will also “fade” a tan more quickly.

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