Acetone is a known stain removal superpower. It is a go-to for combating paint, nail polish, grease, and oil stains on various surfaces at home and business establishments.
Now you might accidentally or intentionally get some acetone on your clothes while working with it or attempting to remove a stain. Like any solvent, your first concern would be how it will affect your piece of cloth.
Does acetone stain clothes? Pure acetone does not stain clothes. However, if the acetone is not pure but blended with other chemicals, then residue from the other ingredients will indeed cause staining.
But there are far more dire consequences of getting acetone on your clothes besides a stain. Continue reading this post to learn more about acetone and how it affects different fabrics.
What Is Acetone And Does It Stain Fabric?
Acetone is not a chemical as most individuals think. It is an organic compound in a liquid state at room temperature. It is colorless and has a distinct odor.
It is volatile and highly flammable in nature. Acetone is also considered non-toxic, though more potent forms can cause damage to the skin and eyes if it comes into direct contact with them.
But that is to be expected for a product used to clean up heavy grease and oil spills. Utmost care must be exercised when handling it. Fun fact: did you know that the human body also produces acetone? It is one of the many by-products of metabolism.
Back to the commercial acetone, the product is sold in stores in its pure form or contained in other stain or color removal products such as nail polish remover, makeup removers etc.
Also known as propanone, acetone is a powerful stain remover. It has a unique chemical structure that breaks down bonds with complex chemical structures such as polymers and fats.
It dissolves dried paints, dried nail polish, grease, fats, and oils in a matter of seconds. Because of its chemical stripping properties, you might be considering it as a solution for grease or dried paint stain on your clothing.
These are seriously hard if not impossible stains to remove in a regular wash since they are water-insoluble. Acetone may seem like the perfect solution.
But, will acetone leave a stain behind? Acetone is not likely to stain a garment in its purest form. It dissipates into the air quickly and leaves no chemical deposits behind. In fact, pure acetone is composed of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen molecules. There’s really nothing that could potentially stain clothes there.
Nonetheless, acetone-based products are the most common ones at home. Think paint thinners, nail polish removers, degreasers, and other cleaning, skin, hair, and grooming products.
In these acetone-based products are several other chemical ingredients such as pigments, fragrance, conditioner, oil, and glycerin, to mention but a few. These additives may deposit residue on fabric and stain it.
The good news is you can easily remove such a stain with regular dishwashing soap and water. It usually is very light and only visible on light-colored clothing.
However, what acetone does is remove the color from an article that is not colorfast or made with pigment dyes. It will strip the color from such clothes, leaving a mark that is perhaps what many mistake for a stain.
Acetone will bleach a piece of clothing if it is not colorfast. Even worse, it can eat into the weave and remove more than the stain and color.
Acetone may consume the clothes fibers leaving you with a gap. This is what you should be more worried about because a stain is reversible, whereas a hole is permanent, and the damage is irreversible.
The solvent breaks down plastic, latex, heavy oils, and fats. This is why it is a super-efficient grease stripper and remover of dried-up paint.
In the same manner, acetone breaks down fabrics classified as modacrylic, acetate, and triacetate and should never be used on them. These include spandex, dynel, and acetate fabrics.
Let’s now look at the effect of acetone on a few popular fabrics and whether it stains them or not.
Cotton is one of the strongest natural fabrics. Its fibers are extremely tough and make durable clothing.
Being all-natural, it does not contain triacetate, acetate, or modacrylic. Therefore, 100% cotton clothes cannot be damaged by small amounts of acetone.
Acetone is harmless on white or very light-colored cotton. It will not stain these if it is pure. Impure acetone may leave a light, barely-there washable stain.
However, you may lose some color on dark-colored cotton depending on the type of dye used and if it is washed colorfast.
Also, if the acetone is in large amounts, it will fade the clothing and weaken the fibers. Cotton has good strength but little resistance to chemical changes, so it weakens easily.
Polyester is a tough synthetic fabric. It is known to be resistant to chemicals and staining. Acetone will likely not stain polyester, partly due to its strength and partly due to its dyeing process.
However, polyester is manufactured from plastic. And even though these esters are hard to dissolve when fully cured in fabric form, acetone may still weaken the plastic-based fabric.
Wool is a natural fiber loved for providing warmth and coziness. However, its fibers are very delicate, especially when wet. Spun from sheep’s fur, wool is classified as a protein fiber. Acetone breaks down protein/fat, including parts of keratin.
Therefore, acetone will do more than stain wool. It will discolor the fabric and deteriorate the fibers to the point of breaking them.
Silk is a beautiful and fine fabric. Delicate fabrics do not do well with acetone.
Obtained from the silkworm, silk is considered a protein fiber similar to wool. Consequently, you will get the same reaction as wool when it comes to the use of acetone.
Acetone destroys silk by discoloring it, dissolving the protein component, and eating into the fibers.
Original fine grade velvet fabric is silk-based. But there are many versions today made from synthetic fibers like polyester, with wool, linen, rayon, or a combination.
Acetone will discolor and destroy most of those fabrics. It is not recommended to attempt to use acetone on velvet.
Satin is a weave and certainly not a fabric. Notwithstanding, satin woven fabrics are always acetate-based to give them a silky feel and draping appearance.
Therefore, if you’ve got some satin pajamas or loungewear, acetone is the last thing you want to get on them. If you do and don’t act quickly, it will eat right through the fabric and ruin your precious clothes.
Elastane/ spandex is a stretchy fabric manufactured from elastic polyurethane. This polyurethane is made from long chains of polymers.
Acetone readily dissolves plastic/polymer-based fabrics. So you might want to think twice before getting any acetone on your favorite Lycra leggings.
Of course, there are a lot more fabrics than these, but we can’t cover all of them here. You have to do your own research to know the fiber content of your clothing and how it is affected by acetone.
How To Wash Acetone Out Of Clothes
If you accidentally spill acetone on clothing, time is of the essence. The longer you wait, the higher the chances of staining, discoloration, or worse, losing that part of the fabric altogether.
So, what should you do?
- Blot away excess acetone with absorbent clothing like cotton rugs.
- Pour a small amount of dishwashing liquid in one cup of water and mix.
- Apply the solution on the acetone stain, and as much as it is tempting, do not use other stronger detergents.
- Dab gently with another piece of clothing or rag. Do not rub or agitate the area. You risk tearing the already weakening fibers.
- Using a fresh rag, blot the acetone-soap mash-up. You may use several rags to clean it all up.
- Run under cold running water.
If you are getting acetone on your clothes intentionally, for example, to eliminate grease, nail polish, or paint stains, here is what to do.
- Make sure the acetone is pure to avoid staining your clothes. There isn’t 100% pure acetone though. You’ll get it usually at 98 or 99%.
- Find an old towel you no longer use and roll it up into a sausage shape. You are trying to protect the surface beneath.
- Put the clothes over it with the stain facing the top.
- Slowly and carefully pour the acetone directly onto the stain. Allow some time for it to work itself into the weave and start softening the stain.
- Once the paint, nail polish, or oil is lifted, wash the garment on a gentle cycle as usual.
Remember, this only applies to colorfast clothing and does not contain acetate, triacetate, modacrylic, or plastic fiber content.
Always check your care and information label, and if unsure of the fabric, do a patch test on an inconspicuous part of the garment. The seam allowance on the wrong side of the article is perfect for that.
Alternatively, you can use rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or acetone-free nail polish remover as alternatives to acetone for stain removal.
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