There are many reasons why you may need to remove nail polish. The great manicure or pedicure you had a few days or weeks ago is starting to look dull. Or you may have accidentally smeared nail polish on your skin or your favorite shirt.
Acetone or non-acetone nail polish removers are the gold standard for removing polish, and they are considered safe to use in small amounts. However, you can also try some household products.
Keep in mind that many of these homemade nail polish remover methods are not backed by research, but they may be worth a try if you’re on a budget. Keep reading to learn about all of your options, as well as the precautions to take.
When over-the-counter (OTC) nail polish remover is undesirable or out of reach, here are some methods that you can try to break down your polish and restore your nails.
Applying and immediately removing new nail polish
You may find that applying a clear coat of new nail polish and quickly wiping it off helps soften and remove the old polish. Though this is anecdotal, if you’re out of OTC nail polish remover, you may find this does the trick.
Alcohol is a solvent, meaning it helps break things down. Soaking your nails in rubbing alcohol or applying it to nails with a soaked cotton ball may dissolve the polish.
This method may take longer than using traditional nail polish remover, but it might just get the job done without you needing to run out to the store.
Your liquor cabinet may be the place to go if you want to remove your nail polish. Spirits like vodka, grappa, or gin have a high alcohol content and may soften your polish if you give your nails a soak in them.
Try wiping or peeling away the polish after your nails have been submerged for several minutes.
Have a bottle of hand sanitizer handy? It’s another alcohol-based product that you can use to soften the polish on your nails.
Try soaking your hands with it to see if your nail polish softens, then rub it away with a cotton ball or cloth.
Toothpaste is another household staple that you can try to remove your nail polish.
Scrub your nails with a basic toothpaste or one that has baking soda, which is a gentle abrasive. After a few minutes of scrubbing, use a cloth to wipe your nail and see if this method has worked.
Hydrogen peroxide and hot water soak
Hydrogen peroxide is used in a lot of cosmetic and beauty products for lightening purposes and may also help you remove your old manicure or pedicure.
Try soaking your nails in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide and hot water. This may help soften the polish so you can wipe or gently file it away.
Filing, peeling, or chipping polish away
If your nail polish is nearing the end of its life on your nails, you may find that it’ll come off if you work on it with your other fingernails or a nail file.
Be careful not to damage your nail using this method. Overfiling may take the top layer of your nail off, which could be harmful and painful.
If you decide to use a traditional nail polish remover, there are a variety to choose from. With so many options, you may wonder which product is the best and safest to use.
OTC nail polish removers either contain acetone or are labeled as “non-acetone.” Keep in mind that both products contain chemicals that may be harmful to you if you use them too frequently or without proper ventilation.
How to use acetone and non-acetone nail polish removers
Acetone breaks down nail polish quickly and efficiently. Compared to other chemicals that can remove nail polish, it’s low in toxicity.
Non-acetone nail polish removers may be less toxic than acetone-based remover, but you may find that it takes longer to remove the polish and that it doesn’t remove dark nail polish colors. Non-acetone products still contain chemicals that may be harmful with prolonged use.
A prolonged soak in acetone is the only way to remove gel nail polish. To avoid exposing your skin to the acetone, consider using acetone-dipped cotton balls on your nails rather than soaking them in a container of the substance.
If you’re giving yourself a manicure or pedicure at home, it’s likely some nail polish will end up on your skin. Try using the following to remove it:
- nail polish remover, either acetone or non-acetone, using a cotton ball or cotton swab
- warm water
- one of the alcohol-based solutions described above: rubbing alcohol, spirits, hand sanitizer
Moisturize with lotion after removing the nail polish since these methods may dry your skin.
If you’ve accidentally wound up with nail polish on your clothes, here are some removal tips.
Try to contain the stain as quickly as possible and make sure it doesn’t spread. Then, use an absorbent paper product like a paper towel or a piece of toilet paper to remove as much of the polish as possible.
Finally, dab a cotton swab or a small piece of a rag into nail polish remover, either acetone or non-acetone, and blot out the stain.
Here are some other ways to get nail polish out of your clothes:
- using a stain-fighting detergent product
- adding white vinegar to your washing cycle to lift the stain
- washing your clothes immediately after staining them to ensure the stain doesn’t set
- enlisting a dry cleaner to remove a deep nail polish stain
Acetone evaporates quickly, so be careful not to overuse the product. Prolonged exposure to acetone can cause headaches and dizziness. Acetone is also very flammable, so avoid using it around an open flame.
Keep acetone and non-acetone nail polish removers away from children and never ingest them. This can cause lethargy and confusion.
Non-acetone nail polish removers may be more harmful than acetone nail polish removers if taken by mouth.
One study highlighted two cases when children ingested non-acetone nail polish remover. Both children experienced adverse symptoms like cardiorespiratory collapse, vomiting, hypotension, and a slowing heart rate.