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DIY Beauty

How To Remove Nail Polish Without Nail Polish Remover: Tips And Tricks

by Beverly Hills MD

December 10 2019

Wondering how to remove nail polish without nail polish remover? It’s a common occurrence – last week’s manicure isn’t looking so fresh, but you don’t have nail polish remover at home. Or maybe you’ve realized that acetone dries out your skin, is messy, stinky, and you don’t want to deal with it anymore.

Whether you’re in a pinch or an active protest, removing nail polish without remover is actually pretty simple. Scan through this list of solutions, gather your materials, and go forth without acetone. Who knows? Maybe you’ll never have to buy a bottle of the stinky stuff again.

Why Would Someone Avoid Acetone Nail Polish Remover?

Acetone is a powerful solvent. In nail polish remover, it works by dissolving the hard film that polish leaves on your nails. This film isn’t easy to remove. Acetone is great at this job, which is why it’s so popular. Unfortunately, acetone can also:

  • Acetone nail polish removerStrip natural oils from your skin
  • Dry out your nails, cuticles, and skin
  • Lead to brittleness, splitting, peeling, and breakage
  • Cause post-polish yellowing

If you occasionally paint your nails, acetone is probably fine. If you paint your nails weekly or you have damaged nails, you may want to reach for a non-acetone remover that uses less harsh chemicals.

Non-acetone removers also use solvents to dissolve polish, but they are formulated to be gentler on your skin and nails. While these removers will still work, beauty experts seem to think that they don’t do quite as good a job at actually dissolving the polish. This just means you may have to work harder with these – by soaking, scrubbing, or rubbing – compared to acetone.1,2

Try These Common Household Items: Rubbing Alcohol, Toothpaste, Baking Soda, and More

Curious about how you can remove nail polish without remover at home? Look no further than your bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Here are a few popular methods.

Lemon Juice And Vinegar

Vinegar is extremely acidic and is widely used as a natural household cleaner. Fresh lemon juice is also acidic and adds an extra punch to vinegar’s solvent abilities.


  • 2-4 Tablespoons of vinegar
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Cotton balls
  • Bowl


Combine vinegar and lemon juice in a shallow bowl. Soak your nails in the solvent for 10-20 minutes. While your nails are still wet, wipe off the polish using the cotton balls.

Fun fact: This lemon juice and vinegar combination is also great for removing polish from your skin. Next time your at-home manicure gets a little messy, you can use this method to clean up your skin.3,4

Hydrogen Peroxide And Water

Hydrogen peroxide is one of those products that nearly everyone has stored away under their sink somewhere. As it turns out, hydrogen peroxide may help to soften nail polish on nails, making it easier to carefully scrape off. The ratio matters for this method, so be sure to follow the directions.


  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hot water
  • Bowl
  • Nail file


Mix two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part hot water. For example, start with ½ cup hydrogen peroxide and ¼ cup hot water. Make sure the water is as hot as you can manage.

Soak your nails in the mixture for 10-15 minutes. As you soak, gently rub your nails with your fingers to loosen the polish.

Take your nails out of the bowl and gently remove the rest of the polish with a nail file.5

Rubbing Alcohol And White Sugar

Rubbing alcohol and plain white sugar can make a solvent suitable for removing polish. Here’s how to try it at home:


  • A few drops of rubbing alcohol
  • 2-4 Tablespoons of sugar
  • Small bowl
  • Cotton balls

removing nail polish with cottonDirections:

Combine the sugar with a few drops of rubbing alcohol in a small bowl. Set aside.

Soak your fingers in lukewarm water to soften your nail polish. It’ll make removing easier.

Grab a cotton ball and soak it in your sugar/alcohol solvent. Rub the soaked cotton ball all over your nails. Wipe off the nail polish with the cotton ball.6

Use Other Alcohol-Based Beauty Products You Have On Hand

Alcohol is an effective ingredient for removing nail polish. If you’re in a pinch, you can look through your cabinets and see if you have any other alcohol-based beauty products. These may work as effective stand-ins if you’re out of polish remover.


Most perfume or body spray is alcohol-based. This makes them great candidates for removing nail polish. If you aren’t sure, take a look at the list of ingredients to see if your perfume contains alcohol.


  • Perfume or body spray
  • Hot water
  • Bowl
  • A dry cloth


First, soak your nails in warm water for around 15 minutes to soften the polish.

Spray your perfume directly on each nail at a close distance. You want your nails to be wet with perfume.

Take a dry cloth and rub your nails to remove the polish. Wipe off your nails with the cloth quickly before they dry. When you’re finished, wash your hands.

Hair Spray

hair sprayIf you have a go-to hair spray at home, odds are that it contains alcohol. Many hair sprays contain enough alcohol to remove regular nail polish. Here’s how:


  • Hair spray
  • Cotton balls


Spray your hair spray directly onto a cotton ball. From there, you can treat it like regular nail polish remover. Rub your nails with the cotton ball and wipe off the polish. When you’re finished, wash your hands and apply lotion.7

Toothpaste May Help Remove Nail Polish

Believe it or not, toothpaste can act as a substitute for your acetone nail polish remover. The essential ingredient here is baking soda. Baking soda is in many types of kinds of toothpaste, especially whitening formulas.


  • Baking soda toothpaste
  • An old toothbrush or a nail brush
  • Bowl


Start by soaking your nails in warm water for a few minutes to soften the polish. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to your brush. Use your brush to gently rub the polish off of your nails. Keep rubbing until the toothpaste creates a foam and the polish lifts off. This method may take some time.8

Helpful Tips And Tricks

All of these at-home methods may be able to work for you. Scan your cabinets, and see which ingredients you have to work with. That just may help you decide which method to go with.

nail polishCleaning Up After You Remove Nail Polish

For all of the methods, make sure you thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after you remove the polish. This will help remove anything that may smell strange on your skin – like vinegar, or feel sticky – like toothpaste.

Making Sure Your Hands Stay Moisturized

After you wash your hands, apply hand cream. This will help bring some of the moisture back to your skin and nails. If your nails tend to be dry and brittle, you can mix in a little cuticle oil with your DIY remover. You can also apply a cuticle oil when you’re finished.

Protecting Your Nails And Cuticles From Damage

If you’re painting your nails again after you remove the polish, make sure you use a base coat first. This will help protect your nails from the damaging effects of nail polish.9

Advanced Nail Polish Removal

If you’re trying to remove gel nail polish or acrylic nails, you may be better off leaving it to the experts. When you go into the nail salon, a technician can remove your polish in the most efficient way to minimize drying of your skin or nails.

Learn More:

Want Stronger Nails? 5 Easy Ways to Strengthen Weak Nails

Gel vs Regular Manicures (And which is right for you?)

Fall Nail Colors And Designs You Must Try This Year




Beverly Hills MD Dermal Repair Complex