How to Dispose of Nail Polish Remover

Few people know how to dispose of nail polish remover. Even fewer know that there’s a specific process to it. It’s not something that’s widely known. 

And unless you’re a salon owner, the lack of knowledge was likely never an issue. Of course, disposal procedures don’t apply to all nail polish removers. 

Only acetone nail polish remover needs to be disposed of carefully. Non-acetone remover poses no health risks to you.

But how do you dispose of it safely and what precautions should you take? In this article, we discuss how to dispose of it, what you’ll need, and safety precautions. 

What This Article Covers:

Essentials for Disposing Nail Polish Remover

Most nail polish removers contain acetone. This is a powerful, highly flammable chemical that falls under the hazardous waste category. This is why it’s not the best way to remove nail polish from the skin.

This is why it should be disposed of properly. Much like gasoline, oil, and even glass, acetone requires proper handling and use. 

This same rule applies to products that contain acetone, like nail polish remover. 

Here’s what you’ll need when disposing of acetone nail polish remover:

  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • A mask (if handling a large amount of remover)
  • A garbage bag
  • Fireproof or sealed metal container

A note for salons:

 how you should use nail polish remover

Salons generally need to dispose of high quantities of nail polish remover daily. It’s important to consult your local fire department about this.

Each state/region will have different laws about the disposal of acetone products. 

The fire department can tell you the specific safety regulations on acetone. In some cases, it might mean using a fireproof container that they will give you. 

In other cases, it could mean taking it to a hazardous waste treatment (or recycling) facility.

Dos and Don'ts

When it comes to handling acetone or its products, there are things that you should never do. Before we get into nail polish remover disposal, let’s discuss the dos and don’ts. 


  • Don’t expose acetone or its products to other waste materials. When disposing of acetone, always put it in a separate garbage bag. 
  • Don’t pour it down the drain or toilet. This could damage the pipes.
  • Be mindful of where you dispose of it. Keep it away from hot places or open flame. 


  • Always put acetone products in a separate trash bag.
  • When you do your recycling, separate empty acetone containers. These have special recycling specifications.
  • When disposing of large amounts, put the waste in a metal (or fireproof) container. This can then be taken to a hazardous waste or recycling facility.

Always be mindful of where you store acetone nail polish remover. This is especially important if you have curious children or pets around. 

It’s best to keep any hazardous materials out of reach for safety. 

Steps for Nail Polish Remover Disposal

Disposing acetone nail polish remover can have potentially dangerous effects. This is because it’s a powerful, flammable chemical. 

It can burn and dry out the skin, and the fumes can damage the sinus and lungs. If not disposed of properly, it can also cause a sudden fire. 

It’s for this reason that each state or region has specific regulations in place. These regulations apply to the use, storage, and disposal of acetone products.

Often, salons are required to have licensure and permits for acetone products. 

There are 4 steps for the disposal of acetone nail polish remover. These steps include precautions that you can take. 

Step 1: Work on a Hard Surface

Accidents happen, but they’re easier to clean up on a flat, hard surface. Beauticians generally work on a manicurist’s table or pedicure chair. This makes clean-up easier and prevents staining clothing or furniture. 

When we do home manicures, many of us like lounging on the sofa with our favorite TV show playing. The couch isn’t exactly a flat or stable foundation for a mani/pedi. And you’ll either have your tools and polishes on the coffee table or the floor.

In this scenario, accidents happen quite frequently. It’s easy to get distracted by the TV and spill either nail polish or nail polish remover. 

how do you use nail polish remover

You could end up damaging the sofa, rug/laminated floors, and coffee table. The only good news is that the coffee table is easy to fix. We explain this in our article on how to remove nail polish remover from a wooden table.

Unfortunately, large spills on the sofa or rug are not easily fixed. The sofa might need to be reupholstered and the rug will likely have to be thrown out. 

If you spilled nail polish on the sofa, read our article on how to remove dried nail polish from fabric. It’s not ideal to use nail polish remover for this. 

Save yourself all this trouble and work on a flat surface. If you’re using a wooden table, you can take preventative measures to protect it. Cover it in plastic food wrap and place a towel over the plastic. 

This will prevent any spills from damaging the wood.

Step 2: Cover Up

When disposing of nail polish remover, you need to wear gloves. A mask might also be needed if you’re disposing of a large amount. Small amounts are okay, for example removing lacquer nail polish. 

You can use either latex gloves or rubber cleaning gloves. Both are tough enough to protect your hands against acetone polish remover. 

Ensure that you work in a properly ventilated area. Salons are well-ventilated as a general rule. If you’re doing a DIY mani/pedi at home, open the windows and door. This will give the acetone fumes somewhere to go. 

Manicurists should keep the gloves on after finishing a client’s nails. This way they will have protection when cleaning up after.

Step 3: Secure it

We all know that nail polish remover comes in a plastic bottle at the store. But it might be a good idea to pour it into a metal container with a proper seal. 

Plastic is not ideal, especially if you have pets or children in the house. Both tend to be inquisitive and will accidents can happen easily. 

Storing the nail polish remover in a secured metal container, and kept out of reach, can prevent this.

A metal container is essential for the disposal of large amounts of acetone products. Depending on the laws of your state or region, salons might need a fireproof container. 

The fire department or hazardous waste/recycling facility will provide this. They might even send a professional who is licensed and qualified to collect it each day. 

Step 4: Dispose of in a Separate Garbage Bag

This step is for at-home use only. We generally don’t use much nail polish remover at home and it's pretty safe to dispose of. 

how you can use nail polish remover

The risk is low when disposing of acetone-soak products like a few cotton balls. Damage to health (or the remover causing a fire) is unlikely. 

When disposing of nail polish remover at home, you need to allow the cotton balls to dry properly first. This lowers the risks considerably. 

Once dry, you can dispose of them in a garbage bag. Be sure that it’s a separate bag from the rest of your trash. There's a possibility of trash catching fire when in contact with acetone products.

You can make a sealed container of your own as well. Add a garbage bag to a sealable container a voila! If you’re still concerned, you can drop it off at your nearest recycling/hazardous waste facility. 

You always can opt for a non-acetone remover instead or even a DIY home nail polish remover.

In Case of Emergency

Acetone is for external use only and even then, only in small amounts. 

In the case of accidental consumption (ingestion or inhalation) seek medical attention. This doubly applies to children and pets, even if only a small amount was consumed.

Careful storage, in a sealed container and/or out of reach, offers further protection.

Final Word

Acetone nail polish removers are effective but potentially harmful. It’s also one of the best ways to remove gel polish from nails. 

After using nail polish remover be sure to wash your hands, even if only a little was used. Use soap and water, and then moisturize

how to the nail polish remover is used

Acetone tends to dry out skin and nails. Washing your hands and using cream will restore moisture. You might also want to use cuticle oil to strengthen your nails. 

Good luck with your disposal and stay safe.

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