How to Remove Nail Polish Without Nail Polish Remover

Do you want to know how to remove nail polish without nail polish remover? Is it even possible?

Your manicure is a mess and you’ve run out of nail polish remover. What’s worse is that you can’t get to the shops right now. 

The good news is that you can remove the polish without the actual polish remover. It might not be as efficient, but it will get the job done.

how to remove nail polish

If your nail polish is chipped and unsightly, try these DIY removers. Keep in mind that they aren’t as fast as nail polish removers. You will need at least 30 minutes for these products to work. 

It’s important to note that these DIY removers are for lacquer nail polish only. 

If you want to remove gel polish at home, try our genius remover. While it is a nail polish remover, it doesn’t contain any acetone. This makes it safe for nails and skin. 

What This Article Covers:

Household Products

Alcohol-based Products

Alcohol-based products are the best for removing lacquer nail polish. Rubbing alcohol is the first to come to mind. But if you don’t have any on hand, there are other products you can use.

Alternative alcohol-based product:

  • Perfume
  • Hair spray
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Spray-on deodorant

The higher the alcohol content, the more effective it will be. Look for the ingredient ‘ethylene glycol’ and check the percentage. 

Clear, high-alcohol spirits can work to remove no chip nail polish too. Liquor shouldn’t be your first choice, but grappa, vodka, or gin can remove nail polish. 

You will have to soak your nails for up to 20 minutes for the best results. 

Last Resort Products 

Alcohol-based products like acetone, paint thinner, and fluid thinner are a last resort. These chemicals can be harmful to the skin and weaken the nail bed. 

But acetone is a popular method to remove gel nail polish at home. These chemicals are effective and as fast as a regular polish remover.

Be sure you work in a well-ventilated area when using them. They have strong fumes that can burn your sinuses.


Vinegar is one of those all-purpose household cleaners. Many of us use it to clean burned pots, and it’s highly effective. 

White vinegar works better for this. You can even add some lemon or orange juice to it to make it more effective. 

The citrus will give the vinegar a boost and remove the strong scent. No one wants vinegar-smelling hands. 

To remove nail polish with vinegar, soak your nails in it for 10 to 15 minutes. You can then clean the nail polish off with a cotton ball or cuticle pusher. 


homemade nail polish remover

Toothpaste is a surprisingly good nail polish remover. It will remove nail polish in the same way that it removes plaque from our teeth. 

This is because it contains ethyl acetate, much like certain non-acetone polish removers.

Basic, white toothpaste works best for removing color. You can add baking soda to improve the results as well.

All you need to do is add a small dollop on each nail. Leave it on for about a minute and then scrub off. 

An old toothbrush would work best here, but you can use a paper towel instead.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, oxidizer, and antiseptic. Many of us use it in our homes for any number of reasons. 

The most notable use (for women at least) is as a hair lightener. Anyone who has ever lightened their hair knows how fast and effective it is.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it’s an effective nail polish remover too.

You’ll need to mix two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part water. The water needs to be as hot as you can handle it. 

Soak your nails for about 10 minutes, rubbing them gently in the water. Once you’ve dried off, take a nail file and file the polish off.  

Remember to be gentle to not harm the nail bed. Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical and might irritate your skin. Be sure to wash your hands with mild soap when you’re done to remove any remaining chemicals.

You will likely need to hydrate your skin as well. Using a hand cream or oil will nourish and moisturize your skin.

how to take nail polish off

Removing the Polish

Allow the Product to Sink in

Using household products to remove nail polish won’t have an immediate effect. 

In most cases, you will need to allow the product to soak into the polish first. Unlike nail polish remover, these DIY removers were not created for this purpose. 

You will either need to soak a cotton ball into the product and then dap it on the nails. Or you will need to soak your nails directly into the product. 

When using a cotton ball, you might end up needing to add more product. And if it becomes saturated in polish, you will have to swap it out with a new piece.

Clean it Off

remove nail polish

When cleaning off the polish, you need to leave the product on for a minute or two. Once it’s soaked in, you can use a cotton ball to remove the polish.

Don’t have any cotton balls or strips? You can use a paper towel to remove nail polish without cotton balls. 

Paper towels are firmer than cotton balls too and will work better. You can also use a cuticle pusher, old toothbrush, toothpick, or any blunt object. 

Since you are using unconventional removers, it might take a little effort. Be sure not to be too rough or you’ll risk hurting your nails.

Soak It

Nail polish is tough to remove with nail polish remover. To make it easier, you should soak your nails beforehand. 

Hot water is great at loosening nail polish - which is why washing dishes always ruin our manicures. Hot, soapy water will soften and loosen the polish. This is usually the best way to remove nail polish from the skin too.

If you only have a thin coat of polish on your nails, it might come right off. For thick or glittery nail polish, soak your nails and then dry one of the DIY methods above. 

Soapy water is also the most gentle way to remove dried nail polish from clothing.

Use More Nail Polish

how to get nail polish off

Yes, you read that right: use more nail polish to remove the old polish. 

Let’s be honest, we’ve all messed up home manicures like this before. Those times when we put the next coat on too soon or end up smudging everything. It wasn’t pretty.

Over time, we’ve learned from those blunders and now we’re telling you that those messy blunders are a solution too.

You see, a new coat of nail polish softens the coat underneath. This makes it easy to wipe it all off. 

You will need to use a slow-drying polish for this, like a clear top-coat. This is the one time that slow-drying is useful.

Do one nail at a time and wipe it off quickly. You don’t want it dry since the point of this is to get the polish off.

You can’t use cotton balls for this. It will stick to the wet polish and you’ll have a mess. Paper towels are your best bet here.

This method is effective but it might be wasteful to use your nail polish like this. It also takes a bit more effort than the other methods.

You might have some staining or excess polish on your nails after. You use one of the products above to remove the excess.

Preventative Measures

Glue and Water

A glue and water base coat is an excellent way to prevent all this hassle. 

All you need is some glue, an empty nail polish bottle, and some water. The creamy white glue that we use in elementary school is best for this. 

Add the glue to a third of the bottle and add water. You’ll want a thin texture so swirl it around and add more water if needed.

This will be a base coat that you can place under your base coat. Add a thin layer to the nail, wait for it to dry, and then add polish as usual. 

This will make it easier to remove nail polish since glue comes off easily. When you’re ready to remove the manicure, soak your nails in warm soapy water. 

You can also use a cuticle pusher or toothpick to gently push it off. Once you get it under the polish, it should pop right off. You can then scrape off any excess.

Remember to Pamper

The after care is very important, especially if you use alcohol-based products. These products tend to suck the oils out of skin and nails.

Soak your hands (or feet) in warm water and add some oils to it. This will soften your skin and lock in the moisture, keeping it hydrated.

Pat dry and finish off with a cream or oil. Pay particular attention to the cuticles and nail beds, gently rubbing the product in. 

You want to try these DIY removers when you have plenty of free time. Take a day to treat yourself to some TLC.

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