How to Thin Nail Polish

Is your nail polish clumpy and do you need to know how to thin nail polish? We’ve all been there.

It’s incredibly disappointing to open the nail polish bottle to discover that it’s a clumpy mess. There’s no way that you can use polish like that. 

But what if there was a solution to this? 

The good news is, there are multiple solutions and we’ve provided them all. We’ll tell you what works best and what won’t.

We’ve also provided some preventative measures you take. 

What This Article Covers:

How To Thin Out Nail Polish

Thinning out thick nail polish isn’t all that difficult. Sure, you’ll need to add an extra ingredient to the polish, but that’s about it. 

The good news is that you probably have at least one of the ingredients in your house. So, what can you use to thin out nail polish?

  • Hot water
  • Nail polish thinner
  • Acetone
  • Nail polish remover
  • Alcohol

Before we dive into the different solutions, you should know a few things. 

These are ‘quick fixes’ and are only temporary. If your nail polish has thickened and turned lumpy, then it’s likely expired. 

And yes, these solutions work on expired nail polish too. But, as we said, it’s not a long-term solution. You’re better off buying new nail polish. 

how to thin out nail polish

Of course, that’s not always possible. You might be in a hurry, or it might be too late to head to the store. 

This will allow you to wear that nail polish color and tide you over until you can replace the polish.  

Thinning Out Slightly Thick Nail Polish

Use Hot Water

Hot water works great if your nail polish hasn’t thickened too much yet. 

Grab a bowl and fill it with hot water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot before placing the nail polish in the bowl. If it’s too hot, the glass nail polish bottle might crack. 

Leave the polish in the water for about 2-minutes before removing it. Remember that the bottle will have heated up from the water so be careful not to burn yourself. 

Once the bottle is cool enough to touch, you’ll need to mix the polish. How to swirl nail polish? Yes, we know that shaking the bottle seems the obvious choice. 

Unfortunately, shaking the nail polish causes air bubbles. This leads to easily chipped nail polish. Instead, turn the bottle upside down and roll it between your palms. 

Using hot water is only a temporary solution and might not work if the polish is very thick. 

On the plus side, it’s a great way to open a stuck nail polish bottle. The heat from the water will make it easier to twist open. 

Thinning Out Clumpy Nail Polish

Get a Nail Polish Thinner


how to fix thickened nail polish

This might seem obvious, but get yourself a nail polish thinner. As the name states, this product is specifically created to thin out clumpy nail polish. 

You’ll need to add about 2 drops into your nail polish bottle (or as directed on the thinner). Mix the polish as we explained above, by rolling it between your palms.

Check the polish to see if it’s thinned out and add another drop of thinner if needed. 

Be careful thinning your nail polish. Too much nail polish thinner will make the polish unable to stick to your nails. 

Use Acetone or Nail Polish Remover

how to make nail polish thinner

Acetone and nail polish remover can be used for more than cleaning your nails. 

As with the thinner above, a little goes a long way. Use an eyedropper and add a single drop of acetone or remover to the nail polish. 

Swirl the polish to ensure it mixes through and then check the consistency. Add another drop if needed and mix again. 

Keep in mind that acetone and nail polish remover are for breaking down nail polish. The nail polish won’t last long on your nails and will likely degrade in the bottle as well. 

Acetone also tends to dry the nails and skin. Adding it to your nail polish means it will be in constant contact with your nails. 

This can turn your nails brittle and weak. They’ll be more prone to breakage and splitting, and no one wants that. 

But, if you were wondering how to clean a nail polish brush, this is a great way to do it.

You shouldn’t keep nail polish on for too long. Our article on how often you should change your nail polish explains this in detail. 

Use Alcohol

Using alcohol to thin nail polish is likely the most viable solution. But you obviously can’t use just any alcohol you have around the house. 

Isopropyl alcohol acts like ethyl acetate, which is the solvent used in most polishes. This means that you can use it as a replacement solvent if your polish becomes clumpy.

If you were wondering how to make nail polish last longer in the bottle, this is how. 

Use an eyedropper and add 2 drops of isopropyl alcohol to the nail polish. Mix the polish and then check the consistency. 

Add another drop if needed and repeat the process. All the polish to settle for about 20-minutes before applying it to your nails. 

how to thin thick nail polish

Keep in mind that this won’t work with every nail polish. It depends on the formula and which solvent was originally used. 

Preventing Nail Polish From Thickening 

Prevention is always the best cure. Yes, in some cases there’s nothing you can do. If the polish expired, for example, there’s nothing you could do to prevent that. 

But, there are precautions that you can take to keep your nail polish from thickening. And the best part? These precautions aren’t difficult and you won’t have to do much. 

Store Properly

The best way to store nail polish is in a cool, dry place. Consistent temperature is important for the longevity of your nail polish.

Consistent cool temperatures will prevent the polish from clumping or thickening. 

Using a nail polish thinner, acetone, or even alcohol, are only temporary solutions. And using acetone in your nail polish has risks as well.

With proper storage, your nail polish shouldn’t clump unless it’s expired. 

Don’t store your nail polish in the bathroom. The fluctuating temperatures and constant humidity are not ideal.

But be careful not to keep the polish too cold. Keeping in a cool environment will prevent thickening but if it’s too cold it will have the opposite effect. 

You’ll then need to heat the polish to thin it out again. Read our article on can nail polish freeze to find out more.

Seal Properly

You should always keep the nail polish bottle tightly sealed. This will preserve the polish and prevent it from thickening. 

Nail polish will thicken when it comes into contact with the air. This is why we can air-dry nails after applying the polish.

how to make nail polish thinner at home

You need to seal the bottle after every use, even between coats. The less contact it has with the air, the better. 

How To Thin Nail Polish: Summary

If your nail polish is thick and/or clumpy, you need ways to thin it out. 

Here’s a quick summary of how to thin out thick nail polish:

  • Put the nail polish bottle in hot water for 2-minutes.
  • Use a nail polish thinner.
  • Use acetone or nail polish remover to thin the polish. 
  • Use isopropyl alcohol as a replacement solvent to remove clumping. 

You can also prevent nail polish clumping and thickening. It won’t help when the polish expires, but by then you should throw the polish away in any case. 

There are 2 ways to prevent nail polish from thickening:

  • Store nail polish in a cool, dry place. Too much heat or cold will thicken the polish. 
  • The bottle should be tightly sealed after every use, including between coats. 

If you enjoyed this article, try our article on why gel nail polish changes color. 

Have fun painting your nails.

Did you enjoy reading our blog? Then consider checking other guides: