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4 Ways To Remove Nail Polish At Home Without Polish Remover (It's Possible!) 

Jamie Schneider
November 18, 2020
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
November 18, 2020
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Nail polish remover is one of those items that always seems to go suspiciously missing just when you need it most. Ever get the urge to take off your lacquer—like, right now—only to go digging through bathroom cabinets and bins to no avail? Because been there, done that. 

Perhaps you take an emergency trip to the drugstore to snag a new bottle (and somehow it magically disappears the next time you're itching for a bare nail. No? Just me?), but did you know you could create your own DIY nail polish remover with a few household ingredients? It's true: Behold, four ways to dissolve your polish without searching for your AWOL remover. Thank us later. 

First, why you should rethink traditional polish removers. 

One word: acetone. Not only can the solvent dry out the nail plate, but it can also strip the surrounding skin of its natural oils (hello, irritated, flaky cuticles!). "If you want to keep your nails strong, you don't want to use 100% acetone removers," chief educator of Paintbox Evelyn Lim previously told mbg about how to strengthen nails.

The solution? You can either purchase a non-acetone remover (like this soy-based option infused with vitamins A, C, and E), or you can try your hand at DIY. Below, we've rounded up four recipes that work just as well as the extra-strong solvent—and they're better for nail health, too: 


Vinegar-orange juice soak

In terms of DIY-friendly removers, Amy Lin, the founder of sundays—a nail care brand focused on wellness—touts this natural recipe. While the following three do work in a pinch, they can be quite drying and irritating on sensitive skin (you'll see). This vinegar-orange juice soak is a much gentler solution that works just as well. 

  1. Combine an equal amount of white vinegar and organic orange juice until well mixed. 
  2. Dip a cotton pad in the mixture and press on your fingernails for about 10 seconds, until the nail polish softens. 
  3. Pull down the cotton pad to remove the polish (the pigment should melt right off). 
  4. After you're done, Lin notes, "Make sure to moisturize well with some hand lotion and cuticle oil." Vinegar can also dry out your hands!  

Hand sanitizer

"As hand sanitizers are high in alcohol concentration, they can be effective in removing nail polish," Lin says. Especially if you have a sanitizer with 75% isopropyl alcohol, as the ingredient effectively dissolves the pigment (note: That's why pure rubbing alcohol works as well).

Although, you definitely don't want to overdo it on the sanitizer: "These types of alcohols do major damage to the natural lipids and fatty acids on the surface of your skin, so they damage your skin barrier," board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., told us about how to protect your skin microbiome during COVID-19. If you've used your fair share of hand sanitizer (perhaps if you're on the go, unable to wash your hands with soap and water), you might want to remove your nail polish with another alcohol-free solution.

If you are going to use sanitizer, though, here's what Lin suggests:

  1. Add a drop of hand sanitizer to a cotton pad. 
  2. Rub the cotton on your nails, repeating until the polish melts off. 
  3. Follow with moisturizer and cuticle oil, "as alcohol you can dry out your nails," says Lin. 


In a total pinch, a traditional toothpaste makes a fine remover. That's because most toothpastes have ethyl acetate, which can effectively break down the varnish (it's also found in most polish removers). To repurpose your paste, simply squeeze the tube onto your fingertips and rub in the goop—your polish should lift right off. 

Although it works in a bind, Lin wouldn't consider paste-to-polish your go-to option. "[It] can be an unpleasant process," she notes. The lingering, minty-fresh scent might be nice, but gooey fingertips? Not so much. You also have to work pretty quickly, as toothpaste tends to dry up caky after a few minutes.


Hydrogen peroxide and hot water

The handy brown bottle is just as fab at removing polish as it does the occasional clothing stain. Although, you should always use a diluted version (most OTC options come in a 3% concentration) and apply moisturizer immediately after. As board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., told us about using hydrogen peroxide on the skin, even a diluted version can cause dryness and sometimes irritation; it even has the potential to bleach the surrounding skin on your nailbeds (reminder: Peroxide can bleach fabrics). 

While many online tutorials might recommend soaking your fingers in two parts hydrogen peroxide and one part hot water, you might want to soak a cotton pad in the solution instead and rub it on your nails (to avoid irritating the skin on your fingers). Know your limits here, and maybe steer clear if your skin runs sensitive. 

The takeaway. 

It's totally possible to dissolve your nail polish without a proper polish remover. Find the right solvents, and your varnish should disappear in a snap. Just remember to always moisturize right after soaking in these strong ingredients—just because a formula doesn't have acetone, doesn't mean it won't dry out the skin. 

Jamie Schneider author page.
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.