How to Remove Nail Polish: 6 Easy Methods

Put down the acetone and try these options instead.


@amyle.nails / Design by Dion Mills

Like socks, toothpaste, or deodorant, nail polish remover is one of those annoyingly necessary products we feel we really shouldn’t have to spend money on. Yes, we’d likely spend that $4 on an iced latte anyway, but there’s a difference: We love our coffee, and it loves us back. (Energy, productivity, health…)

Nail polish remover, on the other hand, couldn’t be less climactic if it tried. Not only does the smell give us watery eyes and a headache, but it also dries our skin and doesn’t work all that well to begin with. Which got us thinking about whether it's possible to remove our nail polish without remover. After all, there’s a hack for everything these days.

Sure enough, a little bit of research proved that there's actually a handful of ways one can remove nail polish sans remover. And even better, you probably have most of the necessary materials right in your bathroom or kitchen.

These products include everything from hair spray to toothpaste to vinegar and lemon juice. We've also included non-acetate alternatives, including soy-based nail polish remover. For most of these methods, you simply apply the product to each finger, as you would with regular nail polish remover, and rub until polish is completely gone.

The writing on the wall? You’ll never have to sacrifice your much-needed coffee buzz for a bottle of nail polish remover again. Ahead, six ways to remove nail polish sans acetate.

Ways to remove nail polish without nail polish remover
Emily Roberts / BYRDIE

1. Hair Spray

Honestly, we're not quite sure how to feel about this one—mildly horrified? But according to Bustle, this convenient removal method will definitely work in a pinch. True life: Your ride-or-die hair spray will also take off the remnants of a manicure. 


  • Hair spray
  • Cotton balls


Take your cotton ball and place it in direct contact with the nozzle of your hair spray (this will really saturate it).

Then, simply swipe the cotton ball over your nails and repeat as needed. Wash hands thoroughly when all polish has been removed and give your hands some extra TLC with a generous dose of hand cream.

2. Vinegar and Lemon Juice

Vinegar is extremely acidic and widely known as a healthier alternative to your typical household cleaner. So why not put it on your nails, too? When combined with fresh lemon juice (also acidic), it gets the job done quickly—and completely chemical free.


  • 2–4 tablespoons of vinegar 
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Cotton balls
  • Shallow bowl


Combine the vinegar and lemon juice in a shallow bowl and let nails soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Use the cotton ball immediately afterward to work off any leftover polish.

Don't forget to wash your hands and apply moisturizer here, too.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide and Hot Water

A mild antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide is another option for removing your nail polish in a pinch. Plus, it's one of those random products that nearly everyone has stored away somewhere at home (try looking under the bathroom sink or near other cleaning/medicinal supplies). The claim is that, by naturally releasing oxygen, it helps to remove the product.

Be sure to dilute per the directions below since hydrogen peroxide can be strong.


  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Hot water
  • Shallow bowl
  • Nail file


Mix two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part hot water. (Try a 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide with a 1/4 cup hot water to start.)

Then, soak your fingers in the solution while massaging the polish off with your hands. Use a nail file to file off any remaining polish.

4. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another way to remove nail polish if you're in a pinch. Since alcohol is a solvent, it can help break things down, or in this case dissolve polish. If you don't have pure rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer or perfume may work, but it will take much longer. Keep in mind, rubbing alcohol is extremely drying, so you'll want to be sure to apply moisturizer to your hands after use.


  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls


Let nails soak in rubbing alcohol. Then, use a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol to rub off the nail polish. Note, this method will take a bit of work to get the polish off, especially if you have glitter polish on.

5. Toothpaste

Believe it or not, toothpaste works for more than just your teeth. This household product can also act as a polish remover. White toothpaste works best for this method as it contains ethyl acetate, which is also found in nail polish remover. Toothpaste with baking soda is also helpful if you have it on hand.


  • Toothpaste
  • Cotton balls


Apply a dollop of toothpaste to each nail and use a cotton ball or cotton pad to wipe off nail polish.

6. Non-Acetate Polish Remover

You may not know it, but there are plenty of non-acetate polish removers on the market. A popular alternative is soy-based polish remover, which contains nongreasy oils that act as a solvent to break down nail polish. It also helps retain moisture in your hands and cuticles, unlike acetate-based removers.


  • Soy-based polish remover
  • Cotton balls


Saturate cotton ball with the soy-based remover of your choosing and firmly rub against your nail until the polish is completely removed.

Ella+Mila nail polish remover
Ella+Mila Soy Nail Polish Remover $12.00

Related Stories