5 Home Ingredients To Use As Nail Polish Remover When You're Out

When we're talking about nail polish remover, we're often talking about acetone — a common active ingredient in many products on drugstore shelves. While acetone is quick at dissolving polish and giving you a clean canvas for your next color, it does have a downside. It's super drying to your skin, which can be a problem if you're already at less-than-optimal moisture levels. Of course, if you're looking to avoid acetone-based removers, there are other solvents available. While they are gentler, one major difference with non-acetone removers is that they take a lot longer to work.


But what happens if you're ready to switch up your polish and neither option is available? Rather than making a trip to the store, gather some of these common household staples and whip up a custom nail polish remover. But first, be sure to immerse your nails in warm water to expedite removal.

Citrus and vinegar make a powerful polish removing combo

Choose orange or lemon juice and make a blend that's 50% citrus, 50% vinegar. You can opt to dip and soak your nails or wipe on the solution with a cotton ball. Either way, the acids in these ingredients will dissolve the polish. On the flip side, these acids could also cause a burning sensation, especially if you have any tiny cuts near the nail.


If you're not a fan of the smell of vinegar or don't have any on hand, go for an all-citrus approach. This straightforward method involves applying a piece of lemon directly to the polish — no cotton ball necessary.

Choose alcohol or an alcohol-based product

Rubbing alcohol is also an alternative option for banishing old nail polish. Products that contain alcohol, such as hand sanitizer, hair spray, and perfume, work too. Apply the alcohol to the nail, then "let it sit for about 10 seconds and gently rub it back-and-forth," Brittney Boyce, a celebrity nail artist, shared with Martha Stewart's website. "Your nail polish should come off fairly quickly."


While alcohol-based options have the advantage of disinfecting, they are also very drying (like acetone). To combat this effect, wash off the alcohol thoroughly and apply your favorite cuticle cream and hand lotion afterward.

Brush away polish with toothpaste

If you're at home, you'll likely have some toothpaste available. Besides keeping your smile fresh and bright, toothpaste also contains ingredients that bust through old nail polish. For instance, for pastes that contain baking soda, apply the product to your nails and use a nail brush or an extra toothbrush to help scrub off the polish. 


Another reason that toothpaste can sub in for nail polish removers is that toothpaste and store-bought polish removers often have an ingredient in common: ethyl acetate. If this solvent is part of your go-to choice for brushing, apply the paste to your nails for a convenient (but messy) way to remove your polish. 

Hydrogen peroxide has numerous uses, including removing nail polish

Hydrogen peroxide is a household multitasker that cleans, disinfects, and can even whiten your teeth. To use it as a nail polish remover, make a mixture with a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen peroxide to hot water. After 10 minutes, dry your hands and use a nail file to slough off any stubborn remains of your old polish. 


A note of caution: Besides drying out your skin, hydrogen peroxide has the potential to bleach it as well. To minimize these effects, you can opt for a more targeted method by applying the solution to a cotton ball rather than immersing your fingers. In addition, to protect your linens from accidental lightening, use a rag instead of a brightly colored towel to mop up spilled solution.

Try a clear top-coat to banish an old manicure

If you're looking for a speedier method, consider applying new nail polish and then wiping it (and everything underneath) off immediately with a paper towel. This method takes advantage of the solvents in liquid nail polish to assist in loosening the outgoing polish. 


While Orly Beauty recommends using a clear top-coat for the removal process, other proponents of this method maintain that any polish can be used as long as it isn't a fast-drying formula. So if you're short on nail polish remover and want to downsize some of your polish stash, this technique could be a win-win.