How to Remove Nail Polish Without Nail Polish Remover

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You’re having a low-key day with no big plans, no one to impress and no reason to think twice about the fact that last week’s manicure has seen better days and that you’re out of nail polish remover. Then, an out-of-the-blue invite pops up and suddenly you’re scrambling to get rid of the remnants of red polish on your nails, which are falling decidedly short of femme fatale in their current state. Fear not: We’ve got the skinny on how to remove nail polish without nail polish remover, so you can get the job done quickly and get out the door. Here are four easy methods to try using items you probably already have at home.


How To Remove Nail Polish With Rubbing Alcohol

If you don’t have any nail polish remover on hand, an alcohol-based product will work in a pinch, Brittney Boyce, founder of NAILSOFLA, tells us. The stronger the product the more effective it will be (i.e., less scrubbing involved) so if you have rubbing alcohol hanging around, that’s your best bet.

“It's very simple—apply some rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball or pad and place it on your nail. Let it sit for about 10 seconds and gently rub it back and forth. Your nail polish should come off fairly quickly,” she explains. Tip: A washcloth or rag will work too. (Or you can always raid your first aid kit for one of those little alcohol wipes. We won’t tell.)

Don’t have rubbing alcohol either? No problem—just reach for some hand sanitizer instead: Dispense a generous amount of hand sanitizer onto a cotton ball and gently scrub back and forth until the polish is gone. Just remember to moisturize after. “Because rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer can by dehydrating, use a cuticle oil to re-moisturize your nail, cuticles, and surrounding skin after removing the nail polish,” advises Boyce.

How To Remove Nail Polish With Toothpaste

It might sound strange but that trusty tube of paste that polishes your pearly whites can polish—or should we say unpolish—your nails, too. Note: This hack only works with toothpaste that contains ethyl acetate, says Boyce, so check the ingredients list before you start.

Ready to go? Simply squeeze a blob of toothpaste out directly onto your nail and start rubbing back and forth with a Q-tip or old toothbrush. (The latter is more effective since it covers more surface area, but the former comes in handy for any stubborn stains in the crevices and on the cuticle.)

How To Remove Nail Polish With Perfume

“Perfume can also work to remove nail polish as most perfumes have an alcohol base,” says Boyce. “But you might need to use a bit more as the percentage of alcohol is lower,” she adds. (In other words, this isn’t exactly the most economical option.)

To try this method, simply take a cotton ball and spray it generously (think, saturated but not dripping) with the perfume and, with a little gentle scrubbing, the polish should melt away. Magic!

How To Remove Nail Polish With Nail Polish

No, you didn’t read that wrong: You can’t fight fire with fire, but you definitely can fight nail polish with nail polish. (And let’s be honest, that’s pretty neat.) Best of all, you don’t even have to take on the tedious task of carefully painting your own nails for this one since your fresh coat is going to be wiped clean along with the old one.

To use this method, pick a nail polish (preferably one you don’t wear all that often) and, working one nail at a time, paint a thick coat right on top of the chipped polish you’re trying to banish. Then, start rubbing the nail with a washcloth or paper towel and watch as both last week’s polish and the fresh stuff disappear.

There you have it, friends—four different ways to restore your nails to their natural state. Now all you have to do is start thinking about your next shade.

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Emma Singer

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...
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