How To Remove Acrylic Nails At Home Like A Pro

Looking for the ultimate guide on how to remove acrylic nails?

There you go:

Every girl loves acrylic nails, but most of us avoid using them because of painful removal and expensive manicure bills. We gave it our shot to create a hands-on step by step guide on how to remove acrylic nails.

Here we go:

What are acrylic nails

Acrylic nails are beautiful and offer a glamorous way to express your creativity. But before we dig into the various methods, let’s familiarize ourselves with the basics.

How much time have you got? Just kidding. We’re here to be your ultimate guide and wouldn’t feel right about leaving this a mystery.

In all seriousness, there are a lot of products for crafting acrylic nails. Which is why it can feel a little overwhelming. However, we’ll boil it down.

Acrylics use two key ingredients:

When these two ingredients are combined, then exposed to air, they harden in about 20-60 seconds. The reason for the time difference has to do with conditions:

Heat, cold, humidity and other factors can affect how quickly the acrylic hardens, or ‘cures’.

Since UV light can affect their coloration, these two components are sold in either darkened or opaque containers.

This is a key distinction between gel nails. We have a handy resource, which highlights the differences between the two.

A picture of manicurist brushing nails

When applying acrylic nails, the following supplies are used:

Acrylic Nails Ingredient

A couple of these items might sound unfamiliar. The dappen dish is a small, glass receptacle that resembles a shot glass. They hold the acrylic liquid while you are working to apply the nails

This reduces waste of the liquid since it can get pricey. They’re also great for soaking nails in acrylic removing. Many technicians prefer them over using a bowl.

But we’ll get into acrylic removals in just a bit. So, stick around…

The other term that may be unfamiliar is ‘guide form’. These are basically stencil stickers which wrap around the natural nail and provide a guide to form the acrylic.

Featured Image for ultimate guide on how to remove acrylic nails


Once everything is set-up, including prepping the natural nails, the technician will dip a natural bristle brush into the liquid. Then, working quickly, they will dip the wet brush into the powder and begin applying.

Within that tight timeframe of 20-60 seconds, the nail technician will apply and shape the acrylic onto the nail before it can harden. This skill takes practice to master.

So, don’t go practicing on your own nail straight out of the gate! Begin by training on just the guide form.

Here we’ve linked to a video of a nail technician going through these supplies and steps, in further detail.

If you want to see some of the creative possibilities in an acrylic application, take a look at this video of dyed acrylics, as well.

How to remove acrylic nails: All Methods Step By Step

Acrylic nails are a popular way to give your style that extra bit of panache. They’re durable, elegant and can provide an excellent outlet for creativity. However, they need to be applied, maintained, and removed with care.

Suffice it to say, your best bet will be to see a licensed nail technician. However, if you are determined to DIY this, then we want to make sure you have the resources necessary.

Here, we dive into detail on the various ways to remove acrylic nails at home. Some seem to have the support of salon professionals while others are not so popular.

A picture of manicure process

How to trim Acrylic Nails

Trimming your acrylics is often the first step in their removal. Getting this right can be tricky. If done incorrectly, the results can be painful.

So, please review our quick guide before attempting.

Reminder: Before you begin, please remember, many nail technicians will advise against trimming acrylics. The reason is that if it’s done wrong, the acrylic can split and take your natural nail with it. Yikes!

This is why you need to take the time and care to get it right. Let’s begin.



  1. Select a nail clipper that is small, sturdy and easy for you to handle. Avoid the temptation of using a toenail clipper. The larger surface area and greater force mean it is likelier to break the acrylic.
  2. Beginning from the outer edges, carefully trim the nail with your clippers. Work towards the center outer edge, with care. It’s okay if it’s a little jagged
  3. Once you’ve successfully trimmed the nail, file those edges into a smooth surface. Be sure to move the nail file in one direction only. Moving the nail file, back and forth, will cause crosshatches in the nail, making the surface rough
  4. If you just wanted shorter nails, and don’t intend to remove the acrylics, then once you’re done filing, finish those nail tips with a small amount of clear top coat. This will further smooth the nail and prevent breaks and chips.

Here is the helpful video so you can see all this in action. It’s good to have a visual aid before you begin.

How To Remove Acrylic Nails Using Acetone

In most methods, acetone is used for the safe removal of acrylic nails. It helps gently to dissolve the adhesive properties of the acrylic, without removing the top layers of your nail. For this reason, it can be your best friend in acrylic nail removal.

Because of its effectiveness, many nail technicians stick to acetone methods and will be cagey about alternatives.

Acetone is a chemical that can cause dryness and skin irritation. Try a small test area on your skin to see how it reacts before engaging in the prolonged use necessary for acrylic nail removal.

A picture of nails wrapped with foil

Removing Acrylic Nails Classic Cotton Ball & Foil Method

As we’ve already mentioned, people are divided on whether you should trim the nails first…

Some say it decreases the amount of acrylic you need to remove. Others feel that you risk damaging the nail underneath if you are not careful.

Be careful not to damage your nail clippers in the process, due to the hard nature of the acrylic. For this reason, we will leave it up to your best judgment. Going forward we will include this step in our guides.


  • Nail Clippers
  • Nail File
  • Cotton Balls
  • Acetone
  • Cuticle Pusher
  • Nail buffer
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Hand moisturizer
  • A Spare Towel


  1. When removing gel polish or acrylic nails, use the nail file to first remove the top layer of polish.
  2. Carefully trim your acrylics, stopping before the natural nail.
  3. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the skin surrounding the nail. Just some extra protection against the acetone.
  4. Soak the cotton balls in acetone, one for each nail. Then press one onto each of the nails. To make it easier, tackle one hand at a time.
  5. Once the cotton balls have been applied, wrap each finger with a small foil square to hold in the moisture. You can buy these pre-cut or make them at home
  6. You will need to wait about 20-30 minutes for the acetone do its work. It might be good to have a magazine to look at or something on the TV.
  7. Once the acrylic has been soaked thoroughly, begin removing the foil and cotton ball. Then gently scrape the acrylic from the natural nail.
  8. Once all of the acrylics has been removed, file and buff your nails.
  9. Finish by washing hands with soap and warm water. Then top it off, by rubbing a bit of moisturizer or petroleum jelly onto your nails.

As soon as acrylic is exposed to air, it begins to harden. So, don’t remove the cotton balls all at once. Have patience and go one nail at a time.

Some sites will recommend using a pair of tweezers to pry off the acrylic nail. Many nail technicians are against this technique, as it’s likely to cause unnecessary pain and damage to the nail.

Warm Soaking Tub

A picture of nails soaked in manicure tub

This method also needs acetone. You don’t have to worry so much about cotton balls and foils, but your fingertips will be soaking for quite a bit of acetone.


  • Nail Clippers
  • Nail File
  • Cotton Balls
  • Acetone
  • Scraping tool
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Nail Buffer
  • Small Bowls
  • Hand Moisturizer
  • A Spare Bowl
  • Heating Pad (optional)

Essentially, you are doing the same thing here as with the cotton balls and foil. However, this can be a more leisurely process. Still, we recommend attacking the challenge one hand at a time.

First, let’s address the part that might be the most confusing:

The Heating Pad

Part of what makes this successful is that you are soaking your fingertips in a warm acetone bath. By placing the heating pad under the bowl, containing the acetone, you can keep it at a steady, warm temperature.

If you don’t want to use the heating pad then you can rest the acetone bowl inside another bowl, which contains warm water. We think the heating pad is easier but we wanted you to have options.

Okay, just like before gather your supplies, get your area set and throw on a TV show. This will take about 30-40 minutes to complete.


  1. When removing gel polish or acrylic nails, use the nail file to first remove the top layer of polish
  2. Again, you can start by trimming the nails and filing off the top coat of color. Remember to trim with care
  3. Apply some petroleum jelly to the skin surrounding the natural nail.
  4. Then rest your nails in the warm acetone solution and wait… To make it easier, go one hand at a time
  5. After about 30 minutes have passed, begin removing the remnants of the acrylic, by carefully scraping with the cuticle pusher.
  6. Once all the acrylic has been removed, file and buff your nails. Then wash hands with soap and warm water.
  7. Finish by adding some moisturizer to revitalize your nails.

Anytime you expose acrylic, to air, it will begin to harden. Because of this, it’s best to keep the nail submerged while you use the orange stick.

How to remove acrylic nails with dental floss?

While acetone is going to be your best bet for pain-free, least damaging acrylic nail removal, not everyone can use acetone. So, here are some methods for removing without acetone.

You will need a partner to help you with this one. Again, your best bet will be to see a licensed nail technician. However, if you are determined to DIY, then this can be done at home.


  1. Since we’re not trying to dissolve the acrylic, there’s no need to pre-trim the nails.
  2. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly around the edges of the cuticle. You can use a q-tip in the application to prevent greasiness. This will help protect your cuticles and the skin around your nails.
  3. Using the cuticle pusher, trace around the edges of the acrylic and gently pry the edge away from your natural nail.
  4. This is where having someone to help comes in handy. Have them slip the floss beneath the edges of the pried acrylic.
  5. Once the floss has been secured between the acrylic and natural nail, your helper should move the floss in a gentle, sawing motion. Slowly and carefully, they should guide the floss across the nail until the acrylic is removed. If they go too quickly, the natural nail can become damaged. So, patience is key.
  6. File and buff the nails back into shape.
  7. Finish by washing hands with soap and warm water. Add some moisturizer to help them recover.

Check out this link if you want further tips.
Stick around we have more methods for you.

How to remove acrylic nails with rubbing alcohol

A picture of rubbing alcohol bottle
Removing acrylic nails with rubbing alcohol can be a viable alternative to acetone. The steps are very similar.
As with acetone, try the rubbing alcohol on a test section of your skin. Since your skin will be exposed to the rubbing alcohol for an extended period, you will want to make sure there are no adverse reactions.


    • Rubbing Alcohol
    • Nail Clippers
    • Nail File
    • A Bowl
    • A Towel
    • Nail Buffer
    • Cotton Balls
    • Petroleum Jelly
    • Moisturiser
    • Orange Stick / Cuticle Pusher


    1. When removing gel polish or acrylic nails, use the nail file to first remove the top layer of polish.
    2. Carefully trim the acrylic nails with your trusty nail clippers. Do this carefully so that you do not risk breaking your natural nail.
    3. Apply petroleum jelly to the skin around your nails. Be careful not to apply to the nail itself as it will delay the dissolution of the acrylic.
    4. Fill the small bowl with the rubbing alcohol. Rest your fingertips in the bowl, throw something on TV and wait about 15-30 minutes.
    5. Once properly soaked, and the acrylic has had a chance to weaken, remove the hand from the bowl and begin to gently scrape the acrylic away with your cuticle pusher.
    6. When you have gone through this process, repeat with the other hand.
    7. Once the acrylic nails have been completely removed, be sure to file and buff the natural nail.
      Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Gently dry and apply moisturizer

    We keep bringing this up but it bears repeating. Once acrylic is exposed to air it will begin to harden. This is why salons will use those specialized little dappen dishes glasses to soak your acrylics.
    If the bowl is proving too aggravating, the try the previously mentioned cotton ball and foil method. Merely substitute the acetone with rubbing alcohol.

    Caution: Hot water can cause burns so be careful of water temperature.

    How to remove acrylic nails with hot water

    A picture of hands soaked in warm water

    Now, if your skin can’t deal with soaking in chemicals and your nails are too sensitive for machines, we have an option you can try. It may not be as effective or easy as the other methods mentioned.Removing acrylic nails with warm water can be done using methods similar to the chemical ones.

    Caution: Hot water can cause burns so be mindful of water temperature.


    • Nail Clippers
    • Nail File
    • Cuticle Pusher or Orange Stick
    • Nail Buffer
    • Bowl
    • Warm Water
    • Moisturiser
    • Heating Pad
    • Towel


    1. Set up your station with all your supplies handy.
    2. Use the nail file and carefully file away the top coat of polish, or sealant.
    3. Using the nail clippers, trim the acrylic nails. This will make your job easier but be careful not to damage your natural nail.
    4. Heat enough water to fill your bowl. You can use a kettle for this. Just remember, once you’ve heated the water, let it cool just a bit so that it doesn’t scald.
    5. You can also rest the now perfectly warm water bowl on the heating pad. This is not required but it does help to keep a steady temperature.
    6. Rest your nails in the warm water, for a prolonged period. Usually about 20-30 minutes. Go one hand at a time.
    7. Once the acrylic has become more viscous (gooey), remove your hand and began to carefully scrape away the acrylic, with the cuticle pusher. Begin at the nail bed and work outwards.
    8. Once done, file away any residual acrylic still left on the nail.
    9. Wash hands with soap and warm water.
    10. Once dry, buff out your natural nails and apply some hand moisturizer or petroleum jelly to revitalize them.

    How to remove acrylic nails with Hydrogen Peroxide:

    A bottle of hydrogen peroxide

    While hydrogen peroxide can be used to prevent infection, reduce nail yellowness and even fight fungus, it is really not a good removal agent for acrylic nails.

    It doesn’t break down the acrylic as effectively as some other chemicals and is harsh on the skin. So due to its harshness and ineffectiveness, we recommend using another method.

    However, if you are set on using hydrogen peroxide, then try one of the soaking methods. Just substitute the hydrogen peroxide for the acetone.

    Again, you should test it on a small section of your skin first, to make sure you won’t have any adverse reactions.

    How To Remove Acrylic Nails with a Machine:

    A picture of nail steamer machine

    There are several types of machines that can be used in the removal of acrylic nails. Probably the most convenient and least damaging would be a nail steamer tool. We have a retail example of a steamer machine.

    These handy devices function along the lines of the soaking and cotton ball methods. The machine has a basin which you fill with acetone. It comes complete with an ergonomic attachment on which you can rest your hand.

    Other handy features:

    You will still need to file the top coat of polish from the nails. However, the machine will heat the acetone for you and speed up the process when your nails are soaking. So, this should take less time than some other methods.

    Machines come with a variety of features, including auto-shutoffs and alert beeps to let you know how much time has passed. The same rules apply that once the acrylic is removed from the solution and exposed to air, it will begin to harden. So, work quickly with that orange stick in scraping off the acrylic.

    As always, finish this off by filing and buffing the natural nails. When done, wash hands in warm, soapy water and add some moisturizing upon drying.

    Acrylic Nail Removal Kit

    A picture of Acrylic removal kit
    There are many products out there to simplify the process of removing acrylic nails at home. It can be a lot to assemble. Which is why some many companies are creating acrylic removal kits

    These helpful packages can include a range of items, from acetone all the way up to machines! To decide on a kit, first decide on the removal technique that will be best suited to you.

    Maybe you will want the kit to include pre-cut foils or a few dappen dishes. These are great additions to any acrylic arsenal

    The options are almost limitless. Just double check our guide to make sure the kit you are buying has everything that you require.


    As you can see there is a lot to consider where acrylic nails are concerned. We hope these guides have helped you sort through some of the info.

    Please remember to put safety first, when using these techniques, at home. Make sure your skin won’t have an allergic reaction to any chemicals and that you trim your acrylics with care.

    As always, when using a heating pad, make sure you are following the safety instructions.

    Also, your local nail technician can be a great resource. So next time you go in for that manicure, don’t hesitate to get their thoughts as well.

    Let us know what you thought. Please like, share and subscribe. We post new info all the time and hope to see you back here soon.

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Written by herbalfoo staff

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