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How to Remove Acrylic Nails: 3 Easiest Methods

A simple guide to removing acrylics without destroying your nails

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The best way to remove acrylic nails is by visiting a nail tech. That said, if you’re here, you probably can’t get into the salon for one reason or another, but those acrylic nails need to come off, STAT. And if you’re going to do it yourself, we’re going to help you do it right. We’ve put together a handy guide to removing acrylic nails with acetone, dental floss, and an electric nail filer, so you can free your fingers at home. Grab some nail clippers and a filer, because today, you’re your own nail tech.

Things You Should Know

  • Clip your nails and wrap them in acetone-soaked cotton balls and tin foil. Then, wait 30 minutes before gently pulling them off.
  • Loosen the base of the nail with a pick, then work a length of dental floss between the acrylic and natural nail until the acrylic nail comes free.
  • Use an electric nail filer to file away the polish, color, and the acrylic nail itself. Then use a hand-filer to finish the job.
  • Moisturize your nails with argan oil, cuticle cream, and moisturizer to help your nails recover from the acrylics.



  1. Use nail clippers to trim the tips of your acrylic nails short. Cut off as much of the acrylic as you can—the more you can cut off now, the easier the rest of the process will be.[1] If cutting is difficult due to the thickness of the nails, use a coarse nail file to file them. Make sure you don’t cut any of your nail bed.
  2. File the topcoat and nail polish off of your nails. Use a fine-grade buffer or a nail file to remove as much product as possible.[2] Use long strokes that run the length of the nail, and keep filing until the product is removed or the smooth, shiny layer gives way to a more matte surface.[3]
    • Clipping your nails will help the acetone dissolve the acrylics more easily.
    • This may take some time, depending on the size of your nails and how much product is on them, so sit tight and persevere.
    • Take care not to file or damage your natural nail as you do this.
  3. Soak 10 cotton balls in acetone. Fill a medium glass bowl halfway with acetone. Then, drop 10 cotton balls into the acetone, making sure each is completely saturated.[4]
    • Acetone is highly flammable and produces potent fumes. Make sure the room is well ventilated, and keep the acetone away from heat or sources of flames.
  4. Cut out 10 squares of foil that are . While the cotton balls soak, cut out 10 squares of tinfoil. Make each square large enough to wrap completely around your finger. They don’t have to be neat![5]
  5. Apply petroleum jelly to the skin surrounding your nails. Acetone is hard on skin, so it’s important to protect your fingers. Rub a generous amount of petroleum jelly on the tips of your fingers and the cuticles–even up to the first knuckle, if you’re feeling especially cautious.[6] Be careful not to apply the petroleum jelly to the nails themselves, which may hinder removal.
    • Use a cotton-tipped wooden applicator if you need help applying the petroleum jelly more precisely.
  6. Secure the cotton balls to your fingers with tin foil. Place a cotton ball in the center of a tin foil square, then place the 2 together on top of a nail, with the cotton ball touching the nail. Then, wrap the tin foil around your nail to secure the cotton ball. Repeat this for each nail.[7]
    • You can use a non-plastic tape to fasten the cotton balls if you don’t have aluminum foil–acetone will dissolve plastic tape!
    • You can also simply soak your nails in a bowl of acetone for 30 minutes if you know that acetone doesn’t irritate your skin.
  7. Take the foil bundles off your nails after 30 minutes. Unwrap the tinfoil and gently but firmly pull the cotton ball and acrylic away from your natural nail. The acetone has loosened the acrylic from your nail, and the acrylic nail will come away without much fuss.[8]
    • If you soaked your acrylic nails in the bowl of acetone, gently pry the nails off using an orange wood stick.
    • If the acrylic nails are still firmly stuck, repeat the process and let your nails soak for another 20 minutes and attempt to remove them again.
  8. Sand off the leftover acrylic and shape your nails with the nail filer. The acrylic will be soft from the acetone bath, so take the opportunity to buff the rest of it away, until there’s no more residue left on your nails. Then, use nail clippers and a nail file to smooth the sharp edges and round out your nails. After, buff your nails lightly with a fine-grade nail buffer, moving from the base of the nail to the tip, to give them a nice, smooth sheen.[9]
    • If the acrylic begins to harden again while you’re buffing, use a cotton ball soaked in acetone to dampen it.
    • To avoid damaging your nails, file in one direction only, and avoid using a back-and-forth sawing motion.
    • The top few layers of your nails may have been removed with the acrylic. Buff and file gently so as not to tear or damage them further when file and buff them.
  9. Wash your hands and apply lotion to moisturize them. Acetone can cause skin to become extremely dry, so restore a little moisture to your fingers. Wash your hands with warm water and mild hand soap. Then, dry your hands and rub them with body oil or a moisturizing lotion. Rub the moisturizer into your nails, cuticles, and skin to keep them hydrated and to help them recover from the acrylics.[10]

Dental Floss Pick

  1. Pry up the bottom edge of an acrylic nail with a floss pick. Use a floss pick or a cuticle stick to gently lift the edge of the nail closest to your cuticle. Insert the pick between the acrylic nail and your natural nail, and loosen as much of the acrylic nail as possible.[11]
    • When using this method, work slowly and carefully. Removing acrylic nails without chemical assistance (like acetone) may cause damage to your nails.
    • Soak your nails in acetone using the acetone method for easier removal with dental floss.
  2. Slide the floss under the loosened edge until the nail comes off. Use the floss end of the pick, and slowly and gently move the floss back and forth in a sawing motion. As you work, apply slight pressure in the direction away from your cuticle in order to work the floss along the underside of the acrylic nail. Continue this way until the acrylic nail comes off, and repeat the process for each nail.[12]
    • Use another finger to hold the base of the nail in place so that it doesn’t wiggle uncomfortably as you floss it away.
    • You can also use standard floss, but you may need a partner to help you.
  3. Buff your nails and apply Argan oil to restore them. Use a buffer to clean up your natural nails and remove any acrylic residue. Then, apply Argan oil, cuticle cream, or moisturizer in order to strengthen your nails.[13]

Electric Nail Filer

  1. Clip the acrylic nails as short as possible with a nail clipper. Use the edge of the clipper to cut into the edge of the nail. Cut as close to your natural nail as possible, and then work your way across the acrylic nail until the tip of the nail is removed.[14]
    • In many cases, the acrylic nail will snap off as soon as you make your first cut with the nail clipper.
  2. File away the top coat and polish with the electric filer. Set your electric nail filer to about 12,000 rpm (rotations per minute). Then, carefully lower the filing bit to the base of the nail, just below the cuticle. Graze the filer across the surface of the nail, so that a thin layer of polish, color, or whatever product is applied to the nail is sanded away. Continue to do this, following the contour of the nail.[15]
    • Move the filer in one direction–towards you–as opposed to moving it back and forth across the nail.
  3. Use light, rapid back-and-forth motions to remove the acrylic. Once you’ve filed away all the product applied to the acrylic nail, begin to make swift, gentle, brushstroke-like movement across the surface of the nail to remove as much acrylic as possible. When you begin to see the natural nail beneath, reduce the filer’s rpm to about 7,000, and continue to remove as much acrylic as possible.[16]
    • Once the nail is suitably thin, clip the excess acrylic off the tip of the nail.
    • If at any time you become uncomfortable using the electric filer, opt to use the acetone method to soak off the rest of the nail. It’ll be much easier with much of the acrylic removed already.
  4. Use a manual filer to remove the rest of the acrylic. Once the bulk of the acrylic has been removed, set the electric filer aside, and use a hand-filer to remove the rest. Use rapid, back-and-forth movement across the entire surface of the nail, until the acrylic has been completely removed and your natural nail is entirely exposed.[17]
  5. Wash and moisturize your hands. Wash your hands with warm water and mild hand soap to remove any dust or residue. Then, dry your hands thoroughly and apply body oil, argan oil or a moisturizing lotion. Rub the moisturizer into your nails, cuticles, and skin to keep them hydrated.[18]



  • Don’t put acetone in a plastic bowl. The acetone will deteriorate the plastic, and may even spill out.


  • Acetone is extremely flammable. Keep it away from sources of heat or flame.
  • If it is painful to remove the nails or if they aren’t coming off after repeated attempts, stop and consult a nail salon for help.
  • An electric nail filer may cause injury if used improperly. Read the tool’s instruction manual thoroughly and familiarize yourself with its operation beforehand.

Things You’ll Need


Dental Floss

Electric Nail Filer

Related wikiHows

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  • Care for Acrylic Nails


Quick Summary

Source: Wiki How