Nail Polish Thinner Vs. Nail Polish Remover: The Differences




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Nail polish has transformed our world, creating amazing looks that can be matched with any outfit. To keep these polished looks, maintenance is key. This is where nail polish thinner and nail polish remover come in. So, what exactly is the difference between nail polish thinner and remover?

Nail polish thinner is used to thin out thick polish, whereas nail polish remover is used to remove all the polish. Both have a very useful place in the world of beauty. They are basically made of the same ingredient; acetone. The difference is in the amount used.

In this article, I will discuss the different nail polish thinners and removers that individuals can use and whether paint thinners can be used as nail polish removers. I will also look at safe nail polish remover alternatives.

ChemCorp 100% Pure Aceton - Strongest remover for Natural, Gel, Shellac Nails and Dip Nails - Gallon 128 Oz

Can You Use Paint Thinner As Nail Polish Remover?

Most nail polish removers are made up of acetone. This is stronger than many other paint thinners. In fact, acetone is a paint thinner. Since acetone is so strong, using other paint thinners may work to remove nail polish, but they could potentially be less effective. 

I will discuss the different types of paint thinners that can be used as a nail polish remover here.

Butyl Acetate

This paint thinner is a good option to remove nail polish. It is a colorless and volatile liquid of low viscosity. Additionally, it is made by dissolving acetic acid and butanol in a base of sulfuric acid.

It is a more natural alternative to acetone. Another great thing about butyl acetate is its fruity scent. This substance is a solvent, meaning it can dissolve paint, which makes it an effective nail polish remover.

It is also used as a solvent in nail polish and basecoats to keep these from thickening.

Alliance Chemical N-Butyl Acetate - One Quart 32 Fluid Ounces w/Reusable Leak and Evaporation Proof Seal

Ethyl Acetate

Also commonly known as non-acetone nail polish remover, ethyl acetate can be found at various stores. It is also an organic compound like butyl acetate and is the ester of ethanol and acetic acid.

It is also a solvent that makes it useful to prevent thickening in nail polish. It is also effective in removing nail polish and other products used in manicures.

It can be noted that in the US, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has granted butyl acetate as Safe (GRAS) status for use as a synthetic flavoring substance and adjuvant. This makes it a safe alternative to many other harmful nail polish removers.

Ethyl Acetate - Technical Grade - 1 Quart - 32 FL Oz - Paints, Varnishes, Lacquers, Extraction, Cleaning, and Perfumes - Domestically Sourced - Made in America - Alliance Chemical

Isopropyl Acetate

This is a great substance to use to thin out nail polish that appears thick and clumpy in texture. Isopropyl acetate is actually used as a solvent in many nail polishes to prevent them from thickening.

Additionally, just like butyl acetate and ethyl acetate, isopropyl is safe and has a fruity scent to it. It is important to know that isopropyl alcohol is another substance that can also be used to remove or dissolve nail polish. 

Isopropyl Acetate 99.98% - 1 Gallon - (4) 32 FL Oz Bottles - Solvent for Cellulose, Plastics, Oils and Fats, and in Printing Inks and Perfume. Made in America - Alliance Chemical

Here is an article that describes wants in nail polish remover.

Safe Nail Polish Remover Alternatives

While chemical compounds like acetone may be super effective at removing nail polish and dissolving products used in manicures, they can be harsh. 

There have been instances of acetone, for example, causing skin irritation and redness. Not to mention the discomfort it causes when you inhale it. With that in mind, I will discuss some alternatives to nail polish remover that cause less irritation.


All you need is 70 percent alcohol or more. It effectively dissolves the nail polish without the addition of harsh chemicals that are found in acetone. 

To use alcohol as a nail polish remover, soak cotton balls in the alcohol solution and rub it on the painted nail. You can also dip your nails into the solution and use cotton balls to wipe the nail polish off.

Lemon and Vinegar

These two are used in combination to create a great nail polish remover. The vinegar is the nail polish dissolving and the lemon juice strengthens the process. The lemon also improves the smell of the solution. 

Simply mix lemon juice and vinegar in a bowl. Dip the cotton balls into the solution and then use it to remove the nail polish.


Deodorant contains solvents and is another alternative to remove nail polish. Perfume can also be used in this instance. This method involves laying hands on a towel and spraying each nail with deodorant. Then, immediately use a cotton ball to wipe the nail polish off.

It is important to do it quickly before the deodorant dries. It may take a few rubs to completely remove the nail varnish.

DEGREE Antiperspirant Deodorant Dry Spray 48 Hour Protection Sheer Powder Deodorant for Women 3.8 oz 3 Count

Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers are usually made up of alcohol. Just as alcohol can be used to dissolve nail polish, so can hand sanitizer. To remove nail polish using hand sanitizer, simply put some hand sanitizer on a cotton ball.

Rub the solution on the cotton ball on the painted nail. Repeat this process until the nail varnish is completely removed.

Germ-X Original Hand Sanitizer, With Pump, 8 Fl Ounce (pack Of 12), 96 Fl Oz

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is a great alternative if you do not have any of the others. To make the solution, mix half a cup of hydrogen peroxide in a bowl with a quarter cup of warm to hot water. Soak your nails in the solution for 10 minutes.

The nail polish should soften and start dissolving so you can gently scrape it off. Repeat the process until it has all been removed.


Usually, the most effective hairsprays are the ones that contain a solvent of some kind. A common solvent is CFC (ChloroFluoroCarbon). This works by placing your hand on a towel and spraying each nail with a generous amount of hairspray.

Use a cotton ball to quickly wipe the nail while the hairspray is still wet. This should effectively dissolve the nail varnish making it easier to remove.


This is effective because toothpaste usually contains the solvent, ethyl acetate – which I discussed earlier in this article. This method works by putting a small amount of toothpaste on the nail.

You can use a brush to rub it in and it should start dissolving the nail varnish. You can also use a paper towel. Make sure to use a circular motion. Continue this process until all the nail varnish has been effectively removed.

Use a Topcoat

Since many nail polishes actually contain solvents to prevent them from thickening, this method can work to remove nail polish. It works by placing a coat of polish on top of the old coat.

While it is wet, wipe it off since the solvent is likely to dissolve the old polish.

OPI Top Coat, Protective High Gloss Shine Nail Polish Top Coat, 0.5 fl oz

The Bottom Line

There are so many alternatives to nail polish remover. Many can be used to effectively thin nail polish or remove it. Depending on which you’re after – the former or the latter – will determine the product best suited to your needs.


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