Why Your Nail Polish Remover is Not Working




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After a few days of nail polish manicure, you may want to change it. It’s probably because it’s already chipping or because you want a color that matches your outfit as you go out. However, as you try to remove the nail polish using your nail polish remover, you may notice that the nail polish is not coming out. So, why is your nail polish remover not working?

Nail polish remover takes time to work on stubborn nail polish. If you wipe off in a hurry, the polish will remain stuck on the nail. You may need to soak the polish in the nail polish remover for a few minutes for it to come off. 

There are many ways to remove nail polish. Acetone-based nail polish removers are most effective, but non-acetone removers are safer and slower than acetone-based removers. This article discusses how you can remove stubborn nail polish that proves difficult to remove using nail polish remover. 

How Do You Remove Stubborn Nail Polish? 

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Have you ever had a manicure done, but when it’s time to remove it, it seemed stuck? There are different reasons why your nail polish may remain stuck stubbornly on your nail. They include:

  • The nail polish brand – Different brands add different ingredients to their nail polish. Some of these ingredients may cause it to stick and therefore not come out quickly when removing it. 
  • Fake nail polish – This kind of nail polish is manufactured using substandard ingredients that may adhere too firmly to the nails and remain stubborn. 
  • Keeping the polish on for too long – Nail polish can only remain on your nails for a few days. Keeping it longer on the nails causes it to stick and not come off easily. 
  • Rough nail surfaces – During nail polish application, you may want first to prepare your nails so that the polish applies evenly. If you leave the nail surface rough, the nail polish will adhere to the nail more strongly and thus will be difficult to remove. 
  • Many nail polish layers – When applying nail polish, there’s a temptation to apply more layers of polish, especially for bright colors, so that they look bolder. More layers may cause the polish to stick stubbornly on the nails. 

If you’re a lover of dark nail polish colors, you may have a more difficult time getting rid of stubborn nail polish. However, this shouldn’t worry you because, with the right tools and products, a little patience in the removal process and following the correct removal procedure will eliminate the stubborn polish for you. 

Here are some of the ways to remove stubborn nail polish. 

  1. Use A Chemical-Free Nail Polish Remover

Chemicals in nail polish removers like acetone may cause harm to the skin and weaken your nail when used over a prolonged period. Therefore, the best and safest method to remove stubborn polish is to use a nail polish remover free of any chemicals. 

This method will take a little longer compared to other chemical-based nail polish removers, but it will keep your nails safe from possible damage from the chemicals. Natural nail polish removers in the market today are reinforced with valuable antioxidants that help strengthen weak nails and keep them from breaking. 

They also do a great job in restoring and nourishing nail cuticles and nail beds, and you use them frequently. They also have sweet smells like citrus, unlike chemical-based nail polish removers that carry strong chemical odors, which can be harmful. 

Follow this step-by-step guide to remove stubborn nail polish using a chemical-free nail polish remover. 

Step 1 – Have several cotton pads enough for each nail. Soak a cotton pad in the natural nail polish remover. 

Step 2 – Place the wet cotton pad on the nail with the stubborn nail polish and wait for about 5 minutes. You can wrap the cotton pad around the nail using aluminum foil, especially for the polish that appears to stick firmly. The aluminum foil holds the cotton buds in position so that the nail polish gets to soak for the required time. 

Step 3 – Wait patiently for the recommended time to elapse so that the stubborn nail polish can soak thoroughly. After the time is up, the nail polish will be soft and ready to come off easily on wiping. 

This method should work excellently and leave your nails feeling better and stronger. You can apply fresh polish immediately without endangering your nails. 

  1.  Use Rubbing Alcohol

Alcohol is effective for breaking down nail polish bonding and causes it to come off. Even though it takes some time to remove the nail polish altogether, it’s worth a try as it is another safe method to approach this situation. 

Rubbing alcohol comes with a double advantage. Alcohol is an antiseptic and is used to disinfect wounds and surfaces as it effectively kills germs, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Using rubbing alcohol to remove nail polish from your nails will remove the nail polish and clean your nails. 

Nails can harbor bacteria and fungi around the cuticles and under the nails. Therefore when using rubbing alcohol, you’ll effectively get rid of them and keep your nails healthy. 

The process of using rubbing alcohol is easy. First, apply the rubbing alcohol generously on the nails with the stubborn nail polish. Allow it to rest for about two minutes, then wipe off the nail polish and the rubbing alcohol using a cotton pad. 

There are also rubbing alcohol swabs available in the market, which you can use faster and directly. That means you’ll not need to use cotton pads or balls. 

You may need to rub the alcohol several times, depending on how stubborn the nail polish is. Remember to be gentle on your nails so that you don’t damage them or hurt your cuticles. 

  1. Apply Fresh Nail Polish on the Nails

This method is not too suitable, but it’s a quick fix, at least until you get a good nail polish remover. This is an appropriate method, especially if you’re in a hurry and the nail polish you want to apply matches the stubborn nail polish on your nails or a little darker and thicker than it. 

Ensure that the nail polish you’re applying takes longer to dry so that it can allow time for the old nail polish to soften enough for it to come out. 

The process of application you follow is like you’d do when applying your regular polish. Apply the polish in a thick layer on the nail that has the stubborn nail polish. Wait for a few minutes and wipe it off. The new polish should come out together with the old polish. 

Repeat the process for all the nails with the stubborn nail polish until you remove all of it. After that, wash your hands in warm water and use soap. Moisturize your hands to keep your nails from drying out before applying fresh polish. 

I know that this method sounds counterintuitive, but it works perfectly. If you notice that some polish remains on the nails after wiping it off the first time, you can apply another layer of polish, wait for a few seconds, then wipe it off again until the whole layer clears. 

If you’ve been trying to figure out the next color to put on your nails, you can use this activity as a test drive to see which color fits your nails best. Let the nail polish get rid of the stubborn nail polish for you. 

  1. Soak Your Nails in Acetone

Acetone is known for its effectiveness in removing nail polish. Although some natural and DIY methods can help get rid of stubborn nail polish, nail polishes like glitters or gel polish won’t come off unless you use acetone. 

FDA approves acetone for use as it is not carcinogenic and it does not harm human skin. However, acetone as a chemical may not be too safe for your skin, so it’s essential to use it cautiously and intermittently to avoid overexposure. 

You can follow through with these steps to safely soak your nails in acetone. 

Step 1 – Acquire acetone from the drug’s store. 

Acetone is available in drug stores and beauty stores. A bottle of acetone is sold at an affordable price, and so you can buy one for yourself. Acetone is great for removing stubborn nail polish. The only downside is that it evaporates so fast, and if left open for some time, you’ll find an empty bottle. 

Step 2 – Pinch out cotton balls and soak them in acetone

Cotton is excellent for rubbing off nail polish. Place the cotton ball at the bottle’s opening and tilt the bottle to pour out the acetone on the cotton. You can also pour the acetone into a bowl and dip the cotton balls in it. But this method will risk evaporating all the acetone before you can use it on the nails. 

Step 3 – Fix the soaked cotton balls on the nails

Place the cotton balls on the nails and find something to hold them in place tightly. This could be a rubber band or aluminum foil. Do the same for all the nails and let them remain soaked for a while. Fixing them alone can be tasking, so you can find someone to help you improve them securely. 

Step 4 – Allow some time for the polish to soak.

Stubborn nail polish will require some time, like 10 minutes, for it to dissolve completely. Therefore, wait for at least 10 minutes before removing the cotton balls. Some stubborn nail polish may need more time to soften. 

Step 5 – Wipe off the softened polish using the cotton balls

Take off the cotton balls one at a time as you wipe off the polish. The ones that remain stubborn will need further soaking so you can get a freshly soaked cotton ball and wrap it with it again. Those that have soaked completely will wipe off easily from the nails. 

Simply Soft Premium Cotton Balls, 100% Pure Cotton, Absorbent, 200 Count (Pack of 3)

Step 6 – Wash hands in clean water. 

Acetone has a drying effect on the nails, so wash your hands in warm water and with soap to get rid of the acetone. You can moisturize your hands to keep your nails from drying out. 

  1. File off the stubborn nail polish

This is a quick fix to the stubborn nail polish. Using a file will break it off from the nail and remove it. However, this method risks destroying your nails as you may end up filing out part of the nail. The difference is in the type of file you’re using to file out the nail polish. 

A smooth nail file with a high gauge will work perfectly as it will work smoothly on the nail and have less chance of damaging the nails. You can find a suitable nail file from a beauty store in your area or ask the attendant to recommend a suitable one for you. 

Hold the file above the nail and file in one direction over the stubborn nail polish. Avoid a back and forth movement like that can easily damage the nail. Continue with the filing until you get rid of the stubborn polish. 

After filling out the stubborn nail polish, wash your hand in warm water to get rid of the polish dust. Moisturize your hands to keep your nails hydrated. 

Does Nail Polish Remover Expire? 

Have you tried using nail polish remover, and it didn’t seem to work? I know we have discussed why the nail polish remover may not be working, but have you ever thought that maybe the nail polish remover is expired?

Nail polish remover is made of acetone – a hydrocarbon – which does not expire or go bad. Therefore nail polish removers containing acetone do not expire. Therefore, if you recently bumped into your old nail polish remover from high school 10 years ago, you can still use it effectively on your nails to remove nail polish. 

There are other factors that may affect your acetone nail polish remover. For example, it can easily evaporate and disappear into thin air. Therefore, if you leave it in the open at any point, all the nail polish remover will evaporate.

On the other hand, nail polish has an expiry date. Its recommended shelf life is one year. The ingredients used to make nail polish are subject to expiration, and nail polish should not be used once it has expired. Therefore, it’s essential to check for the dates on the bottle. Generally, do not use nail polish beyond a year. 

There are some things you can do to help your nail polish last longer. It will expire after some time, of course, but these two tips will keep it in good condition for a bit longer. They include:

  • Keep the nail polish safely in a cool dark place. 
  • Use acetone to clean the excess polish sticking at the neck. 

If you enjoy using different shades of nail polish and you have many of them that you haven’t used for a while, you can spare some time to check if they are already expired. Using expired nail polish will have no effect on your health, but it will definitely lack the consistency and the glow that nail polishes have. 

 Alternatives To Nail Polish Remover

At times, your nail polish manicure may chip off when you have no nail polish remover with you. And probably, you can’t go all the way to the beauty or drug store to get one. Some DIY alternatives to nail polish remover can be used to remove nail polish, including the old stubborn nail polish. 

Some of these alternatives include: 

  1. Toothpaste

Toothpaste is excellent at removing nail polish. This is because it contains a chemical called ethyl acetate, which is also present in nail polish remover. This chemical in the toothpaste softens the nail polish, thus making it easy to remove. 

You’ll need to rub a small amount of toothpaste on the nail polish using a toothbrush or any other suitable material like cloth. Continue rubbing until the nail polish comes off. Using toothpaste is not only effective but also economical, considering that you’re using the same toothpaste you have in your house for your teeth. 

  1. Perfume

As a lady, you’re most likely to have perfume in your house among your ‘feel good’ items. Most perfumes contain alcohol which is excellent for removing nail polish. It works fast and effectively, just like alcohol would do when removing the nail polish. 

Spritz some perfume on a cotton ball or a piece of tissue paper, and then use it to rub off the nail polish on your nails. Continue rubbing until all the nail polish comes off. Try using this method, and you’ll be surprised at how effectively it works. 

  1. Hand Sanitizer

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of using a hand sanitizer, so I bet you always have one with you. A hand sanitizer is made with over 70% alcohol which works effectively to remove nail polish. 

Pour some hand sanitizer on a piece of cotton and rub it on your nails. If the nail polish is stubborn on the nails, you can place it and leave it there for a while so that the nail polish dissolves and softens. You’ll have an easy time removing it. 

Using a hand sanitizer will also sanitize your nails and get rid of fungi, bacteria, and viruses that may be harboring on the nails. This method is double effective, and you’ll get double benefits from it. 

  1. Nail polish top coat

Most nail products come with a top coat from a similar brand. The topcoat will help the nail soften and therefore come off easily. If you have a nail polish top coat with you, don’t hesitate to use it. 

You’ll need to apply a layer of topcoat nail polish on the old nail polish. While it’s still wet, wipe it off so that it comes off with the old polish. You can use a cotton pad to wipe it off effectively. If you don’t have the nail polish top coat, you can use any other nail polish that you have, and you’ll get similar results. 

  1. Hair Spray 

You probably have hair spray for your hair (some people don’t). If you have it, you can use it to remove your nail polish effectively. Hair spray contains isopropyl alcohol which is an effective nail polish remover. 

Spray some hairspray on a piece of cotton or tissue and use it to rub on the nail polish. Isopropyl alcohol will dissolve the nail polish and cause it to come off easily. 

  1. Vinegar mixed with lemon juice

Vinegar is all-purpose and used as a natural cleanser in the house. Its acidity properties come in handy when using it to remove nail polish. It effectively strips it off and removes the nail polish in a few minutes. 

Add in some lemon juice which has citric acid, for more effectiveness. Put the vinegar solution in a bowl and soak your hands in the solution for about 15 minutes. Use a piece of cotton to rub off the softened nail polish and remove it easily. 

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is known for its strong antiseptic properties, and therefore it would be effective to strip off nail polish from your nails. Add one part of hot water into two parts of hydrogen peroxide. For example, if you use 40 ml of hydrogen peroxide, then add 20 ml of water. 

Ensure that the water is hot. Soak your nails in the mixture as you gently rub your nails with your free fingers. When the nail polish is soft enough, use a nail file to polish it off your nails. 

  1. Elementary school glue

The white elementary school glue is effective because of its ability to stick tightly on the nails. However, the glue is usually too thick, so you’ll need to thin it first. Put some glue in an empty nail polish bottle and add some water. Swirl or stir it to thin the glue to a consistency thin enough to apply to the nails. 

Apply the glue on the nails with old nail polish and wait for about five minutes to dry completely. As it dries, it sticks on the nails and the nail polish. You can apply more polish on the nails with the glue layer acting as the base coat, or you can remove it at this point. 

When you’re ready to remove it, soak your nails in warm soapy water for a few minutes to soften the nail polish. You can use a cuticle pusher, your nails, a toothpick, or a nail file to peel off the old nail polish. Ensure that whatever you’re using to remove the nail polish is thin and blunt so that you don’t damage your nails. 

Is Acetone Nail Polish Remover Harmful to Your Nails?

Most nail polish removers in the market today contain acetone. This is because of acetone’s effectiveness in removing nail polish. The FDA also does not warn against using acetone on your nails. However, it’s important to be careful when using it so that you don’t over-expose your skin to it. 

Acetone weakens the nails and sucks out water from them. This makes the nails look dry because of the dehydration. To avoid damaging your nails and causing them to break, it’s recommended to use acetone intermittently, exchanging it with other healthier methods of removing nail polish. 

Another option to protect your nails when using acetone-based removers is to choose those that have moisturizing ingredients in their composition. The moisturizing ingredients prevent the acetone from drying off the nails and keeps them hydrated. 

Can Any Alcohol Remove Nail Polish? 

Any alcohol will do, including the alcohol contained in drinks. The only alcohol you should avoid is that which is strong enough to burn or irritate your skin. Some alcohol products are also combined with other ingredients that may be harmful to your hands, so it’s important to check that. 

If you don’t have access to commercial alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, you can grab one of your spirit drinks and use it to remove the stubborn nail polish. It will work as effectively as any other alcohol. However, avoid high sugar alcohols like liqueurs and low alcohol drinks like beer. These are unlikely to work on nail polish. 


Nails have always to look perfect. But a time comes when the beautiful manicure needs to be replaced. If your nail polish remover seems not to work, try the hacks discussed in this article and get rid of the nail polish. Remember to take care of your nails, especially when you are using DIY nail polish removal methods. 


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