Acrylic nails

How To Remove Nails at Home

Do you need to remove your acrylic or gel nails at home?

We love the look of fresh gel or acrylic nails – they bring your whole look together and help you feel your best. However, when they start to grow out, nail extensions can go from polished and professional to grotty and grim very quickly.

It’s always a good idea to go to the nail salon to have your acrylics or gels professionally removed – but we know that’s not always possible. Finances, time constraints, and Covid lockdown rules can all hinder your plans to get to the salon. It’s just not always possible. Thankfully, if you follow a few simple tips, it’s relatively easy to remove your nails at home.[i]

When it comes time to say goodbye to your nail extensions, follow these tips to do so safely and with great results.

Article contents

  1. How to remove gel nails at home
  2. How to remove acrylic nails at home
  3. Soaking off acrylic nails with acetone
  4. Removing acrylic nails without acetone
  5. The risks of removing your own nails
  6. Nail aftercare
  7. How to remove nails infographic

How to remove gel nails at home

Your gel nails looked spectacular when you left the nail salon, but now they’re looking a bit sad and grown out. So, how can you remove gel nails at home? It’s actually easier than you might think.[ii]

What you’ll need:

  • Acetone
  • Cotton pads (cut in quarters)
  • A coarse buffing block
  • A wooden cuticle stick
  • Aluminium foil



Step 1: Using your coarse buffing block, buff each nail until the gel polish is rough and worn down.

Step 2: Soak each quarter cotton pad in 100% pure acetone and apply it to each nail.

Step 3: Wrap each cotton coated nail tightly with aluminium foil and set a timer for 20 minutes.

Step 4: Remove the aluminium foil, and use it to push aside the gel polish, which should slough away easily.

Step 5: Use the cuticle stick to gently scrape away the remaining polish – don’t be too aggressive, as you can damage your nail. If the polish is not lifting, reapply the cotton and rewrap each nail in foil for 5 to 10 minutes.

Step 6: Remove the final bits of gel polish with an acetone-soaked cotton pad.

Once all of the polish is gone, and your nails are naked, you might notice they are very dry. Apply rich nail oil or moisturiser to your nails, skin, and cuticles to replenish natural hydration and prevent dry, flaking nails.

How to remove acrylic nails at home

There are a few different ways to remove your acrylic nails at home. Of course, you may be tempted to peel (or even chew!) them off but resist this urge. You can do some serious damage to your nails and dry out the surrounding skin. By setting up a few simple tools, you’ll have a much better experience. Your nails will thank you!

Your main options for removing acrylic nails without visiting a salon are:

  • Soaking off your nails with acetone
  • Soaking off your acrylics without acetone

If you want to avoid acetone, you can use an electric nail file. But if this is too large an investment or you don’t have any experience with the file, you can also use the warm water method. Read ahead for guidance on how you can remove your acrylic nails, both with and without acetone.

Remember – if you love the look and feel of acrylic nails, you don’t always have to splash out on a trip to the salon. Why not take an acrylic nail course and learn how to pamper yourself? You could also start a side business or treat your friends to gorgeous nails. You will never have to worry about closed salons again.

Soaking off acrylics with acetone

Acetone is the most common way to remove both acrylic and gel nails. It’s a potent chemical, and some people are hesitant to use it, so read ahead if you’re looking for non-acetone removal options.

What you’ll need:

  • Warmed acetone*
  • Nail clippers
  • Coarse buffing block
  • Fine buffing block
  • Shallow bowl
  • Cuticle stick.

* Start by running your acetone bottle under warm water for a few minutes to warm up the liquid within. Acetone works faster and more efficiently when it’s slightly warmed – but remember, acetone is flammable. Never heat it in a microwave or on the stovetop[iii]. The less time it’s on your nails, the better for your skin and nail health.



Step 1: Cut away your nail extensions and get them as close to your real nails as possible.

Step 2: Using your coarse buffing block, buff each nail until it is matte and textured (this helps the acetone to penetrate the polish).

Step 3: Pour the acetone in the shallow bowl, and soak your nails for 5 minutes. Immerse each nail to the cuticle, minimising the amount of submerged skin.

Step 4: Use the cuticle stick to gently remove the acrylic, working from the cuticles to the tips.

Step 5: Re-dip your nails for a further 5 minutes, and repeat the cuticle stick process. Do this as many times as necessary until your nails are naked.

Step 6: Buff your nails with the fine buffing block to add shine and remove all traces of polish.


Once all of the acrylic is gone, massage rich cuticle oil into each nail to replenish moisture.

Removing acrylic nails without acetone

Some people don’t like using strong chemicals, so they want to remove their acrylic nails without acetone. Here are a few different options that work well without the need for any acetone.

Option 1 – Electric Nail File

While an electric nail file doesn’t require any acetone, it is a pretty serious instrument. If you’re unsure how to use it, we recommend skipping this option and moving on to the next. After all, if you drill too aggressively, you can remove your nail down to the nail bed underneath, which will cause pain and potential bleeding.

Option 2: The Warm Water Method

This method requires patience, but we recommend pressing play on a movie and letting the warm water do its work!

What you’ll need:

  • A bowl of warm water
  • A cuticle stick
  • A few drops of soap.



Step 1: Fill a bowl with warm water (as hot as is comfortable) and add a few drops of soap or shower gel. You can set up the bowl over a candle or swaddle the bowl in a towel if you want the water to retain its heat.

Step 2: Soak your fingertips in the warm water for 30 minutes. At this point, look for any places where your acrylics are starting to lift away from your nail. Use the cuticle stick to gently loosen these areas, sliding it between your natural nail and the acrylic.

Step 3: Place your fingertips back in the water and repeat this process until your extensions are loose enough to be removed.

Once you’ve removed your acrylics, massage nail oil into your nails and cuticles, and apply hand cream to add moisture back to your hands.

The risks of removing your own nails

Typically, we would never recommend that you remove your own nail extensions if you’ve never had training because of the damage you can do to your nails and cuticles. However, during this uncertain time, we’re willing to bend the rules! You should learn about the risks of removing your own nails so that you can do your best to avoid them.

The biggest risk is stripping away layers of your natural nail. If you try to remove your nails too aggressively, you’ll end up with thin flimsy, and peeling nails. In some cases, you can remove so much of your natural nail that you can harm the nail bed beneath, causing pain and bleeding. It can take months for your nails to grow back and regain health.

Nail aftercare

After you remove your gels or acrylics, your nails will be weak, dry and brittle. Remedy this by liberally applying oil across your entire nail bed and massaging it into your cuticles. Choose an oil that is rich in Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids and vitamins. Jojoba, sesame, and lavender essential oils are all excellent for softening your cuticles, while sweet almond, myrrh, and olive oils are all recommended for strengthening your nails.[iv]

You can create your own nail oil blends or purchase commercial nail oils from beauty brands.

We also recommend leaving your nails polish-free & short for a while to let them regain strength.

Take care of your nails, and they’ll look their best

Even when you can’t get to the salon, it’s still possible to remove your nail extensions with care and precision. By following these tips, you can minimise damage and prep your nails for your next appointment with a nail tech, and your next set of extensions.


How to Remove Nails At Home Infographic


How to remove nails at home infographic

Reference list

Cherry, R. (2020). How to Remove Acrylic Nails at Home. [online] Shape. Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2021].

Isabella’s Clearly (2020). Best Essential Oils for Softening Cuticles Naturally, Healthy Nail Growth, and Strong Smooth Nails. [online] Isabella’s Clearly. Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2021].

Metzger, C. (2021). The Easiest Way to Remove Acrylics Without Destroying Your Nails. [online] Cosmopolitan. Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2021].

Whitbread, L. (2021). This is the best way to remove acrylic and gel nails at home. [online] The Independent. Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2021].







Karen Harrington started Beauty Courses Online in 2008 and has decades of experience in the beauty industry. Karen has owned multiple beauty salons, aswell as a conventional beauty school. Thousands of students have begun a career in the beauty industry from studying courses provided by Karen.