Remove Acrylic Nails At Home: Step By Step How-To Tutorial

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How to Remove Acrylic Nails

Two Methods:

Removing acrylic nails can be challenging because of how strong the adhesive is. Fortunately, there are a few tricks you can use to get your acrylic nails off without making a trip to the salon.


Licensed Cosmetologist Laura Martin says:"Acrylic nails are long lasting and allow for maximum design creativity, but the the material they're made from has one disadvantage: it's tricky to remove. If detached incorrectly, an acrylic can damage the natural nail underneath, but if you follow the steps below you can enjoy your acrylics and protect your natural nails too."


Soaking Acrylic Nails in Acetone

  1. Clip your nails.Use a nail clipper to trim the tips of your acrylic nails short. Cut off as much of the acrylic as possible. If cutting is difficult due to the thickness of the nails, use a coarse nail file to file them. But make sure you don't cut any of your nail bed because it will bleed.
  2. File the topcoat off of the nails.Use a fine-grade buffer to file off the paint and remove as much of the acrylic as possible. Use long strokes that run the length of the nail.
    • Take care not to file down or damage your natural nail as you do this.
  3. Pour the acetone into a bowl.Fill a medium glass bowl halfway with acetone.Do not microwave the acetone or use it near any source of heat.Acetone is extremely flammable.
    • Make sure the room is well ventilated, since acetone has strong fumes.
    • Do not light a cigarette near acetone.
  4. Apply petroleum jelly to the skin surrounding your nails.Acetone dissolves plastic and is also hard on skin, so it's important to protect yourself. This step will prevent your skin from becoming irritated by the acetone, particularly if you have hangnails.
    • Take care not to get any petroleum jelly on your nails, since the acetone should be able to reach it and dissolve it.
    • Use a cotton-tipped wooden applicator if you need help applying the petroleum jelly more precisely.
  5. Apply the acetone to your nails.Saturate one cotton ball per nail in the acetone, then place the cotton balls on the tips of your fingers. Wrap them tightly against the acrylic nails using strips of aluminum foil. Let your nails soak in the acetone for 30 minutes.
    • You can use a non-plastic tape to fasten the cotton balls if you don't have aluminum foil.
    • You can also simply soak your nails in the bowl of acetone if you know that acetone doesn't irritate your skin.
  6. Remove the foil and cotton balls from your fingertips.The cotton ball and the nail will come off with some gentle manipulation.
    • 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 for another 20 minutes and attempt to remove them again.
  7. Scrape off the leftover acrylic with the nail buffer.The acrylic should be soft from the acetone bath, so take the opportunity to buff the rest of it away. If the acrylic begins to harden again while you're buffing, use a cotton ball soaked in acetone to dampen it.
  8. Shape your natural nails.Use nail clippers and a nail file to smooth the edges. Buff your nails lightly with a fine-grade nail buffer, moving from the base of the nail to the tip.
    • To avoid damaging your nails, file in one direction only, and avoid using a sawing motion.
    • The top few layers of your nails may have been removed with the acrylic. Be careful not to tear or damage them further when file and buff them.
  9. Restore the moisture to your hands.Acetone causes skin to become extremely dry. Rinse off the remaining traces with soap and water. Dry your hands and rub them with body oil, olive oil or a moisturizing lotion.
    • Rub the moisturizer into your nails, cuticles, and skin to keep them hydrated.

Removing Acrylic Nails With Dental Floss

  1. Find a partner.This removal method requires a second person to work, since two hands are needed to pull the dental floss under the nails. If your nails are already very damaged, or if you are worried about damaging your nails, this method probably is not the best option, as it often takes layers off of the natural nail as the acrylic is pried off.
  2. Pry up the bottom edge of an acrylic nail.Use a cuticle stick to gently pry up the entire bottom edge.
  3. Have your partner slide dental floss under the edge.He or she should face you, slip the dental floss under the bottom edge of the nail, and hold the two ends of the dental floss in either hand.
  4. Your partner should begin working the floss back and forth under the nail.Tell him or her to slide the floss back and forth and pull it up, so that the nail begins to come loose. Continue this sawing motion until the acrylic nail is free from the natural nail.
    • Make sure your partner doesn't yank the floss upward too quickly; you don't want your natural nail getting torn off with the acrylic.
    • Repeat the process with every nail until they're all removed.
  5. Buff your nails.Use a buffer to clean up your natural nails, which may be a little torn from the process. Apply cuticle cream and moisturizer.
  6. Finished.Your nails should be acrylic free.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Do I need petroleum jelly to do this?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, the petroleum jelly is only used so the acetone doesn't dry out your skin.
  • Question
    Can I use a nail clipper to pick the acrylic off of my nails? Will this damage my nails?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It could damage your nails if you scrape the real nail. It is not advisable because the acrylic nail is glued to your real nail and it could tear off your real nail if you aren't careful. Soak it in nail polish remover. It works better if it is 100% acetone.
  • Question
    Will the acetone irritate my skin?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Acetone dries out your skin, so if you soak it for too long unprotected, yes it might. However, the petroleum jelly will moisturize your skin and counteract the acetone. If you have really sensitive skin, however, I would advise you not to use this method.
  • Question
    Does it cost anything to have my acrylic nails taken off?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, but it should only be around at a nail salon.
  • Question
    For how long should I soak my nails?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Soak your nails for about half an hour. If the nails do not come off, keep soaking them for another 20 minutes and gently pull at the nails.
  • Question
    Will the acetone weaken my nails?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Using acetone can dry out your nails badly (which could cause breakage) if you use it too often, so it is best to moisturize your nails with nail oil after using acetone.
  • Question
    Can acrylic nails tear my real nails off?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, they may take off some layers of your real nails if you remove them incorrectly. If you are removing them completely with dental floss, go slowly and do not take off the remainders of the acrylic nails too fast.
  • Question
    Why do my nails hurt after I take off my acrylic nails?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    This is often due to the damage that can occur from acrylic nails, including a thinning of the nail.
  • Question
    Can I use vegetable oil to moisturize my nails?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, you can.
  • Question
    Is there any faster way I could remove my acrylic nails?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You could go a nail salon and have them removed professionally.
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Short Video: How to Remove Acrylic Nails

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Before you remove your acrylic nails, cut them as short as you can with nail clippers and apply petroleum jelly to the skin around your nails. Then, saturate a cotton ball with acetone and apply it to the top of each nail. Make sure the cotton ball is completely covering your nail, then wrap each finger in aluminum foil. Let dry for 30 minutes. When you remove the foil, your acrylic nails should come right off!

  • Don't put acetone in a plastic bowl. It will deteriorate and get acetone everywhere.
  • You can buy a professional Acrylic Nail Remover kit in the local drugstore.
  • Loosen your acrylics a little with acetone to make the dental floss method easier on your nails


  • 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.
  • Using acrylic nails carries a slight risk of infection if a gap between the acrylic and your natural nail develops. If your natural nails become thick and discolored, talk to your primary care physician or dermatologist.
  • If done poorly, the dental floss method could rip off layers of the natural nail and permanently damage your natural nail.
  • Avoid filing your acrylic nails away, which may result in damage ot the nail bed.

Things You'll Need

Soaking Your Nails in Acetone

  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Fine-grade buffer
  • Acetone nail polish remover
  • Small glass bowl
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cotton balls
  • Foil strips
  • Orange wood stick
  • Mild soap and water to wash your hands
  • Moisturizer

Removing Acrylic Nails With Dental Floss

  • Dental floss
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file
  • Fine-grade buffer
  • Moisturizer

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

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Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 7,548,526 times.
Did this article help you?
Expert Review By:
Licensed Cosmetologist

of How to Remove Acrylic Nails was reviewed by on April 27, 2019.

Views: 7,548,526
of readers found this articlehelpful.
13 votes - 100%
Click a star to add your vote
100% of people told us that this article helped them.

Kaitlyn P.

Aug 12

"First method works best, thank you for saving me a trip to the salon."
Rated this article:


Jun 11

"Cotton ball and foil wrap."

Carole Lawton

May 9

"Quick and easy to follow! Thank you."


Aug 2, 2019

"I normally pay 10 for a soak off at the salon. But since using this I will never have to go to the salon for a soakoff again. I like the fact that it was clear, simple and so easy to do. In fact it took less time to do than salon soak off."

Shawna Hill

Aug 29, 2019

"The cotton ball and aluminum foil help the best. I was too scared to use the dental floss method. Thank you forthe great tips and different methods of removing these damn nails!"


Sep 29, 2019

"Step-by-step explanation was very simple and cautionary. Thank you for such a great article. I will recommendthis site to anyone wanting to remove acrylic nail by themselves."


Mar 5, 2019

"The first method is best because it is least likely to tear your nails. Yes, use acetone before all of the methodsbecause it will be less likely to tear you nails."


Jun 17, 2019

"I had gel polish on top of my acrylic nails. I used a rough Emory board (several of them) to remove most of the gelpolish, then soaked them. Worked great!"

Tammy Kelly

Oct 30, 2019

"I put fake nails on top of fake nails (for Halloween)! The soak method worked nicely and saved me a trip to my nailsalon."


Jun 4, 2019

"Well explained with easy-to-follow steps. Thumbs-up for the instructional video."

Georga Resnic

Nov 12, 2019

"It was very helpful and gave me peace of mind about taking off my acrylic nails."


Jun 17, 2019

"The necessary items checklist at the end helped, as did the whole article!"

Krystal Robertson

Sep 30, 2019

"The specifics on removal with acetone were great. Love the pictures also."

Nicole Connelly

Apr 15, 2019

"The technique was very different. I have never seen it, but it worked."


Aug 12, 2019

"I knew it was the best way. I just wanted confirmation."

Kamar Abdelzahra

Sep 16, 2019

"I did not have acetone, I plan to use the third method."
Rated this article:

Kim Ruiz

Jun 29, 2019

"I followed every step, and it worked perfectly!"


May 8, 2019

"The petroleum jelly step saved my cuticles!"


Mar 6, 2019

"I removed my nails painlessly and easily."

M. J.


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Date: 10.12.2018, 11:08 / Views: 72591