How to Quickly Remove Nail polish

by Lauren Whitney ; Updated September 28, 2017

Quick, thorough polish removal means more varied manicures.

Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

While modern nail polishes have greater lasting power, that benefit becomes a detriment when you try to remove coats of old polish. Formulas with glitter or metallic flecks adhere so well to nail beds that polish removers require significant time and pressure to remove them. Using cotton balls and foil to hold the cotton in place soaks the polish with remover and facilitates fast, complete polish removal of even the most tenacious enamels.

Items you will need

  • Acetone polish remover
  • 10 to 12 cotton balls
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cotton swabs
Step 1

Soak a cotton ball in acetone nail polish remover until the cotton becomes damp, but not dripping wet. Acetone-free removers also work, but they take longer to dissolve stubborn polish.

Step 2

Place the cotton ball on the polished surface of the nail, taking care to cover the nail bed completely.

Step 3

Wrap a piece of foil large enough to cover your fingertip, your fingernail and the cotton ball around your finger and press it into place. The foil should form a cap over your finger.

Step 4

Repeat the process with the other nails that need polish removal.

Step 5

Wait two to four minutes, then remove the foil packages from each fingertip, pressing the cotton ball against the surface of the nail as you slide off the foil. Two minutes should be sufficient for creme, frost and metallic formulas; four minutes will suffice for glitter polishes and resistant one-coat formulas.

Step 6

Clean any residual polish away from your nails with a cotton swab soaked in polish remover.

Step 7

Wash your hands after removing all traces of nail polish from your fingernails and before applying new polish.


  • This process works with professional gel nail enamels as well as with traditional liquid polishes. Roughen the surface of thick layers of remover-resistant polish with an emery board before applying the remover-soaked cotton balls if you want even faster removal.


  • Polish removers dry your nail beds and cuticles, so moisturize well after removing old polish. Acetone nail polish remover will soften and dissolve acrylic nails, so use this method only with acetone-free removers if you have acrylic nails and want to keep them attached.

Photo Credits

  • Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Lauren Whitney covers science, health, fitness, fashion, food and weight loss. She has been writing professionally since 2009 and teaches hatha yoga in a home studio. Whitney holds bachelor's degrees in English and biology from the University of New Orleans.