Gel polish is durable and relatively easy to apply. Gel nail polish can only be removed from natural nails with acetone after 30 minutes to an hour.

You can remove gel nail polish yourself at home in more than one way. Depending on your location and what is available to you, one gel removal method will be better than others so you won’t damage your natural nails.

Here are six methods you can use to remove gel nail polish at home in a step-by-step manner.

Fun tip: It works great for removing dip nails, too.

How to remove gel polish using finger cots

Many gel nail polish wearers have used different methods to remove gel nail polish, both at home and in a salon, but using finger cots to remove old gel polish on the nails is the most effective and friendly DIY removal method. In the following sections, you will see why it deserves the title.


Things you need:

  • One medium-grit nail file
  • and pure acetone
  • cotton (of any size or shape will work)
  • a cup-sized glass bowl
  • Ten finger cot (preferably 2 small ones for little fingers, 6 medium ones for other fingers, and 2 large ones for thumbs). These can be purchased online or locally at pharmacies or supermarkets.
  • Orange-wood sticks or gel removal tools.


  1. Using a medium grit nail file (100 grit is best), begin removing the gel topcoat on the nail. Do not try to remove the gel color if it is your first time. This is not necessary since the acetone will do it for you and you might accidentally file on your own nails and thin them out.
  2. Five teaspoons of acetone should be poured into a glass bowl and ten cotton balls soaked in it.
  3. Take a cotton ball from the glass bowl and place it on top of a fingernail of the other hand.
  4. Starting at the tip of the finger, roll the finger cot so that it wraps and holds the cotton ball on top of the nail. The finger cot should be unrolled halfway through the second knuckle. Pick the right size finger cot for each finger so it stays in place without much freedom of movement.
  5. Put finger cots on the remaining nails and wait 15 minutes before checking.

During this waiting time, your hands are free and you can move around. You can do the following with your hands:

  • light household chores.
  • You can text with your phone.
  • You can type with a keyboard
  • etc…

Every 2 minutes or so, squeeze the tip of a finger on the other hand using fingers from one hand to reduce the soaking time and increase the contact with the acetone. When you are doing this, try to keep all your fingers pointing downward to prevent the acetone from leaking. Do this for all your fingers.

When the gel polish has soaked for 15 minutes, you can roll the finger cot back on the little finger (since there is the least amount of gel polish on the nail, the acetone will react faster) to expose the soaked gel polish. You can use either a cuticle pusher or an orange-wood stick to gently separate loosened gel polish. When more time is needed for soaking, roll back the finger cot in the same manner as before. Repeat for other fingers. The thumb should be the last to be soaked. Repeat this step until all gel polish has been removed.

Why is it best to remove old gel polish with finger cots? It’s your question. Here are some reasons:

Advantages of using finger cot to remove gel polish over other methods are listed below:

  • The hands and fingers can be used for other activities.
  • While other fingers and thumbs are being soaked, you can remove gel polish on one nail yourself. This will reduce the time needed to loosen the gel polish.
  • Use much less acetone than soaking your hands in an acetone bowl: less fumes in the room.
  • Instead of sitting down, you can move around when using the soaking in bowl method: less time wasted,
  • The hands and fingers are relatively free to use compared to a finger clip method: using clippers at the tips of your fingers makes it difficult to use your hands.

Bonus: You can speed up the process even more by doing this:

  • Place a wet hand towel on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Wrap this hand towel with plastic wrap, a couple of layers will be enough.
  • Microwave for 30 seconds or until the towel is warm.
  • After 30 minutes, take it out of the microwave and place it on a table where you can sit comfortably.
  • Put your fingers on top of the towel in such a way that your nails and cotton come into contact with it.

Heat will help loosen gel polish more quickly.

Conclusion: Using finger cots to remove gel polish saves time, lets you move around, and leaves your hands and fingers free. None of the methods described below offer all three.

In order to do it at home, you should have about three dozens of finger cots in small, medium, and large sizes. Some suppliers offer them in a convenient package for under $5. They can be reused if you use them yourself. Three dozens of these finger cots can be reused up to ten times. The investment is worth it. Check Amazon for the latest price.

Finger cots

Buying in bulk can save you as much as 2 cents per finger cot if you are a nail technician (not including shipping costs). Rather than being tied down and unable to use their hands for 15 minutes while waiting for the gel polish to come off, these finger cots allow them to do something while they wait. You can buy finger cots in bulk on Amazon.

Finger cots

How to remove gel polish using only hot water

Things you need:

  • A lot of hot water.
  • An orange-wood stick, tweezers, or gel removal tool.


You should soak your nails in hot water until old gel polish softens and comes off around the edges. Peel it off gently with an orangewood stick, cuticle pusher, tweezers, or your own fingernails. Replace or reheat the water if it gets cool. The process works best after a hot bath or shower. Using warm water to wash your dishes will also soften and loosen gel polish on your nails.

Pro: the extra benefit for taking a warm shower, bath or doing dishes.

Con: hands have to be in hot water the whole time.

How to remove Gel polish using only oil

Things you need:

  • Any kind of cooking oil, olive oil is best.
  • A stick of orange wood, tweezers, or a gel removal tool.


Olive oil or cooking oil can also be used to remove gel polish. However, you will have to work a bit harder at it. Start by rubbing some oil on your nails and letting it sit for a couple of minutes. Slowly and gently peel it off with an orange-wood stick or rub it with your fingers. Keep the nails well oiled as you remove gel polish this way.

Pro: When you do not have access to acetone or any other gel polish removing tool

Con: It takes a bit of time, and you have to work on your nails all the time.

How to remove gel polish using heated acetone

Things you need:

  • one medium-grit nail file.
  • Put pure acetone in a glass bowl large enough to allow you to dip all of your fingers in it.
  • Get one bigger glass bowl so the smaller bowl can fit inside.
  • Warm water.
  • An orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


  • Then, use a medium file to remove as much of the gel top coat as possible.
  • Fill up a large bowl with hot water. You can also heat some water in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Put some pure acetone into a smaller bowl and then into the larger bowl.
  • You should sit at a table where it is well ventilated for about a half-hour. Both hands should be soaked in acetone for at least 15 minutes.
  • Next, use an orangewood stick or a cuticle pusher to gently scrape the loose gel polish off the nail surface while keeping the other nails soaked. It works best if you can ask someone else to do the scraping for you so all of your fingers will stay soaked while only one finger is left out of the acetone.

Pro: In order to remove gel polish faster, all nails are soaked in warm acetone.


  • Hands must be tied for 20 minutes.
  • When doing this alone, one hand must be out of acetone before you can start working on the other, so the gel polish on this hand will become hard again.
  • Assistance from another person will make the process go more quickly.

How to remove gel polish using finger clips

Things you need:

  • one medium-grit nail file.
  • Acetone in its purest form.
  • A piece of cotton (any size or shape will do).
  • An adequate sized glass bowl.
  • A set of ten finger clips. You can buy them online.
  • An orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


Pro: Acetone only dries on the nails, not on the whole finger like soaking in a heated acetone bowl.

Con: If you do it yourself and put finger clips on your fingers of one hand, you’ll have a hard time putting clips on the fingers of the other hand.

How to remove gel polish using aluminum foil

Things you need:

  • one medium grit nail file.
  • Acetone in a glass bowl at least one cup in size.
  • Cotton (any size or shape is fine).
  • Foil made of aluminum.
  • An orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


  • Wrap your finger in aluminum foil and place a cotton ball with acetone on top of the nail.
  • Repeat this process for the remaining fingers and thumbs.
  • Allow 20 minutes.
  • Remove aluminum foil from the little finger and gently scrape away loose gel polish. Reapply aluminum foil if there is still gel polish on the nail surface.
  • Repeat the above step for each finger until the gel polish has been completely removed.

Pro: As it is easier to have someone do it for you, this method is popular in salons.


  • This method is similar to the finger clip method if you do it yourself. As soon as you wrap fingers on one hand, it is very difficult to wrap fingers on the second hand. Additionally, while you try to do the second hand, the aluminum foil on the first hand will come loose, reducing the contact time between the cotton ball and fingernail.
  • Limited use of hands and fingers because aluminum foil slips off fingers easily.
  • As the aluminum foil may be squeezed out of shape, it can be difficult to put cotton on top of the nail so that it is sitting properly.

Be careful when using acetone on wood furniture. Use a plastic bag to cover your wood table if you are removing gel polish by yourself. Use a table that has an acetone-proof surface if you are removing gel polish by yourself.

Here are the most popular methods you can use to remove gel polish yourself. I have my own favorite. I thought you might like to know.

Depending on the situation and what you have available, you can now decide which method works best for you whether you are at home, in a hotel room, on vacation, etc.

This is how gel polish should be removed.

Thanks for reading.

Time-saving product to remove gel polish:

Time-saving product to remove gel polish

I recently tried a new cordless nail drill that started selling on Amazon. This is a rechargeable cordless nail drill. The pen is about the size of a highlighter, so it fits perfectly in your hand. Before wrapping gel polish, I used it to remove the topcoat. The tool is useful for removing gel polish at home. It is also reasonably priced at under $30.

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