Nail Polish Remover To Remove Paint? (Does it Work?)

Nail polish remover is used to remove polish from fingernails. But, does nail polish remover remove paint?

Nail polish remover can strip paint because it’s an active solvent that contains acetone, which is good at removing water and oil-based paints.

The acetone will break the bond between the particles, and dissolve the pigments  Once this happens, the coating turns liquid, and you can wipe it off. But, you can’t use it on uncured or fresh surfaces such as fresh wood. That’s because the solvent can discolor and damage such surfaces.

How To Use Nail Polish Remover To Remove Paint?

Removing paint using nail polish remover isn’t hard, but you need the right tools:

  • Acetone
  • A Pair Of Gloves
  • A Face Mask
  • A Scrubbing Brush
  • Rags
  • Paint Scraper
  • A Bucket Of Warm Water
  • Detergent
  • Rubbing Alcohol

1.  Clean The Finish

Before using nail polish remover to remove paint, you have to clean the surface with water first.

Before starting, wear safety goggles.

Next, clean the surface. Cleaning is important if you are working on a dusted surface or one affected by splashes. That’s because it helps you to get a clear view of the surface and where the paint is.

To clean the surface, use a rag or duster to wipe off any dust or grime.

2. Scrape The Finish

Now, use a putty knife to scrape off the paint.

Scrape as much paint as possible from the coating. To do so, use a paint scraper, putty knife, or a trowel. Scraping will help the acetone deal with less paint and will help it remove the coating much easier. 

To scrape the finish, bend the scraper at a 45-degree angle and push the sharp end under the coating, and lift it. Repeat this until most of the finish is gone. 

If you can’t push the scraper underneath the finish, it means the coating has become very hard. This usually happens with oil-based paints. To remove hard paints, pour nail polish remover over them, wait a few minutes, then scrape them. 

3. Apply Nail Polish Remover

Apply the nail polish remover to the surface.

After most of the finish is gone, apply the nail polish remover over the leftovers. The acetone should be applied directly over the finish using a spray bottle or rag. 

For small surfaces, damp a rag with acetone and use the dampened rag to wipe it off. For large surfaces, fill a bottle with acetone and spray it over the surface.

After applying it, wait 10 minutes or until the coating changes its form, and wipe the coating off. Within 10 minutes, the acetone will break the bond between the particles and dissolve the pigment. 

Related Read: Does Goo Gone Remove Dried Paint?

4. Scrub The Paint Off

Use a cloth or rug to scrub the paint off.

Once the coating turns liquid or changes form and color, you can remove it. To remove it, use a scrubbing brush to scrub it off. The scrubbing moves the acetone around the surface and helps remove stubborn stains that are still adhered to the surface.

Scrub the paint for a few minutes, then use a damp rag to wipe off it off. If there’s still paint on the surface, apply more acetone and scrub again. 

5. Wash The Surface Again

After you remove the paint with nail polish remover, you have to clean the surface again.

After removing the paint, you must get the acetone residue off the wood. If you don’t, it can damage and discolor the wood surface.

To remove it:

  1. Wipe the surface with a damp rag.
  2. Apply rubbing alcohol over the surface to neutralize the acetone
  3. Wash the surface with warm soapy water and a soft sponge.
  4. Then, leave the surface to dry. 

Related Read: Will Mineral Spirits Remove Paint?

Different Surfaces:


Acetone can strip water and oil-based paints from wood. However, don’t use it on fresh, porous, or chemically-treated wooden surfaces to prevent damage and discoloration.

A key ingredient in nail polish remover is acetone, also used in making paint thinner. The strong concentration of acetone makes it capable of dissolving and removing different types of paints from wood.

However, using it on porous or fresh wood can discolor, stain, and damage the surface. That’s because porous surfaces don’t have the wooden grain tightly packed together. So it’s easier for the nail polish to sift through and get absorbed by the wood.

Related Read: Can You Use Rubbing Alcohol To Remove Paint?


To strip paint from cars, use a non-acetone nail polish remover. That’s because acetone can be harsh on the car’s frame, so you should avoid it. 

Acetone will dissolve and remove paint splashes over car paint, but it will also penetrate and remove the original paint of the car. By doing this, the car will be stripped to bare metal, and the car frame will be exposed. If this happens, you must paint the car from scratch and not just re-touch it.

If acetone is left over on the car frame for a long period, it will damage the car frame and cause stains and etching. You would need to paint over the stains to hide them. 

So, using non-acetone nail polish remover on car surfaces. The non-acetone nail polish remover is gentler and won’t damage the car frame. But, it’s not as effective as acetone. So it comes down to your decision.

To remove car paint, it’s best to use a less potent solvent such as rubbing alcohol.

Related Read: What Products Can You Use To Dissolve Latex Paint?


Acetone can remove paint from clothes and fabric, but not for every type of cloth or fabric. You shouldn’t use it on clothes made from wool, silk, and clothes with dye and prints. It will damage and stain these types of fabric. 

The nail polish remover will loosen the pigments from the fabric and make it impossible to wash it off.

Here’s how you should use it:

  1. Turn the clothes inside out.
  2. Test the acetone on a small part of the cloth to determine if it causes discoloration. 
  3. Pour the acetone on the affected spot, and use a clean cloth to massage the acetone into the fabric. 
  4. Wait a few minutes. 
  5. Wash and rinse the cloth. 

To strip paint from sensitive fabric, dilute the acetone with water first. Mix equal parts (ratio 1:1) of acetone and water in a container, and use the mixture on the fabric. If the color doesn’t come off, increase the amount of acetone on the mixture. 


You can use acetone to remove paint from plastic surfaces. Acetone won’t melt or discolor the plastic, so it’s safe to use.

Final Words

Acetone fingernail polish remover will remove even the toughest paints from surfaces. Non-acetone nail polish remover also removes paint, but it’s not as effective as acetone-based removers.

Tony Adams
Tony Adams

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about,

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