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 remove paint because it’s an active solvent. The nail polish remover that contains acetone is good at removing water and oil-based paints, acrylic, and fresh paints off the surface. 

The acetone nail polish remover works by breaking the paint particles and dissolving the paint pigments. Once this happens, the paint turns liquid, and you can wipe it off.

But, you can’t use nail polish remover on uncured or fresh surfaces such as fresh wood. That’s because the solvent can discolor and damage such surfaces.

This is, however, just a snippet. There is more to know about removing paint with nail polish remover, and this post digs right into the topic. Let’s dive in.

How To Use Nail Polish Remover To Remove Paint?

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

  • A Bottle Of Nail Polish Remover Or 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 Paint

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

Before starting, wear a pair of work gloves and a face mask.

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

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

2. Scrape The Paint

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

Next, remove as much paint as you can by scraping the paint. To scrape paint, you can use a paint scraper, a metallic putty knife, or a trowel. 

Scraping paint before applying acetone will prevent messy work. It will also reduce the amount of paint the nail polish remover has to remove. The less paint the surface has, the faster the acetone will remove it. 

To scrape the paint, bend the paint scraper at a 45-degree angle and push the sharp end of the paint scraper underneath the paint you want to remove and lift. This will remove much of the paint on the surface.

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

3. Apply Nail Polish Remover On The Paint

Apply the nail polish remover to the surface.

After you have scraped most of the paint, apply nail polish remover on the leftover paint. The nail polish remover should be applied directly to the paint using a spray bottle or a rag.

If there’s a small amount of paint, douse a clean rag with acetone and use it to dab the rag. If you are stripping a large painted surface, pour the nail polish remover directly on the paint. 

After applying nail polish remover to the paint, wait 10 minutes. Within 10 minutes, the acetone will break the paint particles and dissolve the paint pigment. This will cause paint to peel off and turn liquid (liquefy). 

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

Scrub the paint for a few minutes, then use a damp rag to wipe off the paint. 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 nail polish remover off the wood. If you don’t remove the acetone from the wood, it can damage and discolor the wood surface.

To remove acetone:

  1. Wipe the surface with a damp rag.
  2. Apply rubbing alcohol over the surface to neutralize the nail polish remover.
  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?

Removing Paint With Nail Polish Remover From Different Surfaces:

Here are some types of surfaces that you can use nail polish remover to remove paint:


Acetone does remove paint from wood, including latex, acrylic, fresh, and oil-based paints. However, don’t use nail polish or acetone on fresh, porous, or chemically-treated wooden surfaces to prevent damage and discoloration.

The acetone paint remover is a solvent made of chemicals similar to those used in paint thinners. A key ingredient in nail polish remover is acetone, also used in making paint thinners and paint-cleaners.

Acetone-based nail polish removers are designed to remove tough materials like synthetic resins in nail polish. The strong concentration of acetone makes it capable of dissolving and removing different types of paints from wood. You can also remove oil-based paints using nail polish remover.

However, you shouldn’t use nail polish remover on fresh, porous, and chemically treated wood. These wooden surfaces are prone to the active acetone in the nail polish remover.

You shouldn’t use nail polish remover on chemical-treated wood. That’s because acetone can react to the chemicals used in treating the wood. Especially those that contain arsenic compounds. These chemicals can scar the wood. 

Using nail polish remover on porous or fresh wood can discolor, stain, and damage the wood. 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 remove 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 the car paint but also eat away the paint to the base. This means it will remove the car paint entirely to the last layer. 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 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. 

However, you can use non-acetone nail polish remover to remove paint from a car. 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. Acetone nail polish remover will remove paint from a car, but it might be too harsh on the frame. Non-acetone nail polish remover, on the other hand, will remove the paint, but it will not be as effective.

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

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 acetone-based nail polish remover on clothes made from wool, silk, and clothes with dye and prints. Acetone will damage and stain these types of fabric. 

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

To remove paint stains from clothes using an acetone-based nail polish remover:

  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 remove 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 paint doesn’t come off, increase the amount of acetone on the mixture. 


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

The acetone will break the paint particles and dissolve the polymer making it possible to wipe off the paint from the plastic. 

Related Read: Can You Use Oil Paint on Plastic?

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.

However, before you use acetone on any surface, check if acetone can be used on the surface to prevent damage.

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