Does Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint? (How-To)

Nail polish remover is used for removing polish from fingernails. But is it strong enough to remove paint? Here is the answer to that.

Nail polish remover is an active solvent that does remove different paint types from several surfaces. Nail polish removers that contain acetone are particularly good at removing water-based or latex, oil-based, acrylic, and fresh paint off surfaces.

However, nail polish remover shouldn’t be used on uncured or fresh surfaces like 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.

Will Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint From Wood?

Nail polish removers that contain acetone will remove latex, acrylic, fresh, and oil-based paints from wooden surfaces. However, you shouldn’t use nail polish or acetone on fresh, porous, or chemically-treated wooden surfaces to prevent damages and discoloration.

Nail polish remover is a solvent made of chemicals that are similar to those used in manufacturing paint thinners. A key ingredient in nail polish remover is acetone which is also used in making paint thinners and paint-cleaners.

Nail polish removers that are formulated with acetone are specially designed to remove tough materials like synthetic resins in nail polish. This strong concentration also makes the nail polish capable of dissolving and removing several types of paints from wood.

Even oil-based paints that usually prove tough to remove can be dissolved using acetone or nail polish remover. However, you shouldn’t use nail polish remover on fresh, porous, and chemically-treated wood. This is because these wooden surfaces are very prone to the active acetone in the nail polish remover.

Using nail polish remover on chemically-treated wood poses a risk. The acetone in the nail polish remover can react harshly to the chemicals used in treating the wood. Especially those that contain arsenic compounds. This clash can produce toxic fumes and scar the wood.

You also shouldn’t use nail polish remover on porous or fresh wood 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.

Also, fresh wooden surfaces are not completely dry or cured, so the acetone can discolor, stain, and damage the wood making it difficult for paint to stick to the wood later.

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

How To Use Nail Polish Remover To Remove Paint (In 5 Easy Steps)

Removing paint using nail polish remover is easy but the result you get after depends on the type of surface the nail polish remover was used on.

Before going on with the task, you will need the following 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

Now, let’s get to work.

Here is how to remove paint using nail polish remover:

  • Clean The Paint
  • Scrape some of the paint off
  • Apply nail polish remover on the leftover paint
  • Scrub the paint Off
  • Wash The Spot With Rubbing Alcohol and Warm Soapy Water

Let’s check out these steps in detail.

1.  Clean The Paint

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

The first step is to clean the paint and the affected surface. Cleaning before removing the paint helps you get a clear view of the surface and where the paint is before going on with the task.

This is even more important if you are working on a dusty surface or one that has been affected by multiple paint splashes.

To clean the paint, use a rag or duster to wipe off any dust or grime from the surface. Before moving on to the next step, ensure to put on a pair of work gloves and a face mask.

2. Scrape The Paint

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

The next step is to remove as much paint you can by scraping the paint with a paint scraper or a metallic putty knife. A trowel will also suffice.

Removing the bulk of the paint before applying nail polish remover will prevent messy work. It will also reduce the amount of nail polish remover that you will use since the solvent has to remove less paint.

To scrape the paint, angle the paint scraper or any tool you are using at a 45-degree angle. Then gently 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 have a hard time pushing the paint scraper underneath the paint, it means the paint has become very hard. You might experience this with oil-based paint. To remove such hard paint, pour a bit of nail polish remover on the surface first to dissolve the paint. Then try scraping it off again. It should come off after a few minutes.

3. Apply Nail Polish Remover On The Paint

Apply the nail polish remover to the surface.

When you have scraped as much paint as you can, apply nail polish remover on the leftover paint on the surface. The nail polish remover should be applied directly to the paint. You can apply by using a spray bottle or a rag.

If it’s a little spec of paint stain, you can douse a clean rag with nail polish remover and use it to dab the affected spot. If you are stripping finish or large paint, pour the nail polish remover directly on the paint. When you have applied the nail polish remover, leave it to settle on the paint for a few minutes.

After about 10 minutes, you will notice that the paint has changed form. The acetone in the nail polish will break the bonds in the paint and dissolve the paint pigment. This will cause some paints to fall off or liquefy (turn liquid).

Related Read: Does Goo Gone Remove Dried Paint?

4. Scrub The Paint Off

Use a cloth or rug to scrub the paint off.
Use a cloth or rag to scrub the paint off.

When you notice that the paint has changed form, consistency, or color, then it’s ready to be removed. Use a scrubbing brush to scrub the paint off. The scrubbing helps to massage the nail polish remover around the painted surface. It also helps to remove stubborn paint stains that might still adhere to the surface.

After scrubbing for a while, use a damp rag to wipe the surface to check if the paint has fully come off. If you still notice any paint stain, 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 using nail polish remover, or any chemical solvent to remove paint from a surface, you should always clean and wash the surface. That helps to get rid of any leftover solvent on the surface. If the solvent isn’t cleaned off, it will damage the surface. The nail polish remover can also be absorbed by porous surfaces like uncured wood.

To clean the acetone, start by wiping the surface with a damp rag. Then add some rubbing alcohol or isopropyl on the surface to neutralize the nail polish remover. After, wash the surface with warm soapy water and a soft sponge or rag. Then leave the surface to dry.

If you have done all these, then you have successfully removed paint from the surface using nail polish remover.

Related Read: Will Mineral Spirits Remove Paint?

Will Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint From Car?

Nail polish removers will remove paint from a car but the nail polish remover should not contain acetone. This is because nail polish removers that contain acetone tend to be harsh on the car’s frame.

Non-acetone nail polish removers can be used on car paint because these solvents are less potent and gentler on the car.

Car paint can be removed using nail polish removers but most nail Polish removers contain acetone and acetone can be harsh on the car frame. This is because the acetone will dissolve the car paint and eat away at the paint to the base. Since you are trying to remove the paint, this wouldn’t cause you any worry right? Not quite.

While acetone nail Polish removers will remove the paint entirely, the removal process can damage the car frame itself by causing stains and etching.

Also, acetone removes car paint to the last layer. By doing this, the car is stripped to bare metal and the car frame will be exposed. This might not be the best option for you especially if you just want to retouch the paint on your car. Using acetone means you can’t just retouch the car paint. Instead, you will have to paint the car from scratch.

However, non-acetone nail polish remover will be gentler but it might not remove the paint effectively.

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.

As an expert tip, you should remove car paint by using a substance less potent like rubbing alcohol or another product designed to strip car paint.

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

Will Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint From Clothes?

Acetone-based nail Polish removers will remove paint stains from clothes and fabrics. The solvent can be used to dissolve and loosen paint stains but not on every cloth or fabric.

Acetone-based nail Polish removers shouldn’t be used on clothes made from wool, silk, and clothes with dye or prints. Using acetone on such clothes will stain and possibly damage the fabric.

Removing paint stains from clothes might not be possible with laundry detergent alone. That’s because many of these paints have paint pigments that are made from chemicals and dry fast.

So you will also need a solvent or chemical to remove them. One of such chemicals is acetone-based nail polish remover. The nail Polish remover will loosen the paint pigments from the fabric material making it possible to wash it off later.

This is how to remove paint stains from clothes using acetone-based nail polish remover: Start by turning the cloth inside out. Then test the acetone on a small part of the cloth around the edges to see if the acetone causes any discoloration. If the acetone doesn’t damage the cloth, then you can use it.

Pour a bit of the acetone-based nail polish remover on the affected spot. Then use a clean cloth to massage the acetone into the fabric. Leave the spot for a few minutes, then wash and properly rinse the cloth.

If you want to remove paint from a sensitive fabric, dilute the acetone-based nail polish remover first. Mix equal parts of acetone and water in a container. Then use the solution on the fabric. If the stain doesn’t come off, increase the concentration of the acetone-based nail polish remover in the container.

Will Nail Polish Remover Remove Paint From Plastic?

Acetone-based nail polish remover will remove paint from plastic surfaces. The nail polish remover is also safe to use on plastic because it can’t melt or discolor the plastic.

Either you are doing some clean-up work on a plastic surface, a touch-up, or your paint job isn’t going as planned. Whatever the task is, you can always use acetone-based nail polish remover to remove paint from plastic surfaces. The acetone in the nail polish is effective at breaking molecular bonds.

So it will break down the paint pigment and dissolve the polymer making it possible to simply wipe off the paint from the plastic. Acetone is also safe on plastic since it would not damage the plastic.

Related Read: Can You Use Oil Paint on Plastic?

Final Words

Acetone-based nail polish remover is an effective solvent that will get rid of even the toughest paint stains from any surface. Non-acetone nail polish remover also works to remove the paint but it doesn’t work as well as acetone-based removers.

But before you use acetone on any surface, ensure to check if acetone can be used on the surface to prevent damages.

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