Gel polish is durable and relatively simple to use. The only drawback is removing gel nail polish with acetone takes between 30 minutes to one hour to remove it from natural nails.

If you remove gel nail polish yourself at home, you should know there are more than ways of taking off gel polish. Depending on where you are and what is available at your disposal, one gel removal method will be the better choice compared to others so you will not damage your natural nails in the process.

The following sections show 6 step-by-step methods you can use to take off gel nail polish at home.

Fun tip: you can also use this to take off your dip nails.

How to remove gel polish using finger cots

Chances are that most gel nail polish wearers have used different ways to remove gel nail polish, both at home and at a salon but using the finger cots to remove old gel polish on the nails is the most effective and friendly DIY gel polish removing process. You will see why it deserves the title in the following sections.

Things you need:

  • 1 medium grit nail file
  • Pure acetone
  • Cotton (any cotton size or shape will be OK)
  • 1 cup size glass bowl or larger
  • 10 finger cot (preferably 2 small-size for little fingers, 6 medium-size for other fingers, and 2 large-size for thumbs). These can be purchased online or locally at pharmacy stores or supermarkets.
  • Orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


  1. Start removing the gel topcoat on the nail with a medium grit nail file (100 grit file is preferred). If this is your first time, do not try to remove the gel color. It is not necessary since the acetone will do it for you and you might file too deep and accidentally file on your own nails and thin them out.
  2. Pour about 5 teaspoons of acetone into a glass bowl and soak 10 thumb-sized cotton balls.
  3. Using one hand, pick one cotton ball from the glass bowl and put it on top of a fingernail of the other hand.
  4. Then starting from the tip of the finger, unroll a finger cot so that it will wrap and hold the cotton ball on top of the nail. The finger cot should be unrolled mid-way through the second knuckle. Use your judgment to pick the right size finger cot for each finger so it stays fit without a lot of free movement.
  5. Repeat putting finger cots on the remaining nails then wait 15 minutes before checking.

During this waiting time, your hands are free and you can move around also. Things that you can do with your hands and fingers are:

  • light household chores.
  • Text messaging on your phone
  • typing on a keyboard
  • etc…

To reducing the soaking time and increase the contact of acetone on the gel polish, every 2 minutes or so, use fingers from one hand to gently squeeze the tip of one finger on the other hand. While you are doing this, try to keep all fingers pointing downward so the acetone will not leak out. Do this for all fingers.

After 15 minutes you can start rolling the finger cot back on the little finger (since there is the least gel polish on the nail, the acetone will work faster) to expose the soaked gel polish. You can use the orange-wood stick or a cuticle pusher to gently separate the loosened gel polish. If more soaking time is necessary, roll the finger cot back in the same way you did it the first time. Do this for other fingers. Thumbs should be last. Repeat this step until gel polish is completely removed on all nails.

Why is removing the old gel polish with finger cots is the best way? You ask. Let’s count the ways:

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

  • Hands and fingers are relatively free to do other things.
  • You can work on removing gel polish on one nail yourself, while all other fingers and thumbs are being soaked. Therefore, less time needed to loosen gel polish.
  • Use much less acetone compared with soaking hand in an acetone bowl method: less fume in the room.
  • You can move around instead of sitting down with the soaking in bowl method: less time wasted,
  • Hands and fingers are relatively free to use compared to a finger clip method: it is difficult to use your hands with clippers at the tips of your fingers.

Bonus: you can speed up the process even quicker by doing this:

  • Wet a hand towel and put it on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Wrap this hand towel onto a plate using plastic wrap, a couple of layers will be sufficient.
  • Microwave this for 30 seconds or until the wet towel is warm.
  • Remove from the microwave and place it on a table where you can sit comfortably for 30 minutes.
  • Make a loose fist and put your fingers on top of the warm towel in such a way that your nails and cotton come in contact with the towel.

Heat will help loosen gel polish on nails faster.

Conclusion: removing gel polish using finger cots takes less time, allows you to move around, and lets your hands and fingers free to do things. None other methods that are described below have all three.

If you just want to have some finger cots to do it at home, you should have about three dozens of small, medium, and large sizes. Some suppliers pack them in a convenient package for under $5. You can reuse them if you use them yourself. Three dozens of these finger cots will last up to 10 times. It is a good investment. Check out the latest price on Amazon here.Opens in a new tab.

If you are a nail technician, these finger cots are as low as 2 cents each if you buy in bulk (not including shipping cost). These finger cots will allow your customers to do something while waiting for the gel polish to come off instead of being tied down and not being able to use their hands for good 15 minutes. Check out bulk pricing of the finger cots here on amazonOpens in a new tab..

How to remove gel polish using only hot water

Things you need:

  • Plenty of hot water.
  • Orange-wood stick, a pair of tweezers, or gel removal tool.


soak your nails in relatively hot water until old gel polish softens and comes loose around the edges. Try gently to peel it off using an orangewood stick, cuticle pusher, a pair of tweezers, or your own fingernails. If water gets cool, replace or reheat. This process works best after a hot bath or shower. Washing dishes with warm water will also soften and loosen up 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.

More on how to take gel nail polish off without acetone naturallyOpens in a new tab. at home. in this article.

How to remove Gel polish using only oil

Things you need:

  • Any kind of cooking oil, olive oil is preferred.
  • Orange-wood stick, a pair of tweezers, or gel removal tool.


Cooking oil, olive oil can also be used to remove gel polish. However, it will take a little work. To begin, rub some oil on your nails and wait for a couple of minutes. Then slowly and gently peel it off with an orange-wood stick or rub it with your own fingers. As you remove gel polish this way, keep the nails well oiled.

Pro: If you do not have access to acetone or any other gel polish removing tools

Con: take a little bit of time and has to work on your nails the whole time.

How to remove gel polish using heated acetone

Things you need:

  • 1 medium grit nail file.
  • Pure acetone in a glass bowl larger enough that you can dip all fingers in.
  • 1 larger glass bowl so the smaller bowl can fit inside.
  • Some hot water.
  • Orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


  • First, use a medium file to remove the gel top coat as much as you can.
  • Pour some hot water into a large bowl. You can also use a microwave-proof bowl to heat some water.
  • Pour some pure acetone into a smaller bowl and put it in the larger bowl.
  • Find a place at a table so you can sit for about a half-hour where it is well ventilated. Soak both hands in acetone for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Then 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. This method works best if you can ask somebody to do scraping for you so all your fingers will stay soaked while only one finger is out of the acetone.

Pro: all nails are soaked in warm acetone so gel polish will come off faster.


  • Sit with hands tied for 20 minutes.
  • If you do it alone: one hand has to out of acetone to work on the other so gel polish on this hand will become hard again.
  • For a quicker result, assistance from another person is needed.

How to remove gel polish using finger clips

Things you need:

  • 1 medium grit nail file.
  • Pure acetone.
  • Cotton (any cotton size or shape will be OK).
  • 1 cup size glass bowl or larger.
  • 1 set of 10 finger clips. These can be purchased online.
  • Orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


  • First, use a medium file to remove the gel top coat as much as you can.
  • Then put 10 thumb-sized cotton balls into a glass bowl and pour about 2 to 3 tablespoons of pure acetone.
  • Put one cotton ball on top of a nail and using a clip to hold it in place
  • Do all nails and wait 20 minutes before removing one clip to check.
  • Using an orangewood stick or cuticle pusher gently scrape off the loosened gel polish.
  • If some gel polish still hard to remove, put the clip with damp cotton back on and go on to the next one.
  • Do this one by one on all nails until you remove the gel polish completely on all nails.

Pro: acetone only stays at the nails, not the whole fingers like the soaking in a heated acetone bowl.

Con: if you do it yourself and after you put finger clips on your fingers of one hand, it will be hard to put clips on the fingers on the other hand.

How to remove gel polish using aluminum foil

Things you need:

  • 1 medium grit nail file.
  • Pure acetone1 cup size glass bowl or larger.
  • Cotton (any cotton size or shape will be OK).
  • Aluminum foil.
  • Orange-wood stick or gel removal tool.


  • Put one cotton ball with acetone on top of a nail and take a piece of aluminum foil to wrap the finger.
  • Do the above step for the remaining fingers and thumbs.
  • Wait 20 minutes.
  • Pull the aluminum foil from the little finger and gently scrape away loose gel polish. If there is still gel polish stuck on the nail surface, put the aluminum foil back on.
  • Repeat the above step for other fingers until gel polish is completely off the nails.

Pro: this is a popular method used in a salon since it is easier to have someone do it for you.


  • If you do it yourself, it is similar to the finger clip method. After you wrap fingers one hand, it is very cumbersome to wrap fingers on the second hand. Also, while you are trying to do the second hand, wrapped aluminum foil on the first hand will come loose, therefore reducing contact time between cotton ball and fingernail.
  • Limited use of hands and fingers because aluminum foil can slide off fingers easily.
  • It is cumbersome to put back the aluminum foil properly so cotton on top of the nail because the foil may be squeezed out of shape.

WARNING: acetone will ruin wood furniture’s finish! If you remove gel polish yourself which requires using acetone, make sure that you cover your wood table with a large plastic bag or use a table that has acetone proof surface.

Your best way of removing gel polish: now you know all of the popular methods that can be used to remove gel polish yourself. Even though I have my favorite one. For you readers out there.

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

And that is how gel polish should be removed.

Happy gelling.

Time-saving product to remove gel polish:

Recently I tried a new cordless nail drill that started selling on amazon. It is a rechargeable cordless nail drill. It is as big as a highlight pen so it fits perfectly in your hand. I used it to remove gel topcoat before wrapping gel polish. It is great tool for removing gel polish at home. Another great thing is it costs under $30.

Check out this new and sleek nail drill on amazon. You will like it too.Opens in a new tab.

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