How To Take Off Gel Nails At Home

We love gel manicures because they stay glossy and without chips for weeks. However, removing gel nail polish is not exactly trivial, and often requires an extra visit to your nail salon. If you are wondering how to take off gel nails at home without damaging your nails, keep reading. Learn how to remove gel nails at home safely in 5 simple steps!

Pin How To Take Off Gel Nails At Home for later!

Tools To Take Off Gel Nails At Home

Unlike other types of manicures, gel nail polish doesn’t go away with regular nail polish remover, so don’t even try. In order to remove gel nails at home, you will need a few simple pieces of equipment.

  • Coarse nail file. Preferably a glass one.
  • Cuticle oil
  • Cotton Balls 
  • Soak Off Nail Clips (or kitchen foil)
  • Steel cuticle remover / nail scrapper
  • Acetone: Avoid acetone that is mixed with conditioning actives, it will just need more time to soak off the gel nail polish.

Before you start attempting to remove gel nail polish at home, find a well ventilated place. Acetone can stain cloth and towels, so make sure nothing that can be damaged is nearby. Sitting comfortably next to an open window is what works best for me. Definitely not “standing in the bathroom with the door closed” scenarios, the acetone fumes are no joke.

How To Take Off Gel Nails At Home In 5 Steps

Step 1: File

The first step to removing gel nail polish at home is gently filing the top layer of the polish using a rough nail file. You can use the same one you usually use to shape your nails. The goal is just to break down the first layer of gel polish, so the acetone soak can work its magic. You don’t need to file away all of the gel nails, just scratch the surface a bit.

Step 2: Protect Your Skin

Since you are going to be using acetone you want to protect your skin. Use a thick nail cream or a cuticle oil and apply it to your cuticles and around your nails, just make sure your nails are clean. This will minimise damage from the gel nails and will make removal more comfortable.

Step 3: Soak

Take 10 cotton balls and soak them in acetone nail polish remover. Cotton pads can work too, but they usually dry too quickly and become ineffective. So old school cotton balls are great. If you aren’t a fan of cotton balls you can also soak your nails in an acetone bath. Just fill a bowl with acetone and a couple drops of cuticle oil and dip your fingertips for a while.

Step 4: Wrap

If you are using cotton balls, you’ll need to wrap each around your nails now. Use the soak off nail clips if you want a reusable and fool proof way to keep the acetone soaked cotton balls around your nails. Or use aluminum foil and wrap it well around each finger. And then you need to WAIT.

Yes, waiting is key to safe gel nail removal, at home and at the salon. After 10 or 15 minutes the gel polish should be sliding off your nails when you remove the cotton balls, or at least very close to that. Don’t force it or you will damage the surface of your nail.

Step 5: Scrape

After 10-15 minutes the gel nail polish should be loose and lifting by itself in places. If it’s not, soak another cotton ball and re-apply the foil or soak off nail clips for another 5 minutes.

Apply gently pressure with the cotton ball and the nail polish should slip right along it. If there are some stubborn spots (there are always some) very gently use the scrapper to remove them. Do this very, very gently. Often soaking for another 5 minutes will loosen any stubborn spots. If you scrape or pick your gel nail polish you risk weak and damaged nails.


After all this acetone soaking your nails are going to feel a bit dry. If you are taking a rest from gel nail polish treat them to a soak in coconut oil or a deep cuticle oil treatment. If you intend to apply a gel manicure back to back skip this step: you want all the oils in your nail gone anyway. But skip any further dehydrating to avoid drying your nails too much.

Many people choose to give their nails a rest after wearing gel or acrylic nails for a while. If you don’t like the idea of bare nails, choose a hardening nail polish or treat yourself to a japanese manicure in between gel services.

As you can see, there is not a huge amount of skill involved in how to take off gel nails at home. You can easily learn how to remove gel nails at home and save yourself a lot of money. And if you like doing your nails… have you considered getting a gel manicure at home by yourself as well?