How To Take Off Acrylic Nails With Hot Water

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Acrylic nails are a very popular type of fake nail because they offer a super sturdy, long-lasting manicure without having to redo them every few days. Acrylic nails also have the added benefit of being able to add length to your natural nails with tip extensions.

But what makes them so sturdy is the glue that’s used to attach the extensions. It’s not easy to remove!

At a salon, removing acrylics usually involves using cotton balls soaked in acetone, placed on each acrylic nail. Then each nail is wrapped in tin foil and is left to wait 15-20 minutes. The softened, dissolving acrylic is then scraped off and nails are buffed to remove any residual acrylic.

You can also do this yourself at home. But because of how drying acetone can be for nails, this leaves a lot of people in search of gentler ways to remove acrylics.

In this article, we are going to explore not only how to take off acrylics with hot water, but a few of the other common acetone-free removal methods.


How To Take Off Acrylic Nails With Hot Water

There is one thing to bear in mind whichever acetone-free removal method you choose, whether it be warm water, vinegar, or one of the other methods we’ll discuss below.

You need to understand that this process will not be as effective as using acetone, nor will it be as easy. It will also take you a lot longer to remove your acrylic nails using any of these methods.

In terms of skin and nail health, using acetone is no more or less harsh than using any of the other methods. This is why salons use acetone.

What You’ll Need

How To Take off Acrylics Using Hot Water 

Following the steps below, you use a mixture of warm water a few drops of dish soap and a couple of tablespoons of oil as the soaking solution. It doesn’t have to be fancy expensive cooking or aromatherapy oil, vegetable oil will work just as well. The oil and dish soap will help the warm water to break down the acrylic.

  1. Trim back your nails
  2. Pre-soak your nails in as warm water as your fingers can tolerate without discomfort for 10 minutes. Pat dry and then file the tops of your nails to remove as much of the shiny topcoat as you can.
  3. Then soak your nails again in warm water with the dish soap and oil and wait for 30 minutes. Again using water as warm as you can tolerate without discomfort.
  4. Use a cuticle pusher to scrape off the acrylic. If it’s being stubborn, stop and keep soaking for another 10 minutes and try again. Keep soaking until you are able to remove the acrylic without pain or excessive force.
  5. Most importantly – be patient! If you’ve removed acrylics or have had them removed at the salon with acetone before, don’t expect them to come off as quickly. It will take a lot longer.
  6. Once you’ve scraped off as much as you can – don’t scrape too much or too hard, or you’ll damage your natural nail! – use the coarse side of your buffer to remove any acrylic residue
  7. Apply a nail and cuticle oil or balm and massage into your nails and cuticles and use the soft side of your buffer to shine them up.
  8. Re-apply cuticle oil or balm and massage it in.

Cutive oil is your friend here.

Karlash Salon Spa Premium Brush On Cuticle Oil Natural Healing Infused with Vitamin E Soothes and Moisturizes Cuticles 0.5 oz (Lemon)
  • Karlash Premium Cuticle oil is made of...
  • Our Cuticle oil is silky smooth and does...
  • Karlash Cuticle oil is made with Vitamin...
  • Made in USA. Our cuticle oils are made...

How To Take Off Acrylic Nails With Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover

Follow the steps above and substitute the warm water solution for acetone-free nail polish remover.

Your other option would be to instead of using a bowl to soak your nails for 30 minutes, you can soak a cotton ball with the remover, apply it to the nail wrap with tin foil. Let that sit for 30 minutes.

Otherwise, all the other steps are the same as above.

Can You Use Vinegar To Remove Acrylic Nails?

Yes you can use vinegar to remove acrylic nails! In fact, mixing rubbing alcohol and vinegar together creates ethyl acetate, which is the active ingredient in most acetone-free nail polish removers.

If you want to try this method, mix one-part white vinegar and one part rubbing alcohol as your soaking solution.

It’s best to use white vinegar, as colored vinegar can stain your nails if you’re soaking in it for an extended period of time.

You will often see the suggestion to use apple cider vinegar, but white vinegar is just as effective and much less expensive.

As with using acetone-free nail polish remover, you can either soak your nails in a bowl or use the cotton ball/tin foil method.

Why Is Acetone Getting A Bad Rap? And Is It Warranted?


Acetone is harsh on nails, there’s no denying that.

As taking off acrylics requires you to soak your fingertips in acetone for 15-20 minutes, it can dehydrate the nail plate, cuticles, and the surrounding skin. This can lead to weak, dry, brittle nails with dry, flaky, red, and irritated cuticles.

Prolonged exposure to acetone has also been associated with nail splitting and white discoloration of the nails. It can also cause overall thinning and severe weakness of the nails if used too often in this manner.

So it’s no wonder that people are in search of acetone-free methods to remove acrylic nails! It’s certainly not the ideal substance. But how bad is it, really?

Interestingly, acetone is an organic compound that occurs naturally in the human body as a byproduct of metabolism. It is normally present in both the blood and the urine. It may have a chemical-y sounding name, but acetone is as natural as it gets.

That said, acetone is definitely not good for your nails.

But the real question is – what product is better?

As it turns out, they really aren’t any better choices. Acetone-free removal methods are simply much less effective.

They require a longer soak time, and they just don’t work as well. This can lead to frustration. Some people, tired of waiting, may try to remove the acrylics before they’re ready to come off, resulting in nail damage.

They also require more scraping and filing to remove the residue, all of which is much more damaging to the nails than dehydration from acetone, which can be remedied by properly taking care of your nails and cuticles.

Ask yourself this: why do you think nail salons use acetone to remove acrylic nails?

As an industry dedicated specifically to maintaining the beauty and health of your nails, surely, if there were a better removal method, they would be using it!

Take Away

You can use warm water or other acetone-free methods to remove your acrylics, as outlined above. But using acetone is the fastest, easiest, most effective way to remove acrylics. And it’s also not really any worse for your nails than the other methods.

Although it’s more drying to the nails, as long as you follow up with a cuticle oil or balm to rehydrate them, your nails should be okay.

See also:

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).