How To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home Safely And Easily

Has your gel manicure grown out, chipped, or lifted but the salon is closed? Or have you decided to start doing your own gel nails? Then you just need to learn how to remove gel nail polish. Here are 3 ways how to do it at home safely and easily.

Let’s dive right in:

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How to remove gel nail polish

How to remove gel nail polish

Both professional gel nail polish and at-home gel polish are pretty easy to remove, and the removal process is not too harsh on the nails.

There are a few ways how to do it:

How to remove gel nail polish by soaking it off

How to remove gel nail polish

You can simply soak the product off with an acetone-based remover.

“Soak-off” in the description of nail polish doesn’t mean it can be soaked off with water. Gel nail polishes are waterproof. You need to use a remover.

Onyx Profesional Acetone Nail Polish Remover

How to remove gel nail polish


Any nail polish remover that contains acetone that you use for removing ordinary nail polishes will work on gel nail polishes.

You just have to soak your gel polish off for a longer time than ordinary polish.

You can’t just wipe this kind of polish off.

It’s necessary to wrap each nail in a piece of foil to hold a cotton ball with the remover firmly against the nail plate.

Makartt Foil Nail Polish Removal Kit

How to remove gel nail polish


Or you can use a set of special nail clips that you attach to your fingertips instead of the foil to hold the cotton balls with the remover liquid in place.

FANDAMEI Nail Polish Gel Remover Tools Kit

How to remove gel nail polish


For most gel nail polishes soaking off takes about 10 minutes.

Some brands take more time to soak off.

With Shellac it’s usually 10-12 minutes.

Then, after the polish softens, you can just use an orange stick or a cuticle pusher to easily push the polish coating off your nails.

Here are the steps in short:

  • Soak cotton balls in an acetone nail polish remover.
  • Wrap each finger in a piece of foil, placing each cotton ball against the nail plate.
  • You can also use special clips instead of foil.
  • Wait for 10-12 minutes.
  • Unwrap your fingers.
  • Push the softened gel nail polish off your nails with an orange nail stick.

How to remove gel nail polish with a nail drill

Another way to remove gel nail polish from the natural nail plate is to carefully file it off with a nail drill.

This is one of the main methods that nail salon professionals use.

You enter the salon with an old and overgrown gel manicure.

Then your nail tech removes the old gel polish layers and coats your nails with new layers of gel nail polish or creates nail extensions for you.

But you don’t have to remove gel polish with a nail drill only when you go to a salon.

You can also do it at home if you buy a good-quality e-file.

If you do it carefully and in the right way you won’t damage the nail plate at all.

This method may be even softer on the nails than soaking the polish off with acetone if you do everything right.

Here is how to remove gel nail polish with an e-file:

You will need to invest in a good quality professional-level nail drill.

A good unit will allow you to have full control when you are removing your gel polish manicure.

It won’t have any vibrations that cause an unpleasant sensation when you are using it.

A good drill won’t be too noisy either. So it won’t cause discomfort.

It will also have several speeds for different purposes.

A professional-level e-file must also be powerful enough.

The best ones can have a speed of 30,000-40,000 RPM.

This allows you to work with carbide bits.

And you’ll be able to use the e-file on acrylic nails as well.

Another feature that you should look for in a nail drill bit is the forward/reverse option.

For example, you may need to turn the reverse setting on if you are left-handed.

The drill you choose can be a tabletop unit or a compact portable one.

MelodySusie Professional Rechargeable 30000 RPM Nail Drill

How to remove gel nail polish


MelodySusie makes a very nice compact and portable unit that will save you space and help you work on both gel nail polish and acrylic nails at home.

The best nail drill bit for removing gel nail polish

A high-quality nail e-file must have a twist-lock chuck for changing the drill bits easily.

The best nail drill bit for removing gel nail polish, especially if you are a beginner, is a safety bit with the blue color code.

The safety bit is a tapered barrel-shaped nail drill bit with a rounded top and without the large carbide teeth.

So it’s safer than coarse carbide bits and will be gentle on the nail plate and won’t cut the surrounding skin.

The color code means the coarseness level.

The blue means the medium grit, the red color is the fine grit, and the green means the coarse grit.

You can also choose the fine grit (the red color code) if you’re a novice. But it may be a bit too soft for removing gel nail polish.

Also, don’t use a coarse non-tapered barrel-shaped carbide bit with big teeth for removing gel polish instead of a safety bit, even though it lets you work quicker.

In any case, choose a bit with teeth that are smaller than 1mm.

Don’t try to speed the process up with a poor choice of a drill bit.

When you become a more advanced user you can move on to using other types of bits and coarser grits. They will allow you to remove the polish faster and to work with acrylics and builder gels.

Makartt Safety Nail Drill Bits Set

Makartt Ceramic Nail Drill Bit Set 7PCS 3/32' Safety Nail Drill Bits Remove Gel Polish Nail Gel Dip Powder Drill Bit Professional Bits Tools Nail File Drill Bit Manicure B-24



If you are using a safety bit then 20,000 RPM is enough for removing gel nail polish safely.

Low speeds will make the removal process last too long.

If you are using a coarse carbide bit with large teeth you should work with a higher RPM, around 30,000.

A low speed may make your nail drill bit go in too deep and you (or the person who you are removing gel polish for) may feel a burning sensation and the vibration of the e-file.

However, don’t use the maximum speed that a nail drill allows, like 40,000 RPM for removing gel nail polish from natural nails.

Again, the best speeds are 20,000-30,000 RPM.

2 most important things:


You should always sit behind a comfortable table when you are removing gel nails with a nail e-file.

The elbow of the hand that holds the nail drill should be placed firmly on the table.

The elbow serves as the support point for the hand with the drill. So the hand is steady when you work.


You should never apply any pressure to the drill bit.

The bit must glide smoothly over the nail plate.

Move it in light stroking motions.

If your hand is not steady enough and if you put pressure on your drill when removing the gel polish you may dig in too deep.

How to remove gel nail polish with a nail drill: step by step

How to remove gel nail polish

Start the removal process in the middle of your nail.

Move the nail drill bit up and down from where the gel polish layer starts near the cuticles to the end of the free edge.

The nail drill bit’s body, or the widest part of the side of the bit, is the part that should be working on the nail.

After that, turn the finger and work on one side. Again, using the widest part of the nail drill bit.

Gently remove the polish in the corners with the drill bit point, the part of the nail drill bit that’s located closer to the top.

Turn the finger again and remove the other side and the corner with the body of the bit.

Gently remove the remaining bits of polish from the nail near the cuticles with the bit’s point.

Safety tip:

Only remove the upper layers of the gel nail polish and the base coat.

Stop when you get down to the base coat layer.

Leave no more than 5-10% of the base coat layer’s thickness.

But don’t file all the way down to the nail plate surface.

If you file down to the nail plate surface every time you need to remove gel nail polish, which is usually every 2 weeks, you will make your nails too thin.

When done right, this method becomes the easiest and safest way of removing gel polish quickly.

Emery board nail file

If you don’t have a nail drill you can use an emery board nail file instead. And some people still work like that.

But I don’t recommend it. The nail drill is a lot more gentle.

How to remove gel nail polish: steam nail polish remover machine

There is also another innovative way to remove gel polish: by using an automatic nail polish remover machine!

I.B.N. Upgraded Steam Gel Nail Remover Machine

Upgraded Steam Gel Nail Remover Machine, Nail Steamer with Cuticle Pusher Spoon Tools for Nails Gel Polish Soak Off (02)


Who would have thought that a gadget like this exists?

This machine is capable of removing gel products, acrylic nails, and nail lacquers.

It doesn’t work with dip powder nails though.

The gadget is steam-powered and pretty easy to use.

And it’s a great invention for thin nails because it does no damage to the nail plate.

You do need to file the top layer of the gel polish off though before you place your fingers in the machine.

But don’t file all the way down to the nail plate.

You can do this with an ordinary nail file or you can use a nail drill on a low RPM setting.

To start the removal process you need to pour any nail polish remover that you like into the gadget.

The remover is sold separately.

Use the acetone-based liquid for taking off gel products and acrylics.

After you turn the machine on you need to place your fingers inside and wait for the process to finish.

The machine steams the acetone and it softens the gel polish.

The maximum temperature of the steam is 52°C (125°F) so you’re not going to get burned.

However, avoid touching the acetone liquid at the bottom.

The removal process takes about 12 minutes, which is more or less the same time you’d spend soaking the gel nail polish off.

After the gel nail polish has softened you’ll have to push it off with an orange nail stick or a cuticle pusher.

This nail remover machine set even has a nail file and a pusher included.

The downside of this method is that it doesn’t remove dip powder, polygel, or builder gel nails, and may not be entirely effective on some gel polishes and acrylics.

So you may still have to finish the removal process with acetone and cotton balls or a nail drill.

But this unit makes a nice gift for those who love beauty gadgets.

These were the 3 proper ways of removing gel nail polish

So you can choose one that you feel comfortable using the most.

However, never try to pick at your nails or peel the gel polish off them. This is bad for the nails and won’t remove all the polish anyway.

Recommended reading:

Best Professional Gel Nail Polish Brands Used In Salons

Non-Toxic Gel Nail Polish Brands 101: Choose The Safest Gel Nail Polish

Most Popular Shellac Colors – The Ultimate List Of 15 Best Shellac Colors For Fantastic Manicures

Best Gel Base And Top Coat: The Updated List Of The Best Gel Nail Base And Top Coat Sets

Best Nail Dehydrator And Primer: The Ultimate Guide

Best Shellac Colors For French Manicure: The Complete CND Shellac French Manicure Guide. Get The Perfect French Manicure Shellac Nails!

Matte Gel Nails Ultimate Guide: Best Matte Gel Top Coat Brands List [Updated] Plus Gorgeous Matte Gel Nail Designs

CND Shellac Ingredients And What They Mean

Why Are My Gel Nails Lifting? 15 Reasons Why Your Gel Polish Is Lifting

Best Small Salon Reception Desk: Make An Amazing First Impression

Best No Wipe Gel Top Coat: An Honest Review Of 12 Best No Wipe Top Coat Gel Brands

Black Gel Nails 101 And The Best Black Gel Nail Polish For A Flawless Finish

Nail File Grit Guide And Chart

Overlay Nails 101: Acrylic And Gel Nail Overlay On Natural Nails – The Ultimate Guide

Best No Light Gel Polish — Gel Nail Polish Without UV Light

How To Use Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish And Top Coat: Full Review And How Long It Takes To Dry Report

14 Best Pastel Gel Nail Polish Sets For A Super-Cute Manicure

30 Best Oils For Cuticles And Nails To Help You Deal With Dry Cuticles And Brittle Nails

Best Polygel Dual Forms For Perfect Nail Extensions