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How To Take Off Acrylic Nails With Hot Water

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

You’ve been rocking your latest and greatest set of acrylic nails. But like all makeup, acrylic nails eventually need to be removed. But how do you properly remove acrylic nails? While removing an old coat of nail polish is easy, removing fake nails can be confusing. While you can remove acrylics with acetone, regular use of acetone can lead to nail damage and skin irritation.

Another solution? Removing acrylics with hot water is a chemical-free solution and easy to do. Posh Salon & Boutique is here to show you how to take off acrylic nails with hot water.

What Exactly is Acetone?

Before we look at how to remove acrylic nails with hot water, let’s look at what acetone is. Acetone is a liquid solvent or substance that breaks down and dissolves other substances, such as nail polish or paint. It is a naturally occurring substance found in plants, trees, and volcanic gases. However, acetone exposure can cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation. Highly flammable, acetone should always be kept away from open flames. Remove polish in a well-ventilated area and never smoke if using acetone-based nail polish remover.

how to take off acrylic nails with hot water

Why You Should Use Hot Water For Removing Acrylics

While acetone is the fastest way to remove acrylic nails and nail polish, water has several advantages:

Safe to Use

Water is all-natural. Acetone however contains harsh chemicals that with regular use can cause immediate skin and nail irritation and even permanent damage.


You can easily remove acrylics with hot water at home.

Readily Available

No need to go out and buy acetone when you can use tap water at home.

How To Remove Acrylic Nails with Hot Water

Here are the following steps to remove acrylic nails with hot water:

Set Aside Enough Time and Be Patient

Don’t rush the process when your nails with hot water. Be patient as you soak and gently remove your nails.

Prepare the Water

You will need lukewarm water to remove your acrylic extensions. To prepare the water, boil water in a kettle or microwave water. Pour the water into a large bowl (such as a salad bowl) and set aside to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water is lukewarm. This is between boiling and room temperature. After waiting, test the water with your finger.

Helpful Tip: Add several drops of cuticle oil to the water. The oil will moisture your fingers and nails as they soak.

Soak Your Nails

Once the water is the right temperature, soak your nails for 15-20 minutes. You can soak your entire hands or your fingertips only.

Observe Your Nails

Keep an eye on your eyes as they soak. After some time, the fake nails will start to expand. This is a good sign that means the nails are beginning to loosen. Keep your nails submerged so all your nails experience this effect. Be sure to keep your nails fully submerged for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, rather than intermittently soak them.

To pass the time, you can watch TV, listen to music, read a magazine, or simply meditate and enjoy some quiet time. The longer you soak, the easier it’ll be to remove the acrylics. You should feel some movement and further loosening of the extensions as you soak.

Try To Remove the Acrylics

After soaking, your nails should be easy to remove. Gently pick at each nail to remove. Never forcefully tug at acrylics, as this can damage your real nails.

Helpful Tip: Use a toothpick to gently loosen and peel the nails. Toothpicks are great as they can further reach under the extensions, making it easier to peel off.

Keep Soaking and Remove

If the acrylics are still difficult to remove, continue soaking your nails for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remember, be patient! Removing the nails too soon can result in significant pain and/ or damage to your real nails and cuticles. Once all nails are loose enough, gently remove all extensions. Viola! Now you know how to remove acrylic nails with hot water.

Helpful Tip: Reheat The Water For Best Results

Acrylics nails expand and loosen in hot water only. If the water cools, the process may take longer or not work at all. If the water cools as your nails soak, reheat the water if necessary.

Nail Aftercare

Now that you’ve removed your fake nails, it’s time to give your real nails some TLC.

Remove Nail Glue

After removing your fake nails, you’ll likely have traces of fake glue on your nails. To remove, gently buff away the glue with a nail file. Nail glue can be damaging to nails if not removed, so be sure to fully buff away all traces of glue.

Another method is to soak your nails in another bowl of hot, soapy water. Apply cuticle oil to your nails, then soak for 10 to 15 minutes. The glue should soften and be easy to gently scrape off.


After removing nail glue, apply cuticle oil again. Keep your nails and cuticles happy and healthy by keeping them moisturized.

how to remove acrylic nails with hot water

Other Acetone-Free Ways To Remove Acrylic Nails

Here are other methods to remove fake nails that don’t require acetone:

Acetone Free Nail Polish Remover

Contrary to popular belief, not all nail polish removers contain acetone. Non-acetone nail polish removers usually contain the solvents isopropyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, and propylene carbonate. While solvents like acetone, these three solvents are less harsh and less drying on your nails. With non-acetone remover, expect to put in more elbow grease to remove acrylics.

Cuticle Oil

If your artificial nails are beginning to feel loose, use cuticle oil to remove them. Soak a q-tip or cotton ball with cuticle oil and apply it to your extensions. For faster removal, wrap a cuticle oil soaked cotton ball around each nail and leave it in place for several minutes until each nail loosens. Added bonus: in addition to helping remove nails, wrapping each nail in cuticle oil deeply nourishes your funerals and cuticles.

Use Floss

Only use this method if your nails show substantial lifting. Best done with a friend, use a cuticle stick to slide dental floss under the fake nail. Have your friend gently slide the floss back and forth until the nail loosens and falls off. Be sure to follow with buffing and soaking your fingernails with cuticle oil afterward.

Acrylic Nails FAQs

Want to know more about acrylic nails and how to care for them? Here are some frequently asked questions:

Do acrylic nails actually damage nails?

In short answer, no. The actual product doesn’t cause damage, but improper prep, poor application, and forceful removal can in result in nail damage. Therefore it’s crucial to take care of your nails before, during, and after fake nails.

Ouch! I exposed my nail bed while removing my nail extensions, what should I do?

Though you may be tempted to do so, do not cover up the injured fingernail with an artificial nail. Why? A fake nail can trap bacteria, leading to infection. Instead, clean the injured fingernail with antibacterial soap and water. Then apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the exposed nailbed, and cover it with a band-aid. Over the next several days, soak the nail in a saltwater solution (1 tsp of salt in 4 cups of warm water.) Reapply the petroleum jelly and rebandage. Continue until the nail hardens and is no longer sensitive. Be patient as your nail heals and regrows.

Do my real nails need a break from acrylics?

Contrary to myth, nails do not breathe. Instead, your nails receive oxygen and nutrients carried within blood vessels. While you don’t need to skip acrylics or polish to let your nails “breathe,” it’s smart to monitor your nails’ health. If your nails show signs of discoloration, peels, ridges, bumps, and keratin granulation (extreme dehydration of the nails), then you should give your nails a break from polish and acrylics.

What can I do to encourage healthy, strong nails?

Get regular fills, drink a lot of water, and eat a healthy diet of whole foods. Your nails are a good indicator of health; if you practice healthy habits, your nails will likely reflect that.

I bite my nails, can I still get nail extensions?

Yes. As long as the skin around your nail isn’t irritated, you can have acrylics applied to bitten nails. Nail extensions are a great solution to prevent nail biting.

Can I get natural-looking acrylic nails?

Yes, acrylic nails can be shaped and painted to look like actual fingernails.

Is a French manicure the same as acrylic nails?

French manicure or French nails refers to a nail look: white tips with a pink base. This look can be accomplished with acrylics or hard gel nails.

Will acrylic extensions look ok on short, stubby fingers?

Acrylic nails can be shaped in a way that elongates short or thick fingers. For example, almond and oval-shaped nails are ideal for elongating fingers.

What are the signs of a fingernail infection?

Improperly placed and/ or maintained acrylic nails can cause a nail infection. This is when bacteria, or fungus, gets trapped between the fake nail and your real nail. Signs of a nail infection include:

· Discolored nails (usually green or yellow)

· Pain in and around the nails

· Redness and/ or swelling of the skin around your nails

· Itching

· Brittle or thickened nail

· Bad smell coming from the nail

One of my nails is infected, what should I do?

If you notice or suspect an infection, have the fake nail removed; avoid new extensions until the infection clears up. Fortunately, most acrylic nail infections clear up on their own, or are easily addressed with several home remedies:

Vinegar: vinegar’s acid kills bacteria. Soak the infected finger in a 2:1 ratio of hot water to vinegar, for several minutes.

Tea tree oil: several studies show that tea tree oil can be effective in killing nail fungus. Apply to the infected nail twice a day until the infection clears up. Another bonus of tea tree oil is that it can combat athlete’s foot.

Oregano Oil: This oil contains anti-fungal properties. Apply twice a day to your nail with a cotton ball or swab.

Listerine Mouth Wash: Mouthwash often contains peppermint or spearmint, which are astringent. Try soaking your finger in mouthwash for 30 minutes a day.

Vicks VapoRub: Vicks contains mint, which is naturally anti-microbial. Apply a small amount to your finger once a day.

When should I remove my acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails should be changed every 2 months. Note that this is with regular fills. Once the adhesion on your nails starts losing strength, the nail extensions may lift, possibly causing significant pain and/ or nail damage.

Is there an acetate-free way to remove nail polish?

Yes. One method is to use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and gently scrub each nail. You can also use hand sanitizer on a cotton ball.

Can I remove gel polish or hard gel nails with hot water?

First off, gel polish and hard gel nails are the not same thing: hard gels are nail extensions like acrylics. Gel polish can be applied to either acrylics or hard gel extensions.

How do I prolong the life of my acrylic nails?

Get regular acrylic fills every 2-3 weeks at the nail salon, depending on how fast your nails grow. A fill is a new acrylic added to the gaps in existing extensions, to prolong the wear time of fake nails. Also known as a fill-in, the fill is added near your cuticles, where your real nails grow. What is nice about fills is you can opt for new colors or designs. For example, you can switch from neutral nails to pink nails, if you so choose. Your nail tech will remove the old color and apply the new color of your choice.

I’m allergic to acrylic, do hypoallergenic nail extensions exist?

Unfortunately, the strong chemicals in the acrylic solution can trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. Fortunately, hard gel nails are hypoallergenic.

What’s the difference between acrylics versus hard gel nails?

Acrylics and hard gel nails are both types of nail extensions. The main difference is how each nail type cures: acrylics harden on their own, whereas hard gel hardens under UV light. Another difference is that acrylics are harder, while hard gel nails are stronger and more flexible. We at Posh Salon & Boutique are proud to provide hard gel nails, which have several advantages over acrylics. For example, hard gel nails are:

· hypoallergenic

· less likely to break or crack

· faster and easier to apply and fill

· natural looking

· not damaging to nail if there is trauma

What's the difference between acrylic vs. natural gel nails

Natural gel nails are a type of gel overlay. Natural gel nails are softer while the hard gel is the strongest and hardest type of gel nail. Several advantages of hard gel nails are that they’re stronger and longer lasting than other fake nails, and are resistant to chipping. However, natural gel nails can be more challenging to remove.

When were acrylic nails invented?

Acrylic nails were first created in 1954 by dentist Fred Slack. After breaking his nail, he used dental acrylic to sculpt a fake nail over his damaged fingernail. However, the powder and liquid system in use today was developed in the late 1970s by Dr. Stuart Nordstrom.

use hot water to take off acrylic nails

Fun Facts About Nails

Now that you know how to care for and safely remove acrylic nails, here are some interesting facts about fake nails and nails in general. Did you know?...

Nail History

· Archaeologists have unearthed Egyptian mummies sporting fake nails.

· Ancient Egyptian ruler and beauty ritual aficionado Cleopatra wore painted fake nails made of porcelain. Something tells us she would love acrylic nails and nail art…

· A full gold manicure set, dating back to 32000 BC, was uncovered in what was once Babylonia.

· In some cultures and eras, such as China’s Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th centuries), the length of your nails indicated your social and economic status. For example, Chinese noblewomen grew extremely long nails topped with artificial nails.

Nail Growth

· Nails can grow up to 20% faster in summer than in winter.

· The average lifespan of an adult nail is 4 months

· Nails usually grow faster on your dominant hand.

· Men’s nails grow faster than women’s nails.

· Typing with your nails can stimulate their growth.

· Women’s fingernails can grow faster during pregnancy due to hormones.

· Fingernail growth slows down as we age.

· Hair and nails are made of the same protein, keratin.

Nail Products

· Archaeological evidence shows people have been painting their nails as early as 3000 BC.

· Th first “nail polish” ingredients included egg whites, flower petals, beeswax, vegetable dyes, and gelatin.

· Modern-day nail polish was invented by Revlon in 1932.

· Nail polish remover does not have a shelf life.

· A opened bottle of nail polish is good for an average of 2 years.

· Red nail polish became popular after the introduction of technicolor movies when audiences spotted actresses wearing red nails.


· Fingernails do not sweat.

· Fingernails cannot feel pain. The pain you feel when your acrylics lift or your fingernail breaks stems from the nail bed.

· The pale, crescent-shaped part of the nails is called the lunula (Latin for “little moon.”)

· The hard surface of the nail is known as the nail plate.

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