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How To Take Off Acrylic Nails With Hot Water

Updated: Feb 14

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: