How to Remove Shellac Nail Polish – 6 Easy Steps

A shellac manicure (also known as a gel) has a thicker texture and is more durable than regular nail polish. Shellac can last up to three or four weeks without chipping when applied in-salon or at home with a DIY shellac kit. Isn’t that magnificent?

Shellac manicures have transformed the nail polish industry; finally, we have a varnish that stays on our nails no matter what, allowing glossy manicures to last for weeks rather than days (or, at worst, hours). However, as gorgeously groomed as it appears at first, this longevity can be a little tricky to remove shellac at home.

The disadvantage of shellac, as with any professional manicure, including SNS nails and acrylic nails, is that it grows out and must eventually be removed or re-filled (topped up from the bottom to hide the natural nail growing out).

How Can I Remove Shellac Nail Polish?

Shellac Nail Polish
Shellac Nail Polish

Even though every fiber of your being begs you to pick and bite it off until your manicure is a heap of flakes on your coffee table, let’s talk about how to remove shellac at home safely because there’s always a way when there’s a will and acetone.

There’s a reason why shellac nails are usually removed at a salon. Improper removal of your shellac manicure can cause long-term damage to your nails, so be extra cautious and don’t skip any steps.

Tools You’ll Need

For every proper manicure and manicure removal process, you’ll need tools to get by. It’s very advisable to have your kit ready before you start.

  • Acetone (100% based) or acetone-based nail polish removal
  • Aluminum foil 
  • Paper towel
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle oil/coconut oil 
  • Cotton wool

All these are quite common products you should be able to find in supermarkets or pharmacies around you. Now that you have your kit ready, here are the simple steps to help remove your shellac nail polish.

1. File Your Nails

The first step is to use a file to break the gel polish seal on your nails. This step is critical because many gel nail polish companies offer non-soak topcoats. 

The more you file away, the faster the process. Use light upwards movements rather than back-and-forth filing, which can cause friction and burns.

This step will be much faster if you use a coarse nail file (one that looks like sandpaper) rather than a soft file or buffing block.

2. Wrap Your Nails

Acetone is a solvent that should be handled with caution. While not toxic, it is extremely flammable and dehydrates your nails, cuticles, and surrounding skin.

After removing the topcoat from all ten nails, work on one hand at a time. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you go all-in. Begin by soaking a small paper towel square in acetone and applying it to your fingernail. 

Wrap the aluminum foil neatly around your finger to cover the paper towel, then repeat with the other four fingers. Because acetone evaporates, air will slow it down. As a result, the tighter you can wrap, the faster the gel will lift.

Soak cotton balls in acetone and place them on top of each nail to dissolve the polish gradually. Wrap aluminum foil squares around each finger to keep the cotton ball in place.

3. Soak 

If you’re unsure how long to soak your fingers in acetone cotton wool, try 10 minutes if you’re using straight acetone and 15 minutes if you’re using acetone nail polish remover.

Soak your nails for at least 15 minutes to ensure that all nail polish comes off easily. To speed up the process, wrap your hands in a towel and enjoy 15 minutes of uninterrupted movie-watching or simply doing nothing.

How do you know when the gel is done? Remove a foil, and if the gel appears to be lifting and crumbling, you’re good to go.

4. Remove The Shellac Nail Polish

After waiting 15 minutes, one by one, unwrap each finger. The shellac should slide off with the cotton wool, but you can also use a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick to gently scrape the product off the nail. If the shellac is stubborn, soak the nail again in acetone until it all comes off. 

Ideally, the shellac should be soft and easy to dissolve.

5. Buff Your Nails

Once all of the shellacs have been removed, gently buff your nails with a nail buffing block to smooth any ridges or sharp edges. Be cautious because your natural nails may be weak.

At this point, your nails should be almost gel-free, but there may be some rough spots. Smoothen any roughness left on the nail’s surface with the less coarse side of the buffer. This step removes any excess gel from your nail from the base coat and makes them extra smooth. Repeat steps one through five with your other hand.

6. Hydrate Your Nails

Cuticle oil is your best friend whether you take a break from gel polish or keep them up. Good salon-quality cuticle oil will hydrate, nourish, and lock in moisture, allowing your gel polish to remain flexible.

You can’t overdose on it, and the daily massaging motion helps to improve blood flow to the matrix (the root of your nail), resulting in longer and stronger nails. Because acetone is so drying, your nails will be damaged and dry. After removing shellac nails at home, use plenty of lotion and cuticle oil for proper aftercare.

Add a coat of nail growth and strengthening polish if you want to go the extra mile. If you don’t have any of these, using coconut oil as an aftercare cream to add moisture can also be beneficial.

How to Remove Shellac Nails Without Acetone

Another method of removing shellac nail polish from your nails:

If you want to remove shellac at home without damaging your nails, try using an acetone-free nail polish remover. You may need to soak them for longer because the polish will be more difficult to remove.

Warm water is another option for removing shellac nails without acetone. Though you shouldn’t remove shellac nails without a proper nail polish remover, you can try clearing your nail polish by lifting a corner of your polish that has come loose until it lifts off completely.

Important Tips:

  • Make use of a glass or ceramic bowl. Acetone will cause the plastic to melt.
  • To avoid damaging the nail bed, use caution when removing the polish with an orange wood stick.
  • The same technique can be used to remove gel nail polish and gel nail extensions.

Check Out: Shellac vs. Gel Nails


Can I Use Vinegar to Remove Shellac Nail Polish?

Lemon juice and vinegar contain acids that are excellent for removing shellac nail polish. Simply combine the vinegar and lemon juice in a 1-to-1 ratio. To remove the old nail paint, dip a cotton pad into the liquid and gently rub your nails.

However, shellac nail polish won’t be significantly affected by vinegar. If anything, it might weaken the polish slightly, making it simpler to peel it off by flexing the nail. Sadly, it can also irritate your skin, especially if you combine it with lemon juice.

How Do I Remove Shellac Polish with Nail Polish? 

Since baking soda is generally used for cleaning, it must be included in any recipe for removing shellac nail lacquer. To make a paste, combine two tablespoons of warm Luke water with one teaspoon of baking soda. 

Apply this paste to your nails, then wait fifteen minutes. After that, lightly scrub them with a brush. Finally, wipe them with a warm, absorbent towel. After washing them with water or soap, you will have a set of smooth and lustrous fingernails.

Can Glass-Cleaning Solution Remove Shellac Nail Polish?

You don’t need to worry about removing shellac nail polish if you have a glass-cleaning solution instead of acetone at home. Use a cloth that has been soaked with the glass-cleaning solution and rub the fabric over the nails. It is among the greatest methods for speedy removal and immediate results.


Shellac nail polish manicures are long-lasting, but every now and then, a change is necessary. Instead of going to a salon, you can remove your shellac nail polish at home.

Removing shellac nails at home isn’t ideal, but doable with some simple tools and patience!

Also, It’s a good idea to use your favorite nail growth product or repair polish to keep your nails healthy. They’ll appreciate it (as will the technician at your next salon visit).