How Do Salons Remove Acrylic Nails? Pro Tips Revealed

Acrylic nails seem challenging to perfect with practice, especially if you want to try and do it yourself without professional training.

Another trick with acrylic nails is to remove them. Apparently, removing acrylic nails with regular remover is not as simple as it sounds.

So how do salons remove acrylic nails, and what are their pro tips?

How Do Salons Remove Acrylic Nails? Pro Tips Revealed

Salons remove acrylic nails with a combination of acetone soaks, hand-filing, electric filing, and buffing. Salons combine the removal methods to get the best, fastest, and safest results. Not all salons follow the same process, but they do what works for them and each nail tech.

Acrylic nails are complex and challenging, but salons have tricks up their sleeves to get it off in a jiff to apply your brand-new set in no time. Let’s look at salons’ steps to remove acrylics and the special tips to get it done.

Why Is Acrylic Nail Removal Hard?

Acrylic nails are not easy to remove. This is because combining the monomer liquid and acrylic powder forms a strong bond that can withstand many harsh chemicals. However, the stronghold bends its knee to the solution when soaked long enough in acetone.

With acrylic removal, there are specific steps to follow to prevent you from sitting an hour or more trying to remove an acrylic overlay. Anyone who has tried removing acrylics struggled a little and might even damage their nails quite a lot.

It is easy to damage the nails when trying to remove acrylics. We need a salon’s steps and tips to do it as well as they do with minimal damage.

Methods To Remove Acrylic Nails

There are set steps to remove acrylic nails at home. These are intended to help you remove the acrylics safely at home, where you might not have access to many tools. There are three different methods to follow:

  • Acetone removal with cotton balls and foil strips.
  • Warm acetone soaks in a bowl and filing.
  • Electric filing

Salons, however, use a combination of the different methods to ensure they remove your acrylics faster but still safely.

Pro Tips From Salons To Remove Acrylics

You need to follow the steps in the correct order to ensure your acrylic nails remove quickly and safely with minimal damage.

Step 1: Cut the Acrylics

Most clients opt for acrylics to build extensions and lengthen their natural nails. So step 1 is to cut down the acrylic extensions. This way, you won’t work at an extension you won’t need later. The trick is to find where your natural nail starts and cut it before.

Pro tips:

  • Use specialized clippers that are strong enough to clip acrylics with one go. It also has the shape of a nail and goes with your finger’s curve. This avoids clipping skin or natural nails.
  • When clipping with these special nail clippers, test where the blade will cut into at the bottom first. The top form might look perfect, but the blade cuts further inward, which might clip the nail bed if you want to go short.

Step 2: 100-Grit Nail File Or Electric File

a nail technician using a electric nail file to remove gel polish from acrylic nails

When removing acrylics, remove the top layer to ensure the acetone penetrates the overlay faster and more efficiently. You will need a high-grit nail file or an electric one. Start filing from an angle, ensuring you don’t harm the cuticles or flesh around the nail. Start against the cuticle and move down to the edge.

Pro Tips:

  • Using an electric file makes it easier to get into the nicks and turns close to the cuticles without damaging them.
  • Some acrylic designs need harsher filing to get off. On the other hand, the different grinding heads make removing any design or fancy art easier.

Step 3: Acetone Soak

fingernails are wrapped in foil for an acetone soak

The top step in acrylic removal is the acetone soak. Every nail tech has its own way of soaking and what works for them. Some follow the acetone on cotton balls method, which gets placed on each nail and wrapped with tin foil. Others like to soak the nails in acetone in a bowl.

Pro Tips:

  • Using a unique nail-soaking bowl can make the entire process faster. The bottom part can be removed and filled with hot water in these bowls. The top layer gets placed over the hot water with acetone in it. The fingers rest in the bowl, and the warm water accelerates the process.
  • After the next step, the nail should usually soak again. Again, the bowl makes it faster than adding a cotton ball and foil from scratch.

Step 4: Cuticle Pusher Or Wood Sticks

removing gel polish with a cuticle pusher

After soaking the nails for around 10 minutes, open them up or remove them from the bowl. Use a cuticle pusher to remove the loose acrylics, which can get off quickly when scraping them gently.

Pro Tips:

  • When removing the nails from the acetone soak, use a paper towel or something similar and gently wipe the nail downward. This will remove the excess acetone and already loose acrylics and give a better visual of the acrylics that need some scraping.
  • When scraping, do it gently. 80% of the time, you won’t be able to remove all the acrylics in one go and must soak again for a few minutes.

Step 5: Repeat Steps 3 And 4

After scraping the first time, there are usually a few stubborn acrylics left. Soak again for two to five minutes, and scrape again. With a few bits left, you can continue to step 6.

Pro tip:

  • At this step, you can bring in a medium nail file or a gentler electric file head to remove any excess acrylics left on the nail. Again, remember that you are now working on the natural nail, so delicacy is critical.

Step 6: Buff And Shine

When everything is off, your nail might look dull and damaged. Fear not; if you follow the steps and highlight the gentleness, there won’t be damage. Use a nail buff, even out the ridges, and bring back a shine to the nail.

Pro Tip:

  • The natural nail is weary at this stage, so don’t over-buff. Just enough to smooth out the surface and release a shine.

Step 7: Nourishing Layer

Because acetone has a drying effect on the nails, skin, and cuticles, it is best always to apply a nourishing or strengthening oil. It puts back the moisture in the cuticles and keeps the nails healthy.

Pro Tip:

  • Whether reapplying an overlay later or going natural for a while, it is always best to use a nourishing oil every week to maintain nail and finger health.


Removing acrylics doesn’t have to destroy your nails for life. Following salon tips and tricks can help you get the hang of it and remove it safely. With safe removal, you can flaunt unique acrylic sets more frequently.