How Long To Soak Gel Nails In Acetone (For Removal)

Gel nails look beautiful and elegant. They are pretty secure for the most part and last for a long time. Getting them out is another matter. You must soak them in acetone, and that can be time-consuming. Let’s find out how long you should soak gel nails in acetone for flawless removal.

How Long To Soak Gel Nails In Acetone (For Removal)

Soak your gel nails in acetone for 10 minutes (20 minutes maximum) for removal until the polish lifts from the nail. Wet a cotton pad or ball with acetone, place it around your nails, and wrap it in foil. Soaking for more than 20 minutes can lead to dry, brittle, and sensitive nails.

Acetone is quite essential to entirely remove gel nails, but also a pretty harsh chemical for the skin and nails.

If you already know how to remove shellac nail polish, but are not sure of the ideal time to soak them in acetone, we can help you break this down!

fingernails are wrapped in foil for an acetone soak

Should You Soak Gel Nails In Acetone For Removal?

While acetone is not the only way to remove gel nails, it is the most effective way. Other methods and products often leave a significant amount of residue, resulting in more buffing and thinning of the nails. Acetone will get the majority of the gel polish and glue from any artificial nails off, and only a little residue will remain.

Acetone is recommended as the most effective and quickest way to remove gel polish from your nails. It is also suggested that you do not leave your nails soaking in the acetone for longer than necessary to avoid nail and cuticle damage.

How Long Should Nails Soak In Acetone To Remove Gel Polish?

a toying waiting next to a clock

Ensuring that you soak your nails for only 10-20 minutes is absolutely essential. The best way to follow this timeframe is to soak your gel nails for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, check if the polish is lifting from your nail. If yes, you can remove the acetone soak and continue with the next step. If it is not lifting, soak your gel nails for an additional 5 minutes. Do not exceed this time.

What Happens If You Soak Gel Nails In Acetone For Too Long?

Professionals and instructions suggest sticking to 15-20 minutes of soaking because acetone can be highly damaging. Acetone is an alcohol-based chemical used as a nail polish remover. It is highly potent, has a strong smell, and is extremely drying.

Here is what will happen if you overuse acetone:

  • Your nails, nail bed, cuticles, and surrounding skin will dehydrate.
  • Your nails will become thin, brittle, and break easily.
  • Your cuticles and the surrounding skin can peel.
  • Your nails will feel sensitive and painful.
  • Acetone can cause skin rashes and nail discoloration.
  • The smell can trigger respiratory issues like asthma.
  • The smell can also trigger sinus issues, cause headaches, and make your eyes water.

How To Soak Gel Nails In Acetone For Removal

When removing gel nails, you cannot simply dip your fingers in acetone for 20 minutes and expect results. You can, but that can be harmful to your nails, skin, and health because acetone fumes are highly potent. There is an entire process to get effective results and protect your nails and overall health.

  1. Wash and sanitize your hands.
  2. Wet cotton balls or pads with acetone and place them around the tip of your fingers to cover your nail. Press it along your nail to ensure it is soaking the edges well.
  3. Wrap your fingers and the cotton around it with foil or plastic wrap to hold it in place, prevent the acetone from evaporating, and help retain warmth. The warmness helps to remove the product faster. Note that foil is a better option because acetone is highly flammable. Foil serves as protection.
  4. Soak it for 10-15 minutes. Check if the polish is lifting. If it is not, soak for another 5 minutes. After 20 minutes maximum, remove the foil and acetone cotton.
  5. Use a cuticle pusher to push off the softened gel polish.
  6. Wipe the nails with clean cotton pads and acetone to remove as much residue as possible.
  7. Use a nail buffer to file out any remaining gel polish and residue. Be as gentle as possible and don’t overdo it, or you could cause nail thinning and damage to your nail bed. Note that many nail technicians use a nail file to file down the gel polish before soaking. This helps to thin out the polish, making it easier for the acetone to soak through and the polis to lift off the nail. It reduces the overall acetone soaking time. You can use the method you find easier or works best for you.

Now you are ready to start a new process of a gel manicure. If you are not applying any new polish, ensure to use a good quality cuticle oil and moisturize your hands to nourish the areas that have been soaking in acetone.

What To Do When Gel Nails Don’t Soak Off

nail polish won't come off

If you have been soaking your gel nails for 15-20 minutes and your gel polish still won’t come off, you may need to try again. The best option is to get a new cotton pad soaked in acetone and wrap it around your finger for another 5-10 minutes. Likely, the first cotton pad was not wet enough, or the acetone had evaporated.

Another reason could be that the nail was prepped extremely well prior to the gel manicure, and good quality polish was used. In addition, if the manicure is still new, it may be harder to remove. Before soaking with new acetone cotton, apply some cuticle oil to your cuticles. That will help prevent them from drying out.

You could also try pushing your cuticles back to separate the gel from your skin. That helps the acetone get into the edges and lift the polish more easily. A professional nail technician can help remove your gel polish and guide you through any hiccups you may face with a gel manicure.


Soaking gel nails in acetone removes gel polish and as much residue as possible. Care should be taken to avoid soaking your nails for more than 20 minutes, as this can cause damage to the nails, skin, and overall health from the potency of the acetone.