Acetone is one of the most commonly used items in the nail art world. Whether you’re just someone who likes to occasionally paint their nails or a salon owner who does acrylic nails and overlays regularly, you likely have acetone somewhere nearby. And as it’s so widely used, it’s easy to believe it is mostly harmless. After all, if it’s so common, it must be, right? Why would you need a special way to dispose of it if everyone uses it?
But can you pour acetone down the sink? You should never pour acetone down the sink. Acetone is a powerful and hazardous solvent – it can be very damaging to plumbing and the environment. Acetone will simply pass through water treatment facilities intact and thus can cause far-reaching implications on wildlife, ecosystems, agriculture, and public health.
If you have some acetone that you need to get rid of, then, unfortunately, you are going to need to think about it.
This is unlikely the information you wanted to see when you landed here today, but thankfully you took the time to research first!
Especially before anything bad could happen. And not just locally, but further afar too.
Let us now take a closer look at why this solvent cannot be simply discarded down the sink and how you can effectively get rid of any surplus.
Can I Pour Acetone Nail Polish Remover Down The Sink?
Absolutely not. Acetone is bad for the environment if it leeches into the water system. If you have PVC pipes, then the solvent may simply melt them. It can wreak havoc on your plumbing system if you do so, even without PVC pipes.
The first thing to understand about why this is such a bad idea is that acetone is a powerful solvent.
While we use it frequently to get rid of nail polish we’re tired of or to remove fake nails, it is, at its heart, still a potent chemical.
And it can have issues that we don’t think about when using it on cotton balls.
Many of the pipes in most plumbing systems aren’t actually metal: they’re made of PVC, a kind of plastic.
This is fine for normal things that go down pipes, so it shouldn’t be a concern.
But letting your acetone go down the sink can cause the pipes themselves to melt.
It works on the PVC in the same way that it does on your nails, dissolving away the layers until it’s eventually gone.
While a little bit of acetone probably isn’t enough to completely wreck your entire plumbing system, if you find yourself with a lot of excess acetone, you could very well dissolve most of the building’s plumbing.
And that’s a mess that you’d really rather avoid.
The danger doesn’t stop there, though.
The acetone poured down your drain, no matter how little, is likely to eventually end up in a sewage treatment facility before being allowed back into the wild.
While sewage treatment facilities are excellent at cleaning up debris and other issues of that nature, they don’t really do much for chemicals.
So the acetone that goes into your drains could one day end up in a river without the composition being significantly changed.
This, of course, is awful for the wildlife. You don’t want a fish swimming through your thrown-out nail polish remover, do you?
If that’s not enough to scare you away, how about this: acetone is flammable.
Do you want the sewer system to explode everywhere?
Probably not. So don’t pour it down the sink!
How Do You Dispose Of Used Acetone?
Cotton balls, pads, and cloths soaked in acetone can be thrown away through the appropriate channels. However, any excess liquid acetone that you want to dispose of should be taken to a hazardous waste facility.
So, you can’t pour acetone down the sink without exploding the sewer system. What are you supposed to do with the waste, then?
Thankfully, there are two main options for disposal, depending on the type of product that you’re disposing of.
You probably have two kinds of acetone waste: solid (such as on cotton balls or pads) and liquid (the kind used for soaking or leftover from polish removal).
These two have different methods of disposal, so you should know that they’re not interchangeable.
For the solid waste, you can throw it out with your regular garbage.
It should be noted that the cotton balls can’t be absolutely saturated, so no dripping-wet cotton balls or pads should go into the trashcan.
Put them into a plastic bag, tie it shut, and toss it in with the rest of your garbage.
It can go out on trash day, the same as anything else.
If you have a larger, bulk supply of these used beauty products, then you probably run a salon or have a business of some sort.
Try to sort out a way to use a dumpster so that you can avoid filling trashcan after trashcan with your used products.
If you’re throwing things with solvent on them en masse, wait until just before the truck comes so that the fumes don’t hurt people or animals.
As for leftover liquid acetone, there’s really only one solution that you can ethically use: go to a hazardous waste facility.
It’s really the only place that you can dispose of your acetone without directly impacting either yourself or the wildlife in your area.
Many places have a hazardous waste facility nearby, even if you don’t know it.
Check your local phone book, or use Google to find the closest facility.
If you have any questions, you should be able to call and ask.
They’ll tell you what to do about your acetone and the proper ways to dispose of it.
What Happens If You Pour Nail Polish Remover Down The Drain?
You can melt your pipes, damage the local ecosystem, or even cause an explosion.
We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll say it again: acetone down the drain is a nightmare.
It does a lot of costly damage, both to your plumbing and to the world around you.
It’s something that should never, ever be poured down the drain, even in small amounts.
And, if you’re trying to dispose of large quantities of the stuff, that’s even worse.
Always go to a hazardous waste facility to dispose of acetone.
You might not know this, but a lot of your home or business’s plumbing system is likely not metal but plastic.
And, while the PVC that is used is perfectly fine for standard plumbing use, it does not tolerate powerful solvents very well.
That’s exactly what your acetone is: a powerful solvent.
While a little bit of acetone won’t completely melt your pipes, pouring a great deal or pouring some regularly is enough to cause weak spots, corrosion, and, eventually, costly leaks.
Plus, there’s always the risk that it does completely melt through your pipes.
Wildlife doesn’t react well to acetone, either.
If you’re pouring it down the drain, you might as well be pouring it directly into the nearest body of water.
For those who are on a city’s sewer hookup, your wastewater, including acetone poured down the sink, go to a sewage treatment facility.
They’re great at cleaning and sanitizing most organic matter before sending it on its way back into the water of some sort.
But, as for chemicals, that’s a different story.
They can’t do much about things like acetone since it’s mixed in with the liquid itself and can’t be cleaned out.
Do you have a septic tank? That’s even worse.
Acetone will likely leech out of the tank directly into your yard so that the damaged plants and sick animals can probably be seen from your window.
As always, the most dramatic reason, if not the most common: it could explode. Acetone is horribly flammable.
The vapor itself can cause explosions with just one spark.
And the last thing that you want is the kitchen sink or local waterworks facility blowing up because you didn’t want to drive to a hazardous waste facility.
How Do You Dispose Of Empty Acetone Containers?
Remove lid, and write “EMPTY” or “MT” on the bottle. If possible, wrap it in a second plastic bag. You can dispose of it in your regular trashcan. These instructions may vary, depending on your location.
Thankfully, the method used to discard used acetone bottles is less of an ordeal than disposing of the acetone itself.
There’s no real need to worry about plumbing meltdowns, sick fish, or blowing up the local sewage system.
All you really need to do is a little bit of work before you toss it in the garbage.
It’s slightly more work than throwing out a used bottle of dish soap.
Warning: this may not be the right process in every jurisdiction.
Look at local laws and policies before disposing of anything hazardous or that contained hazardous materials.
Start by making sure that your bottle really is empty.
While any liquid will have a tad bit remaining around the bottle, you shouldn’t have a noticeable amount.
You can get rid of as much as possible by shaking it onto a cotton ball or pad.
If it really is empty, it shouldn’t be enough to warrant a trip to the hazardous treatment facility, and the cotton ball can be disposed of in the trash, as well.
You don’t need to rinse out bottles of acetone before discarding them in most jurisdictions since acetone is water-soluble.
Next, remove the lid.
It can be discarded with the bottle. Using a permanent marker, write either “EMPTY” or, to be shorter, “MT,” where it can be easily seen.
You can wrap it in a separate plastic bag, such as a grocery bag, if you like.
Then, just throw it away in your ordinary trash can.
Simple as that!
Hey – I’m Jemma – a certified nail technician and manicurist with over fifteen years of hands-on industry experience. I created AlmondNails.com to share all that I have learned about the nail industry – from the different types of manicures available, suggestions for wear, recommendations for keeping nails strong and healthy, all the way through to providing the best nail salon tips and practices.