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How Do Salons Remove Acrylic Nails? [What Do They Use?]

Everyone loves acrylic nails. The color, the length, the perfection. It’s an easy way to make yourself feel beautiful. That is until it’s time for them to come off. But how do the professionals do this? Here is what you need to know.

So, how do salons remove acrylic nails? Most salons will use a combination of acetone soaking and filing to remove acrylic nails. Some salons may opt for one or the other. Either way, the process generally takes between 25-45 minutes.

It’s all too tempting to pull off a nail once it begins to come loose, or if it’s broken.

But just pulling them off can damage your natural nails, causing layers of your own keratin to be stripped away.

That’s why it is imperative that acrylics be removed properly.

And the technicians at the salon know best. At least they should!

We will now look at exactly how a salon does this, how long it takes, how long it costs, and other considerations!

So, be sure to keep on reading!

What Do Nail Salons Use To Remove Acrylic Nails?

Salons generally use acetone, files, and a few other methods to remove acrylic nails. They may also use other tools or chemicals, depending on their preference and your own.

That’s right: salons remove acrylics using the nail polish remover most people are familiar with.

The first step salons take will often be to soak your nails in acetone.

Because acrylic nails are made of a combination of a polymer (the powder) and a monomer (the liquid), you’ll require acetone (or something similar) to get past the tough, protective layer during removal.

Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of damaging the nail bed itself.

Don’t make the mistake of just holding your hands in a bowl of nail polish remover and calling it a day!

Soaks must be done carefully, and the job doesn’t stop with acetone.

To do a soak, a small pad will be soaked in the polish remover, placed over the nail, and wrapped carefully (tinfoil is good for this), to hold it in place.

There will be one per nail, and it has to sit for approximately fifteen minutes.

For home jobs, this process doesn’t change.

In a salon, they might choose a different method. Acetone can be hard on the skin, so it pays to be cautious!

Filing often comes next.

Most salons have special files and tools to remove the acrylic nails.

They’re particularly suited for this sort of job, and can remove the softened acrylic in no time.

However, it is perfectly acceptable to use a nail file, along with a fine-grit nail buffer.

Depending on what salon you frequent, you might see either, or some combination of the two. It depends on what the salon has at hand.

How Long Does It Take To Remove Acrylic Nails In A Salon?

It can take anywhere from 25-45 minutes, or even longer, to remove acrylic nails. How long it takes relies primarily on the method being used to remove them.

Once your nails are past the point of looking good (such as after one breaks off or chips), you’ll probably want them off as soon as possible.

It doesn’t help that these accidents normally happen right before a big date or a job interview, where you want to look your best.

So, if you’re staring at your manicure in horror and need it fixed quickly, what should you do?

The answer is simple: head to a salon.

You’re far more likely to get them off quickly in a professional setting than at home.

However, you can get them off in less than an hour by yourself, if necessary.

But, if you’re trying to deal with them over a lunch break, it’s best to let professionals handle it. The removal will be faster and higher-quality.

Normally, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment to have your acrylics removed and, if you’d like, replaced.

It’s far easier to build this into your schedule than for a salon to fit you into theirs at a moment’s notice.

If you’re having a nail crisis, though, an emergency appointment might be something that you should consider.

Calling ahead is a good idea, even if you’re certain a salon won’t allow for a same-day appointment.

Letting them know you’ll be popping in something around noon (or whenever you’re free) can let them keep an eye out for any surprise openings around that time.

If you’re lucky, they might even decide to pencil you in.

Do Nail Salons Charge To Take Off Acrylics?

Many salons will remove your acrylic nails for free, although some may require you to get a new set that will cost you, though. Then there are other salons, that will charge no matter what.

If a price tag has you contemplating pulling your acrylics off yourself, don’t be so hasty.

There are many salons that are willing to remove acrylic nails for free.

This can be a lifesaver if you can’t afford a new manicure and don’t want to damage your natural nails.

Best of all, you won’t have to buy the supplies to do it yourself, which can be costly on its own.

Keep in mind, however, that not every salon will do this.

Don’t just assume that the nice place near your office can do it for free.

The rules here change from location to location, with businesses near one another varying wildly.

So, how do you find out the price, if there is one?

Your best bet is to call around.

It might take a bit of time, but calling the salons in your area can help you locate someone who does it for free, instead of requiring payment.

If it isn’t an emergency, you might ask around for leads. There may be a gem of a salon out there that you’ve never heard of that your coworker regulars.

Can You Remove Acrylic Nails At Home?

It is possible to remove acrylic nails at home, but it is imperative that you do so safely and correctly.

You’ll need a few supplies, but it isn’t anything you couldn’t get at your local drugstore.

In fact, you likely have access to everything you need in your own home right now.

To start with, you’ll need acetone.

It’s the most commonly used kind of nail polish remover, so you probably have some already.

The kind you’ll need will be strong, so keep that in mind.

In fact, this is the type of acetone you will need to get on Amazon.

Get the variety that you can pour, not sponges that you insert your fingers into.

And make sure that what you’re getting is actually acetone, and not another kind of polish remover.

That is, unless you’re trying to avoid acetone. (More on that below.)

After that, hit up your pantry or the grocery store for some tinfoil.

You won’t need a lot, only enough to wrap around and cap the tips of your fingers.

It’s a good idea to skip cheap options, since they might be too flimsy to do their job.

If that’s all you have, don’t worry: just add a little extra, to keep things in place.

Cotton balls, cotton pads, or even bits of paper towel can work for the next part.

You’re going to need something to hold the acetone to your nail.

Pads are the easiest to work with.

The only actual tool you’ll require is a file, though a good buffer is certainly worth having, for a picture-perfect finish.

Start off by carefully filing over the top of the nail.

Be gentle here: you’re not trying to remove the acrylic with your file!

Instead, you’re just trying to roughen up the top layer. It’s the acetone that will be doing most of the work.

Next, wrap your cotton pads or bits of soaked paper towel around your nail.

Carefully cover that with tinfoil, to not only hold it steady but to help trap your body heat inside.

Wait fifteen minutes, and try to be patient. No peeking!

Once the fifteen minutes have passed, you should be good to go.

Carefully remove the tinfoil and whatever was holding the acetone.

If done properly, the acrylic should come away in flakes with the pad.

Still some acrylic? Just repeat the process.

Give your newly-naked nails a quick shine with the buffer to remove any lingering bits of base coat, and you’re done!

Do You Have To Use Acetone?

Though most salons and home instructions suggest using acetone, you can remove acrylic nails without it. Acetone-free nail polish remover, warm water, and even dental floss are options to consider!

It might surprise your, after harping about acetone, that you can remove nails without it.

But you can!

And that’s a good thing, both for people who are trying to avoid the harsh chemical and for those who are sensitive to acetone.

There are varying ways to safely get your acrylics off, and you probably have at least one of these at home already.

Acetone-free nail polish remover is the closest to the standard set of instructions given above.

Despite the fact that there is no acetone (as the name implies), this type of polish remover often has other, gentler kinds of solvents in its ingredients list.

While it might require a longer soak, this should work quite as acetone would.

Don’t have the money to buy something off the shelf?

If you have hot water at home, you don’t have to.

This takes the longest of all, so it isn’t the best option for speedy removal.

But it is the cheapest.

Just fill a bowl with warm water, perhaps add a bit of soap, and let your fingertips soak.

Start off for twenty minutes, and wriggle the nails a bit to loosen them. Do not pull them off, or force them!

If, after twenty minutes, they don’t come off, give it another ten. Repeat until they finally come free.

If you’re wondering what to do because your nails are already coming loose, don’t worry.

With some care, a friend, and some dental floss.

Note that the friend part is mandatory since you can’t really do this yourself. Start by soaking your nails in warm water, as instructed above.

Taking a cuticle stick, raise the loose nail and slip the dental floss underneath.

Slowly, have your friend move it back and forth in a sawing motion. Do this from top to bottom, until your nail pops off.

If your nail isn’t loose, don’t use this method: you could cause damage!

Can’t I Just Pull Acrylic Nails Off?

No matter how tempting it might be, pulling off acrylic nails can damage your nails. So, never rip or pull your acrylic nails off.

While it is bad, it is unfortunately something that most people who get acrylics have done at least once.

No, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay.

Improperly removing an acrylic nail just once can tear off layers of healthy keratin, the substance that makes up your nails.

It can also damage the nail bed itself.

Looking for a real horror story? Some people have reported ripping off their natural nails, along with the acrylic. Don’t do it!


So there you have it.

Salons typically use a professional grade acetone to remove acrylics. Sometimes they file too but not always.

As such, its relatively easy to do this at home, so long as you are safe and put the proper precautions in place.

In fact, doing acrylic nails at home is relatively straight forward altogether. My course teaches you how you can do this.

It will save you a lot of money over the long term and lets be honest, not having to travel to the salon, wait around, have that awkward chat or silence.

Well, avoiding this is a true win, for sure!