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How To Make Nail Polish Less Clumpy [This Is What To Do]

You’re getting ready to polish your own nails, your friends’ nails, or a client. Disaster strikes! You open the bottle only to find that the nail polish is thick with globs of lumps. What are you supposed to do now? How can you restore consistency? Well, here is everything you need to know about fixing your clumpy nail polish problem.

So, how do you make nail polish less clumpy? All you really need to make your nail polish less clumpy are a few drops of acetone or a bowl of warm water to thin out the consistency, making it easier to spread and quicker to dry.


Sounds easy, right?

And the truth is, it is when you know how!

The trouble is, you can actually exacerbate the issue if you do it wrong!

So whether you’ve just purchased the product or if it has been sitting in a drawer for a few months, keep reading to find out exactly what you need to do (with all the details!)

Why Does My Nail Polish Go Lumpy?

There are many factors that contribute to clumpy or just plain old thick nail polish. The main ones include old product, poor polish quality, a polish that has been used too much, how the polish has been stored, how long it has been stored for, or even as a result of being shaken.  

Even before nail polish gets lumps in it, it can also be just way too thick and impossible to use. 

As nail polish is used, oxygen gets into it and causes it to become thicker, or air bubbles can even get trapped in the polish. 

So, you’ll want to take good care of your expensive nail polishes and check on them every now and then for a little bit of nail polish maintenance.

To tackle the poor-quality issue, if you’re buying inexpensive nail polish or a no-name-brand polish, there’s a high probability that the product isn’t going to be very good. 

Whether it’s the quality of how it’s made or even how the manufacturer stores it, it is best to purchase your nail polish from reputable brands and retail stores. 

Next, did you know that you’re not supposed to shake nail polish? 

It’s a common practice and a sort of natural tendency to do because you want to mix the polish. 

But, when nail polish is shaken, even if it’s only slightly, it causes air bubbles to become trapped in the polish, which then makes for a bubbling nail polish look – not cute. 

The best way to mix around nail polish is to slide it back and forth in the palms of your hands like you’re rubbing your hands together.

Or, or you can simply swirl the polish in a circular motion like you’re rapidly stirring a pot (of liquid, not drama). 

It is important to note that most nail polish manufacturers add two small metal balls into the polish, aiding the stirring motion for proper mixing without adding any unsightly bubbles.

What Do You Need to Make Nail Polish Less Clumpy?

The tried and truest way to thin out clumpy nail polish is by using pure acetone or nail polish remover. This can be added to the nail polish with an eyedropper or a syringe to ensure that only one or two drops are added at a time. 

Believe it or not, too much acetone or polish remover will make the polish too thin and result in a streaky polish that can chip easily. 

If you’ve ever gotten your nails done in a salon and it started chipping within days or even hours, it’s probably because they’ve thinned their polishes out too often and too much.

For those who have the dreaded nail polish basket under their bathroom sink that contains all their most favorite polishes that have thickened or dried up, a lacquer thinner is basically the same thing as acetone, but it is a product specifically made for those thick and clumpy old nail polishes. 

This product typically comes in a dropper-type applicator bottle and will be used in the same way by only adding one or two drops at a time. 

Here is the one to buy from Amazon👇

Orly Nail Polish Thinner, 2 Ounce
  • Restores life to thicken polish
  • Exclusive built-in dropper
  • Made in US

You’ll also want to resort to the manufacturer’s directions to ensure you use it properly.

Lastly, another way to make your nail polish less clumpy is to put the polish bottle in a bowl of hot water for about 30 minutes. 

If you don’t have access to liquid acetone or lacquer thinner, these options could work well and solve your thick or clumpy polish issue.

If this doesn’t do the trick, then you’ll want to resort to the next four steps on how to make nail polish less clumpy.

How Can I Make My Nail Polish Less Clumpy

You can make your nail polish less clumpy by using a drop or two of liquid acetone or lacquer thinner.

The process of doing so, is as follows:

Step 1 – Prepare The Brush

Twist off the cap of the nail polish and wipe the brush with the polish remover to ensure the polish doesn’t dry up on the brush.

This step also prepares a clean brush that’s free from clumps and makes it ready for new smooth polish. 

Step 2 – Apply 1-2 Drops

Use an eyedropper or syringe and add one or two drops (of liquid acetone or lacquer thinner) to the polish at a time.

If you’re using a lacquer thinner, follow the directions on the bottle to make certain that you use it properly.

Even if your nail polish has an extreme case of lumps or is strangely too thick, it is still important to only add a small amount at a time, especially if it’s your first time thinning out polish.

As you do this process, you’ll get a general feel for how much to use at a time, but for first-timers, be sparse with the acetone drops.

Step 3 – Mix

Twist the cap back on and gently swirl the polish bottle or rub the polish back and forth in your hands to mix it well with the acetone or remover.

In this step, it is important not to shake the polish.

It is rather common to see some professionals do this, and it is rather tempting to want to do it.

However, when you shake nail polish, it creates air bubbles in the polish, which is then transferred to the nail when it is used, causing unsightly bubbles and challenges with drying.

Step 4 – Test (& Repeat If Necessary)

Test the consistency of the polish on a nail or a piece of paper to judge the consistency. 

If the polish is still too lumpy, repeat the four steps and only add one or two drops at a time. 

If you add too much acetone and the polish becomes too thin, you may have to wait to use the polish if you don’t have the right products to fix it.

Check out our blog on How to Make Nail Polish Thicker. 

How To Stop Nail Polish From Clumping In The Future 

Clumpy nail polish is caused by several factors, which could include cheaply manufactured nail polish. In this event, try not to buy the same brand if it’s clumpy right from the get-go. But one of the surest ways to prevent nail polish from clumping is to store it properly.

Storing Nail Polish

While there is no federal mandate on the shelf life of nail polish, it generally has a shelf life of 18 to 24 months.

However, it could last longer if it is stored properly. 

The best storage for nail polish is in a cold and dark place, like the inside of a drawer or cabinet. 

Even storing it in the refrigerator for a few days prior to using it can expand the shelf life considerably. 

Alternatively, nail polish that is stored near windows or in warm or humid places can cause the polish to thicken or dry out very quickly. 


On a final note, if you are a nail enthusiast with a basket full of old nail polishes, it may be time to let them go. 

It’s hard to get rid of nail polishes sometimes because the exact colors can be hard to replace, or they have a sentimental value because you know the exact occasion when it was last worn, or you had a specific design in mind that you still haven’t tried. 

But with access to thousands of nail polish colors on the internet, and the increasing expansion of colors from popular nail polish brands, finding a replacement color for your beloved nail polish may be way less challenging than trying to thin it out and rescue it from the dry moabi dessert of nail polishes. 

If you needed a little push to get rid of the nail polish you’ve had from twenty years ago, let this be it. 

Because sometimes, the best thing to do is to let it go, leaving room for more new polishes and new occasions to wear it to. 

And if you are looking for other tips and techniques to restore nail polish, then check out my following guides: