A close-up shot capturing a hand, wrapped in a cloth soaked in lemon juice, holding a bottle of nail polish remover, showcasing a remedy to eliminate nail polish smell naturally.

How To Get Rid Of Nail Polish Smell: A Complete Guide

The strong odor from nail polish can be overbearing and linger for days. If you just painted your nails and want to get rid of the smell quickly, here’s a quick fix: soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover and leave it in the room. The acetone will neutralize the odor.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore all the methods and household items you can use to remove nail polish smell from your nails, hands, and surroundings after a manicure.

Use Basic Household Items

Soak cotton balls in nail polish remover

One of the easiest ways to get rid of the lingering smell of nail polish is to soak a few cotton balls in some nail polish remover. The acetone in the remover helps cut through and neutralize the strong odors from the nail polish.

Simply soak a couple cotton balls fully in remover and leave them in the corners of the room overnight. The acetone evaporates and takes the unpleasant smells along with it, leaving you with fresh indoor air by morning!

Use white vinegar

White vinegar is a mild acid that is great at absorbing odors. Fill a small bowl with equal parts vinegar and water, and leave it in the room with the nail polish smell. As the vinegar evaporates, it will absorb and eliminate the chemical smells from the nail polish.

You can also dip a washcloth in the vinegar solution and hang it in the room. The evaporating vinegar will freshen the air within a few hours.

Employ baking soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and absorber. To use it against nail polish smells, simply fill a small container with baking soda and set it in the room. The baking soda will begin absorbing nearby odors right away.

For extra odor-fighting power, sprinkle baking soda directly on carpets, furniture, or other surfaces where the smell lingers. Let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming it up.

Light scented candles or essential oils

Sometimes the best way to cover up an unpleasant smell is with a pleasant one. Try lighting a few scented candles or diffusing some essential oils like lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus. The fresh aromas will overpower and mask the chemical nail polish smells.

Just be sure to blow candles out before leaving the room, and don’t overdo it with too many strong scents at once.

Try Specialized Products

Use an odor-eliminating spray

Using an odor-eliminating spray specifically designed to get rid of nail polish smells can be highly effective. Look for sprays that contain active ingredients like citrus extracts, eucalyptus oil, or odor absorbers that work to neutralize smells rather than just masking them.

Some popular options include StinkBOSS Air Freshener Spray and Ozium Gel Air Sanitizer Spray.

To use these sprays, first remove any lingering nail polish from surfaces with nail polish remover and allow to dry fully. Then, liberally spray the odor eliminator over all affected areas, paying special attention to fabrics which tend to hold smells more than hard surfaces.

Let it sit for the recommended contact time before wiping or allowing to air dry. The powerful active ingredients go to work neutralizing unpleasant chemical smells.

Apply lemon-scented lotions

Rubbing lemon-scented hand creams or lotions over your nails and hands post-manicure can help prevent lingering odors. The fresh, citrusy scent helps mask chemical smells. Look for lotions containing real lemon oil or lemon extracts rather than just fragrance for the best effects.

You can also make your own lemon-scented lotion at home. Simply add several drops of lemon essential oil to an unscented lotion and mix thoroughly. Apply liberally after removing nail polish and let it soak in well. The antioxidant vitamin C in lemon oil also nourishes nails and cuticles.

Use an air purifier or ionizer

Using an air purifier or ionizer can actively remove traces of nail polish smells and chemicals floating around indoor air. Air purifiers work by pulling air through filters, while ionizers electronically charge airborne particles so they cling to nearby surfaces rather than staying airborne.

Place the air purifying device in the room where you apply nail polish to start removing odors right away. Over time, they can cleanse the whole area of lingering smells. For best effects, choose a unit with a carbon filter specifically designed to absorb chemical fumes and odors.

According to statistics from the EPA, using an air ionizer for just 2 hours can remove up to 98% of volatile chemical pollutants in the air. So while you work on your nails, turn on an ionizer to actively neutralize odors and enjoy fresher air once you’re done.

Let Your Nails Breathe

Avoid wearing gloves or socks

Wearing gloves and socks for prolonged periods traps moisture and odors around your nails, which can intensify the nail polish smell. When possible, go glove-free and let your nails get some air. This allows any vapors from the nail polish to dissipate instead of being trapped against your skin.

You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make!

Keep your hands and feet uncovered

Similarly, keeping your hands and feet uncovered as much as possible allows air to circulate and prevents a buildup of odors. At home, opt for open-toed shoes or slippers and avoid wearing mittens or gloves unless absolutely necessary. Give those nails a chance to breathe!

Even a short break can make a difference.

Go outside for fresh air

Heading outdoors gives your nails a burst of fresh, clean air which helps dissipate odors quickly. Take a brief walk or take work calls on the patio to air out your nails. Exposure to sunlight also helps break down components of nail polish that contribute to lingering smells.

Just a few minutes outside can leave your nails smelling fresher. Going on a picnic or eating lunch al fresco also does the trick!

Use Proper Nail Polish Removal

Use acetone nail polish remover

Using acetone-based nail polish remover is the most effective method to eliminate stubborn nail polish and the lingering smell. Acetone breaks down nail polish quickly thanks to its strong solvent properties.

When choosing an acetone remover, go for one that contains added moisturizers so it does not overly dry the nails and cuticles.

Soak nails in remover

After applying the acetone-based remover, soak the nails by submerging fingertips in a small bowl filled with cotton balls drenched with the nail polish remover. This allows the product to fully penetrate and dissolve the polish. Most standard polish will dissolve within 5-10 minutes.

For gels or long-wearing polishes, plan to soak for up to 15-20 minutes. Check nails periodically and use an orangewood stick to gently scrape off dissolved polish.

Scrub nails gently

Once the polish appears dissolved, start scrubbing gently with a soft nail brush or washcloth to remove all traces. Do not scrub too vigorously as this can damage nails. Focus on cleaning under and around the nail edges where polish can become trapped inside ridges and cuticles.

Rinse thoroughly with water

After removing all visible nail polish with acetone, it is imperative to wash hands and nails very thoroughly with mild soap and water. Water helps neutralize and rinse away all remaining acetone, which can lead to irritation, dryness and the stubborn nail polish smell if left on skin and nails.

Take care to gently push back and clean around the cuticles as well. Hands can then be treated to a moisturizing hand cream to revitalize.

Following proper nail polish removal steps is key to not only getting rid of polish effectively but also avoiding lasting odors or damage to the nails and skin. Taking the time to fully dissolve, gently remove all traces of color, and properly rinse acetone residue pays off with fresh, polished nails.

Prevent Smells from Future Manicures

Choose low-odor polishes

When shopping for nail polish, look for brands that advertise themselves as low-odor or odorless. Most major nail polish brands now offer low-odor options that use less harsh chemicals in their formula.

Popular low-odor polishes include Essie Less But Better, OPI Nature Strong, and Sally Hansen Good.Kind.Pure.

You can also find “3-free” or “5-free” nail polishes, meaning they are free of certain chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). While not completely scent-free, these polishes do tend to have less pungent smells than traditional polishes.

Paint nails in a well-ventilated area

Make sure the room you paint your nails in has good airflow. Open a window or turn on a fan to circulate fresh air. This will prevent the nail polish fumes from concentrating in a small enclosed area. You can even paint your nails outside if the weather permits.

Avoid painting your nails in a bathroom with no ventilation or in a small closed off room. The smell will linger much longer!

Seal bottle tightly after use

Always replace the cap tightly on your nail polish immediately after applying it. If the bottle is left open, the polish will continue evaporating and letting off fumes. A tight seal contains the smell.

You can even consider wrapping a small piece of plastic wrap over the mouth of the bottle before replacing the cap. This provides an extra barrier to prevent leakage.

Store polishes in a cool, dark place

The ideal place to store nail polish is in a cool, dark location. Heat and light can cause the chemicals in polish to break down faster, resulting in a stronger odor. Store polishes in a cabinet or drawer, away from any direct light sources.

Avoid leaving polishes out on a bathroom counter or near a sunny window. The warmth will accelerate odor release.


The unpleasant smell from freshly painted nails can linger for a while if you don’t take action. With the simple tips in this guide, you’ll be able to remove the odor quickly and enjoy your beautiful manicure without the overpowering stench.

Be sure to properly remove old polish, let your nails breathe, and take steps to prevent smells with your next manicure.

Similar Posts