beauty trends How to Safely Remove Press-On Nails at Home

Your guide to taking off press-on nails without damaging your natural ones.

August 12, 2022
How To Remove Press On Nails

Fellow DIY-lovers know what a stellar find press-on nails are. Not only do they rival a salon manicure while only taking minutes to do, but you can customize your press-ons to keep up with the latest nail trends while saving money and doing your nails on your own schedule. 

It’s difficult to beat the ease of press-on nails but one of the most important things when wearing them is learning how to properly remove them without damaging your natural nails. With the proper removal, it’s totally feasible to strengthen and grow your natural nails while you wear press-ons. So, follow along as we share three ways to remove press-on nails at home without damaging your natural nails.

How Long Do Press-On Nails Last?

Press-on nails can last anywhere from a week to 12 days depending on how you apply them.  The sticky tabs are better for short-term wear (and removal) and can last up to a week. The right nail glue or curing your press-on nails with builder gel can make them last up to two weeks and sometimes even longer. The latter does take a little more time and effort to remove.

Are Press-On Nails Damaging to Natural Nails?

Press-on nails can be damaging if you don’t remove them correctly. Prime examples include ripping the nails off or using a tool to lift the nail before soaking — both of which can lead to nail separation, thinning and brittle nails. 

The best removal method really depends on how you apply your press-on nails but typically, the longer you wear your press-on nails, the easier it is to remove them without damaging your natural nails. So, it’s always good practice to give as much time as you can between applying press-on nails and removal. 

How to Remove Press-On Nails With Warm Water and Soap

The water and soap method is a great way to remove press-on nails that have already started to lift and pop off. Furthermore, this method is the best way to remove press-on nails applied with the sticky tabs and nails you want to reuse in the future.

1. Fill a Bowl 

Fill a bowl with warm to hot water (that you can tolerate) and two pumps of dish soap. You can also add a spoonful of cooking oil to help speed up the process.

2. Soak Your Nails

Soak your nails in the warm water and soap mixture for ten to 15 minutes. The soap and oil will break down the nail glue and most of the nails should start to pop off as you soak. If not, repeat the process until all of the press-on nails are off. 

You can also use an orange stick to lift the press-on nails once they’ve soaked but never force it. If removal ever hurts, stop and go back to soaking your nails. Once you start pulling or forcefully removing the press-ons, it’s entirely too easy to damage your nail beds.

Editor’s tip: A combination of soaking with warm water and soap followed by nail glue remover can help to quickly lift press-on nails.

3. Buff Your Natural Nails

Once all of the press-on nails have popped off, use a file to lightly buff your nails and remove any excess glue. Finish with cuticle oil and you’re ready for your next set.

How to Remove Press-On Nails with Acetone

Using acetone to remove your press-on nails is the best technique for a few different scenarios. Seasoned press-on nails users know that proper prep and application free of air bubbles with good nail glue and a healthy dose of it, can really make your nails last. If you’re ready to remove your press-on nails but they still feel super intact for this reason, acetone will be more effective than the warm water and soap method. 

Press-on nails applied with builder gel or acrylic are in the same category as gel extensions or acrylic nails so it’s best to treat them as such. Acetone is the only thing that will work, especially if you want to preserve your natural nails because it’s basically like removing a salon set. With that said, acetone will dissolve press-on nails so only reach for it if you don’t plan to reuse your press-ons. 

1. Trim Your Nails

If you have long nails, trimming them before removal will help speed up the process.

2.  Soak in Acetone

Using 100 percent acetone for the best results, fill a small glass bowl with just enough to cover your nails. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Patience is key during this step so turn on your favorite podcast or start a new series and zone out.

3. Gently Remove the Press-On Nails

The nails should pop off or start to get soft and dissolve as you soak. Gently, use an orange stick to lift the dissolved bit off the nail. Repeat the soaking process until you can gently remove the entire press-on nail without tugging or harsh scraping. 

4. Buff Your Natural Nails

Once all of the press-on nails are removed, lightly buff the surface of your nails with a file to remove any excess glue. Finish with cuticle oil or petroleum jelly to give your nails some love before your next set. It will never hurt to give your nails a few days of rest in between sets but if you don’t have any damage, you can remove old press-ons and replace them with a new set in the same sitting.

How to Remove Press-On Nails With Foil and Acetone

If you don’t want to soak your nails in a bowl of acetone, you can also remove your press-on nails with cotton, foil and acetone, similar to how gel polish is removed

1. Trim Your Nails

If you have long press-on nails, cut them down to speed up the process. You can also lightly file the surface of your nails.

2. Wrap Your Nails With Foil

Soak the cotton with a generous amount of acetone and place it on each nail, securing with foil. Let the acetone sit on your nails for 15 to 20. You know this, the longer, the better, so we recommend turning on that new reality series you’ve had on your watchlist for months.

Editor’s tip: If you’re out of tin foil, no biggie. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using plastic food wrap over foil citing that it helps to create a tighter seal around the nail without dripping.

3. Gently Remove the Press-Ons

Once the time has passed, remove the foil and use an orange stick to gently remove the dissolved press-on nails. Repeat the process with acetone and foil until you can gently and easily remove all of the dissolved press-ons from your natural nails.

4. Buff Your Natural Nails

Once all of the press-on nails are removed, lightly buff the tops of your nails to get rid of any leftover glue. Finish with a healthy dose of cuticle oil to add some hydration back to your nails.

Next: 30 Gorgeous Nail Designs and Colors For Short Nails

Written and photo credit by: Reece Andavolgyi