How to remove builder gel. Here’s what you need to know

how to remove builder gel

So, you’ve been loving your new builder gel nails but now it’s time to take them off. You don’t wanna go all the way to the salon and waste your time and money. Especially if there’s an easy way to take them off at home. So, let’s find out how to remove builder gel at home.

In a hurry?

Here’s the short answer for how to remove builder gel:

The best way to remove builder gel is to file the gel down with an e-file or regular hand file. Then soak the nails in pure acetone for 15 minutes and scrape off the excess gel with an orangewood stick. Repeat the process if needed.

Now you have a basic answer, let’s go through what you need to do in more detail.

I’ll give you a step-by-step guide and all my best tips for removing builder gel safely.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Can you soak off builder gel?

can you soak of builder gel

Yes, you can soak off builder gel using pure acetone.

It usually takes around 15 minutes.

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of builder gels are marketed as “soak-off gels”.

So, does that mean that some builder gels can be soaked off and some can’t?

No, any type of builder gel can be soaked off using acetone.

Soaking your nails in acetone works to remove regular builder gel, builder gel in a bottle, and even rubber-based builder gel.

So how do you soak that builder gel off?

Let’s find out.

How to remove hard gel from natural nails

Here’s what you’ll need to remove builder gel or any other type of hard gel from your nails:

  • Cotton balls or pads
  • A nail drill (aka E-file) or a regular hand file
  • Pure acetone
  • A brush to remove dust
  • Nails clips or foil strips
  • An orangewood stick (or cuticle pusher)
  • A gentle buffing block (240 is ideal)
  • Cuticle oil (optional)

How to remove hard gel at home:

The easiest and quickest way to remove builder gel nails is to use a nail drill.

nail drill home use remove hard gel

This is a handy tool that’s also sometimes called an E-file.

Basically, a nail drill / e-file speeds up the removal process.

You can file the hard gel down manually with a hand file.

But if you’re going to be removing your gel nails at home regularly, it’s definitely worth investing in a good nail drill.

If you don’t have a nail drill, or you want to remove your gel nails at home without a drill, then using a medium grit nail file (100 to 180) is best.

Steps for removing hard gel overlay

Removing a hard gel overlay is easy if you follow these simple steps:

  1. File down as much gel as you can. If you have an e-file, then use a safety bit on a low setting. To remove hard gel overlay without a nail drill, file with a medium grit hand file (100-180). Be careful not to file too hard, you only want to remove the top layers of thick gel. If you reach your natural nails, you went too far!
  2. Remove any excess dust. Use a nail brush or wipe over each nail with a cotton pad soaked in water.
  3. Soak your nails in acetone. There are a couple of soaking methods you could try. I find that the best way is to use cotton pads soaked in acetone and then wrap them around my nails. Secure them with nail clips or a tin foil strip wrapped around each nail.
  4. Wait 10-15 minutes. The amount of time it takes to remove all the gel depends on the brand and on how much product was left on your nails after filing.
  5. Remove the clips and scrape off the gel. The best tool for removing gel is an orangewood stick. If you don’t have one then you can use a metal cuticle pusher but be very careful not to scrape too hard!
  6. Repeat the soaking process if needed. If you still have a lot of gel on your nails after the first soak, soak again for another 10 minutes.
  7. Buff your nails. Once you have removed most of the gel, gently buff the surface of your nails to smooth them and remove any last bits of gel. I like to use a 240 buffing block, but any gentle buffer will be fine.
  8. Push cuticles back. Once all the gel is off, push back the cuticles and remove any dead skin from around the cuticle area.
  9. Apply cuticle oil. This is an optional last step, but it will help to keep your nails moisturized. Don’t apply cuticle oil if you are going to do a new set right away.

How to remove builder gel with acetone

Does acetone remove builder gel? Why yes, it certainly does!

You can use acetone to remove a gel overlay on natural nails, or you can use it to remove builder gel extensions.

If you’re wondering how to remove builder gel in a bottle, acetone will get the job done.

The steps for removing builder gel extensions are the same as the steps for removing builder gel nails above.

The only difference is that you may need to cut your extensions down before you start.

If your builder gel extensions are long, you may need a special tool (click to check price on amazon) to cut them down.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00AQEQNW4&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=amazonjoe0d 20&language=en US 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B00AQEQNW4

cut down your builder gel nails, then scroll up and follow the 9 steps above to remove them with acetone.

How to remove builder gel without acetone

The fastest, easiest, and best way to remove your builder gel or biab nails without using acetone is to use a nail drill.

This is a useful tool that’s sometimes referred to as an electric or e-file.

Nail drills are brilliant for removing builder gel and they save you a lot of time and work.

It’s also a much better removal method for your natural nail health.

If you haven’t used one before, keep in mind that nail drills do take a little getting used to.

They are worth mastering though because they basically make the whole biab removal process more efficient.

What you’ll need to remove biab or builder gel nails without acetone:

  • A nail drill or E-file
  • The mandrel drill bit attachment (most drill sets come with this)
  • A course ceramic drill bit (again this should be included in your kit)
  • A few different sanding bands ranging from coarse to fine
  • Nail clippers or a tip-cutting tool
  • Cuticle nippers (optional but great for removing nail gems and 3D nail art from gel nails).

How to remove builder gel nails without acetone step by step:

Here’s what you need to do to remove builder gel nails using a nail drill.

  1. The first step is to trim your biab nails down using either straight-edge nail clippers or a tip-cutting tool. Don’t cut your natural nails while doing this as it will hurt!
  2. Use the cuticle nippers to take off any nail gems or 3d art. An old pair of cuticle nippers is better for this as they will go blunt from using them like this. If you used really small gems that are hard to get off, go ahead and file them down with your nail drill.
  3. Use a coarse sanding band to shorten the nails and smooth the free edges out a bit. Put a coarse sanding band on your mandrel drill bit. Once it’s in place, sand down the free edges to get rid of jagged edges and remove any extra length.
  4. Take off nail polish. Use the same coarse sanding band you already applied to now remove any nail polish. Using the nail drill, sweep across the width of each nail. An even motion works best. Try to keep the pressure the same as you sweep across each nail.
  5. Change out the mandrel bit and replace it with a coarse ceramic bit. This is what you’ll use to remove most of the builder gel.
  6. Get as much gel off as you can. Use even sweeping motions to remove the layers of biab. Don’t go all the way to your natural nails yet. You want to leave a thin layer of gel on to protect your natural nails from the coarse ceramic bit.
  7. Switch back to the coarse sanding band. Remove the ceramic bit and put the mandrel bit (with a course sanding band) back onto the drill. Gently remove any leftover gel from hard-to-reach spots. The areas you want to pay attention to are the sensitive areas around the cuticles (these can be hard to reach with the ceramic bit). You still don’t want to be touching your natural nails at this point.
  8. Switch to a fine sanding band. Leave the mandrel bit in the nail drill and just switch out the band to a fine sanding band.
  9. Remove the last thin layer of biab. Using the fine sanding band, keep doing smooth sweeping motions across each nail until all the builder gel is gone. You could leave a very thin layer of the gel on if you are worried about damaging your natural nails. Just make sure that the nails are smooth and blended well.
  10. Wipe over the nails to remove dust. That’s it! You can now use rubbing alcohol to wipe the nails clean or wash your hands with dish soap.

Removing builder gel nails with this drill method is the best way to get them off without using acetone.

How to remove Biab Builder gel at home

If you used a builder gel in a bottle, then you can remove it with acetone just like any other gel.

To remove Biab builder gel, follow the steps above for removing hard gel nails at home.

You will need to file the Biab down as much as possible before soaking it in 100% pure acetone.

The removal process may differ slightly depending on the brand of Biab you’re using.

Some gels soak-off more quickly than others, so it’s always a good idea to check the manufacturers’ instructions for removal before you start.

If you’re new to doing your own builder gel nails at home, you may not have everything you need.

Rather than buying a bunch of individual tools, it might be more economical for you to buy a Biab removal kit.

The kits have everything you need to take off your builder gel overlays or extensions at home.

How to remove builder gel from brushes

Whats the best acrylic nail brush 2

As a nail artist, your brush is your most important tool. Good nail brushes don’t come cheap, so you’ll want to look after them well.

If you’re using a brush to apply builder gel, then you’ll need to clean it properly after each use.

Cleaning your brushes is important for two reasons:

1) to keep the bristles in good condition; and

2) stop the gel polish brush from going hard

Here’s how to remove builder gel from your brush.

You will need:

  • 99% alcohol
  • Lint-free wipes

To remove the gel from the brush, first, soak the lint-free wipe in rubbing alcohol (aka isopropyl alcohol).

Then place it on a flat surface like a book or a table.

Take the brush and gently wipe it across the lint wipe, switching sides so that both sides of the brush touch the wipe.

Don’t pick up the wipe and wrap it around your brush, this technique can ruin the shape of your brush and it’s not as effective at removing the gel.

If your gel polish brush hardened already, then you may need to give it a soak in a shallow pool of rubbing alcohol first to loosen it up.

Some brushes are easier to clean than others, it all depends on the quality of your brush.

If you want recommendations for the best brush for builder gel, you can find those here.

You can use this same method to clean poly gel tools.

Here are a few tips for how to store gel nail brushes:

  • Keep them out of direct light
  • Store them upright so that the brush is not resting on its bristles
  • Don’t let them touch each other, this can cause the bristles to become misshapen
  • Buy brushes that come with a metal protective cap

Final thoughts:

So now you know, you don’t need to go to the salon every time you need your builder gel nails removed – yay!

Builder gel is easy to remove at home. You don’t need a lot of tools and you can even do it without a nail drill (though it will take longer).

It’s not complicated to learn how to remove builder gel so you should have it down in no time.

To make it easy, you can buy a removal kit that has everything you need to take off your builder gel nails at home.

I hope that my how-to-remove builder gel post has helped you out!

Happy removing!


What is the fastest way to remove builder gel?

The fastest way to remove builder gel is with a nail drill. This will take less than 10 minutes. But you will then need to soak the rest off in acetone. This will take a further 10 minutes.

Is builder gel good for nails?

Yes, if used properly, builder gel is good for nails.

It will help to strengthen and protect your nails from damage.

Be careful during removal as most damage to the natural nail is caused by excessive filing and scraping.

amazon associates disclaimer

As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.