How to remove polygel nails: expert tips and tricks

This post is all about how to remove polygel nails safely and effectively without damaging your natural nails.

No need to stress about going to the salon and spending a bunch of time and money just to get your polygel removed. You can easily do it at home!

There are a couple of easy and quick methods you can try to take off your polygel overlays or polygel extensions at home.

We’ll walk you through each method and answer some of your questions about proper polygel removal.

Let’s get started.

The good news is that polygel should be a little quicker and easier to remove than acrylic nails.

Let’s figure out how to take off those polygel nails right in the comfort of your own home!

In a rush?

Here’s the quick rundown for how to remove polygel nails at home:

Want to take off your polygel nails at home? Here’s what to do: Cut any extensions, and file down the gel with an e-file or regular hand file. Soak your nails in pure 100% acetone for 15 minutes and then use an orangewood stick to scrape off the excess gel. Repeat the process if needed. Simple right?

So now you have the basic idea. Let’s go through the process step by step so you have a clear understanding of what you need to do.

I’ll share a step-by-step guide and all my best tips for removing polygel safely, and make it as easy as possible for you.

Here’s what’s in this post:

What do I need to remove polygel at home?

What do I need to remove polygel at home

First things first, let’s go through the basic tools and supplies you’ll need to take off your polygel nails at home.

Tools and equipment you’ll need to remove polygel at home

  • A pack of cotton balls or pads, to keep things nice and clean
  • A nail drill (aka E-file) or a regular hand file, to get that gel off
  • Pure acetone (100% works best) or an acetone-based nail polish remover to break down the gel
  • A brush, for dusting off any leftover bits
  • Nails clips or foil strips, to keep everything in place
  • An orangewood stick (or cuticle pusher) for pushing cuticles
  • A gentle buffing block (240 is ideal) for a smooth finish
  • And, last but not least, cuticle oil (optional) to keep your nails nourished.

There are some other items you may need depending on the method you’re using.

For example, if you want to remove your nails without using acetone, you’ll need soap and oil (coconut oil or cooking oil).

And if you decide to go for the sandwich bag method you’ll need a food bag and a bowl of hot water.

How to remove polygel at home

Removing polygel is easy if you follow these simple steps:

  • First things first, if you have extensions, snip them down with a nail clipper.
  • Next, use a file to take off as much gel as you can. If you’ve got an e-file, use a safety bit on a low setting. If you’re using a regular file, go for a medium grit (100-180) and be gentle – you just want to remove the top layers of gel. If you feel your natural nails, you’ve gone too far!
  • Now, get rid of any dust that’s left over. You can use a nail brush or wipe each nail with a cotton pad soaked in water.
  • Time for soaking your nails in acetone. I find the best way is to use cotton pads soaked in acetone and then wrap them around your nails. Secure them with nail clips or a tin foil strip wrapped around each nail.
  • Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. This part depends on the brand of polygel and how much product was left on your nails after filing.
  • Take off the clips and scrape off the gel. The best tool for this is an orangewood stick, but if you don’t have one you can use a metal cuticle pusher – just be careful not to scrape too hard!
  • If needed, repeat the soaking process again for another 10 minutes.
  • Once most of the gel is off, gently buff the surface of your nails with a 240 buffing block (or any gentle buffer) to smooth them out and get rid of any last bits of gel.
  • Push back the cuticles and remove any dead skin from around the cuticle area.
  • And lastly, if you want, apply some cuticle oil to keep your nails moisturized. (but avoid if you’re planning to do a new set right after).

Using the sandwich bag method to remove polygel

You may have seen this nail hack for removing hard gels like polygel on TikTok.

This method is popular because it uses warm water to speed up the process a little.

Here’s what you’ll need for the sandwich bag method:

  • Nail clippers
  • A nail file (hand file or an e-file/nail drill)
  • A bowl of hot/warm water
  • Paper towels
  • A sandwich bag
  • Acetone (100% pure) or nail polish remover
  • some oil (coconut oil or cooking oil both work great)
  • An orangewood stick or cuticle pusher

How to remove polygel nails at home using the sandwich bag method

How to remove polygel nails at home using the sandwich bag method

This process is pretty simple. It takes around 35 minutes to remove your polygel nails.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Clip off any excess length.
  2. File your nails down and remove as much polygel as you can.
  3. Prepare a bowl of warm water.
  4. Put some paper towels inside your food bag – you want to be able to cover all of the nails on one hand – 2 paper towels is perfect.
  5. Pour some pure acetone (about 1/4 cup) into the bag. If you don’t have pure acetone the next best thing is a regular acetone-based nail polish remover. But it is going to take longer with nail polish remover.
  6. Add a couple of teaspoons of your chosen oil to prevent your nails and skin from drying out too much.
  7. Place your nails inside the bag. Make sure that the nails are covered by the paper towel.
  8. With your hand inside the bag, dunk your hand into the hot/warm water.
  9. Soak for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove your nails and gently scrape off any loose polygel. Don’t try to pry the polygel off if it’s not loose – you will ruin your nails!
  11. Repeat the soaking process (you can switch out the paper towels if needed).
  12. Gently scrape again until all the gel is removed.

You can repeat the soaking and scraping process as many times as you need to.

Does acetone remove polygel?

Yes, acetone does remove polygel.

But before you soak your nails in acetone, you’ll need to trim them down and file off most of the polygel using a hand file or an e-file (aka nail drill).

100% pure acetone is the best type for getting polygel off your nails.

If you don’t have 100% pure acetone, you can use a regular nail polish remover to get polygel off.

Using a normal nail polish remover will take longer, and It’s best if the first ingredient in your nail polish remover is acetone.

How to remove polygel without a drill.

How to remove polygel without a drill

Nail drills are great because they speed up the removal process a lot.

But if you don’t have a nail drill yet, don’t worry.

A regular nail file works just as well. It just takes a bit longer.

Follow the steps for removing polygel at home (above) and simply use a hand file instead.

A medium grit nail-file (100 to 180) is best for removing polygel.

How to remove polygel without acetone

Repeatedly using acetone can dry out your skin and nails way too much.

So here’s an alternative method you can try that doesn’t use any acetone.

In my experience, this method takes a lot longer than if you are using acetone.

But it might be worth it to you to keep your nails healthy.

The oil and soap method (acetone free)

You’ll need these things to follow this method:

  • Warm water
  • Coconut, olive, or cooking oil
  • A cuticle pusher or orangewood stick
  • A nail file (you can use an e-file/nail drill or a normal hand file)

How to remove polygel without acetone step by step

Here are the steps to follow for using the soap and oil method:

“Alright, here’s what you’ll do for the soap and oil method:

  1. Gently go round the edges of your nails with a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick. The idea is to lift them up so the water can penetrate.
  2. Mix a tablespoon of your favorite oil (coconut, olive, or cooking oil) with warm water and add a tiny bit of soap.
  3. Soak your hands in the mixture for around 10 minutes (15 is even better).
  4. Take your hands out and use an orangewood stick to gently scrape off any loose gel.
  5. Repeat step 3 if needed.”

What is the easiest way to remove polygel?

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

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.

FAQ’s about polygel removal

How long does it take to remove polygel nails?

You should allow 35 to 55 minutes to remove a full set of polygel nails at home.

Do I need to go to a salon to get them removed?

No, you can remove them quickly and easily at home.

But be careful not to file down the polygel too much before you soak them in acetone.

What is the best way to remove polygel nails?

The quickest and easiest way is to use a nail drill. If you don’t have one, then using a hand file is the next best thing.

Can I reuse my polygel?

No. You can’t re-use polygel nails.

Will my nails be damaged after removing polygel?

No, as long as you’re careful not to over file or damage your nails while removing the gel.

You may find that your nails and the surrounding skin are dry after using acetone.

if so, use cuticle oil after removing your nails.

How can I prevent my nails and skin from drying out when removing polygel?

Try mixing warm water, soap, and oil and soaking for 15 minutes.

Check out our best polygel nail kits article here.


  • 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.