This post is all about how to remove polygel nails safely and effectively without damaging your natural nails.
You don’t need to go all the way to the salon and waste your time and money to get your polygel removed.
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.
So, let’s find out how to remove polygel nails at home.
In a hurry?
Here’s the short answer for how to remove polygel nails at home:
The best way to remove polygel nails is to cut down any extensions, then file the gel down with an e-file or regular hand file. Next, soak the nails in pure 100% 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 polygel safely.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
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
- Cotton balls or pads
- A nail drill (aka E-file) or a regular hand file
- Pure acetone (100% works best) or an acetone-based nail polish remover
- 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)
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:
- If you have extensions, trim them down with a nail clipper.
- 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 a polygel 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 gel. If you reach your natural nails, you went too far!
- Remove any excess dust. Use a nail brush or wipe over each nail with a cotton pad soaked in water.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Push cuticles back. Once all the gel is off, push back the cuticles and remove any dead skin from around the cuticle area.
- 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.
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
This process is pretty simple. It takes around 35 minutes to remove your polygel nails.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Clip off any excess length.
- File your nails down and remove as much polygel as you can.
- Prepare a bowl of warm water.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add a couple of teaspoons of your chosen oil to prevent your nails and skin from drying out too much.
- Place your nails inside the bag. Make sure that the nails are covered by the paper towel.
- With your hand inside the bag, dunk your hand into the hot/warm water.
- Soak for 10 minutes.
- 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!
- Repeat the soaking process (you can switch out the paper towels if needed).
- 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.
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)
For this method you’ll need:
- A nail file (you can use an e-file/nail drill or a normal hand file)
- Oil (coconut, olive, or cooking oil)
- Warm water
- A cuticle pusher or orangewood stick
How to remove polygel without acetone step by step
Here are the steps to follow for using the soap and oil method:
- Very gently go around the edges of your nails with a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick. You want to lift them up very slightly so the oil soap and water solution can get underneath.
- Mix a tablespoon of your chosen oil with warm water and add a tiny bit of soap.
- Soak your hands in the mixture for at least 10 minutes. (15 is better).
- Remove your hands and use an orangewood stick to gently scrape off any loose gel.
- Soak again 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.