Fact-check: Can you remove nail polish with vinegar and lemon juice?

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In one of the nail polish enthusiast groups I’m in, this article was recently brought to my attention. In summary, it says that if you’ve run out of nail polish remover, don’t worry! You can easily remove your polish by first soaking your nails in warm water for 10 minutes, then soaking cotton balls in a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and vinegar, and placing them on your nails for 20-30 seconds.

Hurrah! No more late night manicure emergencies! No more expensive and smelly solvents! Just all natural, cheap, readily available household products! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

…Well, except that 99.9% of “too good to be true” claims are too good to be true.

Why It Won’t Work

1. Lemon juice and vinegar are dilute solutions of relatively weak, high pH acids (low pH = more acidic). They’re about pH 2, which is not acidic enough to dissolve anything quickly.

2. The reason nail polish remover works is that it’s non-polar, and can get in between the nail polish molecules and separate them (which is what we see as dissolving). Water is too polar to get in. Vinegar and lemon juice are both mainly water, so it’s very unlikely that anything will happen, in terms of dissolving.

3. I’m sure many people have chopped up lemons while wearing nail polish – if it could really dissolve nail polish, surely someone would’ve seen smears of polish on their lemon wedges by now? Or Lemony Flutter would be less popular as a post-manicure overnight treatment.

While I can’t think of a reason why this mixture would work off the top of my head, there’s always a possibility that it could work by some means I haven’t thought of, so it’s testing time!

It’s Getting Testy Up in Hurr

First up is getting the 1:1 mixture of lemon juice and vinegar. I used freshly squeezed lemon juice and apple cider vinegar that was getting all slimey.

Here’s my nail before soaking.

10 minutes of soaking…

Voilà!

OH WAIT. IT LOOKS THE FREAKING SAME. BUT WITH AN ANGRIER CUTICLE.

Is it just me? Look, it worked for this girl…

NO WAIT SHE’S JUST PICKING IT OFF. (Spoiler alert: fast forward to 42 seconds if you really want to see someone pick off their polish!)

I was hoping to be proven wrong, but it looks like this method only really works to soften the nail, which you can then flex a bit to get the polish to come off, i.e. the tried and true pick-your-polish-off-in-the-shower method. Except it comes with extra acid, to aggravate your skin and sting the hell out of any cuts or hangnails you have.

So save your lemon and vinegar for your mouthhole, and instead try:

– Rubbing alcohol/hand sanitiser/anything else that contains alcohol – it’s super slow, but at least it has some chance of getting into your polish

– Nail polish – paint wet nail polish over your dry nail polish, and the solvent in the wet polish will sink through and dissolve up the old stuff as well (use clear for the least mess)

– Pick it off in the shower or after a water soak if you don’t mind the damage – at least you won’t also be soaking your fingers in acid

– Maybe just wait til the morning and go buy some remover?

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13 thoughts on “Fact-check: Can you remove nail polish with vinegar and lemon juice?”

  1. This has got to be one of the funniest posts I’ve read today. I can’t believe that anyone would believe this would work as a proper nail polish remover! I mean, soak your nails in water for 10 minutes? Is that a step in *any* removal technique? =P
    Great post.

    Reply
  2. hi..
    Wow… very Interesting and funny post Michelle. Loved the Video. Funny……!! Thanks for exposing the reality that is not revealed by the so called “Guru’s” on social media. Keep sharing.. 🙂
    Regards;
    Evelyn M. Speaks

    Reply

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