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How I Un-paint My Nails

You've seen how I put polish on, but that's only half of the process.  Like anything else, everyone's got a different opinion about removers and methods.  This is what I do and why I do it, but something else might work better for you.

I use a "scrub tub", which is a jar with a built-in brush.  I've used them off-and-on for years, but I always come back.  This is the one I have right now...

It's the Up&Up Dip-It and this is what's inside...

The sarlacc pit!

It's Target's store brand, but there are others a lot like it.  They're all essentially the same, though the bristles can vary a bit in size and firmness.  The Up & Up one is cheaper than others (I think it was $2-ish) and has 100% acetone.  The CVS brand scrub tub is virtually identical, but $4-ish.  I prefer a 100% acetone one because a stronger remover means less scrubbing.  It's a time-saver and a potential nail and skin saver too...if you doctor it up a bit.

Acetone has a bad reputation that it really doesn't deserve.  I'll probably write a post just about that someday, but for now I'm just gonna tell you how I counter the drying.  In my twist on loodieloodieloodie's DIY knock-off of Zoya Remove +, I skip the water and just add glycerin.  I've recently started adding vitamin E oil to my scrub tub too.  Someone on the Nail Board was raving about a remover and it had vitamin E, so I gave it a try in a tub that was on its last legs anyway.  It doesn't seem to slow the removal down, so I've added it to this new one too.  I don't measure.  I just give the glycerin a good squeeze and put about 1/3 of a cap of the vitamin E in after that. If it's not enough and my skin feels dry after the first use, I add more.  Because there's no water, the glycerin and vitamin E oil sink to the bottom.  Shaking mixes them back in and will also bring any shimmer scuz to the top where it can be wiped off...but more on that later.

For now let's get to the removal itself.  I'll be taking off Orly Nite Owl.

Using a scrub tub definitely looks a bit...wrong.  Zeus uses one too but he finds it creepy and amusing at the same time.

I mentioned before that I've stopped using a scrub tub in the past.  They can cause your nails to peel, but they don't have to.  After reading a bit about nail anatomy I found the problem.  Pumping your nails up and down against the bristles can cause the top few layers to lift and peel.  Twisting the brush back and forth against the nail like a washing machine keeps that from happening.  I also back my nails away from the bristles when removing them from the tub.

Just a few back and forth twists and it's gone!

Staining galore, I know!

Creams and shimmers come off almost instantly in scrub tubs.  Glitters take more scrubbing.  For them I'll scrub until the topcoat and the polish come off and just the glitter is left, then I'll move on and do the rest of that hand the same way.  Once that's done, I go back to the first finger again.  Another few scrubs and most of the rest comes off.  Anything else will come off with a brush.  Even with creams and shimmers, not everything comes off in the tub.

The upper surface looks pretty clean, but there are scraps of my tipwrapping left.  The bristles don't do much for any polish under the nails.  For that I bring in backup, an old cleanup brush.

A quick dip in acetone and this old brush gets my undersides clean.

Then I go back over the upper side too, to get off any lingering traces.  Fresh, clean, and ready for moisturizer and a new mani!

Like anything else that's used for cleaning, scrub tubs will get pretty gross after a while.  How long depends on how often you change your polish.  Once I start to notice some grossness (it sticks to my fingers...yuck), I screw the lid on tight and give it a serious shake.  The remnants of old manis that can't mix into the acetone will leave a film at the top of the tub.  I wipe it off with paper towels.  After a while I might change the acetone entirely.  Don't EVER pour acetone down the drain!  Many homes have plastic piping and acetone can "eat" through several types of plastic.  Don't pour it into the trash either, for similar reasons.  Take an old dish or cooking pot, pour the acetone into that, and leave it outside to evaporate.  Eventually these transfusions won't be enough either, plus the bristles will begin to break.  When it's seen its last removal, safely dispose of the acetone.  The tub itself is recyclable.  That's another reason I prefer a scrub tub to felt, cotton, foil, q-tips, etc.  There's so little waste!

Beware of "imitators", since there are also sponge tubs and they can look very similar.  Sponge tubs take MUCH longer to remove old polish, but they do work and some even handle more than one finger at a time.  I had one years ago with three holes in the sponge.  The scrub tub is still faster.  Telling the difference can be a little tough if it's an unfamiliar brand.  Look for words like "built-in brush" or "removes gel nail polish and artificial nails" on the label.  If you don't see that and still aren't sure, give it a shake.  The sponge will generally thump against the sides or slosh around more.  With a brush you can usually only hear the liquid.

I think I covered everything, but if you have any questions or need clarification, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook.  Thanks for reading!  This was a long one, wasn't it?


  1. I had both the CVS and Sephora scrub tubs. While the Sephora one was a sponge, I much preferred it to the CVS version because I actually liked the sponge more than the bristles (it seemed to remove better, I assume because of more contact with my nail?)... The CVS tub dried my hands out so much I think I just ended up giving it to a more lotion-inclined friend, lol! I never thought to add glycerin or vitamin E to it.. might have to give it a try.


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