How to Thin Nail Polish

How to Thin Nail Polish

Wearing nail polish is a wonderful thing, and being able to do it yourself is a great way to change up the colors whenever you want to try something different, or to have it match an outfit before an out of the blue date.  

Annoyingly, over time nail polish can become sticky, gloopy and absolutely unusable on the nails. When this happens we tend to throw it away, even though there is plenty left. Not only is it bad for the wallet (they can cost a lot), but also it is a complete waste of product.

Instead of throwing the nail polish out, especially since it always happens to be your favorite one, let us tell you how you can get it back to looking as good as new.

What Is Bad Nail Polish?

You will know when it has gone bad. When new, it used to glide upon the nail creating a smooth finish; it now clumps up and is too sticky to spread evenly. To put it simply, it will not paint the nail properly.

Even though your first thought will be to throw it out, there are ways to save it. Let us look at them below, but first, avoiding the causes is key to keeping the nail polish in good shape. 

Ways to Avoid Nail Polish Turning Sticky

We have all likely done these things, but if you have noticed your nail polish starting to turn sticky, avoid the situation like the plague. The root cause of your nail polish getting thick is that the acetone in the nail polish has evaporated.


Whilst obvious, any form of heat source will make the nail polish turn gooey and sticky. If you have ever painted your nails outside in the direct sunlight, you have probably seen this happen right in front of your eyes. 

Keep nail polish in a cool area that will not have the sun, or any other heat source, directed at the bottles. A drawer is a great place to store them.


Whilst already stating that they should be kept in a drawer, never put them in a bathroom. You need the temperature to stay consistent, and in a bathroom it does not, plus there is a lot of humidity within that room that may affect the nail polish. 

Keep Them Upright

Always store nail polish bottles the correct way up. Whilst it can be tempting to throw it back in your drawer and let it lie on its side, it will do the nail polish no favors. Instead, always, we repeat, always keep the bottle upright.

This is because it can form it to become dry at the neck of the bottle, plus it can create clumps to appear within the formula. 

Stop the Lid From Sticking

Wiping the neck of the nail polish bottle with a cotton round soaked in acetone will make it easier for you to open the bottle, rather than it sticking, and help towards stopping the formula turning bad. 

Do Not Leave the Lid Off

When you use nail polish, you have to remove the lid away from the bottle, but never leave the bottle without the lid for too long. Doing so will increase acetone evaporation which can cause clumps and thicken it up. 

Related: How to file nails step by step

How to Thin Nail Polish
How to Thin Nail Polish

Ways to Thin Nail Polish

Whilst it might not seem like it right now, there are ways to save that nail polish. If one way does not work, try another. You can save that expensive polish you invested in a couple of months ago!

Hot Water in a Bowl

This method is not only good at helping nail polish to loosen, but it will also help the lid to come off if it appears to be too tight to remove.

Fill a bowl with hot water and place the nail polish within it. Leave it for around 3 minutes and then take it out. Put it in between your palms and roll it gently back and forth. This will shake the polish. 

If it does not work the first time around, do it again. Also, be very careful because the glass bottle will become hot. 

Drop of Acetone

Acetone should be used as a last resort, but it can be very successful if the hot water does not work. All you need to do is pour one drop of acetone into the polish to make it loosen up and become smooth. 

However, be careful about putting too much in as eventually it will break down the ingredients causing the nail polish to have a shorter lifespan. 

Nail Lacquer Thinner

It is all in the name, so it probably should be your go-to, however you may not have any to hand. 

Put 2 to 3 drops using an eyedropper into the nail polish. Screw the lid back onto the polish and roll it between those palms helping it all mix together inside the bottle.

Afterwards, check the consistency of the polish. If it is smooth and glides on the nail like a dream, then you are ready to use it. If not, give it another two drops and repeat the process. 

Do keep in mind to use a thinner that is suitable for the type of polish. So, if it is a gel polish, use one specifically for that type. 

What Not to Use

Whilst there are a few ways to try and save gooey nail polish, there are also things to avoid no matter what the internet says. These are:

Nail Polish Remover

Whilst you can use nail polish as a way to remove excess oil off the nail pre-polishing, it is not a good idea to use it as a polish thinner. Whilst it might sound like a great idea, it actually will break down the formula, and cause nail polish to crack. That is not a good look!

Hydrogen Peroxide

Some people use this once they run out of polish remover, but just like with polish remover, it should not be used to thin out nail polish. 

Final Words

Whilst it can be really annoying when nail polish becomes thick, gloopy and unusable, it can easily be saved. With a few simple methods, nail polish can be turned back to its original state. There are no more reasons why you have to throw away that polish – unless it has been used up, of course!