Is Nail Polish Remover Rubbing Alcohol?

The strong, pungent smell of rubbing alcohol is similar to something else: nail polish remover. And this often prompts the question, is nail polish remover rubbing alcohol?

No, nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol aren’t the same. Nail polish remover contains isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) as part of its ingredients.

But its primary ingredient is acetone which is quite a strong ingredient. Rubbing alcohol is not that powerful, hence the difference.

What is Nail Polish Remover? 

Nail polish remover is a pungent-smelling solution used to remove nail polish. Whether you’ve got shellac, regular, or even gel nail polish, nail paint remover will work well. According to the patent, the main ingredient of nail polish remover is acetone.

However, the nail polish remover solution contains ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, water, and glycerin. And isopropyl alcohol is a rubbing alcohol. This ingredient is probably why there’s always a comparison between nail paint remover and rubbing alcohol.

Notably, acetone is the most powerful ingredient in a nail paint remover. And it works well in breaking down and eventually removing nail polish from the nail plate surface.

What is Rubbing Alcohol? 

We’ve talked about nail polish removers. Now, let’s get to know what rubbing alcohol is. Rubbing alcohol is a liquid consisting of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.

You’ll find that most rubbing alcohols up for sale have a higher percentage of isopropyl, alcohol-usually 70-99 percent.

It has various uses, from being an antiseptic, disinfectant, and general cleaning agent. Based on our context, rubbing alcohol can also remove paint from your nails.

But remember, it isn’t as strong as a nail polish remover as it doesn’t contain acetone. You may need to put in more effort and rub it in a little longer to achieve good results.

Differences Between Nail Polish Remover and Rubbing Alcohol 

Over the years, we’ve had many questions about nail polish remover and alcohol. And we’ve concluded that there needs to be more understanding of their differences. So, let’s dive in and learn together.

1. Components

When thinking about the differences between nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol, our first stop ought to be their components. What are both made from?

Well, nail polish remover consists of acetone, ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), water, and glycerin. The main ingredient in nail polish removers is usually acetone. This works well in breaking down nail paint and removing it from the nail plate.

But you need to be quite careful as overuse can cause massive damage to the nail.

Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, is made up of isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. Some rubbing alcohols will have a very low percentage of ethyl alcohol. It’s accurate to say that the main ingredient of rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol.

2. Uses for Nails

But how do these two liquids work on nails?

Nail polish removers, as we’ve already mentioned, are used to remove nail paint or polish from the nail plate. But how do they work?

You’ve probably seen nail techs pour nail polish remover onto a cotton ball and dump it on your nails. Then after some minutes, the nail paint is off. How does this happen?

Acetone, the main ingredient in nail polish removers, softens, breaks down, and re-dissolves dried paint. This makes wiping or washing away the paint easy, and you’ll have removed your polish.

Like nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol can also remove polish from nails. It works in the same way as the nail polish remover. You only need to rub rubbing alcohol on your nail, and it will break down the paint.

The only difference is that it will take longer since it doesn’t contain acetone, the stronger solvent.

3. Safety

Nail polish removers are only somewhat safe for your nails, especially since they are acetone based.

According to the National Institute of Health, nail polish removers contain allergic reaction-causing irritants. And they can also dehydrate your nails. The result? Brittle and weak nails. So, refrain from over-using nail polish removers.

Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, is safer as it doesn’t contain harsh acetone. But, the alcohol can dry out your nails. So, you need to moisturize your nails often.

Is Nail Polish Remover Rubbing Alcohol? 

Well, we know you already have the answer to this question. Nail polish remover is not rubbing alcohol.

While simply stating this can eliminate many questions on the issue, it doesn’t eliminate all doubts. And especially because of the nail polish remover ingredients. Removers include acetone, ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, water, and fatty material such as glycerin.

And having isopropyl alcohol as part of the ingredients can be a little confusing. But why?

Remember, isopropyl alcohol is the main ingredient in making rubbing alcohol. That creates a kind of relationship between the two. However, we always like to serve this reminder; isopropyl alcohol is not the main ingredient in nail polish removers.

Instead, acetone forms the bulk of the ingredient list. So, nail polish removers cannot be rubbing alcohol. They can only be referred to as acetone-based eliminating any donuts on whether nail polish remover is rubbing alcohol.

Is there Alcohol in Nail Polish Remover? 

By now, most of us can sing nail polish remover ingredients like a song; acetone, ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, water, and fatty materials like glycerin or lanolin. There’s alcohol in nail polish remover from the knowledge of these ingredients.

There’s isopropyl alcohol which is a rubbing alcohol. And there’s also ethyl acetate which is a form of alcohol. It’s made by synthesizing pure alcohol (ethanol) and acetic acid.

And before you even know the ingredients, the nail polish remover smell can already tell there’s bound to be some alcohol in the product. So, there we have it! There’s alcohol in nail polish remover.

Is Acetone the Same as Rubbing Alcohol? 

Both acetone and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) are ingredients in making nail polish remover. And this can make it easy for people to think they are similar. After all, they are part of the solvent that breaks down nail paint.

This line of thought almost always asks, is acetone the same as rubbing alcohol?

Well, acetone is not the same as rubbing alcohol. From the functional perspective, acetone is a stronger solvent. And this makes it quite effective in breaking down polish, acrylic nails, and even plastic.

Rubbing alcohol only possesses some of these capabilities. It’s not as strong as acetone. Thus, you’ll need more effort and tricks to break down nail polish if you decide to use it as a remover.

Again, chemically speaking, acetone has a C=O bond as part of its chemical structure. Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, has a C-OH group in the middle of its chemical structure. And this further asserts the difference between these two liquids.

Can I Use Rubbing Alcohol as Nail Polish Remover? 

Sometimes, you’ll need to get rid of that chipped polish making your nails look untidy. But you’ve only got rubbing alcohol within your reach. So, can you use rubbing alcohol as a nail polish remover?

Yes, you can use rubbing alcohol as a nail polish remover. And you’ll have your nails cleaned up after some minutes or, in some cases, in a few hours. But why wait that long?

We’ve repeatedly mentioned that rubbing alcohol is not a nail polish remover. Their ingredients are different. And the lack of acetone in rubbing alcohol makes it a weaker liquid for removing paint on nails.

So after applying rubbing alcohol to your cotton ball and placing it on your nails, you may need to wait longer. Always remember to rub it continuously.

Keep trying if the polish doesn’t come off with the first trial. It will eventually break down. And you’ll be left with a clean nail plate.

Can I Use Nail Polish Remover as Rubbing Alcohol? 

And now to the reverse. Can you use nail polish remover as rubbing alcohol? Well, this is always quite a confusing question. And our all-time answer? It depends on the function of the rubbing alcohol you need to replace using nail polish remover.

If, for instance, you want to use it to remove nail paint, by all means, go ahead. Nail polish remover used as rubbing alcohol for this purpose will work better.

You can also use nail polish remover as rubbing alcohol in disinfecting surfaces. Acetone and ethyl acetate, some of the ingredients of nail polish removers, are effective against viruses and bacteria.

Generally, for the most part, you can use nail polish remover as rubbing alcohol. But you don’t want to use it directly on the skin. For instance, when disinfecting a wound. It can cause skin irritation and allergies, problems you’d rather avoid.

How to Remove Nail Polish without Nail Polish Remover? 

Picture this; you’ve got a rugged-looking manicure. But you’ve got no worries since no significant events are coming up. Then, all of a sudden, you get plans. And you have no nail paint remover to remove nail polish.

What can you use? There’s no need to panic in such a situation. Here are some alternative nail paint removers that could help save your day.

The Rubbing Alcohol Method

If you’ve got some rubbing alcohol to spare, you can remove nail polish without nail paint remover. You’ll only need to apply some rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. Then let it rest on the nail plate for about a minute to allow the paint to dissolve.

Continuously rub on the nail plate until you see the paint coming off. If it doesn’t work on the first try, repeat this until you remove the nail polish completely.

And a little secret? You can also use hand sanitizer with the same steps as rubbing alcohol. Hand sanitizer also has a percentage of alcohol and can be useful in removing nail paint.

Pro-Tip: When using rubbing alcohol, start a little earlier. The rubbing alcohol method may be slower than traditional nail polish.

The Perfume Method

When you don’t have nail polish remover within your reach, ask yourself, what else is alcohol based within your reach? And you’ll almost always come up with the answer; perfume.

Since perfumes have an alcohol base, you only need to spray perfume on a cotton pad and rub it on your nail plate. It’ll break down the polish and save your day. But please remember, you might have to use more perfume since the alcohol content is slightly lower.

Fight Fire with Fire (Use Nail Polish)

Fighting fire with fire? Seems unrealistic, right? But the truth is, it exists, and it’s quite easy to do this. You only need to pick a nail polish and paint a thick coat over the existing polish.

And some good news is that you won’t need to apply a neat coat. After all, it’s going to be coming down in a few.

Then, using a washcloth or paper towel, start rubbing your nail plate softly. You’ll unbelievably watch as both fresh and old polish come off.

Toothpaste Method

And the toothpaste you use to leave your teeth shiny white could also be useful. But before you drain out your toothpaste tube, check the ingredients. Only toothpaste with ethyl acetate will help you remove nail polish.

If it has this ingredient, squeeze toothpaste directly onto your nail. Use an old toothbrush or paper towel to rub the toothpaste back and forth. You’ll see the nail paint coming off within no time.

White Vinegar and Lemon Juice Method

Something else within your reach? White vinegar and lemon juice. White vinegar has acetic acid, which is great for breaking down nail polish. And lemon juice has citric acid, which softens nail polish and allows it to come off easily.

You can soak your nails in citric acid or lemon juice. But, for more efficient results, we always recommend mixing the two. You’ll need to soak your fingers in the mixture for about 20 minutes, remove them and wipe away the old polish.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Hot Water Method

And lastly, the hydrogen peroxide and hot water method. You must make a 2:1 hydrogen peroxide and hot water mixture, respectively. Proceed to soak your nails for about 10 minutes. After the time elapses, you’ll notice your old polish is gone.

And if any stubborn chips are left, use a nail file to remove them. After all, these chips have already been softened by hydrogen peroxide and hot water.

Pro-Tip: Always moisturize after removing nail polish. Some of these removers, whether traditional or DIY methods, can thoroughly dry your nails and fingers. The result? Weak and brittle nails, a problem you’d rather avoid.


We hope you are more enlightened on nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol. You now know that nail polish remover is not the same as rubbing alcohol. But they can both be useful in removing nail polish.

Remember, if you have a nail polish remover, we recommend you always go for that. And always remember to moisturize!

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