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Will Nail Polish Remover Remove Car Paint?

Man worker polishing car paint using nail polish.

Your car is one of your most valued possessions. It’s natural and reasonable to want to keep it looking good.

There are some situations where you may want to remove car paint. Acetone can be used in these situations. However, nail polish remover can also damage your car paint

The Types of Nail Polish Remover

There are two types of nail polish remover. These are acetone and non-acetone. Non-acetone is the most common type today, because it’s less harsh than acetone. However, both can be found at any local store. 

Both use solvents, which break down paints and other compounds. This is how they remove the paint from your nails.

Acetone Nail Polish Remover 

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Acetone is the original nail polish remover. It’s harsh, but it will effectively remove polish from your nails. It can also remove the paint from your car, although it takes time for the acetone to dissolve the paint. 

Acetone will also remove oils from your skin. Overuse can turn your skin white, because the skin has dried out. 

Acetone is naturally present in trees, tobacco smoke, and car exhaust. It’s even present in the body. 

Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

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 Non acetone nail polish remover contains ethyl acetate or nethyl ethyl keytone. This is typically known as MEK.

They were originally developed because acetone nail polish can’t be used with nail extensions. In addition to removing the polish, it will damage the glue that holds the extensions to the nail. 

Both acetone and MEK are used in industrial applications. These include removing grease, paint, and as a paint thinner. 

MEK is the stronger of the two compounds. However, non-acetone polish remover is not 100% MEK. Instead, it’s mixed with other ingredients, ultimately making it less effective than acetone at removing nail polish. 

Can You Remove Car Paint With Nail Polish Remover? 

The short answer is, yes. Both acetone and MEK based nail polish removers can remove car paint. Acetone can remove all paint from an area of a car in a few hours. Non-acetone remover can also be used, although it’s less effective. 

This can be a good thing, because there’s less chance of removing paint from areas you aren’t trying to.  

Pure Acetone or MEK 

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You can also use pure acetone or MEK. These are better for stubborn paint or large areas of paint that need to be removed. Keep in mind that these will easily remove all paint from the area. 

How and When to Use Nail Polish Remover on Paint? 

You don’t want to accidentally get acetone on your car paint, because it can damage or remove it. However, there are some situations where nail polish remover is a good solution. 

These include removing scratches, paint transfer, and tree sap from your paint. You should use caution when using nail polish remover for these purposes. It can remove your paint, or the clear coat that protects your paint. 

Now that you know that you can use nail polish remover for these situations, let’s take a look at how to do so. 

Removing Scratches with Polish Remover 

Front hood of a black car with scratches.

Nail polish remover can be surprisingly effective for removing scratches from your car. First, you’ll want to wash and dry your car. Some scratches may be partially removed with only a thorough wash. 

Now, you’ll apply the nail polish remover. Some sources recommend using non-acetone polish remover, while others state that acetone is the way to go. 

Use a clean cloth to apply the polish remover. Buff it gently. Keep buffing until the scratch disappears. 

Removing Unwanted Paint With Polish Remover 

Perhaps someone opened their car door and hit your car, transferring paint. Perhaps you had a minor fender bender, getting the paint from the other car on your bumper. It’s even possible that someone vandalized your car with spray paint. 

No matter how it happens, nail polish remover is excellent for removing unwanted paint from your vehicle.  

You’ll first wash your car, and dry it. Then, apply nail polish remover with a clean rag. If the area is large or thick, acetone polish remover may be better. For a light coat of paint, you can try non-acetone remover. 

After you’ve removed the paint, wipe away any remaining polish remover so it doesn’t damage your paint. It can remove your clear coat, so you may want to use a clear coat touch up product to prevent your paint from becoming damaged over time. 

Tree Sap or Asphalt 

Door of a white car with tree sap.

Lastly, you can use nail polish remover to remove tree sap or asphalt. In either case, you’ll start by removing as much as you can before applying the remover. 

Tree sap may be removed with soap and water, particularly if its fresh. Asphalt will likely need to be scraped away. 

Use the nail polish remover by applying it with a clean rag. Rub it over the area until the substance is removed. You may need to reapply the remover to the rag to get all the sap or asphalt off. 

If polish remover isn’t working, you can try 100% acetone. This can be purchased at beauty supply stores and home improvement stores.  

Will Nail Polish Remover Remove Car Paint FAQs

What is the fastest way to remove paint from a car?

The quickest way to remove all paint from a car is with paint stripper. This is ideal if you are going to remove the paint from your car, and then repaint it. You can also remove the paint with a razor blade, and then use a sander. 

Can you use nail polish on car paint? 

A worker's hand with gloves polishing the red car.

Nail polish can be quite effective for car paint. If you have a scratch on your car, find a nail polish that matches the color as closely as possible. Apply the polish to the scratch. Allow it to dry, and apply a clear coat to the area. You can also use a clear coat alone to prevent rust and further damage to the scratch. 

How can I prevent nail polish remover from damaging my paint? 

The best way to prevent damage to your paint when using nail polish remover is to not allow it to dry on the car. Once it dries, it will eat through the paint more quickly. It can also be  difficult to get off your paint once it’s dried.