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Should You Try the Dental Floss Acrylic Removal Technique?

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

If one thing is certain, TikTok is filled with fascinating beauty tips. One popular trick is a method for swiftly taking off acrylic nails with — yes, really — dental floss.

Acrylic nails serve as a long-lasting alternative to gel nails. However, due to their durability, they can be challenging to remove. The most common removal technique involves soaking nails in acetone for an extended period, which can potentially damage both the nails and skin. That’s why an easy alternative is so intriguing.

According to TikTok users, the secret to using dental floss to remove acrylic nails is to wait until the nails are slightly lifting around the edges. (Acrylic nails typically start to lift within two weeks, signaling that your natural nails are growing beneath the acrylics, and the bond is loosening. This is when you should either remove the acrylics or fill in the gap between your natural nail and the extension with more acrylic.)

This process allows you to take a piece of dental floss, whether it’s regular floss or single-use picks, to manually loosen the bond between the acrylic and your natural nails. With your other hand, you sandwich the floss between the acrylic and your natural nail at the base, then slide it towards the tip of your nail. In addition to removing acrylic nails, some people are using the dental floss method for other nail enhancements, such as gel polish.

Of course, not everything on TikTok is worth trying. If you’re wondering whether this advice for acrylic removal is worth substituting acetone with, continue reading.


Professional nail technicians do not recommend using dental floss to remove acrylic nails. It is not proven to be effective and may potentially damage the nail bed.

Why would you choose dental floss in the first place?

Without delving too deeply into the science behind acrylic nails, they are crafted using a combination of powder and liquid monomer that creates a moldable “paste.” This substance hardens, bonding to your natural nails to achieve any shape or length you desire. While this process results in a long-lasting manicure, it also makes removal a meticulous task.

The most common method for removing acrylic nails involves soaking them in pure acetone, which is a chemical solvent used as the main ingredient in nail polish remover. This breaks down the chemical bond between the acrylic and the keratin-rich surface of your nail, enabling you to gently separate the two from each other, as stated by Anna Parvatova, a nail professional and creative director of the brand SNS Nails. If you’ve ever had an acrylic nail set, you are familiar with how time-consuming it can be to remove them with acetone—it typically takes 20 to 30 minutes.

You may need to repeat the process of soaking your nails and filing off softened residue multiple times to completely remove them. However, with the dental floss method for acrylic nail removal, TikTok users claim to remove their nails in a fraction of that time. Additionally, acetone, which is crucial in breaking down acrylic, can be excessively drying for both your nails and skin, according to Parvatova. Considering both factors, the appeal of effortlessly sliding your nails off without acetone is quite obvious.

Can the dental floss acrylic nail method harm your natural nails?

While there’s no denying it’s more rapid, the dental floss elimination technique could result in significant damage to your natural nails, according to nail artist and ManiMe partner Rebecca Ludwig. “I absolutely do not advise using dental floss or any thin string to remove your acrylics,” she states. “It is truly harmful to your nails.” The issue is that when you slide the floss beneath the acrylic nail, you might end up tearing off layers of your natural nail, which can lead to weak and fragile nails, she explains.

If that doesn’t persuade you to avoid this hack, the worst-case scenario might: “Another thing to consider is the string may catch a snag in your nail and can possibly rip your nail bed in half, which would be incredibly painful,” says Ludwig. The rip could leave you vulnerable to pathogens and “could cause an infection if not tended to properly,” says Ludwig.

Are there better hacks for removing acrylic nails quickly?

Regrettably, when it comes to removing acrylic nails, “the long way is the best way,” according to Ludwig. Ideally, you’ll visit a salon to have them professionally removed or allocate sufficient time for your nails to soak in acetone at home.

That said, there are a few adjustments you can make to save some time without causing havoc to your natural nails.

Items you’ll need: Nail clippers, 80-100 grit nail file, acetone nail polish remover, cotton balls, aluminum foil, and cuticle oil.

  • Step 1: Trim your acrylics as short as possible using the nail clipper
  • Step 2: File down the top layer of acrylic with a rough (80-100 grit) nail file
  • Step 3: Immerse a cotton ball in acetone and attach it to the nail using aluminum foil, repeat for each nail. Allow to soak for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Step 4: Wash your hands and apply cuticle oil to your nails and fingers after removing the acrylics

After trimming your nails, one trick to speed up the acrylic removal process is to file down the top layer of acrylic with a coarse (80-100 grit) nail file until the nail paint appears dull, and then soak them in acetone, says Parvatova. This can “increase the exposure of the acetone soak and decrease the length of time spent soaking,” she explains. When you remove that excess, it means there’s less acrylic for the acetone to break down.

Then, you can “soak some cotton in the acetone, and affix it to the nail using aluminum foil,” says Parvatova. “This works more quickly than dipping your nails in acetone and won’t dry out the skin on your fingers as much.” The cotton ball and aluminum foil method allows you to focus on the area of the acrylic nail and avoid contact with the surrounding skin. The aluminum foil, along with your body heat, will help warm up the acetone and make it work faster, she explains. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after removing acrylic nails.

You can also consider “heating the acetone in a double boiler beforehand, as warm acetone works quicker to break down the bond,” says Ludwig. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can also warm the acetone indirectly by placing it in plastic baggies and then placing the baggies in heated water.

Oppose the temptation to put the acetone in the microwave for the purpose of warming it, as it possesses flammability.

Speaking of the drying properties of acetone — you do not want to skip after-care even when you are attempting to streamline the process, emphasizes Parvatova. She suggests applying a cuticle oil of your choice to your nails and fingers post-removal, follow up with moisturizing hand cream, and go without nail polish for a few days before getting another manicure. Giving your nails a break will allow you to replenish lost moisture with the cuticle oil, which is particularly important if your nails are prone to dryness that may lead to peeling or easily breaking nails.

There is no doubt that acrylic removal can appear to take a long time and that there should be a superior method. However, despite what you might see on social media, it is preferable to reserve dental floss for your teeth. To maintain the overall well-being of your nails, it may be ideal to seek professional assistance in removing acrylic nails.

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