Will Nail Polish Eat Through Plastic? (Explained)

Many people enjoy painting their nails as a way to express their style or show their personality. However, some worry that nail polish’s chemicals might damage other objects.

For example, many people wonder if nail polish will eat through plastic.

Here’s If Nail Polish Eats Through Plastic

The main ingredient in nail polish is ethyl acetate, which is a weak acid. This means that it is not strong enough to eat through plastic. However, if the nail polish comes into contact with plastic for too long, it could cause the object’s surface becomes dull or discolored.

Does Nail Polish Damage Plastic?

Nail polish is a lacquer that is used the world over for adorning fingernails and toenails. The most basic clear nail polish is made of nitrocellulose dissolved in acetate.

Most other nail polishes have more ingredients, like:

  • Film formers
  • Resins
  • Plasticizers
  • Solvents
  • Pigments
  • Pearls

The effect of any nail polish on plastic depends mainly on its solvent. The solvent is the chemical used to mix all the other ingredients in the nail polish together.

When the chemical structure of plastic is similar to the chemical makeup of a nail polish solvent, that plastic is more likely to be damaged. Ethyl acetate, one of the common solvents used in nail polish, will attack some forms of plastics.

Can I Paint Plastic With Nail Polish?

In general, nail polish is not thought to be suitable for long-term use on plastic.

Over time, the binders and other ingredients in the nail polish will break down and cause the nail polish to become more liquid. It is better to source paints that are specifically designed for use on plastics.

However, one popular example is plastic which stands up well to nail polish. This is acrylic, the plastic found in nail extensions. This kind of plastic is always painted without being damaged by nail polish.

How Can I Remove Nail Polish From Plastic?

There are concerns about removing nail polish from plastic, seeing that the acetone in nail polish removers can damage plastics.

To overcome this dilemma, here are some recommendations:

1. Using a Scraper and Alcohol:

The first option is to use a plastic scraper to physically scrape the nail polish off. This approach is safer for hard plastics.

The scraper must not be as hard as the plastic to avoid damaging it. After lifting off as much nail polish as possible, apply rubbing alcohol and run the surface with a Q-tip. 

After applying rubbing alcohol:

  • Rinse the surface with clean water.
  • Inspect the results and repeat the scraping procedure if necessary, followed again by using rubbing alcohol with the Q-tip.
  • Do these until all traces of nail polish are removed.

Alcohol-based mouthwash or hand sanitizer are suitable substitutes for rubbing alcohol if you can’t get your hands on rubbing alcohol.

2. Using Amyl Acetate and Soapy Water:

In this method, a plastic scraper is also used to help physically remove as much of the nail polish as possible.

This is followed by applying amyl acetate to a sponge, cloth, or rag, ringing out the excess, and then using the soaked material to rub away any remaining nail polish. Finally, mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing soap with 2 cups of warm water.

Once again, soak a non-abrasive cloth, sponge, or rag with this mixture, squeeze out the excess and then wipe the plastic clean. This is followed by drying the plastic off with a paper towel.

3. Using Oil and a Scraper:

In this method of removing nail polish from plastic, any cooking oil or olive oil can be applied to the plastic and rubbed in.

This is coupled with using a plastic scraper to help lift off the nail polish.

Simply pour oil onto and around the edges of the nail polish, rub it in, and scrape it off until the plastic surface is clean.

4. Using Sticky Tape:

For softer plastics that may not be able to stand up to alcohol, amyl acetate, or scraped, all is not lost.

You can apply a strip of sticky tape to the nail polish, coating the plastic, then lift it off again. The nail polish should adhere to the tape, leaving the plastic surface free of nail polish.

The tape can be reapplied until all traces of nail polish have gone.

Does Nail Polish Remover Corrode Plastic?

The term corrosive comes from the Latin verb ‘corrodes,’ which means ‘to gnaw.’ The warning pictogram for corrosive substances is a rectangular piece of metal and a hand with a hole formed by a liquid dripping from a test tube.

The hazard symbol on bottles of nail polish remover does not include the corrosive symbol. They may show hazard symbols for being flammable and for being health hazards.

So at first, we might assume there is no risk of plastic corrosion from nail polish removers. However, the corrosive nature of nail polish removers takes effect on some kinds of plastics.

Nail polish removers that are made with acetone are more likely to dissolve plastics whose structure is similar to that of acetone.

For that reason, plastics like PVC and cast acrylic are not resistant to nail polish removers with acetone. One of the problems with nail polish removers containing acetone is their effect on acrylic nail extensions.

Acrylic nail extensions are a form of plastic, and they are known to become brittle and eventually lift off with continued exposure to acetone nail polish removers.

High-density polyethylene is a more resistant plastic, so bottles of nail polish removers are often made from this plastic.

In general, plastics are more easily corroded by nail polish removers if:

  • Their structure is very similar to acetone
  • Concentrations of acetone are higher
  • Duration and frequency of exposure to the plastic are longer
  • Temperatures are higher

Is Acetone in Nail Polish Remover a Corrosive Substance?

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), acetone is a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC).  That puts acetone in the same category as gasoline used for cars.

Although it is chemically manufactured, acetone is naturally released into the environment by volcanoes, plants, and forest fires. Acetone is also produced in our bodies when fat is broken down.

Acetone can cause the skin to be red, dry, and irritated in the short term if exposure is minimal. If exposure to acetone is long-term, the affected skin can develop chemical dermatitis.

Despite this, acetone is not an absolute corrosive substance. It is described as being non-corrosive to the common metals at room temperature and is normally supplied and transported in metal containers.

Sources

How Acetone Affects Certain Plastics

How to Clean Nail Polish Off Any Surface

The Chemical Composition of Nail Polish 

Toxic Substances Portal

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