How To Get Rid Of Nail Polish Smell? (7 Quick & Easy Ways)

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Nail polish contains chemicals that cause a strong odor even when you only apply a small amount to your nails. It often lingers in your hands and your room for a couple of hours which causes your nose to twitch or give you a headache. When applying nail polish, make sure you have good airflow in your room to avoid inhaling the fumes. And if you’re running to a meeting and don’t want to smell bad, apply cuticle oil or olive oil on top of your nails to eliminate the odor. However, if you’re looking to eliminate a nail polish smell from your breath, that needs medical intervention.

Painting your nails is a fun and creative way to uncover the artistry version of yourself. But that’s not until the smell from your nail polish causes discomfort in your nostrils, and worse gives you a headache. 

Why does nail polish smell so bad?

Solvents which are the main ingredients of your nail polish, are to blame. There are many types of solvents, which you can find in your beauty care and household products.

However, nail polishes have high concentrations of these solvents.

They keep the nail polish in liquid, making it easy to apply, and because they are volatile ingredients, they quickly evaporate or dries off, leaving a hard-colored film on your nails. 

Below are some of the common ingredients of your nail polish:

Ethyl AcetateUsed to thin and dissolve other substances in nail polish.Sweet fruity-smell like in pears
Butyl AcetateUniformly distributes and dissolves other substances in nail polish.Smells like an apple or banana
Propyl AcetateDissolves cellulose esters, resins, and plasticizers.Pleasant smell like pears
Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)Solvent for dyes and increases the durability of nail polish.Has a slight aromatic odor
CamphorUsed as a plasticizer.Smells like mothballs
TolueneCreates smooth coating, its fumes are highly toxic and may cause neurological malfunctions.Has a potent mix of a sweet and pungent smell
FormaldehydeNail polish hardener, exposure to high levels of this chemical will cause complications in your respiratory system, which may lead to cancer.Has a strong pickle-like odor

Ways to get rid of the nail polish smell

A mom and daughter are happily painting their nails together at home.

Maybe you consider washing your hands with soap and water, but that would only ruin the art on your nails.

That leaves you one option, which is to let the polish dry off completely before hand-washing.

Below are some tricks you can do at home to minimize or eliminate the nail polish smell from your hands or the air space of your room.

1. Use a cuticle oil

Applying cuticle oil on the top of your nails will neutralize the odor of your nail polish. Not only that, it contains vegetable oils and vitamins that will give you healthy-looking nails.

2. Apply olive oil

Make sure your nail polish has dried off before applying olive oil to your nails. For the best result, let the oil sit on your nails for 10-15 minutes before washing your hands. 

3. Open the windows

You may want to make sure there is good air ventilation in your room when you’re about to paint your nails.

Open the windows or do the polishing in an open space like your front porch, for instance. In that way, the pungent smell won’t accumulate, you’ll still have a good supply of fresh air.

4. Turn on the fan

Turn on the fan while the windows and doors are open so that the pungent smell will move out and not stay in your room.

5. Spray some air freshener

You may use odor-neutralizing air fresheners like Febreze Air Effects and Lysol to eliminate or neutralize the nail polish smell in your room. 

I usually spray the air freshener while the windows or doors are closed for a couple of minutes before finally opening them.

If you can’t bear the mix of smells, you may wear a mask or step outside.

6. Place activated charcoal, baking soda, or coffee grounds 

Activated charcoal or baking soda will absorb the odor in your room. Place a good amount of these ingredients in a container on a high shelf. You may leave it for a couple of days without changing them daily.

You may also use fresh coffee grounds to absorb the pungent smell in your room. For best results, place a good amount in a glass bowl and stir it daily. It will also add a warm and homey scent to your house.

7. Place essential oil or citrus fruit peels 

You may add essential oils to your flower vases to enhance a fresh and flowery scent in your room. A few drops daily will surely help eliminate any unwanted smell.

Things from your kitchen like lemon or any citrus fruit peels will also do the trick. Place the peels in a decorative container to add beauty to your room.

It will neutralize the odor and leave you with a fresh fruity smell. Do not let the peels rot. Change them regularly until the odor is gone.

Nail polish smell on your breath?

Maybe it’s just poor dental hygiene or bad food choices, you think, but it may tell you something more about your health.

If your breath has a sweet fruity scent like nail polish or acetone, as in a nail polish remover, it may be a sign that you have high levels of ketones in your liver.

Doctors usually associate it as a symptom of diabetic ketoacidosis (KDA). However, it may also happen that the condition is due to your keto diets, fasting, and/or heavy drinking. 

If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t produce or use enough insulin to convert glucose (in the blood) and provide energy to your body. When that happens, your body will burn your stored fats for energy instead.

The process will release ketones and acetone from your liver, and when there is too much buildup of these byproducts, it becomes highly toxic in the blood. 

Treatments for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)

Doctors usually treat persons with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) in the emergency room. You may receive the following:

  • Intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement
  • Insulin therapy

These treatments will dilute the excessive sugar levels in your blood, give you enough fluids and reverse the process of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

You should strictly follow the treatment plan of your doctor, especially if you have diabetes. Exercise and make balanced healthy food choices to keep normal blood sugar levels. 


Is there a nail polish that doesn’t smell?

Most nail polishes, even with “free-from” formulas, always have that typical smell. However, some manufacturers produce odorless and natural nail polishes.

You may start looking for nail polish with a water-based formula, as these will have zero odor or lesser pungent smell. Little Ondine, Acquarella, and Honeybee Gardens are some. 

Is nail polish smell bad for your babies?

The chemical found in your nail polish may induce adverse health effects both for you and your baby. Frequent exposure to the fumes from nail polish may cause toxicity, irritation to the eyes and nose, and complications in the respiratory tract.

You should paint your nails away from your baby, remove the smell before touching them, and maybe use odorless and natural nail polishes.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as the solvents found in your nail polish may cause adverse effects to your health and the environment.

Some of these chemicals, such as toluene and formaldehyde, showed researchers their potential to cause hormonal disruption, neurological effects, and even cancer. That’s why most manufacturers have removed them from their products.

If you simply want to add extra to your beauty regime by polishing your nails, make sure to read the ingredients if those chemicals are safe to wear.

Take measures to eliminate the pungent smell of the nail polish immediately to avoid complications in your health. 

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Reana Jean Cuevas
Mabuhay! I'm Reana Jean Cuevas. A healthy body means living well with no worries-just happiness and more life adventures. Taking care of my body and well-being is an investment for my career and future. I was a volunteer at the Philippine Red Cross. I joined the training to become a first-aider and be able to provide other health and safety services in my community. I love discussing anything but mainly first-aid, home remedies, and women's health.

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