How to Use Nail Polish Remover as a Paint Thinner

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Things You'll Need

  • Stir stick

  • Natural fiber brush

Acetone nail polish remover can be used to thin paint or clean up spatters and spills.
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Most nail polish removers have acetone as a primary active ingredient. Acetone is a powerful solvent for both oil-based and latex-based paint, and can be used to remove uncured paint from a wide variety of surfaces. Some nail polish remover is composed entirely of acetone, and can be safely used to thin paint. Check the label to see what ingredients are in your nail polish remover before using it as paint thinner.


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Step 1

Stir the paint thoroughly.

Step 2

Add no more than one ounce of nail polish remover per gallon of paint. Stir for thirty seconds.

Step 3

Test the thickness of the paint by applying a long, single stroke to a test surface. Add more acetone if required, up to a maximum of twelve ounces per gallon of paint.


While nail polish remover is a fine substitute for paint thinner, it is far from your least expensive option. If you have more than one gallon of paint to thin, paint thinner or mineral spirits are much cheaper by volume.

If you are thinning latex paint, no chemical thinner is needed. Latex paint is water-based and can be thinned using clean water.


Acetone is a highly flammable chemical which gives off potentially harmful fumes. Use nail polish remover in a well-ventilated area away from open flames.

Only use nail polish remover as a paint thinner if it is 100 percent acetone, as indicated by the label. Non-acetone removers or removers with other ingredients may interact with your paint in a destructive or undesirable manner.

Do not use nylon brushes with paint that has been heavily thinned with acetone. Acetone will rapidly degrade nylon brushes by melting the plastic bristles.