Is nail polish remover rubbing alcohol

Our nails will keep growing, and eventually, they will outgrow your “permanent” nail polish. Of the thousands of things that don’t last forever, that nail color is one of them is a good thing. There is always a new nail style or trend that will trump the nail color you first loved. 

As the nail care industry gives you a plethora of choices, you won’t run out of new things to try. Let’s be honest — painting our nails is not Picasso-level art, although in some obscure window of time, Picasso manicures were in. People literally have art on their nails! But most of the time, we opt for one or two timeless colors.

Whether it’s us or the chipping polish, at some point we have to let our nail color go. With a few easy swipes of the nail polish remover, your nails become a fresh canvas for your next artwork. 

What is in nail polish?

What is in nail polish

Polish removers work by undoing what nail polish ingredients do. 

After it leaves its tiny bottle, nail polish becomes a hard and pigmented film over your nails. It contains hardener or resin so that the film stays on your nail plate. This is why preparing for a manicure includes making sure nothing comes between your nail and the resin. 

We don’t want the nail polish to be as hard as a brick. A stiff film is counterintuitive because it will chip and break easily. Plasticizers in your nail polish prevent this from happening.

Manufacturers use different kinds of resins and plasticizers. There are also additives in the nail polish that boost luster and longevity. In this industry, beauty must come in a long-lasting package. 

Not everything in the nail polish bottle stays and hardens with the film. For traditional nail polish, the solvent that keeps the product liquid in the bottle will evaporate. Without the solvent, the nail polish would not stay dissolved.

On the other hand, gel nail polish doesn’t use evaporating solvents. Instead, they have photoinitiators that are activated under UV light. This starts the drying process. This also means you can’t remove gel polish in the same way as you would traditional nail polish.

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How does nail polish remover work

How does nail polish remover work

After the nail polish has hardened, nail polish removers have to do the reverse process. 

Think of the nail polish ingredients as puzzle pieces suspended in liquid which is the solvent. When the liquid is removed, the puzzle pieces can join together and stay in place. The nail polish becomes or polymerizes into a hard film. Technically, the film is a polymer or a chain of smaller molecules.

If you add the liquid back to the hard film, the puzzle pieces break apart. Turning the hard film into liquid makes it easy to remove from the nail. You will also notice that the color is transferred to the cotton.

In general, acetone is the solvent used in nail polish. But other manufacturers use alternatives like ethyl acetate or butyl acetate that work similarly. For this time, we will focus on acetone-based nail polish remover. 

The molecular structure of acetone allows it to interact and dissolve a lot of materials. That is why acetone is not just found in nail polish removers. Acetone can remove household stains and coats of color from surfaces.  

How does it remove even the polish that’s already several weeks old? 

Acetone only disrupts the arrangement of the molecules that make the nail polish hard. As long as the solvent can disturb the structure of the film, it can remove the nail polish from your nails. 

Is nail polish remover the same as rubbing alcohol?

Is nail polish remover the same as rubbing alcohol

Although both have a strong smell, the short answer is no. Rubbing alcohol can be one of the ingredients of a nail polish remover, but the nail polish remover’s not-so-secret weapon is acetone.

Is acetone rubbing alcohol? We can learn from organic chemistry that acetone is molecularly different from alcohol. Alcohols are chemicals with a group of oxygen-hydrogen (OH) bond. 

Alcohols end with the suffix -ol. We may have encountered names like propanol, methanol, ethanol or ethyl alcohol, and isopropanol or isopropyl alcohol.

Scientifically, acetone is known as dimethyl ketone. It can also be called propanone. Unlike alcohols, propanone does not have an OH group. So, acetone’s names don’t end with an -ol suffix. Acetone belongs to another group called ketones. Instead of an OH group, ketones have a carbon-oxygen group.

When we buy rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy, there is a big chance that we get either isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. These alcohols can disrupt cells, effectively killing germs in the process. This makes rubbing alcohol an effective disinfectant.

Unless you own a nail salon, you might not always have a stash of nail polish remover lying around. You’re more likely to have rubbing alcohol because it’s a household disinfectant. And when it comes down to a matter of necessity, can you use rubbing alcohol to remove your nail color?

Essentially, rubbing alcohol is not the same as a nail polish remover. But if you don’t have other options, rubbing alcohol can get some nail colors off. Because it is not meant to be a nail polish remover, you will not get a fast and flawless result. Still, it can substitute nail polish remover when you’re out of luck.

What if it’s the other way around and you ran out of rubbing alcohol?

Can I use nail polish remover instead of rubbing alcohol?

We keep rubbing alcohol around so we can clean our hands, bodies, and spaces. In its pure form, acetone disinfects surfaces as well. But if you check the bottle that you have, there is a big chance that its acetone concentration is less than 100%. 

Despite being less than maximum strength, can nail polish remover be used as rubbing alcohol to disinfect surfaces? That nail polish remover may not be powerful enough to substitute rubbing alcohol. Dilution weakens its disinfecting power.

That the acetone in the remover is not strong enough is for good measure. Since it’s not made to kill germs, its acetone doesn’t need to be very strong. Too strong or too much acetone is very dehydrating. Your nails and the skin around them don’t deserve such harsh treatment when you just want to remove your nail color.

While rubbing alcohol may remove nail color, you can’t do the reverse and use the nail polish remover to disinfect. Especially when it comes to your body, you should stick to the intended use of items.

While this should not be the norm, you can take advantage of nail polish remover for other household uses, provided that you understand what you’re doing.

Can I use nail polish remover to clean electronics?

It boils down to what you intend to clean. First, you have to assess the situation. You should run a test to see if the liquid won’t damage your electronics. Just carelessly pouring the nail polish remover on the item is making a mountain of a molehill problem. 

We go back to the idea that nail polish molecules polymerize or join together as the solvent evaporates. The acetone-based nail polish remover erases nail color because acetone disrupts polymers. If you misuse the nail polish remover, you may damage your electronics, especially those made of plastic.

Nail polish remover with acetone can save your day when you spill ink or superglue on your devices. And if you want to clean visible dirt and grime, you can use a minute amount of the polish remover. 

Of course, this is only for surface cleaning. You should consult a professional when you want to clean the inside of your devices or those areas that are sensitive to corrosive chemicals. 

The wonderful chemistry behind nail polish removers is often taken for granted. These products have been so long and widely used that we barely give them a second thought. That is until we need them. So far, the alternatives fall short of what nail polish removers are capable of.

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