How to restore that half-empty bottle of clumpy nail polish


To the polish-free crowd, nail enthusiasts are assumed to be greedy hoarders who blow disposable income on bottles of lacquer (most of which are in the exact same shade of goth-purple or apple-red). But, as any nail-painter will tell you, a polish addiction is so not the reason our bathroom cupboards can house nothing but our stash. It’s that every bottle we purchase can only be used to the halfway point until it becomes too thick, un-spreadable and therefore unusable. And because we spend anywhere $8 to $38 a pop, we’re understandably reluctant to chuck a bottle that’s half full.

So, what happens to our polish that speeds it into early retirement? Well, every swipe we apply lets air into the bottle, causing it to get dense and apply chunky to our nails. But, there are a few ways to revive remaining polish to make it just as good as it was during the honeymoon phase.

Ahead, five tips for getting the most out of your lacquer so you can say goodbye to clumpy, time-wasting manicures, and hello to saving a little more pocket money.

how to restore nail polish

Tip #1: Shake, rattle and roll
Nail polish requires a great shake before use–an obvious rule, yet one we’ve gotten kind of lazy to do. Shake it thoroughly; turn the bottle upside down and rattle the metal balls inside around until clumps have dissolved and the polish is blended. Then, heat the bottle up by rubbing it in the palm of your hands for five minute, which will help with the spreadability.

Dior Diorific-Vernis Nail Enamel ($37,

how to restore nail polish

Tip #2: Clean the brush with acetone
If the shaking and rolling didn’t work, try cleaning the brush with acetone. Grab a glass cup (one that you’ll never use for drinking, obvi) and fill it with the hardware solution. Make sure the cup is glass, as acetone melts plastic. Swirl the brush around until the polish clumps loosen and fall off. If you have any stubborn clumps, use a paper towel (not cotton balls!) to remove them. Screw the brush back onto the bottle without rinsing the acetone off the brush. The acetone will thin out the polish and any clumps. But be sure not to use too much acetone as it can make the polish prone to crack.

Acetone ($10,

how to restore nail polish

Tip #3: Use a polish thinner
Instead of acetone, you can also try a thinner made specifically for nail polish. Most restore polish with just a drop of two, followed by a good shake. ORLY’s Nail Polish Thinner is a great option, and can also be used to clean the brush.

Orly Polish Thinner ($5,

how to restore nail polish

Tip #4: Use hot water, not nail polish remover
Despite what glossies used to tell us, don’t use nail polish remover to thin your thick polish. It will just break down the formula and will end up ruining it. If you don’t have access to acetone or a polish thinner and are in need of a quick fix, try adding a few drops of hot water.

Essie Naturally Clean Purifying Polish Remover ($6,

how to restore nail polish

Tip #5: Go for a lighter shade
The reality is, no matter how much you shake, warm and thin your polish, it will clump eventually. But, if you’re looking to save money, choose light shades – dark shades are more heavily pigmented and therefore tend to thicken faster. For a pale shade that’s perfectly on point with Pantone’s 2016 colour of the year, try Smith & Cult Nail Polish in “Pastel Peach.”

Smith & Cult Nail Polish in “Pastel Peach” ($22,

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