How To Thin Out Nail Polish That’s Thick And Clumpy

Loosen the formula of your favorite nail color that’s been drying up in your closet for years.

Reviewed by Simone de Vlaming, Beauty Expert Simone de Vlaming Simone de VlamingBeauty Expert facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_icon
Written by , MA (Mass Communication & Media Studies) Esha Saxena MA (Mass Communication & Media Studies) Experience: 3 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , MA (Mass Communication & Journalism) Joyce Joyson MA (Mass Communication & Journalism)
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Every nail enthusiast has a favorite bottle of nail polish in their vanity. But what would you do if you opened the bottle one day to find the lacquer all dried up? Well, your knowledge of how to thin out nail polish can come to your rescue and save your bottle of polish from going to the trash. In this article, we share a simple fix for the problem of thickened nail polish. Get ready to revive your old nail polishes and make them as good as new. Scroll down to know more!

How To Fix Thick, Goopy Nail Polish

Thick nail polish
Image: Shutterstock

Thick nail polish, be it metallic nail polish or shimmer nail polish, has uneven consistency. Here’s how to thin out nail polish that has gotten thick, clumpy, and impossible to apply. These methods are a great fix for restoring the original consistency of your polish (even glitter or neon nail polish).

Method 1: Try A Nail Lacquer Thinner

Nail lacquer thinner for thinning out nail polish

Using a professional nail lacquer thinner is the best way to restore your old nail polish. Here’s what you need to do: use an eyedropper to pour 2-3 drops of thinner into the nail polish. Then, screw the cap back on and roll the bottle between the palms of your hands to mix the two together. Test the consistency – if it flows smoothly from the brush, it is ready to use. If it does not, add some more drops of thinner and test it out again.

If your nail polish is a gel formula (the ones that are UV-cured), use a thinner that is specially designed for gel nail polish. You can also use acetone-free and non-toxic thinners that you can find in most beauty stores.

Method 2: Hot Water Fix

Hot water for thinning out nail polish
Image: YouTube @HannahRoxNails

If you are out of nail lacquer thinner, here’s how you can thin out nail polish with things you already have at home to do your manicure and pedicure.

Immerse your bottle of dry nail polish in a bowl filled with hot water, and you have your DIY nail polish thinner ready. Leave the bottle in the water for about 3 minutes. Then, gently roll the bottle back and forth between your palms to shake the polish in it. This method also helps loosen the cap of a hard-to-open nail polish bottle.

Note: As the glass bottle can get very hot, handle it with care and caution. If the polish still does not reach the desired consistency, repeat the process for a few more minutes.

Method 3: One Drop Of Pure Acetone

Pure acetone for thinning out nail polish
You can also use pure acetone as a last resort if you run out of nail polish thinner. The key is to only use one drop of acetone as any more than that will break down the nail polish and lessen its lifespan.

If you don’t have pure acetone on hand, but have a nail polish remover that contains acetone, you can use it instead. However, just like pure acetone, don’t use too much of it or it will break down the nail polish color.

protip_icon Quick Tip
You can use an eyedropper to dispense the acetone or nail polish remover inside the nail paint bottle precisely, as too much of the solution will only ruin the color and texture.

Method 4: Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is also a great option for thinning clumpy nail polish. Add two drops of rubbing alcohol to the nail polish. Give the bottle a shake to mix the polish and check the consistency. Add another drop if needed and repeat the process.

Worried that your favorite nail color is starting to harden? By following the easy tips given below, you can prevent your nail polish from getting thick and clumpy altogether. Check them out!

How To Keep Your Nail Polish From Turning Goopy

Nail polish bottles of various colors
Image: Shutterstock
  • Store your nail polish in a cool, dry place that maintains a consistent temperature (like a drawer just for your beauty products).
  • Wipe the neck of your nail polish bottle with a cotton ball soaked in acetone before you screw the cap back on, especially if it’s a quick-dry nail polish. This also makes it easier for you to open the bottle the next time you want to give yourself a mani/pedi.
  • Never keep your polish close to a source of heat or in direct sunlight.
  • Avoid storing your nail polish in the bathroom as the temperature is constantly fluctuating in there, and humidity is your nail polish’s #1 enemy.
  • Store your bottles the right way by keeping them upright. If you store them upside down or on the side (please don’t throw them haphazardly in a drawer), it will cause clumps in the formula and dry at the neck of the bottle.
  • Don’t leave the lid off for longer than necessary. Exposing your nail polish to air is one of the top reasons for the thickening of your polish. It’s best to close the bottle between coats.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Applying nail polish with the fan is advisable to keep it from drying out. You can also cover the lid while using the color.

Infographic: More Tips For Restoring Sticky Or Thick Nail Polish

If you paint your nails at home, it’s possible that some of your favorite polishes are now tough to open, too thick to apply, or even both. However, you don’t have to throw away your old favorite colors. Instead, we have the strategies and tactics you need to save old polish and get perfect nail finishes. Learn from the infographic below about the most effective ways to save your nail polish.

more tips for restoring sticky or thick nail polish(infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

A new bottle of nail polish is delightful. The only thing that beats it is knowing that an old, dried-up bottle of your favorite nail polish is salvageable. Follow these steps on how to thin out nail polish to make them as good as new for a few more coatings. Why throw out bottles when the content is still usable? However, everything has an expiry date. Nail polishes usually last for at least two years (even the long-wear ones), but their chemical formula starts breaking down a few months before the date. So, if your nail polish starts to clump stubbornly and does not blend well, it is time to toss it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use rubbing alcohol to thin out nail polish?

Yes, you can use 2 to 3 drops of rubbing alcohol (91% alcohol) to thin out your nail polish.

Can nail polish be thinned with remover?

No. Although this may seem like a quick solution, this method will break down your nail polish’s formula. The polish will begin to crack after a couple of uses.

Can you use hydrogen peroxide to thin out nail polish?

No. Hydrogen peroxide can be useful in removing your nail polish when you run out of remover, but it’s not the most ideal ingredient for thinning out your polish.

Are acetone and thinner the same?

No. While acetone acts as a dehydrator to remove the nail polish from your nails, a thinner acts as a solvent and replaces the ingredients that have evaporated over time. They also have different chemical compositions.

How much thinner should I add to nail polish?

2-3 drops of thinner is ideal.

What types of containers are best for storing thinned nail polish?

Apart from drawers, a makeup bag and fridge are suitable places to store nail polish.

How often should you thin out your nail polish?

Thin out the nail polish only when it turns thick or goopy.

Is it safe to use nail polish thinner?

A nail polish thinner is a lacquering agent. While it’s safe to use hot water with it, acetone should be used very judiciously as it can adversely affect your nails when applied with nail polish.

Are there any precautions to keep in mind when using thin-out nail polish?

The following precautions should be kept in mind for thinned nail polish:

  • Cap the bottle tightly and keep it in a cold and dry area.
  • Wipe the bottle neck.
  • Give it a swirl every few days.

Is there a specific temperature to thin out nail polish?

The ideal temperature at which nail polish should be stored is 10-15 degree celsius.

Key Takeaways

  • You can revive a dried-up lacquer with a few simple techniques and without much effort.
  • These methods help to thin out dried-up nail polish and restore its original consistency.
  • You can use nail lacquer thinner or hot water to thin it out and store the nail polish in the right way to avoid thickening.
Thin Out Nail Polish

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team


Learn how to thin and use your clumpy nail polish again with these quick tips. Click on the video to use your old nail polish anew in no time!
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Simone de Vlaming

Simone de VlamingBeauty Expert

Simone de Vlaming is a beauty expert and founder of Beautymone.com. She specializes in makeup, skin care, fragrances, and nails. Simone decided to start a beauty blog during her graduation to find an outlet for her passion. She also worked as a beauty advisor in a beauty store/perfumery. Over the years, Simone expanded her beauty knowledge through her retail experience,...read full bio

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