Picture this: You dig out your go-to seasonal nail polish for a DIY manicure, you swipe the brush across your nail and a sticky, clumpy mess is left behind (ugh).
Surprisingly, nail polish is a high-maintenance beauty product that can easily become thick and goopy, especially if it’s not stored properly. Your favorite shades can be salvaged with a few drops of nail polish thinner. Don’t have any on hand? Try these simple at-home fixes to answer your lacquer's SOS signal and make it good as new.
Give it some heat
The easiest way to make your old nail polish usable once again is super simple: use hot water. Total Beauty recommends holding the closed bottle under hot running water while rotating it slowly, or submerging it in a bowl of hot water for up to two minutes. Once you give the bottle a chance to cool, roll it between your palms to mix up the contents. Take note: don't shake the bottle, which will cause air bubbles and damage the polish’s quality (the exact opposite of your goal). If your lacquer is still thick when you apply it, repeat the process. If you’re once again left with sticky polish that won’t dry, move on to the next tip.
Add few drops of alcohol
According to Science Notes, another easy solution to thinning out your polish can likely be found in your medicine cabinet. Using an eyedropper or with a very steady hand, put a few drops of 91 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol directly into the bottle. Once you’ve replaced the brush and sealed the bottle shut, gently roll it back and forth (be careful not to shake it like a Polaroid). If you're out of rubbing alcohol, you can use a few drops of non-acetone nail polish remover in its place—but stay away from those that contain acetone because they’ll destroy the formula of your favorite shade.
Now that you’ve successfully rescued your nail polish, how can you keep it in tip-top shape?
Store with care
While you probably don’t think too much about where you store your nail polish, it does require proper storage in a cool, dry environment to maintain a smooth consistency.
Is your polish collection currently in the refrigerator? Not ideal, say the experts at Sally Beauty. In fact, keeping it too cold could actually be the reason your nail polish has thickened. Instead, store it in a closet or drawer outside of your bathroom to protect it from moisture, extreme temperatures and direct sunlight.
Another crucial storage requirement? Stash your bottles so they're standing upright, making sure they’re tightly sealed. This helps to keep the pigment evenly distributed and prevents your polish from drying out.
Clean it up
Are all of the necks of your nail polish bottles a little...gross? Make it a habit to clean around the rim with a cotton swab soaked in non-acetone remover before you replace the lid. This will help keep the bottle airtight and extend the life of your lacquer so your gold glitter or ruby red will be good for years to come.
Salvaging your nail polish doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. With basic household supplies and proper care, you can say goodbye to sticky polish that won’t dry out and say hello to five-star worthy manicures in the comfort of your home.
Kaitlin Bitting is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and an Emory University-certified health & wellness coach. Her work and insights have been featured on Greatist, Forbes, Fairygodboss, Aaptiv, and Vault, among other sites. She's a huge fan of trying out new restaurants, reading as many books as humanly possible and hanging out with her beagle, Betty.