How to Dispose of Nail Polish?

Nail polish is considered a household hazardous waste. States have specific laws against dumping hazardous waste. The toxic chemicals present in the nail polish pose a threat to the environment.

Hazardous waste can pollute the septic tanks and wastewater treatment systems.

How to Dispose of Nail Polish?

Here you will find out some tips on how to dispose of nail polish without causing harm to the environment.

Use Leftover Nail Polish

The most effective way to avoid harm due to disposing nail polish is to use it. You can use nail polish in a variety of ways. From painting fraying threads to keeping shoelaces together, there are many uses of nail polish.

  • You can use leftover nail polish to color code keys. In this way, you won’t have to try all the keys until one opens the door.
  • Another option is to paint on the end of a sewing thread. This will make it easier for you to pull the thread through the needle when sewing.
  • Leftover nail polish can also be used to fill in scratches on your shoes of a similar color. You can also get a little creative and mix the leftover nail polish to get a new color.
  • Consider holding a polish swap party with your friends. Ask your friends to bring leftover nail polish. Let them select the color so that everyone can have a new color nail polish.
  • Layer different color nail polish in a bottle to create an artistic marble effect. Your mind is the limit when it comes to using leftover nail polish. Save all the leftover nail polish as you may never know when it will come in handy.
Also read: Do Fingernails Decompose?

Dispose of Nail Polish to Hazardous Waste Facility

Avoid disposing of nail polish by throwing it in the bin or pouring down the drain. You can dispose of your nail polish at the nearest hazardous waste facility. Almost every city has a facility for collecting hazardous waste.

You should let the pros handle the safe disposal of your nail polish.

Remember that most hazardous waste facilities accept waste from the residents of the city. So, you must first call to know whether they will take your unused leftover polish.

Also consider taking along unused cans of motor oils, old paint, and other waste items. The facility will take care of your waste ensuring safe disposal.

Donate Leftover Nail Polish

Many donation centers accept leftover items. You should call local donation centers to find out if they will accept leftover nail polish. Many people will be glad to use unwanted polish that doesn’t cost a dime.

If you can’t find a donation center, you should find out if the poor people in your neighborhood will take them. This will ensure that you not only help the people but the environment as well.

Dry Out the Nail Polish

If you can’t use or donate nail polish, consider drying them up before disposal.

Pour out the nail polish on a newspaper and let it dry. Once the nail polish is completely dry, you should throw out the bottle with the cap closed.

You should take this measure as a last resort.

Consider drying out the nail polish only if you can’t donate or find a disposal facility near you. Make sure that the nail polish is dried before disposing to avoid any harm.

Store the Nail Polish

You must store leftover nail polish in compliance with the waste management program. Consider placing the leftover nail polish bottles in a sealed plastic bag. This will prevent the nail polish from spilling if the bottle breaks.

You should also label the bags as hazardous waste. Moreover, consider writing the date of disposing of the waste. In case inspectors visit your spa or salon, labels are the first thing they will evaluate.

The hazardous waste should be stored in a neat and clean area that is dedicated to the storage of waste items. Also, remember that you should not bury hazardous waste items in your backyard.

This is important as the disposable material can leak contaminating the underground waters.

Always make sure that the bags in which you store nail polish are properly sealed. This is important, particularly for salons.

The bags of leftover nail polish should be stored in a designated area. Proper storage of nail polish will also avoid any fines.

Also read: How to Dispose of Razor Blades?

Why Safe Disposal of Nail Polish is Important?

You might be wondering why taking precautions when disposing of nail polish is important. The reason for the safe disposal of nail polish is that they contain toxic ingredients.

Most types of nail polish contain phthalates that break down slowly in water.

If the polish gets into treated wastewater, animals that drink the water can get poisoned.

Eating these animals can have a negative health impact and reproductive problems. Here are some other harmful ingredients that cause great damage to the health and environment.


The compound is a colorless gas with a strong smell that is commonly used in embalming.

Apart from nail polish, the compound is also found in most other household goods. Products containing formaldehyde include plywood, glue, and adhesives.

Formaldehyde is banned in Sweden and Japan. In 2011, the US Department of HHS identified formaldehyde as a carcinogenic substance.

Exposure of this substance on the skin may result in cancer of blood, nose, and throat. Health issues related to this compound include asthma, convulsions, abnormal fetal development, and miscarriages.

Formaldehyde Resin

A by-product of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin is also present in some nail polish formulas.

The compound has been linked to various health issues. Some of the adverse health effects include skin depigmentation, irritation, and allergic reactions.


Camphor provides a glossy appearance to nail polish. This compound is also found in certain cold remedies such as nasal sprays and vapor rubs.

Many recent studies have questioned the safety of the compound. Studies have found that the compound can reach toxic levels when applied to injured or broken skin.

Exposure to the compound can result in serious liver damage. Due to the dangerous effects, the compound is gradually being faced out in the European markets.


Toluene is a petroleum-based solvent present in most nail polish.

This gives the polish a smooth texture and ensures that the paint remains suspended throughout the bottle. But the compound has been linked with various health issues including cancer.

According to studies, exposure to Toluene can result in headaches, nausea, and fatigue. The compound can also negatively affect the reproductive health and nervous system.


Benzophenones may be present in some nail polish.

The compound helps prevent color fading. However, this compound has been linked to reproductive problems. Moreover, exposure to the compound in large quantities can also result in cancer.


Most brand nail polish removers contain acetone. Acetone is a highly flammable solvent that can cause great harm to the environment. The ingredient can generate a lot of fumes that can irritate the lungs.

Acetone is extremely flammable. The compound can ignite at room temperature. Vapors can form that can ignite by even static discharge. That’s why you also need to follow proper precautions when disposing of nail polish removers.

Even when it’s diluted in water, the compound is still flammable. So, you should not think that diluting nail polish remover will make it less dangerous. Always follow proper instructions for storage and removal of nail polish removers.

The above ingredients present in most nail polish can pollute the environment. That’s the reason the EPA has classified nail polish as hazardous waste compounds. Nail polish removers also pose a threat similar to nail polish. You need to take precautions when disposing of nail polish.

Look out for a nail polish that says ‘three-free’. The three in the label refer to formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and toluene. You should also consider looking at the Skin Deep database of the Environmental Working Group. The database contains a list of brands that don’t contain harmful ingredients.

You should also remain wary of companies that claim their nail polish contain ‘natural’ ingredients. Closely look at the ingredients. Find out if the nail polish is safe for the environment. Consider buying nail polish that does not contain any toxic compounds.

However, remember that no nail polish is completely safe for the environment. You should follow proper procedures when getting rid of nail polish, irrespective of the brand.

Also read: How to Dispose of Perfume


You should safely dispose of nail polish. This is important to avoid any harm to the environment.

Nail polish contains many harmful ingredients. These can cause great damage to the ecology if nail polish is not disposed of properly.

Never pour nail polish into the dustbin or toilet. Consider calling your local hazardous waste disposal facility for the safe disposal of nail polish.

If that’s not an option for you, there are many other ways you can safely dispose of nail polish that are mentioned in this article.

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