Is Nail Polish Flammable?

Having a good knowledge of fire safety is essential. You should be aware of all of the items in your home that could pose a fire risk, so that you know that your family, belongings and your house is safe. 

There are so many items that we use everyday that are actually flammable, you probably don’t even realize!

That’s where our handy guides come in useful, as we can let you know what items pose a fire risk, and how you can minimize the danger and protect yourself.

This guide is all about nail polish. Now, most people have some nail polish hanging around in their homes somewhere, as most people will have painted their nails from time to time!

It’s completely harmless and risk-free right? Let’s find out.

Is Nail Polish Flammable?

Nail polish is actually flammable, at least it is when it is wet. This is largely due to the fact that most nail polishes will use acetone as the base, which is indeed flammable. That being said, once the nail polish is dry, it will not be flammable any more. So, there’s no need to worry about the nail polish on your fingernails catching fire!

What Exactly Is Nail Polish?

Nail polish, or nail varnish is simply a form of lacquer that can be used on the fingernails and toenails to make them look prettier. People use nail polish to decorate the toenails and fingernails to paint them in a new color, or create fun patterns on them for an occasion.

You can also purchase clear nail polish to act as a barrier that protects and strengthens the nails to prevent them from getting damaged.  

People have been using nail polishes for centuries, around 5,000 years ago and some historians date the first use back to China, where people would paint their nails as early as 3,000 BC. 

During these times, nail polishes would be made from gelatin, beeswax and vegetable dyes or any other items they could find to create the polish.

Some historians believe that the Ancient Egyptians would also use nail polish, with different colors being used to demonstrate social stature.

The nail polish we use today was actually invented in the 1920s, and the basic formulas have not really changed much since.

All nail polishes vary in their design, as many companies will strive to improve the formulas, ensuring that they last longer, don’t crack or peel off easily.

However, there are some basic formulas when it comes to how nail polishes are created.

For instance, most nail polishes are made with acetone and nitrocellulose as the bases, which are both highly flammable substances.

Then, plasticizers are added to prevent cracking, along with adhesives to help it bond to the nail and dyes to give the polish a color.


Will Nail Polish Catch Fire?

Technically, nail polish is flammable due to the acetone base, but the possibility of it catching fire is very rare, as most do not cause house fires.

The only time it can pose a problem is if the nail polish is wet, or spilled and exposed to a naked flame, then it could possibly catch fire. In addition, if it is wet and exposed to a spark, then nail polish could also ignite. 

How Will Nail Polish Catch Fire?

Nail polish will only catch fire when it is wet, because of the acetone base. When the nail polish is wet, it still has its acetone base, which can be ignited. As the nail polish dries, the acetone evaporates and disappears, and therefore the nail polish becomes much harder to ignite or burn. 

This does not mean that nail polish cannot burn when dry, it just means that it would take much longer for it to ignite and catch fire. The odds are that you’re not going to hold your hands in an open flame long enough to see how long it takes for the polish to burn off! 

In addition, the likelihood of having dried nail polish in a fire or open flame for long enough to make it burn is also very low. 

However, you should know that nail polish remover is mostly made up of acetone, which is a highly flammable substance, so you need to exercise caution when using remover. You will want to use nail polish remover away from any sources of ignition, flames, or sparks as this does pose a fire risk. 

What Happens If I Leave Nail Polish In The Sun?

Nail polish tends to come in a sealed bottle or jar that is not intended for direct sunlight. You should keep it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight as this can damage the nail polish. However, keeping it in the sun will not cause it to ignite or catch fire.

What may happen is that the sun will affect the results of the nail polish, causing the ingredients to separate. You can also affect the overall color and appearance of the nail varnish if you leave it in the sun. 

In addition, if you have dry nail polish on your nails, then the sunlight and heat can cause it to crack or lift from the nail, but it will not catch fire! 

What you should know is that you should not leave nail polish in your car on a hot day. Whilst this will not cause a fire, it can sometimes cause the bottle to explode due to the heat, as the acetone releases vapor and blows the bottle up. However, this is highly unlikely to happen in most cases as it would need to get very hot. 


To summarize, nail polish is indeed flammable as it is made up of acetone, which is a highly flammable substance.

However, it is unlikely that nail polish could catch fire, unless you expose the wet formula to a naked flame or spark.

It is best that you keep nail polish in a cupboard away from sunlight to ensure the longevity of the nail polish, and it is essential that you keep acetone away from any sources of ignition, and keep it sealed in a cool, dry place to be safe.