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Nail polish on Guitar! HELP!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Krist, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. Krist


    Mar 24, 2003
    My mothers aoucustic guitar that is only one month old and has never played was involved in an "accident". I won't go into details but it's now full of markings all over from nail polish and it's on there hard. How can i get rid of it without destroying the guitar? Please help, the guitar i brand new and hasen't even got a single scratch on it.
  2. Krist


    Mar 24, 2003
    I just tried acetone on a small spot and it removes the nail polish but leaves it's own ugly mark, the surface of the guitar at that spot dosen't reflect the light as the rest of the surface. It looks matte and dull. :(
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    I'll move this to the luthier forum for more feedback.
  4. Nail polish is essentially nitrocellulose lacquer - yep, the same stuff of guitar finishes.

    Had you waited to hear, someone would've warned you about the acetone. In the chemistry world, acetone is known as natures greatest solvent next to water. That's what happened to your guitar. So, IMO there isn't anything here to do except remove the polish and get a refinish on the instrument.
  5. My son just told me he uses "Adios Nail Polish Remover" to clean his scale models without noticing adverse affects to the finish. I realize his use isn't cleaning guitars/basses, but this, at least, is a suggestion. The ingredients of the remover are listed as follows: 2-Propanone, Water, Isopropyl Alcohol, 2-Butanone, Peg-10 Sorbitan Laurate, Fragrance, Color: FD&C Red #4, D&C Red #33. Note that acetone was not listed. Those who have knowledge of chemistry may have additional to say on how those ingredients may react with lacquer finishes as is used on guitars. My son buys the product in gallon jugs from a local beauty salon.
  6. Now THAT's interesting!!

    I'm not familiar with the 'anones but it sounds like they may be some sort of liquid hydrocarbon or something. The water isn't a problem since it's a small amount and is probably only there to help with the fragrance and color.

    Where does he buy this stuff?

    I built model cars for years so I can attest that if it doesn't craze styrene or casting resin then it just might be great. I'm thinking that it would work because the guitar finish will be much harder and more cured than a freshly dried glob of nail polish.

    And I'll try anything for inclusion in my bag of tricks.
  7. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    So did it take the polish off without screwing up the finish?

  8. Well, I just bypassed my son's experience with models and went to something more applicable, a guitar. I remembered I had an old accoustic in the basement with a warped neck (that may never be used again) to use a test. I swabbed on several streaks of "hot pink" nail polish to make sure they stood out quite well. I let "my accident" set for over an hour then checked the spots and they felt hard and dry. I then used a cotton ball dampened with my son's "Adios Nail Polish Remover" (same as I posted earlier), swabbed over the nail polish, and the polish came right off. The guitar didn't seem to suffer any adverse affects, so I saturated the cotton ball and really scrubbed the finish (I widened the area) for about twenty additional seconds (was not necessary to use that much solution with that much force for that length of time). I let the scrubbed area dry on its own and what was left was a dull appearing finish. Since none of the guitar's finish seemed to be picked up on the cotton ball, I assumed that the dullness was just residue. I used "Earnie Ball Guitar Polish" to remove the residue and the guitar looks restored to its original appearance. The nail polish that I used was NYC (New York Color) Fast-Dry Nail Enamel. The ingredients of the nail polish were given as: Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Phthalic Anhydride.......(nuts to it, it's hard to read even with my reading glasses)...various alcohols and colorings. If it's important to know the complete ingredient list, I'll have to have someone with younger eyes read it. As to the original finish on the guitar, I can't say for sure, but I believe many years ago I sanded and applied a couple of coats of polyurethane varnish over the original. Hope all this helps.
  9. Hey Keibau, that's some great detective work!

    I think you've done enough to give a good idea of what's possible. For me, the most important observation was that this guitar likely had a poly finish on it. That's probably why there wasn't any damage with the polish remover. If it had been a lacquer finish, it probably would've melted.

  10. Look for another report of a test from me. I've got another broken guitar that looks to have the original lacquer finish. My neighbor had accidentally driven his pickup over the body, but it had a good neck. I was always going to put the neck on the good body of mine that has the warped neck (good intentions, Hah). I would have tested the one with the original lacquer finish instead of mine. It's just that I had forgotten that I had put the poly finish on it and only remembered while writing the results of my test.
  11. OK, I've done a second test using the top of the other guitar. I followed the same procedures as stated in the earlier post and found the same results, nothing adverse. In addition to the test using the nail polish remover, I decided to apply lacquer thinner and also pure acetone to the top to see how they'd react. Again, I found no adverse effects. I have no idea what the finish is on this second guitar. I had assumed it may be a lacquer finish, but neither solvent softened the finish. If I'd left them on with a dampened rag for a period of time, perhaps we'd see some softening. But I didn't do that because that isn't what it takes to remove nail polish.
  12. Once again, your approach is sound and the results are very interesting. I think I've got to get some of this stuff and give it a whirl.

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