What equipment should I use to safely mix acetone and glycerin at home?
March 23, 2014 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I would like to make my own nail polish remover. Where can I buy acetone-safe measuring equipment?

I will be using these instructions: http://www.labmuffin.com/2012/11/diy-gentle-but-effective-glycerin-nail.html

They suggest obtaining 'acetone-safe' measuring equipment, such as lab cylinders, and a plastic syringe that should be resistant to acetone for short periods. I have looked online but because I'm not sure which key words I'm looking for when buying lab-type containers, I thought I would consult the more scientifically-inclined members of Metafilter.

Should I also be worried about eye safety/inhalation? I use acetone-based nail polish removers regularly, with a window open, but these have other ingredients apart from acetone that might dilute the strength. I have bought glycerin from a pharmacist and can buy pure acetone from Amazon easily. It's the equipment part that has me stumped!

This would be for personal use only - I have no desire to start a nail polish remover business or do this in large quantities!

I am in the UK (London) and am happy to buy online or from a physical shop.

Thanks for any advice you might have!
posted by fanlight to Science & Nature (9 answers total)
I've done this a ton of times, it's not important to measure the acetone / glycerine / water. I just eyeball it.

I'd buy a bottle of acetone - I get mine from Sally Beauty, not sure if they are in the UK, use it straight up until it's about 4/5 full, then add some glycerin & water, approximately equal amounts of each. In the future, you can keep using the bottle, just fill up with appropriate amounts of acetone/glycerin/water.

You don't need to worry about safety, I use straight up acetone to remove nail polish frequently. You should always use nail polish, nail polish remover (incl. acetone) in a well ventilated area - outside or by a window - but acetone is not more dangerous than acetone based removers.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:40 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

For home use, stay with glass or metal containers. There are acetone safe plastics, but it's not always easy to figure out which is which. An eyedropper will give you very precise control, to the 20th of a milliliter with just a little practice. Your most precise measuring tool will be an inexpensive digital scale, capable of reading grams. That will give you more controlled results than measuring spoons or syringes or most volumetric glassware.

Obviously, don't use measuring tools or containers used directly with acetone for stuff you might use for food.

Use latex gloves. Both PVC and nitrile (common in drugstores/chemists) are very poor choices for acetone. Acetone is very unpleasant on the skin. A drop or two of contact isn't bad, but a splash will cause a nasty chemical "burn".

I would also recommend eye protection. We've had too many near misses with students (who do wear goggles) to dismiss the need for it.

You do need to work in a well ventilated area. Acetone isn't terribly dangerous, but you don't want to breathe it for long. Acetone is also very flammable---don't use near heat sources or flames.

Try not to dispose of acetone residues down the drain. It's hard on the water treatment bacteria and on fish downstream.
posted by bonehead at 8:09 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Glass eyedroppers with rubber bulbs and a gram scale would be my suggestion also, although I disagree that acetone will somehow contaminate the container. Acetone is very volatile and will evaporate completely: this is why people rinse glassware in acetone.

I would wear goggles and rubber gloves while doing this, but since the plan is apparently to rub the mixture on your fingers afterward I guess you don't really need the gloves.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:18 AM on March 23, 2014

We use acetone at work. bonehead's advice is spot on. (One clarification, definitely wear gloves and latex gloves are best, but if you are sensitive to latex then nitrile will work ok for a quick use.)
posted by gudrun at 8:53 AM on March 23, 2014

Glass or metal, as bonehead suggests. I use glass beakers (bought from Amazon) for mixing nail polish, and they hold up well to acetone. You can also get glass stirring rods if you like.

Honestly, though, if I were mixing my own glycerine-acetone remover, I'd just get a bottle of acetone that I'd already used a bit of (I use pure acetone as a remover anyway) and pour the glycerine and water in there with a funnel, eyeballing the amounts. Less chance of spilling acetone, less exposure to fumes, no fancy equipment to buy.

I've heard of this recipe before among nail geeks, and I've always been under the impression that most people who've tried it have gone with ballpark proportions and still gotten good results.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:06 AM on March 23, 2014

Your biggest safety concern should be fire - so always do this where the vapors will not concentrate and never near an open flame...

It will certainly dry out your skin, but won't cause anything remotely resembling a real chemical burn.

If you look for nalgene bottles you should be safe - similarly if you buy a glass graduated cylinder you will be fine for measuring - but frankly I would probably just use a glass measuring cup that I specifically marked "No Food" (Even that might be over kill since acetone really isn't that bad and would not leave any residue - but just to be safe it's never a good idea to assume what you buy as acetone is "just" acetone)
posted by NoDef at 9:27 AM on March 23, 2014

insectosaurus has it. For this, I just buy a plain acetone nail polish remover bottle at Target (or wherever), use enough of it to make space for about a capful of glycerin, then pour the glycerin in and shake. It's awesome nail polish remover, but that measurement doesn't matter unless you really want to feel like a mad scientist (which seems pretty awesome too).
posted by R a c h e l at 10:49 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I literally just did this today from the same instructions, using this bottle to mix everything (this seems to be the most similar product on Amazon UK). I used a funnel as well since I bought my acetone in a huge metal can from the paint section, and this measuring shot glass to measure the glycerine and water.

My pouring wasn't super precise, but I ended up pouring about 25 oz. of acetone into the bottle first. Then to get her 10:1:1.2 ratio, I added 2.5 oz of glycerin and about 3 oz. of water from the little shot glass. I shook it all up and it turned out great! From the big bottle, I portioned some out into an empty remover pump bottle so that I can use it much more easily - I used this one since I had it laying around, but there are much cheaper ones available if you just search something like "nail polish remover pump bottle".

In terms of protective gear, I didn't use anything more than I use when I'm normally doing my nails - I had been using 100% acetone as my normal remover until I read that LabMuffin entry, and the biggest hazard is that it's really drying. I got kind of a white film in a couple spots where the poured acetone splashed up onto my fingers, but it washes off easily. I do have glasses, so I didn't worry about protective eyewear but that's something I'd consider as it would really sting to splash acetone up into my eyes! Overall it was much easier than I had anticipated and took like one minute to actually mix up once I had all my bottles lined up on the counter. It's just as awesome as much more expensive acetone + glycerine removers, and so much cheaper.
posted by augustimagination at 4:25 PM on March 23, 2014

Oh, and somehow I managed to leave out from my post that the important part of choosing a plastic bottle is that it's LDPE. HDPE bottles can break down over time if used to store acetone, but LDPE will hold up over the long term. Obviously if you're using a bottle that acetone is sold in, you're good already!

I'm also with d. z. wang that while gloves might be officially recommended, it feels silly to take extra precautions to not get something on my hands... which I will then proceed to wipe all over my hands, and have wiped all over my hands a zillion times before.
posted by augustimagination at 4:34 PM on March 23, 2014

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