Options for Recycling Nail Polish

Spilled color nail polish with a bottle on white background

Do you have old nail polish that you want to get rid of but you aren’t sure how? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve done the research and have the answers for you!

Recycle nail polish by emptying the nail polish container of any liquid and tossing the bottle and brush in the trash. They cannot be recycled. Nail polish bottles that still have polish can be donated. Empty nail polish bottles can be upcycled and used for something else.

We know all your options when it comes to recycling old nail polish. Keep reading to find out more!

Why Can’t I Recycle Them?

Nail polish contains toxic chemicals that make it so you can’t put your nail polish bottles in the recycling. They contain formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. If you were to put your nail polish bottles into the recycling bin, they could contaminate the other recycled items in the landfill or recycling bin. Those toxic chemicals could also contribute to toxic chemicals being let into our air and environment.

You should never recycle your nail polish because of the toxic chemicals they contain. Keep reading below to find out the other things you could do with your nail polish instead of recycling them.

How To Throw Them Out

Because you can’t recycle nail polish, here are some rules and steps to throwing them out safely.

Dump the Liquid

First, you should empty your nail polish bottles of any liquid that is left in them (as much as you can). To do this, you should pour the liquid into a newspaper. This will let the liquid dry out on the paper. Do not dump the nail polish into the sink, the toxic chemicals would not be good if they were in your sink, and the liquid might not dry out properly in the sink. If there seems to be liquid stuck in the bottle, keep the bottle upside on the newspaper and wait a while. The liquid should eventually drain out. if you need to rinse it out you can, just don’t dump that back into the sink.

Put in Trash

After you have emptied the nail polish bottle of any liquid it may contain, you need to toss the cap, brush, and any paper on the bottle, and the bottle into the garbage. NOT the recycling. Make sure you don’t inhale the fumes of the nail polish for too long. Long exposure to nail polish fumes could potentially be harmful.


Set of colorful nail polish. Polish bottles on blue background top view.

Upcycling is a great way to help our environment and get something out of it as well. There are a lot of ways you could upcycle your empty, or not-so-empty, nail polish bottles. Below are some of my favorite ideas.


A lot of people use empty nail polish bottles to hold things. You of course have to empty and clean them out first, but you could then use the bottles to store things. They may seem small but they could be perfect for some little things. For example, if you have craft items that are small enough to fit into the bottle, you could store them there! You could also put loose eyeshadow into the bottles to store them when you need them for your makeup.

Flower Pot

My favorite way to upcycle empty nail polish bottles is to use them as tiny flower pots. If you got a bouquet of flowers and there are tiny flowers in it that maybe aren’t getting enough water, consider putting them in the tiny nail polish bottle. Just empty the bottle with any liquid, clean it out completely, put some water in it, then put those tiny flowers in there!


This next idea is super innovative and unique! If you have empty nail polish bottles, you should put sand or sparkles in the bottles as decor. You could then put the bottles on shelves or dressers. Your children would love this as a little crafty project!

Key Distinguisher

If there is some extra nail polish left in the bottles, you could use them to help tell your keys apart. Just paint the top of your keys with different nail polish colors! This can help you tell your keys apart! I can never tell which key is which, so this idea is perfect for those who can’t tell their keys apart!


If your nail polish bottles are not empty but you still want to get rid of them, consider donating them. Letting someone have and use the nail polish you don’t want anymore is a great way to help our environment. You could donate them to thrift stores, someone may want to buy them. You could give them to someone you know who might enjoy or need it. There are even plenty of women’s and children’s centers that I’m sure would love donations like that.

Be Safe

Bottles with spilled nail polish isolated on white background

Nail polish contains multiple toxic chemicals that are dangerous if you ingest them or smell them for too long. Read details about these dangers below.


You should never ingest nail polish. The toxic chemicals are very dangerous and hazardous. If you ingest nail polish, call your doctor immediately. You may experience vomiting, nausea, and sore throat. Watch your symptoms and go to the emergency room if needed.

Breathing in Fumes

When dealing with nail polish, you need to make sure you don’t breathe in the fumes of the polish for too long. The toxic chemicals in the nail polish can cause dangerous symptoms. In severe cases, serious intake of fumes can cause something called painter’s syndrome. This causes permanent walking and speaking problems, almost like permanent paralysis. Be very careful when doing anything with nail polish. If you have to, wear a mask when emptying the bottles.


Overall, just be very careful when dealing with nail polish. It might seem harmless, but the toxic chemicals in nail polish are more dangerous than you think. Just know the dangers and be aware of how to properly dispose of your nail polish. Good luck!

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