Purifying Acetone from Nail Polish Remover


New member
Apr 30, 2023
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Thought it would be nice to have a post about extraction/purification of basic and essential over-the-counter products for beginners that lack proper equipment. Today will be Acetone.

Why Acetone? Well, sometimes it is too expensive/time consuming/hard/illegal for the beginner to get their hands at acetone without additives (don't even tell about PURE Acetone)... Don't believe me? Let me tell what happens in my country (you can skip this section it is just me rambling).

Acetone is a "Schedule II" chemical here. You are unable to buy pure acetone (95% + EtO) if you are a common citizen, most you can get is 60% with the right contacts (and even 60% is pushing law limits!) and even then you will be closed watched by the police.

You can find in some listings in my country of 99,8% Acetone but that is either a scam or a honeypot for our dear manufacturers!

Better you can get legally and without raising suspicion is 30% and with additives like EtO, parfum, oils and what not! These can ruin an extraction and in better cases just make your product a pile of junk.

And let's not even talk about PRICE. 1 liter of 30% contaminated acetone is about 10 USD (which does not looks much for your average North American and European, but on my country you can buy a months worth of nice cow meat for two, and this one is the OTC one!), 1 Liter of 60% of Acetone which you will probably enter a list just by searching about and is thrice the price!

Thus, 99.8% is totally illegal to even think about.

And we use Acetone for lots of extractions, teks, cleaning, etc!

The method I'll be using is basically heating the Acetone until it boils and then collecting it on a cold surface.

Let me get some stuff out of the way first.
1. Acetone IS VOLATILE. Meaning it will blow the shit out of your face the first chance it gets to do it.
2. Acetone IS IRRITANT. Sniff too much and you may go into some crisis if you have nose/respiratory problems.
3. Acetone in the concentrations we will be dealing MAY BE ILLEGAL (you don't say!). So keep what you are doing to YOURSELF, need to explain yourself to someone? Lie the heck out of it.
4. Acetone when hot can easily harm your skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

So here are some tips before you start:
1. Do this procedure in a well ventilated area. No need to be an OPEN area, but you MUST keep constantly renewing the air of the room you are into.
2. Do this procedure with heavy duty cleaning gloves or some medical gloves, even latex will work to some degree. But I recommend thick PVC ones.
3. Get yourself a mask with Organic Vapors cartridge. Like 3M's 5005 and 5006.
4. Safety goggles or at least SOME goggles.
5. If possible, NO OPEN FIRES!

Then without further ado, let's talk business. You will need some equipment which you can improvise to a certain degree.

- Two glass/metal/ceramic containers of any size.
- These will be used for heating or acetone, so, no plastics!
- One of the containers must be somewhat larger in both height and radius from the other.

- One even larger container. For a water bath.

- A somewhat egg or semi-spherical shaped vessel to be placed on top of the bigger container.
- This will be used to place cool liquid to induce condensation.

- Aluminum foil.

- A hair band/rubber band large enough to be placed around the larger container.
- Used together to seal the larger container and keep our goodies inside, believe me, you wont be liking to sniff acetone for too long.

- A heating source that you can somewhat control, like an Iron (yeah that one you use on clothes) an electric stove or an actual heating plate.
- As last resort you may use a gas stove but there is one problem, you will need to constantly turn off and on so to keep the temperature in check.
- Also risk of EXPLOSION and INDOMITABLE FIRE! Acetone is extremely volatile and you won't want it near fire if possible!

- A thermometer, deep frying one or actual chemical. One for body heat *may* work but I can't recommend then!
- You can skip this one, just carefully listen/observe for ramblings/bubbles inside the container and don't let it get too hot!

The procedure goes as follows:

1. Fill the big container (A) so there is enough contaminated acetone, but not enough to topple or let the small container (B) move around.
2. Using aluminum foil (better use 2 or 3 sheets, you can also fold a larger sheet its easier to manage this way) cover the top of the Container A.
2.1. Do not place the foil too tight! Let enough to make a "belly" pointing downward. Remember we will place a round-bottom vessel on top of it! Too tight and we will lose contact area/sheet may get ripped apart.
3. Using the rubber band/hair band, seal the Container A. This will help to some degree keep our goodies inside, but depending on the heat you apply it may not be enough!
4. Place Container A, carefully as to not mess with Container B inside, in the hot water bath.
5. Place the thermometer on the water.
6. Crank up the heat.
7. Place the cold water vessel (C) on top of the aluminum sheet on Container A.
8. Profit.

Just kidding with the last one. Anyways, here is some other facts and tips about Acetone purification:

1. Acetone evaporates at around 20 °C to 35 °C.
2. Acetone boils at around 56 °C.

So you want to keep you heat at around 50-55 °C. Not more, not less. This is one of that processes that if you go slow you get better results.

If you start hearing/observing rambling/large bubbles/clear boiling STOP THE HEAT!

Reasons for that is the pressure build up may result in the Acetone leaking or even worse the aluminum sheet ripping off.

If you start smelling something funny STOP THE HEAT, PUT YOUR MASK, VENTILATE THE ROOM and then check where it might be leaking.

Always keep your cold water at around 25 °C for better results and not risking Acetone vapor build up and eventually leaking.

If you placed the aluminum sheet well enough you will be able to hear/see some acetone precipitation :)

Keep an eye on both the water bath temperature and rambling sounds/boiling of the solution. When most of your Acetone solution has been processed it will start to heat a lot, this is due to Acetone forming an azeotrope with EtO and EtO boiling point is about 78 °C! So if you care about it, stop the process when you see that even at 60 °C there is no rambling/boiling.

Let everything cool down to about 30 °C then recover you clean product inside any vessel that can be sealed and you are done!

You can keep the resulting solution for EtO extraction or dump it down the drain, no problem with that since it is just EtO and some other (probably) not harmful components.

I have obtained a recovery rate of around 25% from total volume using this method. Not much, and losing quite an amount, but hey! At least it is pure (somewhat, may contain some very tiny amounts of EtO and water) and I'm not in on a list!

I will be attaching images on a later date and/or a video if requested!
Last edited:

Frit Buchner

Active member
Jan 15, 2023
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I've used this method before to distill a couple ounces of something, but if I were trying to get more than that or more often I would fabricate something more like a traditional still it has a lot of advantages.

If you can get 3a molecular sieve it can dry acetone to anhydrous even in the freezer.
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