Nail polish—it's not just for nails anymore. For years I’ve struggled to figure out how to use up old nail polish—you know, the kind that has gotten a little thick around the middle. That last one-half (or if I was lucky, one-fourth) bottle would eventually end up in the trash can…with me guiltily buying its replacement. Not anymore. Today I know exactly how I can use up those last dribs and drabs—avoiding waste and feeling good about being able to recycle that empty glass bottle.

1. Avoid tarnish on costume jewelry

When certain metals—the kind typically used for costume jewelry—come in contact with skin, the chemical reaction between skin and metal causes tarnish. Tarnish is easy to spot—it’s that greenish film that stays behind on your finger or wrist after you remove your jewelry. But thanks to old nail polish, now you can prevent tarnish from ruining your costume jewelry ever again.

  • What to do: paint the underside of your ring or bracelet with a coat of clear nail polish—this prevents metal and skin from ever touching, so no more tarnish!

2. Keep screws from coming loose

If you've ever had to tighten—and then re-tighten—and then re-tighten—the screws on a door or cabinet handle, you know how irritating it can be. But if you coat those same screws with a thin film of nail polish and then screw them back in, the nail polish will act like superglue and hold those pesky screws forever in place.

  • What to do: Remove the troublemaker screws completely, paint on a thin coat of nail polish, then immediately screw back in and let the polish work its magic.

Note: This also works great with those tiny eyeglass screws!

3. Rain-proof your matches

Humidity, moisture, fog and rain can all render matches useless. And nothing is worse than going to light that romantic candle and—flick, flick, flick—match after match refuses to light. Nail polish to the rescue!

  • What to do: Coat the very tips (the part you strike to get a flame) with nail polish to protect them from moisture's effects.

4. Smooth surfaces and furniture

Perhaps you can recall a former favorite article of clothing—maybe a sweater or skirt—that got caught on a rough edge and snagged. You probably still miss it, don't you?! Those splinters and rough areas can be deadly to wearables—unless you coat them with nail polish to prevent future incidents.

  • What to do: Find the rough edges and use a coat of clear polish (unless the item is colored, in which case try to find a match in your old nail polish collection!) to smooth over the danger zone.

5. Renew an old pair of favorite shoes or boots

If your favorite pair of shoes or boots has become visibly scuffed, nail polish can help. You can use clear or a matching color to gently paint over the scuffed area so it’s no longer obvious.

  • What to do: Clean the shoe or boot, and then paint a thin coat of polish over the scuff or scratch mark.

Note: For small paint dings or windshield cracks, nail polish can also prevent a minor blemish from getting worse.

6. Finally thread that recalcitrant needle

Nothing is more irritating than attempting again (and again and again) to run the end of a thread through the center of an even smaller needle hole. But if you coat the end of the thread with a dab of nail polish, it will slide through like silk.

  • What to do: Snip off any loose thread filaments, then touch the polish brush to the blunt end of the thread. Give it a few seconds to dry, then try threading your needle again.

7. Seal your correspondence

Have an envelope that won't stay closed and no glue or tape in sight? Nail polish is a natural adhesive and works just as well—maybe even better! Best of all, you can use any color.

  • What to do: Paint a thin coat of polish along the edges of the envelope flap, then quickly close and hold for a moment to let the polish set.

8. Waterproof and smudge-proof your labels

Whether you’re using labels for shipping, to mark different areas of your garden, for storage in the garage, or in other ways, those labels are only useful if they don't smudge or run. By coating the label itself with clear or very light colored nail polish, you can keep them useful for as long as you need them.

  • What to do: Write on each label and allow the ink to dry fully. Then paint on a very thin coat of clear or light colored nail polish—allow the polish to dry and set before applying the label to its final surface.

9. Prevent rust from marring surfaces

Whether from metal canisters or spray bottles, screws or food cans, rust circles can permanently disfigure shelves and other surfaces. But if you coat the bottoms of your canisters, bottles, and cans (or the heads of screws) with nail polish, no rust can form.

  • What to do: Turn each rusty item upside down and wipe with a paper towel to get rid of any dust and excess rust. Then paint the rims with nail polish. Allow to dry fully, then you can re-shelve them with confidence.

10. Fix torn window screens

Windows screens are supposed to keep the bugs out—but even one small tear can render an entire screen useless. Nail polish can make your torn screen as good as new.

  • What to do: Paint the torn area with nail polish and let it dry—no more biting interlopers!

11. Keep buttons from falling off

Last but not least, if you have a loose button due to a frayed thread, quick application of nail polish to the thread can keep it from ever falling off.

  • What to do: Paint the frayed area and the reverse side of the thread (inside the fabric) with nail polish.

Note: This also works well to keep shoelaces from fraying and pantyhose from running.


Old Nail Polish: The All-Purpose Powerhouse You Should Never Throw Out