We all know the pain of desperately trying to dry your nails asap when you’re just about to go out. Worse still is the feeling of investing time (and your hopes and dreams) into giving yourself the perfect at-home manicure only to accidentally bump your fingers and ruin it all. 

There’s a few easy steps you can do at home to dry your nails faster but one of the most popular methods is dipping your nails in water! 

But how does cold water help dry nail polish? And does it really work? 

In this blog we run through some quick tips and a few warnings signs to keep an eye out when using this method. 

How does cold water help dry nail polish? 

First let's understand how the drying process works in general. As a polymer, nail polish dries as solvents in the polish evaporate.

In warm environments, the rate at which this evaporation occurs can slow down, meaning it will take longer for the polish to dry. Conversely, the colder the surroundings the faster this will happen. 

So, when you run your fingers under a tap or dip them into a bowl of ice water, you can speed up the drying process. 

Technically, this ice water hack won’t completely “dry” your nails though. What actually happens is the top layer of your polish will harden, which means there could be soft polish underneath that still needs time to dry.

So if you’re using this trick make sure you still try to avoid bumping them unnecessarily. 

In the end, your nails will still need a bit of air drying to be 100% done. But this simple hack can speed up the process and save you time when you’re really in a pinch. 

Advantages of Using Cold Water To Dry Your Nails

  • Can shave time off drying your nails 
  • Keeps your fingers still for a few minutes, lowering the risk of bumping them while your polish is still wet 
  • A good hack when you’re really pressed for time 


  • Won’t completely dry your polish 
  • Can thicken the top layer of polish 
  • There’s still a risk of denting the layers underneath 

How To Dry Your Nails With Cold Water

If you are keen to try this method, the biggest element to success is preparation. You can either use a tap with cold running water or fill a large bowl and add some ice cubes. 

If you go for the bowl option, add the water and ice before you start painting your nails. This way everything is ready to go and you can avoid mucking with wet polish. 

The other key to success with this method is to paint thin layers when applying your polish. No matter what hacks you use to dry polish faster, unless you use thin layers your nails will take a lot longer to dry.

Once you’ve painted your nails give them a few moments to dry in the open air before dipping them steadily into the bowl or under the tap. To keep them from getting marked, keep your fingers nicely separated and away from the ice cubes. 

After a couple minutes, remove your fingers and let them finish drying naturally. 

January 26, 2023 — Ben Vonthethoff