Sunday, January 25, 2015

How To Store Nail Polish

Since this blog is called My Polish Stash and (I assume) is read mainly by nail polish lovers like myself, it was about time to tell you about some recommendations for nail polish storage. I have written about how I organize my nail polish collection before and how I moved from the six drawer Alex to the larger nine drawer Alex. However, if you have a smaller nail polish collection, you do not need such a big unit. There are smaller and more budget-friendly options available, which work just as well.

Before we dive into the different storage options, some general remarks concerning storage of your treasured polishes to prolong their life and keep them in perfect condition for as long as possible.
Firstly, you do want to store your nail polishes in a dark place with a constant, rather cool temperature. Light exposure can promote discoloration or fading of the pigment. The colder temperature slows down evaporation of the solvents and pigment settling.
Please refrain from storing your nail polishes in the bathroom! They will constantly be exposed to humidity and temperature changes due to shower use. A good place to set up your stash would be the bedroom, a guest room or your office, if you have one at home. Of course the living room is good, too, but try to find a space away from the heater.

Once you have found the perfect space for your stash, you need to find something to store your bottles in.


For small collections, a shoe- or cardboard box works well and is super cheap. When I started out collecting nail polish, I kept them in two clear plasting boxes like the one shown above. I am not sure where exactly I got these from, but you will find something similar at Ikea, Target or online. To keep the polishes in the dark, I simply tucked the boxes away into a closet in my office. When using a cardboard or plastic box, the bottles need to stand upright, or else the polish might leak into the cap and dry, which makes the bottle hard to open. Trust me, I've been there. If that happens, putting the lid into hot water for a few minutes might do the trick. The Daily Varnish has written a nice post on how to unstick a stuck nail polish lid.


Another affordable option for small to medium size nail polish collections is this chest of drawers from Ikea called Moppe. At least here in Germany it is called like this. I searched for it on Ikea UK and Ikea USA, but could not find it. So maybe it has a different name where you are. Actually I use this to store my stationary, but it nicely holds nail polish, too. Even the taller bottles like OPI or NOPI fit in there upright. It is available in various sizes and if you do not like the plain wooden look of it, it is easy to customize using paint or fabric for example.

A very popular storage unit is the Helmer from Ikea. This steel drawer unit can easily be moved around thanks to its casters. It is inexpensive ($40 or 29€), fits most bottle shapes and holds a ton of nail polish. I have never owned one, because it has a few drawbacks in my opinion. Firstly, I did not like its general look. It does not seem overly sturdy to me. Secondly, there is nothing that stops the drawers from sliding all the way out. That makes accessing the bottles in the back easy, but there is the danger of dropping the drawer on the floor if you pull it out too far.

Another popular option among US nail polish lovers is the Melmer, which stands for Helmer from Michael's. It is around $30-40, so pretty affordable, too. It holds less bottles compared to a Helmer, but is made from MDF and looks more sturdy.


By now, I keep my nail polish collection in an Alex drawer unit from Ikea. This is kind of an investment, as this nine drawer unit costs 99€/$119, but I do not regret buying it. It fits my whole collection, which must be around 900 polishes right now (I prefer staying in denial of how much nail polish exactly I own, lol). Even the more shallow drawers hold OPI bottles, which is not the case for the six drawer unit, just so you know.


I lined my drawers with these anti sliding mats to prevent movement of the bottles when opening and closing the drawers.


There is a variety of inserts available to organize the drawers of your Alex or Helmer or Melmer. The one pictured above is also from Ikea and I believe it is called Summera. I found it in the office section. It can be cut to the proper size of your drawer. I am using this to organize my nail care items and base and top coats.


I just realized that my whole nail polish storage is from Ikea. This Antonius insert holds all my nail art items, from stampers over stripers and glitter to stud wheels.


If you prefer keeping your nail polishes in sight, rather than tucking them away, you can use wall racks or cake stands. As this option exposes the polish to light, I recommend this is a decorative solution for short-term storage, e.g. polishes you want to wear or swatch soon. 


Finally, what about the myth of keeping your nail polish bottles in the fridge? There still is some debate going on whether or not this actually prolongs the life of nail polish. As mentioned previously, colder temperatures slow down solvent evaporation and pigment caking and settling. This speaks for the fridge. On the other hand, storing nail polish in the fridge exposes it to extreme temperature changes. Nail polishes require room temperature in order to work, otherwise the formula will not apply smoothly. Going back and forth between warm and cold temperatures probably causes more harm to the nail polish than good.
Secondly, I doubt your significant other or room mate appreciates bottles of nail polish in between steaks and cheese. Lastly, this surely is no option for storing larger collections - unless you can life off of nothing but nail polish ;)

This post turned out longer than I had in mind, but I really wanted to tell you about the different options and the pros and cons. I hope this was helpful. And now I would love to hear how YOU store your nail polishes!


  1. I loooove nail polish storage posts - such a cool way to peek into someone's awesome collection. : )

    I keep mine in two plastic drawer towers that I literally got for like £4 each, it was great. They work fine for now.

    I love that you prefer to stay in denial about the number of bottles - I'm the same : D

  2. Thank you so much for admitting you own even more polishes than I do! I'll have to show this post to my DH, he will laugh.

  3. You're welcome, I am happy I made you feel better ;D Now someone please tell me there are people with even more nail polishes.... I know there are! There have to be...

  4. It is nice to hear this post was helpful to you!
    Actually I have a spreadsheet to keep track of all my polishes, but I do not update it very frequently... So I do not know the exact number ;)

  5. This is such a great post! Your storage idea's are really good. I'd love to invest in a Helmer but its not really an option for me right now. I have about 10 boxes that are easily stack-able (since I have limited space) and its easy enough for me to find what I am looking for. I've always been really dubious about the fridge storage... I don't know. I just have this idea in my head that room temperature and not left in direct sunlight is probably the best thing... :) xx

  6. I agree, moderate room temperature and stored in the dark is the best option :) The nice thing about individual boxes is that you can easily reach every single bottle compared to an Alex for example. I am glad you enjoyed this post!

  7. Hi Sabine, thank you for this great post. I have been thinking about buying the Alex but can't decide if I need the small or larger version... You say that the nine drawer unit has enough space for your whole collection but I see in the pic you have 2 units... How many bottles does a nine drawer unit hold versus five drawer unit please ? Thanks again !

  8. We don't have IKEa in Mexico!!!! but I found a nice piece of furniture at Walmart, it has 6 drawers and I keep most of my polishes. I keep other in a plastic drawer. I have an App installed in my Iphone so I can see all my polishes and decide which one I want to use, otherwise I wouldn't see which ones I have and I'd never wear them.

  9. No IKEA in Mexiko? Wow, I would have thought there were several Ikea stores in every country across the globe. But of course other manufacturers make great nail polish storage options, too ;) I once had an app to keep track of my polishes (can't remember the name though), but I did not like it too much. I have an excel spreadsheet, but I hardly refer to this one, too. So I still need to find the perfect way to keep track of my polishes.

  10. Hi Sabine, I almost died of envy when I read that you have 900 polishes in your collection! My current (pathetic) collection doesn't warrant an Alex but at the rate I'm going, I may need one in the near future. :) Thank you for sharing your stash and storage tips. You've got a really lovely blog!

  11. Thanks for complimenting on my blog Jacey :) But there is no reason to be jealous, just think of all the money I have spent on those polishes *yikes* and I do not think I will ever finish one single bottle in my life. Having a small collection is not pathetic at all!


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