The best gel nails can easily attach and remove from clothing, making them a great alternative to traditional nail guns for DIYers.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gel Nails

Gel nails are a quick and effective way to add polish to furniture, appliances, or even car tires. The trouble is, not all gel nails will stick; those that do can be hard to remove once dry.

To get the best of both worlds, consider using a gel nail that has a polymer coating as well as some kind of glue that holds the nail in place initially. After drying, the nail will hold even more strongly than before, and it can be removed just as easily.


There are two main types of gel nails: with an adhesive strip or head and without one. With a head, also called stud nails, there is a small cylindrical piece of metal or plastic that comes out of the end of the nail. This head sits inside the tool, which drives the nail into the material.

Without a head, also called blind nails, there is no internal nailhead. Instead, the nail is driven completely through the thickness of the material. This eliminates the risk of splitting or chipping when removing the nail.

Adhesive Strength

The strength of the adhesion between the nail and the surface is what really determines how well these tools work. While there are variations from product to product, the average gel nail will have about the same adhesion strength regardless of whether it has a head or not.

However, the type of material the nail is designed to fasten does affect how strong the bond is. For example, wood has a natural resistance to adhering to some materials, like PVC (plastic) or polyethylene (teflon), and can quickly chip away the top layer of a gel nail that doesnt have a head.

That said, even with a head, there still may be a degree of separation after time due to poor adhesion. In this case, another method must be found to get the job done.

Drying Time

Unlike traditional nail polish, which takes hours to fully dry, a gel nail will usually be dry to the touch within a few minutes. However, its still important to give it enough time to set.

While there are no hard and fast rules, the following guidelines apply to most situations:

  • Wood: It takes at least 24 hours for a good quality wood surface to dry sufficiently to receive a gel nail.
  • MDF (medium density fiberboard): Dont expect to get full penetration with a single pass of a gel nail.
  • Particle board: Due to the loose nature of the material, even multiple passes wont give full coverage.


The majority of gel nails are designed for use on wood, but they also work on other materials like plastics, mdf, and even tires if the surface is thick enough.

The reason they work on such a broad range of materials is because the heads of the nails are made of flexible plastic or rubber. These heads can bend, so theyll go through thin surfaces just as easily as they can penetrate through thicker ones.

However, while they can go through many different materials, they’re not designed to stick through them permanently. So while they can repair damage to wood, vinyl siding, mdf, particle board, etc., their primary purpose is to provide a temporary fix until a more permanent solution can be found.


One great thing about gel nails is that they can be used for so many different purposes. They can fill in small cracks or repairs in wood, they can strengthen plywood, and they can even be used to attach leather seats.

The problem is, not all products are designed for the same thing. For instance, while they can be used to patch holes in mdf, they might not have the right shape or size for larger repairs.

For this situation, a more versatile tool might be the perfect pick.

Ease of Use

The whole process of applying a gel nail is pretty straightforward, though users might want to double-check the manufacturers instructions for proper usage. Simply follow these steps:

  • Choose the correct length of nail for the intended application.
  • Drill a pilot hole if necessary (its almost always needed for wood).
  • Apply pressure to drive the nail through the material.
  • Let it sit for a moment to allow the gel to soak through the material.
  • Remove the excess with a wire brush or similar tool.
  • Re-drive the nail completely through the material.
  • Let it sit for a moment or two more to ensure the gel has fully soaked through.
  • Remove the excess againwith a wire brush or similar tool.
  • Repeat steps 4 through 7 until the entire nail is covered in gel.
  • Let it dry completely.