Giving yourself a professional pedicure is an 8-step process. The first step is to remove the old polish from your nails.
Instead of cotton balls (which will leave fuzzies), I suggest using a lint-free cotton pad, such as Miss Webril ($5.60 per box; 800-545-2506) or a beauty editor favorite, Lippmann Collection The Stripper To Go, which you can carry around with you.
Saturate the cotton pad with polish remover and rub off the old polish. If the color doesn't come off easily, press the saturated cotton on the nail and let it soak in a few seconds. If you have stains on your nails, fix them fast using the tips in How to Get Rid of Nail Stains.
When choosing the perfect polish remover consider that alcohol- and acetone-free removers are less drying, but don't work as well, especially on dark shades. Use these these on lighter nail polish shades.
For manicure tips, see How to Give Yourself a Manicure.