diy by 55

diy 101: building your toolbox — adhesives

I have been obsessed with craft supplies since my early childhood, and I am not afraid to talk about my lifelong love affair with glue. It’s rivaled only by my love of tape, but more on that later :) Glue is a magical substance, and trust me when I say that the ability to permanently stick anything to anything else has revolutionized the world. Did you know the first simple glue was invented in 200,000 BC? Clearly, we thought it would come in handy, and it has.

Modern glues are leaps and bounds beyond primitive pastes, and today there is a strong, durable adhesive for just about every job you can imagine. I’m going to walk you through some of the most common forms of adhesive available, excluding industrial glues and any industry-specific types of adhesives. Glue may not be as dangerous as some of the power tools in your DIY kit, but there are some basic facts you should know before you get started. So let’s dive into adhesives! — Kate

Read more about adhesives after the jump!

Types of Adhesives

  • Craft/ PVA (polyvinyl acetate) Glue: This includes regular white glue, such as regular Elmer’s glue, school glue and glue sticks. These are great for light-duty projects using porous materials like wood, paper, plastic and cloth.

Set & Drying Time — 1 hour (must be held in place for about 30 minutes)
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Wood Glue: There are many different kinds of wood glue, but the most common type is a yellow PVA glue, and it shares similar bonding and drying properties. The glue becomes rubbery as it sets and solid once completely dry. Wood glue is extremely durable once cured but takes a while to set up, so it’s a good idea to have clamps handy when using wood glue on mid-size or large projects.

Set & Drying Time — Wood glue should be secured/clamped for at least 20–30 minutes while it sets. It dries within an hour.
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Super Glue/Krazy Glue: These glues are also known as cyanoacrylates; they are similar to epoxy glues, but without the two separated parts. They provide strong, durable bonds and are great for metal, glass, ceramics, plastic and rubber.

Set & Drying Time — about 5–15 minutes to set, dry within an hour
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Silicone Adhesives: Silicone adhesives resemble rubber caulking and are often used  in plumbing projects or for glass repair. They are used to create flexible, waterproof bonds for metal, glass, rubber, wood and ceramics. The glue comes in several colors, including black, clear and white.

Set & Drying Time — sets in about 5 minutes and dries within an hour
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Epoxies: Epoxies consist of two substances — an adhesive resin and an activator/hardener — that must be mixed before application. Epoxies are extremely durable and waterproof and work best on rigid surfaces like metal, ceramics and plastics. J.B. Weld is a form of epoxy that works best with metal.

Set & Drying Time — Varies. You can buy some rapid-set epoxies that will set anywhere between 5  minutes and 2 hours. The glue will dry in about 12 hours.
Curing Time — 24–48 hours

  • Hot Glue: Heated glue comes in stick form and must be used with glue guns, which come in both corded and cordless and high-temp and low-temp models. High-temp glue guns can heat glue up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and should be used with caution. Both high- and low-temp guns create moderately strong bonds, making them ideal for lightweight materials and temporary adhesion.

Set & Drying Time — One of the benefits of hot glue is that it sets quite quickly, about 15–30 seconds, and dries in about 5–10 minutes.
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Fabric Glue: There are many different kinds of fabric glue. Some fabric glues are similar to standard PVA/craft glues but provide flexibility and wash resistance. Fusible webbing is another form of fabric adhesive; it comes in strip form and melts under the heat of an iron to bond two fabric surfaces together.

Set & Drying Time — Bottled fabric glue sets in about and hour and dries in about 12 hours.
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Spray Adhesive: Spray adhesives disperse in fine droplets to provide a thin, uniform bonding surface. Spray adhesives work best on lightweight materials, such as paper, fabric and small or thin pieces of plastic, wood, and metal. They come in both high-tack and low-tack varieties; low tack allows you to lift and reposition the materials, while high tack will instantly create a permanent bond upon contact.

Set & Drying Time — Low tack will give you a few minutes before it sets; high tack will set instantly. Dries within 30 minutes.
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Rubber Cement: Rubber cement is made from a mixture of elastic polymers and a solvent that keeps them fluid. The rubbery texture allows you to remove to the material without much damage, which makes it great for mounting posters or artwork or in collage work. It is a fairly toxic substance and should be used in a well-ventilated area.

Set & Drying Time — Glue sets in about 15 minutes and dries within 6 hours.
Curing Time — 24 hours

  • Expandable Glues: Gorilla Glue and Zap-A-Gap are popular brands of expanding adhesives. The glues are polyurethane based and extremely durable once cured, making them great for industrial-strength projects and heavy-duty materials including wood, metal, ceramics, glass, plastic and stone. The glue has foaming properties that cause it to expand and fill in cracks within a material. The glue hardens once it dries, allowing you to scrape off any excess with a paint scraper or chisel.

Set & Drying Time — Varies, depending on which type you buy. The standard drying time is about 1–2 hours and about 30 minutes for a fast-dry version.
Curing Time — 24 hours

* These glues are not ideal for adhering the material but can be sufficient if the project is small and lightweight, and non-functional (craft only). When using hot glue for styrofoam projects, choose a low-temperature glue gun only. High-temperature hot glue will most likely refuse to bond and melt the plastic, which gives off harmful fumes. Also note that only waterproof glues should be used on ceramics such as mugs, dishware and vases. Lastly, if your paper projects involve fine artwork (or anything you’d like to keep for a very long time) you should use archival adhesives instead of the standard glues above.

How to Glue

First, you always want to clean and prep your materials. Dust, dirt and moisture will likely weaken the bond of the glue, so always try to remove any debris, and dry the surfaces thoroughly before gluing. Many glue jobs can be messy, so I like to have a scrap piece of cardboard and a few rags handy to clean up any spills. A majority of glues contain harmful chemicals, so always use your glues in as well ventilated an area as possible, and be careful to keep the glue away from your eyes and skin.

The process for proper gluing will vary depending on what kind of materials and glue you are using. For gluing metals, ceramics and woods, some adhesives recommend scoring or lightly sanding the surface where you will be applying the glue in order to create a better bond. Some of the expanding glues require the surface to be slightly damp beforehand to activate the glue. Some glues, such as rubber cement and super glue, will recommend that you apply them to both sides of the joint for increased bond strength. Always be sure to read the complete directions on an adhesive prior to use.

For larger glue projects, such as those requiring multiple clamps or involving heavy or delicate materials, consider having a friend handy to help you hold the project while you secure the clamps, tape or whatever will help hold the piece as the glue sets. It’s much better to spend extra time prepping and planning for the glue job than having to continually reapply glue to a sagging or broken joint or to be running around with glue flying everywhere, desperately searching for something to prop up the project . . . I’ve been there, and it’s not fun. Also keep in mind that most adhesives are flammable, so never use adhesives around open flame or heat.

When using spray adhesive: Spray from a distance of at least 8″ away from the surface and pass over it a couple times to cover the surface with an even, uniform coat. The nozzle on spray adhesives can often become clogged — to prevent this, simply turn the can upside down after each use and spray into a trash can or onto a scrap piece of paper for about 1–2 seconds or until the can begins to spray only air. You can also pop off the nozzle and soak it in turpentine for extreme clogs.

When using wood glue: Spread wood glue along the entire area of both surfaces that you are gluing. Apply a generous amount of glue — the layer should be thick but not overflowing. It also helps secure the bond if you slide the two surfaces back and forth against one another gently after pressing them together, and then settle them into place and clamp securely to set and dry.

Useful Things to Have around When Gluing

  • Gloves — Nobody likes gluing their fingers together, right? I recommend using latex or some other kind of thin protective glove when gluing to prevent contact with the skin.
  • Respirator — Glues can be very toxic. If you plan to use adhesives for an extended period of time or if the glue has a very high toxicity level, you should definitely err on the safe side and use a respirator, even if you are in a well-ventilated area. You can purchase different cartridges for the respirator that correspond to the type of chemicals in the glue you are using. Safety first!!
  • Rags — Gluing can sometimes get messy, so I recommend having damp and dry rags around for cleanup, just in case.
  • Clamps — For more heavy-duty gluing, clamps can be a great way to hold the objects together as the glue sets. You can also use clamps to apply pressure and tighten joints while they bond.
  • Masking tape — For lightweight objects, masking tape can be an easy way to hold the joint in place as the glue sets.
  • Cleaning solventGoo-Gone is a reliable agent for removing adhesives from surfaces and might come in handy for unwanted glue stains. For epoxy and some other adhesives, you may need to use acetone or rubbing alcohol to remove glue residue.
  • Scrap cardboard or gluing surface — To catch any glue drips.
  • Windows — Good ventilation is essential for safe gluing, particularly with spray glue, epoxy and other high-strength glues. If you don’t have a respirator, please ensure that you are using the glues in an open area with good air flow.
  • X-Acto knife or paint scraper — If your glue has dried completely but you notice drips, sharp blades are the best way to clean off excess glue. Gently scrape off the adhesive and wipe the area with a damp rag or a Q-tip soaked in a cleaning solvent.

Glue Alternatives

The hard truth is that most effective adhesives owe their strength to chemicals and other unsavory ingredients. Most brands will list the ingredients on the package or on their site. Some modern glues are actually comprised of entirely synthetic materials, making them vegan-friendly, although no less toxic, unfortunately. If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly form of glue, there are several homemade recipes you can try. I’ve included a simple, kid-safe version above, which will work for most paper and small wood or plastic craft projects, but here is a list of 11 natural glue recipes you can try. I can’t guarantee a secure, permanent bond with any of these, but depending on the project at hand, they just may do the trick — allowing you to be respirator and worry free.

There are infinitely more details and questions to be answered when it comes to glue, but hopefully these tips will help you with the majority of your gluing projects. For specific project questions, try visiting thistothat.com, a fun (albeit old-fashioned looking) interactive site about glue where you can plug in materials and receive a recommendation for which glue to use. Feel free to ask questions as well, and I’ll try to answer as many as I can. In the meantime, I highly recommend you purchase a few of these nifty glues and start sticking stuff together!!!

Here are some fun DIYs that you can make with these cool adhesives:

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55 Comments

Sharon

Love that you included a handy chart, and also the natural glue recipe.

Many thanks!

brittney

I’m a graphic design student and my favorite adhesive for paper work is mac-tac. It has always been the best way for me to have VERY clean craft! Just put it on (a little bigger piece) before you cut so it’s perfectly aligned and your edges never come up!

patti

can you give specific product names? the above comment says they use mac-tac. what is that used for?

Cheryl

I’m really surprised that YES Paste isn’t on this list. It’s by far the best paper glue. Doesn’t wrinkle at all and is a million times better than Elmer’s.

MB@YarnUiPhoneApp

There’s a whole world of adhesives for fabric that needs to be explored. My favorite is KK2000, a temporary adhesive, great for trying out pocket placement, etc. It’s also helpful when laying out pattern pieces so nothing shifts out of whack and off grain.

Kari

This is great (and helpful). These DIY 101 posts are getting bookmarked! For a fabric glue recommendation, I love Beacon Adhesive’s Fabri-Tac. I use it for all of my felt flowers/bridal stuff and it dries clear and holds really well. For larger home/industrial things I love E6000 – it will never come unstuck (and will potentially knock you out – so ventilate!)

April

All right, I admit to a love affair with glue, also. While I do buy it to use as a tool, I also think of buying different types of glues as “adding to my collection.” Thank you, Kate, for this post. I love reading this blog – I feel not alone in the world. ;)

Steve @ Room Service 360

What kind of brands offer vegan alternatives for glue? My understanding was that most, but not all, modern glues were not made out of animal components (though I may be woefully mistaken on this).

Eleanor

I want to glue yarn onto a canvas. I bought Anita’s glue, but I’m worried that it will take too long to dry and won’t stay attached to the canvas very well. What type of glue would you suggest? Rubber cement?

Kate

Hey All,

Thank you for adding some specific glue recs, everyone! I’m hesitant to suggest specific glues because everyone has different preferences, but I love hearing which brands you all love, so keep ‘em coming!

Steve:
The best way to find out if a glue is vegan or to source vegan glues is probably online through vegan resource sites. Apparently there is great vegan all-purpose glue called Weld-Bond, which should work on a number of projects.
Patti:
Mac-Tac is an adhesive tape which creates an instant, permanent bond like regular glue except in a tape form. Personally, I prefer using liquid or gel glues instead, but for graphic designers, collage artists—anyone working in flat mediums Mac-Tac can be a nice way to get precise adhesion without the possible mess of liquid glue.
Kari:
Although I have had better luck with epoxies than with E-6000, especially on ceramic and glass, I still do love E-6000. It’s similar to an epoxy in that it comes in a thick, gel-like form, but it’s nice that you don’t have to mix two parts.

jenni o

really great overview. One thing I was surprised to see left off was craft (water-based) glue for ceramics. I’ve had ceramics instructors recommend using this glue on broken glazed ceramics (except porcelain). Because the clay is porous (or so I was told), the water-based glue creates a good bond between pieces, versus something like super glue, which is better for non-porous surfaces (metal, plastic, etc). I’ve used it on my own pieces (including formerly chipped plates run through the dishwasher!), and it has worked great, plus it’s non-toxic. I’d love to hear what other ceramists use.

Purse & Clutch

What a helpful chart! It’s such a great way to communicate so much info. And the kind of adhesive you use really can make or break a project.

Kate

Eleanor,

What’s your desired drying time? Most glues will need at least half a day to completely dry and cure, but if you can set the piece aside for that time and let it dry, I think that it should create a secure bond. If you need the pieces to be finished ASAP, you could try using a hot glue gun, which should adhere well between the two surfaces, and dry quickly—the drawback would be that it can be difficult to keep hot glue form being messy. A tip when using hot glue: blow a hair dryer on warm over the project afterwards for a minute. It should make all the little hot glue threads disappear.

I’ve had success using Aileen’s fabric glues, but only if you have time to leave the piece out flat and let the glue dry sufficiently. That should create a very secure bond, and you purchase washable versions of the fabric glue if you need to be able to wash the piece (although I’d be worried about washing yarn no matter what). Hope this helps! Good luck!

Andrea (Studio Eleven 11)

Great post! I myself love to use E6000 too. I use it on all my rings in my Etsy shop and it holds the components on, despite the heavy wear a ring gets! It’s the perfect glue. My hubby used it to repair cracks in our pool and I used it to repair trim in my car too. Crazy stuff.

P.S. I love thistothat.com!

Emily (Sowing Clover)

Tape and glue! I owe my life to these supplies! Thank you, Gorilla Glue, for reliably sticking my off-brand keds back together every time parts of the rubber sole detach themselves from the canvas upper. :)

Martha

I didn’t know how much of DIY nerd I was until I was like, OOOh goody! A post about glue! Wow, I think I’ve crossed over to a whole new realm. Thanks for this great post.

Miha

I’m going to have to see if I can find Goo-Gone anywhere. I’ve found some amazing home-made apple juice bottles that I want to spray-paint, but no matter how long I’ve let them soak in hot water with washing-up liquid or detergent, I can’t seem to get the labels off. The glue on those labels is insane. I’ve been looking for a good solvent…

Heidi VanSchoonhoven

Please know that Gorilla Glue can HARM DOGS, so keep it well out of reach! For some reason, dogs like the taste of Gorilla Glue – it tastes sweet or something to them. Then it does what it purports to do – it foams up and hardens – inside the dog. My 7 month old puppy got into some and his stomach was a softball sized glob of rock-hard foam. After a $900 surgery, he was all better. It’s a great glue, but store it carefully.

Miranda

Thank you for this great article. I too am a glue-o-phile. (As well as a scissors collector!)

My personal favorite glue guide is “This to That”

http://www.thistothat.com/

You plug in your materials (your “this” and your “that”) hit enter and it offers a list of alternatives. Been around (under most radars) for a long time. So cute and simple.

Kim Wike, darling&dear

Any ideas for an envelope adhesive? They key that I’m looking for is something that will not rip the envelope! Ive tried using rubber cement – which works well but it’s not very easy to apply to a ton of envelopes!

Thanks so much for the guide! Great round up!

Hilde

Very nice overview, but please don’t use rubber cement (or any of the other glues mentioned) directly on paper art!! It turns dark yellow/brown over time (just a few years) and creates awful stains, that will ruin the artwork. As it does this, the bond will also fail. Paper conservators use wheat starch paste or methylcellulose, although these do contain water and can be tricky to use. You have to put a piece of cardboard and a weight on the paper while the paste dries, to avoid cockling (be careful not to glue the cardboard to the artwork!).

Angelia (paperpleased)

Feels lk my thought had been answered with this post! Always been daunted with the thought of using glue
(i make purses out of wallpapers) but now i feel enlightened!

Corinne Adams

How to glue cheap metal and glass together? The catch is I need a glue that dries clear (most say they do but don’t), and nontoxic (typically not as strong). Best so far is UDU glue, but it only works 80% of the time. Thanks.

Anthea

Thanks especially for the natural glue recipes, am certainly going to explore them further.

Rachel

Hey Corinne, I would try the Ultimate. I think it’s almost as strong as E-6000 but totally non-toxic and it works fine on non-porous surfaces. It does take ages to dry, so make sure you can set the pieces aside. And yeah, it dries clear.

Rachel Elliott Glassworks

Interesting overview but I would have my concerns about using superglue on glass where any kind of physical strength is required as the rigidity of the glue will cause it to fail on something like a bail on glass piece.

I personally prefer some of the various 3M epoxy range for glass to metal bonds although the failure rate is mostly effected by insufficient preparation of the surfaces and cleaning.

Glass to glass bonding (provided at least one is transparent) is most effective with a UV cured glue, which remain fairly clear over time, as long as you haven’t used a really cheap brand, like most things!

Anna B

Something which has worked for me as an adhesive is sugru http://sugru.com/ when the location is subjected to extremes of hot and cold – e.g. fixing the brake light on the back window of my car. Though sugru is not limited to use as an adhesive….

Christine Cerniglia

This may have been an oversight, but you mention that spray adhesives “work best on lightweight materials, such as paper…” however you left this off of the chart. We always have our graphic design students use Super77 to mount their projects.

Rachael

Echoing the above comment–the description for craft glue says that it works on paper, but paper isn’t checked in the chart. Are there reasons it’s not ideal? (Though the one I have is scrapbooking glue, so I imagine it’s made for paper and I shouldn’t worry!)

Barb

Good overview, but the glue I use most often didn’t get a mention – that is temporary fabric glue. I prefer LapelStick (www.lapelstick.com) which is a non-toxic biodegradable, odourless glue which adheres instantly, does not stain fabric, washes out and – best of all – does not gum up your needle if you sew through it!!! I use Lapel Stick in all of my quilting projects – great for layering, stabilizing seams, positioning embellishments – I never pin anything anymore (Yahoo!!) AND – it also works extremely well on fallen hems, gaping blouse fronts, falling spaghetti straps (its non-toxic, so can even be used to stick a sliding strap directly to your shoulder). Love it!

Amy

oo, this is lovely and very useful.
I was wondering if there’s a sealant that you’d recommend for natural materials (e.g. leaves, twigs, seed pods)?
(not necessarily to bind, but maybe to make them stiff, seal in sap, or stop from decomposing…)
thanks.

Allen

Every household should have this list, and more, and every high school student should know it by experience so they don’t throw away fixable stuff their whole life.
I would add:
Epoxy: always use the 24 hour set if you can. It bonds stringest. I have mugs and plates repaired years ago with almost no seam and survived the dishwasher dozens of times
Epoxy Putty: In a tootsie roll. Cut off what you need and mash the skin into the core for a while. Good bonding and you can add structure to the bond to wrap the repaired item
Barge: Cobbler’s contact cement on steroids for re-attaching soles. Wash surfaces with water, then alcohol of some sort to pull off grease and help with drying.
Kindred glue spirits, Unite! (What glue does that take?) Is there any cross over with this community and the Make crowd?

Mary

Wow! This is incredibly helpful! I am going to link it on my blog! I would add dry mount tissue to the list too…have you ever used it?
Your blog is on my blogroll…it is always so informative…Thanks!

Narelle @ Cook Clean Craft

While I was reading this (very informative) article, I had flashbacks to covering my fingers with craft glue in high school and peeling it off after it dried. A slightly weird simple pleasure. I seem to be collecting glues in my crafty endeavours and this is a great summary.

Jen

I love this catagory on DS! Its so helpful as I venture into more heavy duty DIY projects. I’d love to see something in staple guns, not sure if that is enough for one post…

Carrie

CA Glue works great on wood. It’s particularly excellent for keeping cracks from spreading. I ‘m a wood turner and we use it all the time!

Chaz

I’d like to caution you about the use of silicone adhesive on plastic. Polycarbonate plastic (i.e. Lexan) should not be exposed to silicone, it will cause catastrophic failure of the plastic.

Carole

I know you’ve got it listed that hot glue isn’t necessarily good for all of those uses, but I don’t think it should be listed at all for most of them (not even for basic tacking). I cringe when I see the things that people use hot glue for (and then wonder why their project doesn’t hold together). It does not withstand humidity changes, and if it gets cold, damp, or overly hot it will not hold. Even a glue like E6000 isn’t perfect (and will not hold glass long term).

pkae

Just FYI for removing labels and such. I bought a bottle of candle wax remover (Wax Away by Weiman) and for some reason decided to try it on the plastic bottles I use to make numerous things, but are always covered in the gluey guk that I could not remove, safely. It took just a bit on a cloth and vavoom! the glue was gone! It does have a strong oder so be aware of where you use it (not bad enough to go outside, though).

Fabulous series Kate! And who doesn’t need to know more about adhesives! :-)

Rose

Personally I would advise against using Rubber Cement with Styrofoam as I have had the glue eat away at the Styrofoam.

Andrea

I think you need to take environment into consideration too. Cyanoacrylates break down with the introduction of water. (Which is why you’re supposed to soak your hand in warm water if you glue your fingers together.) They also work best with tiny cracks, whereas two part epoxies can fill in gaps.

The former adhesive chemist in me wants to write a blog post about this now! :)

laksh

Hi

I am looking for a gle which doesnt dry. Can you help me with the same. The purpose of it is that it should stick the material in place and should let go of the same when removed.

geralyn

Hello, I was hoping to find the best glue that would withstand rain, wind, and outdoors. The project I’m making will consist of different types of things. Copper piping, ceramic, plastic, glass. Should I buy a different glue for each one. Also if I’m gluing let’s say copper piping to a piece of ceramics, or a piece of ceramic to a piece of glass, how would I know which one to use. Is there a fantastic glue that does all of the above plus be outside getting rained on, hot son, winds? Thanks for your help

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