From the elementary school craft table to the assembly lines of major industries, glue is an essential tool that brings our ideas and projects to life. In its myriad forms, this versatile adhesive has the power to bond materials together, lending strength, durability, and cohesion. But not all glues are created equal. Depending on the task, one type of adhesive might be a perfect fit, while another falls short. In this comprehensive exploration of adhesives, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of glues, examining their different types, properties, uses, and everything. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast, a professional craftsperson, or simply curious, this guide to understanding and choosing the right types of glue for your projects will stick with you.
PVA glue is a type of adhesive that is made from polyvinyl acetate. It is a white, water-based glue that is commonly used in woodworking, paper crafting, and other crafting projects. PVA glue is known for its strong bonding properties, and it dries clear, making it a popular choice for projects where the glue will be visible. It is also easy to clean up with water, making it a convenient choice for messy projects. PVA glue comes in a variety of forms, including liquid, gel, and spray, and can be found at most craft stores and hardware stores.
White glue, also known as school glue, craft glue, or simply PVA glue, is a subset of polyvinyl acetate (PVA) adhesives. Elmer’s Glue (a popular brand in the United States) is a very common white glue product. In the UK and some other regions, the term “PVA glue” is often used more generally to refer to what people in the US might call “white glue” or “school glue.” The term “white glue” comes from its color – it’s typically white when wet but dries clear, making it ideal for arts and crafts applications.
Wood glue is a type of PVA glue specifically formulated for woodworking applications. It is designed to create a strong bond between pieces of wood. While all PVA glues can bond porous surfaces and work well with wood, not all are suitable for all woodworking applications.
PVA wood glues are typically stronger and more durable than basic white PVA glues, and they often have a longer open time (the time before the glue starts to set), which allows adjustments after the glue application.
There are multiple types of PVA wood glue:
- Yellow PVA Wood Glue: Also known as aliphatic resin glue, carpenter’s glue, or just wood glue. This is the most common type of wood glue and is ideal for interior woodwork and woodworking where the joints are clamped. It’s known for its strong bond, but it’s not waterproof.
- White PVA Wood Glue: Similar to the yellow PVA wood glue but has a lower moisture resistance, is less expensive, and best used for lighter-duty woodworking projects.
- Water-Resistant PVA Wood Glue: Also known as cross-linking PVA or Type II PVA. This is a modified PVA adhesive that’s more water-resistant than regular PVA wood glues. It’s suitable for interior or exterior applications where the wood will be exposed to moisture but not prolonged contact with water.
- Waterproof PVA Wood Glue: Also known as Type I PVA. These are also modified PVA adhesives but are even more water-resistant and are suitable for outdoor applications with extended exposure to the elements.
Brand names for PVA wood glues include Titebond (which makes a range of PVA wood glues, including Titebond II and Titebond III, which are water-resistant and waterproof, respectively), and Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue.
While PVA wood glues offer strength and durability, they are not the best choice for all applications. For instance, when bonding wood to non-porous surfaces or filling gaps, other types of adhesives, such as epoxy or polyurethane, may be more suitable.
Cyanoacrylate glue, often referred to as super glue or CA glue, is a fast-acting adhesive known for its strong bonding capabilities. This adhesive is typically clear in color and comes in both liquid and gel forms.
The main feature of cyanoacrylate glue is its ability to cure quickly at room temperature when in contact with moisture, through anionic polymerization. The glue reacts with the slight amount of moisture found on most surfaces, which causes it to harden or “cure” almost instantly.
Cyanoacrylate glue is available in various viscosities, from thin and runny (for penetrating tight cracks) to thicker gel-like consistencies (for filling gaps or bonding porous materials). Some formulations also include rubber compounds to make the dried adhesive more flexible or impact resistant.
Other names for cyanoacrylate glue include:
- Super glue: This is a common term for cyanoacrylate glue due to its strong bonding capabilities. Super Glue is also a brand name for a type of cyanoacrylate adhesive.
- CA glue: This is an abbreviation of cyanoacrylate.
- Instant glue: This name refers to the adhesive’s ability to bond materials together in a very short amount of time.
- Krazy Glue: This is another brand name for cyanoacrylate adhesive.
Despite the many advantages of cyanoacrylate glue, note the following issues:
- brittle when cured,
- sensitive to heat,
- weakens after extended contact to water,
- bonds to skin quickly (use carefully to avoid accidents), and
- it’s unsuitable for some types of plastic, as it can cause some to become cloudy or even corrode.
Polyurethane glue is a type of adhesive known for its strong bonding capabilities and versatility. Polyurethane glues can adhere to various materials, including plastics, metals, and wood. These adhesives are resistant to water, heat, and cold, making them a popular choice for indoor and outdoor projects.
The key feature of polyurethane glue is that it cures by reacting with moisture, either from the air or the bonded materials. It typically foams and expands during the curing process, allowing it to fill gaps between the bonded materials. However, the foaming can also cause the glue to squeeze out from between the surfaces, which may require cleanup after drying.
Polyurethane glue also tends to dry into a plastic-like substance, making it durable and resistant to impacts. Once cured, it’s sandable and paintable, making it a good choice for many woodworking and repair projects.
The most well-known brand of polyurethane glue is probably Gorilla Glue, but there are other manufacturers as well. Polyurethane adhesives may sometimes be called PU adhesives or just polyurethane.
As always, while polyurethane glue is versatile and strong, it’s important to use it in a well-ventilated area and with appropriate safety equipment, as it can be harmful or irritating if it comes into contact with the skin or eyes or if its fumes are inhaled.
Hot glue, also known as hot melt adhesive (HMA), is a thermoplastic adhesive that comes in solid cylindrical sticks for use in a hot glue gun.
Hot glue guns have a heating element that melts the glue stick, and the molten glue is then extruded through a nozzle by either a manual trigger mechanism or by direct feed pressure.
Hot glue has a quick set-up time, which makes it good for projects that require a quick hold. Hot glue’s bond is medium to strong on a wide range of materials, and it is used extensively in crafts, home repair, and DIY projects.
While hot glue sticks to most substances, it’s best for porous materials such as paper, fabric, and wood, and it is less effective on smooth, non-porous surfaces such as metal or plastic. The glue is not very heat resistant and may soften or melt if exposed to higher temperatures after it has set.
Other names for hot glue include:
- Hot melt adhesive (HMA)
- Glue sticks (in the context of the sticks used in hot glue guns)
- Thermogun stick (less common)
Different types of hot melt adhesives are available, including ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyolefin, and polyamide (nylon) based formulations, each with different characteristics and bonding strengths to suit different applications.
Epoxy resin is a type of adhesive known for its strong bonding capabilities, durability, and resistance to chemicals and heat. Unlike many other adhesives, epoxy isn’t just one substance – it’s a two-part system that consists of a resin and a hardener. When mixing these two components, a chemical reaction occurs, and the epoxy hardens into a very strong, rigid plastic material.
Because of its strength and durability, epoxy is often used in heavy-duty applications, such as in the construction and automotive industries, as well as in a variety of home repairs and craft projects. It’s particularly well-suited for bonding metal and filling gaps, because it can form a strong bond even when the surfaces being adhered aren’t perfectly matched.
Epoxy resin is generally just referred to as “epoxy”, and also found under brand names such as Araldite, J-B Weld, and others. Some specialty types of epoxy include marine epoxy, which is highly water-resistant, and epoxy putty, which has a thicker, moldable consistency.
Despite its many advantages, epoxy can be somewhat complex to work with, because it needs to be mixed in the correct proportions to cure properly. It also has a relatively short working time after being mixed (often about 5-30 minutes), after which it starts to harden and can no longer be applied or adjusted. Additionally, uncured epoxy can be a skin and eye irritant, and some people may develop an allergic reaction to it, so use with appropriate safety precautions.
Contact cement, also known as contact adhesive, is a special kind of adhesive that’s designed to form a strong bond between two surfaces when they contact with each other, hence the name.
What makes contact cement unique is its application process. It is typically applied to both surfaces to be joined, and then left to dry until it’s no longer wet but still tacky. The two surfaces are then pressed together, forming an immediate, strong bond. Because it bonds on contact, careful alignment is necessary since it is difficult to reposition the items once they have made contact.
Contact cement is available in water-based and solvent-based formulations:
- Solvent-Based Contact Cement: The traditional form of contact cement, solvent-based formulas are known for their high bond strength, durability, and fast drying times. However, they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and have strong fumes, requiring ventilation when using them.
- Water-Based Contact Cement: These are a more recent development, less toxic, and have less odor than solvent-based formulas. While they take longer to dry and generally have slightly less bond strength, they are still quite strong and are often more than sufficient for most household projects.
Commuse uses for contact cement include bonding laminates, veneers, and other large, flat materials to surfaces. It’s also used in joining materials such as rubber, leather, metal, wood, and decorative laminates because of its high strength and durability.
Contact cement may also be referred to as “contact glue” or “contact adhesive”, and it’s available under various brand names, such as DAP, Barge, and Weldwood.
Fabric glue, also known as textile glue or fabric adhesive, is a type of adhesive specifically designed for adhering to fabric. This type of glue is a popular choice for both craft enthusiasts and professional designers because it can offer a no-sew alternative for joining fabric together.
Fabric glues use a formula to be flexible to move with the fabric without cracking or breaking. They should also be washable so the fabric items can be cleaned without dissolving the glue.
Here are some variations of fabric glues:
- Permanent Fabric Glue: This is a type of fabric adhesive that creates a long-lasting bond, used for projects where sewing is not desirable or possible. Once it has cured, it’s typically resistant to washing and dry cleaning.
- Temporary Fabric Glue: Also known as fabric glue sticks or basting glue, temporary fabric glue is used to hold fabric in place before sewing. The glue is designed to wash out in the laundry or dissolve over time, so it doesn’t hold permanently.
- Fabric Fusion Glue: This fabric glue provides a strong bond between two pieces of fabric without sewing. It’s often used for fabric projects where sewing isn’t an option, such as with certain types of materials or complex shapes.
- Fabric Glue for Embellishments: These fabric glues attach embellishments to fabric, like beads, sequins, or rhinestones. These glues need to be clear, flexible when dry, and strong enough to hold the weight of the embellishments.
There are numerous commercial fabric glue products available, with some of the most popular being: Aleene’s Original Fabric Fusion or E6000.
Animal glues are a type of adhesive that is made from the collagen in animal hides, bones, and tissues. They are a natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable material that has been used for centuries.
There are three main types of animal glue:
- Hide glue: This is the most common type of animal glue. It is made from the skins of animals, such as cows, sheep, or pigs. Hide glue is strong, water-resistant, and flexible. It is often used for woodworking, bookbinding, and violin making.
- Bone glue: This type of glue is made from the bones of animals. It is stronger than hide glue, but it is also more brittle. Bone glue is often used for making violin bows and other musical instruments.
- Fish glue: This type of glue is made from the swim bladders of fish. It is clear, colorless, and water-resistant. Fish glue is often used for bookbinding, conservation, and restoration work.
- Rabbit skin glue: This type of glue is made from the skins of rabbits. It is strong, water-resistant, and flexible. Rabbit skin glue is often used for bookbinding and other fine woodworking projects.
- Hoof glue: This type of glue is made from the hooves of animals. It is strong and water-resistant. Hoof glue is often used for making violin bows and other musical instruments.
Common uses for animal glues include:
- Violin making
- Conservation and restoration
- Food preservation
Animal glues are a versatile and sustainable adhesive that has been used for centuries. They are a good choice for a variety of projects, and they are safe for use in food applications.
Glue sticks are a type of adhesive product that comes in a solid, cylindrical form. The adhesive is typically contained within a plastic case, and you can twist or push the base of the case to advance the adhesive and apply it.
The adhesive in glue sticks is generally a form of PVA (polyvinyl acetate) adhesive. It’s a water-based adhesive that’s safe and non-toxic, which makes glue sticks particularly popular for children’s crafts and school projects. When you apply it, it usually goes on smoothly, and it can bond to a variety of materials, including paper, cardstock, photos, and fabric.
There are different types of glue sticks available:
- Craft Glue Sticks: These are general-purpose glue sticks that are used for a variety of craft and school projects. They typically dry clear.
- Colored Glue Sticks: Some glue sticks come with colored or glitter glue for special craft projects. These sticks add a decorative touch to the projects.
- Photo Glue Sticks: These glue sticks are specifically designed for use with photographs. They’re acid-free to prevent damage to the photos over time.
- Fabric Glue Sticks: These are designed for use with fabric and are often used in sewing or quilting projects to hold fabric in place before it’s sewn.
Glue sticks are sold under various brand names, like Elmer’s, UHU, Pritt, and others.
Glue dots, also known as adhesive dots or sticky dots, are a type of pressure-sensitive adhesive that comes pre-shaped in small dots. They offer a clean, instant bond and are often used in various industries and applications, including packaging, printing, assembly, and crafts.
Glue dots are typically dispensed from a roll or sheet and are designed to be applied to one surface and then have another surface pressed onto them. They stick instantly and require no drying time. Depending on the specific product, glue dots can form either a permanent or removable bond.
There are various types of glue dots available on the market, which are designed to handle different types of materials and applications:
- Low Tack Glue Dots: These dots provide a removable bond for lightweight materials. They’re often used in marketing and promotional materials, as they can hold items together but allow them to be easily separated later.
- Medium Tack Glue Dots: Medium tack dots provide a stronger bond than low tack dots and are typically used for bonding lightweight to medium-weight items.
- High Tack Glue Dots: High tack dots create a stronger, semi-permanent bond and are used for heavier materials.
- Super High Tack Glue Dots: These dots provide the strongest bond and are used for very heavy or difficult-to-bond materials. They are typically used in industrial applications.
The size of glue dots can also vary, with smaller dots for delicate tasks and larger dots for heavier-duty applications.
As a result, glue dots are a versatile adhesive solution that can be used in a variety of situations where a quick, clean bond is needed. They can be particularly useful for crafts, as they can eliminate the need for messy liquid glues or hot glue guns.
In addition to “glue dots”, “adhesive dots”, or “sticky dots”, these products may also be referred to by brand names, such as Glue Dots International’s “Glue Dots” or 3M’s “Scotch Adhesive Dots”.
Spray adhesives, also known as spray glues, are a type of adhesive that is packaged in an aerosol can for easy and uniform application. They are particularly useful for covering large areas or for bonding lightweight materials such as paper, foam, fabric, and lightweight plastics.
Here are some common types of spray adhesives:
- General Purpose Spray Adhesives: These are versatile spray glues that can be used for a variety of applications, such as crafts, home decor, and light repair jobs. They can bond lightweight materials like paper, cardboard, foam, and fabric.
- Heavy-Duty Spray Adhesives: These adhesives are designed for more demanding applications. They have a stronger bond and can be used to adhere heavier materials like wood, metal, glass, carpet, and certain types of plastic.
- Repositionable Spray Adhesives: These adhesives allow you to adjust your materials after application, providing a temporary bond until you’re ready to make it permanent. They are often used in scrapbooking, photo mounting, and other applications where exact positioning is important.
- Specialty Spray Adhesives: Some spray adhesives are formulated for specific materials or applications. For example, fabric spray adhesives are used in sewing and quilting, while foam spray adhesives are used in upholstery work. There are also high-temperature spray adhesives for automotive and industrial use, and spray adhesives designed for mounting photographs without damaging them.
Some popular spray adhesive products include 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Adhesive or Elmer’s Multi-Purpose Spray Adhesive.
In essence, the realm of glues is as vast as it is essential, making our everyday tasks easier and enabling countless industrial applications. Understanding the properties and applications of various types of glues, from PVA glues and cyanoacrylates to polyurethane adhesives, epoxy resins, and specialized adhesives like fabric glue and hot glue, allows us to choose the right product for our specific needs. Regardless of the project at hand, be it a simple craft, a home repair, or a professional job, the right adhesive makes all the difference in achieving a successful, long-lasting bond.