Saturday, August 27, 2016

Glue Reviews / What Glues to Use

As a DIY-hard crafter, I have a pretty impressive collection of glues. My glue stash is so sizable that I have devoted an entire drawer in my plastic 3-drawer rolling cart to "Adhesives." This includes tape (of which I have the masking, the duct, the sport, and the packing varieties), and I've also thrown in a few other bottles of household fluids there because they don't fit into a better category—WD-40 (the exact opposite of an adhesive) and foam insulation. But the glues! I have become quite a connoisseur of glues over the years, and today, I thought I'd share what I've learned with those a little newer to the gluing game.

Hot glue

Probably the first glue I fell in love with (yes, we of the more geeky persuasion do fall in love with glues), hot glue first hit my radar at the young age of 7 or 8 thanks to my Girl Scout troop leaders. My fair share of finger burns later (I can't believe they trusted us with such a dangerous weapon in 3rd grade!), I was hooked. My mom purchased a hot glue gun for the family, and it has been in my arsenal ever since! Hot glue is useful when you want to glue two things together and have the glue set quickly. Because it is bulky and messy, however, it is not so great for gluing small pieces, or for use in places that will get a lot of scrutiny. It also fails to bond to the vast majority of materials, (including pretty much all non-porous ones), so any attachment you create with hot glue should be considered more or less temporary. I like to use hot glue for quick-and-dirty crafting—assembling Halloween costumes, for example. It's also great for when you need a big blobby lump of glue, to actually form an architectural element in your project.

Tacky Glue

Another crafter's standby, Aleene's Tacky Glue is tried and true for many applications. Like hot glue, it works well only on porous materials. Unlike hot glue, it takes a lot longer to set, but it can be applied with much greater precision. The "Tacky" in its name is its greatest strength—because it's a thicker glue, the items you are gluing are more likely to stay in position until the glue has set...and once it has, it forms a waterproof bond. I use Tacky glue mostly for projects involving fabric (it's not a fabric glue, but it works just as well).


Around the time I graduated from college, I learned, from a friend who built model airplanes, that epoxy was the glue of choice if you really wanted to glue two things together and have them stick. Especially if the two somethings were somethings like metal. At first, I was a little intimidated by epoxy, because you have to actually mix a hardener with the adhesive, but that actually makes epoxy an ideal glue to have around, because it will never dry up in the bottle! Epoxy's pros are that I've never found any two substances it couldn't bond, and it's tough and dries hard. Its cons are that it's a little inconvenient to use, in that you have to mix it in a separate container before you can use it, and if your mixture ratio is a little off, you will get glue that never hardens. I use epoxy for repairing metal jewelry, and as a replacement filler for molded plastic (it's currently holding the wheel of my office chair into its broken socket, and I've also used it as a replacement for the heel tip on oddly shaped shoe heels).

Gorilla Glue

When I worked at the grocery store, my colleagues swore by Gorilla Glue, which I had never heard of up until that point. When I finally did give it a try, I was underwhelmed, although it does have its uses. Gorilla glue's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness—as it cures, it foams up, expanding into any cracks it's been placed into. This is great when you need to fill gaps, but it's terrible for precision applications. My friend's mom once used it to repair a broken china figurine of mine—it came back with brownish foam protruding from all the cracks. I also find Gorilla glue to be less strong than some glues—do not use it in places that will be subject to a lot of torque. What is it good for? Large-area applications. I am currently using it around the house to hold pieces of wood to various other surfaces.

Spray Adhesive

You've seen spray adhesive come up numerous times in my other blog—I've used it to hold up my socks as well as to make various paper and fabric crafts. In all those projects, I was using an old can of spray adhesive that I'd had since graduate school, where we were advised to use the substance to affix our design samples to mat board for presentation. So I can thank my master's degree for my knowledge of the strengths of spray adhesive: it is excellent for attaching one large flat, flexible surface to another one. Spray adhesive forms a thin, even coat that is unlikely to bleed unless you really overdo it. Objects with spray adhesive on them can usually be repositioned a couple of times before the glue loses its tack. But a big downside of this glue is that it is messy! It's hard to keep the aerosolized glue from settling onto everything in the vicinity (my design school actually had a gluing room, which was sticky from floor to ceiling due to all the overspray!), so when my last can of spray adhesive ran out, I haven't been in a hurry to replace it. I think I'm going to settle for rubber cement in the future.

Rubber Cement

My first encounter with rubber cement was when my mom created her influential dining table Halloween costume. She used rubber cement to affix plastic utensils to her tablecloth, and I was amazed, because up until that time, my experience of glue was limited to Elmer's School Glue, which as we all know, does next to nothing. Rubber cement is pretty awesome because it retains a degree of stickiness even after it dries. It dries faster than white glue, and because it comes with a brush, it can be applied in a thinner layer. I prefer rubber cement for all my paper-attaching needs, and I'm experimenting with using it to hold my clothes up (temporary verdict: it doesn't work as well as spray adhesive, but it is easier to remove from your skin.)


I can thank Pinterest for introducing me to this second-newest addition to my Glue Gallery. All the crafters who post tutorials involving attaching rhinestones to anything always recommend using E6000 glue for the purpose. If you don't know much about rhinestones, generally they have a very smooth shiny back which can be quite hard to stick to anything. So, intrigued, I bought a tube of the stuff. It says right on the label that it's industrial-strength, which sounds pretty good to me. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to use E6000 for very many applications, but so far I've reattached a couple of shoe soles with it, and they haven't come apart yet.


Normally, I'd be the last person to purchase something emblazoned with an "As Seen on TV" label, but recently I made an order that needed a few more items to qualify for free shipping, and the 5-Second-Fix was a pretty low price, so I threw a tube of the stuff into my virtual cart. So far, I can't say I regret my purchase. It seems to work the same way as dental fillers do (it might even be the same substance my orthodontist used to attach my braces!)—the glue remains liquid until you blast it with the attached UV light, and then it takes only 5 seconds to cure. For the limited amount of time I've had to try it, I have to say this glue is pretty awesome. Like hot glue, it dries fast, but unlike hot glue, it only dries when you're ready to dry it. Like epoxy, it bonds to a wide variety of materials and seems to form a strong, clear bond, but unlike epoxy, you don't have to pre-mix it and can use an infinitesimally small amount right out of the tube. My first and only use of this glue was to repair and reconstruct a couple of pairs of earrings, for which it worked like a charm—until the pair I repaired fell on the floor a week later and broke in the same spot... but I'll give the glue the benefit of a doubt—I might have just not applied it adequately. There are apparently lots of similar products on the market, so when it comes time to replace my 5SF, I might just look for a cheap generic.

Other options

I have other glues in my collection as well, but they are for really limited uses, but here's a quick rundown:
  • Elmer's glue stick (good for almost nothing except temporary bonds of flat porous materials like paper and fabric)
  • School glue (being water-soluble even when dry, it's only good for temporarily bonding things that you later want to wash out. I got it to use as a substitute for wax-resist in fabric dyeing, but haven't actually tried that yet)
  • Temporary Fabric glue (When sewing, you can use it for basting instead of pins, which fall out, or a basting stitch, which my sewing machine doesn't have. Fabric glue is a little tackier than traditional white glue, so it attaches things more quickly and securely)


Bob V. said...

This post just came in handy. Thanks for the writing it!