You break a vase in the house – glue it back together. Your child has a school project – glue the pieces onto the poster board. You have unhemmed pants and a job interview – cuff, glue, and you’re out the door. We use glue in our lives significantly more than we actually think about, and we’ve all probably had our mix-ups and messes involving it. We generally reach for whichever glue we have in the junk drawer and think, “that’ll do,” without giving it much thought.
Glue, perhaps to your surprise, isn’t limited to the white classic paste for school projects and the clear stuff you accidentally cemented your hands together with as a child. There are tons of different kinds of glues and epoxies used for anything from macaroni sculptures to bonding steel to aluminum, and also stronger glues that are still being developed. Some glues are general purpose, and some are incredibly specific; however, rest assured that whatever your needs, there is probably a glue out there for you.
We’re going to explain how to glue every type of material you can think of, as well as which glues would be best for each scenario. That way, next time you need to glue something, you’ll be using the right tools for the job.
Why glue over other sticky options?
Some of us don’t keep a bottle of glue around the house because its messy and doesn’t work for us. Some people keep tape laying around and use that for their daily projects and small fixes around the house; however, there are a few problems with that. Tape can lose its ability to stick, it can be peeled or scratched off and it is a very visible band-aid solution to household problems.
On the flipside, glue can permanently bond materials together, provide an invisible solution to household projects and can’t be picked or scratched away as easily. Tape is for when you want to put notes on the wall or wrap your ankle after a sprain – not for sticking two things together. This is what glue was made for.
Instructions for gluing various materials
You just smear some on, stick it together and you’re done – right? Sometimes, yes; most of the time, no. There are many types of glue, and also many processes, considerations and measures you’ll have to take to effectively glue your materials, depending on what those materials are. Here is a comprehensive list of the types of glue you’re looking for and specific considerations for gluing any type of material:
Glass requires glue that dries clear because of its translucent properties. Regular superglue or glass-specific glues will do the trick nicely. If it’s a tough project, there are glass-specific glues that require UV light to dry (via sunlight) and are incredibly strong. Even coats are important if gluing long panes, so using a spare paintbrush or roller can help you avoid clumps for a smooth adhesion.
How you apply your glue will depend on the job you’re doing. If you’re repairing a piece of broken glass, clean both pieces with soap and water first. After drying, apply glue along the edges and firmly press the two pieces together (although don’t press too hard otherwise you risk breaking the pieces again). Ideally, hold the pieces press together for about a minute to ensure they set properly. Allow time to dry, and if there’s any excess glue sticking out, scrape it away with a razor blade.
For bonding plastic with plastic, there are several two-part epoxies out there available from your local hardware store that will bond the material together permanently. When using these epoxies, be sure to exercise caution and a steady hand, as these do not come off easily. Epoxies also generally require quite a bit of drying and solidifying time, so if you need a quick fix you might turn to plastic-specific superglue.
Either way, the glue process is nothing out of the ordinary here. Simply apply your glue, press your pieces together, and allow the necessary time to dry based on the glue you choose.
Wood is simple – just use wood glue. Wood glue is widely available and ultra-effective at bonding wood together, simply dab some in joints or roll it between veneers or layers. One thing to be aware of here is that wood should be clamped in order to bond properly. If you work in a woodshop, you should have plenty of these around. If you’re at home, try to find something else around the house that will press the pieces together (you could even load up a couple books on top of the pieces to weight them down, if nothing else is available). Be careful to clean off excess before it dries, because it can be a serious pain to remove.
Epoxies are best for ceramic. Many will use superglue, but the good thing about epoxy (that can save the woes of your mother-in-law noticing her gifted vase is chipped) is that it is also a gap-filler that can fill in any cracks or blemishes. It’s also got a much higher boiling temperature which is important considering ceramics often face high heat. Go slow when using epoxy, as it takes time to set.
Fabric glues can be found pretty much wherever fabric can be found. It isn’t a substitute for sewing, but it can hold fabric in the meantime. Once you apply glue to fabric make sure to pin it to give it time to dry and bond. If you’re trying to glue on a patch – patches are best done using an iron.
Metal is extremely finicky with adhesives. Super glue can be used for an instant, effective bond; but for a permanent adhesion, stick to a specially-designed metal epoxy. There are different kinds available for different metals, and each have their own instructions. Generally speaking, you will have to find a way to keep pressure between your pieces until the epoxy sets in order to get the best bond. As always, be cautious when using epoxy as it is highly adhesive and hard to remove.
PVC actually requires a few steps to adhere. The products you will need are solvent cement and a primer – these are generally sold together. As you may have guessed, you prime the material, let sit, then apply the solvent and twist together. This will temporarily melt a layer of PVC on each fitting to reform as one solid piece. The primer is pretty tame, but be sure to handle the solvent with extreme caution.
Like PVC, acrylic is also typically glued with solvents. Simply line the acrylic with the solvent, wait for a minute or two (or more, according to the directions) to wait for the surfaces to soften, then stick together and hold, waiting for the edges to re-form.
Plexiglass is generally just a large sheet of acrylic, so use the same methods discussed above. However, you may want to use a brush to avoid clumping, especially if working with large panes.
Leather-specific glue is pretty common on the market, and shouldn’t be too hard to find. Make sure to apply it only where you need it to avoid damaging the finish, and clamp together to dry.
Foam is generally best adhered with spray adhesive. These adhesives are available at any hardware store, and some general stores. Spray the adhesive on BOTH pieces of foam, wait a minute or two for the adhesive to become tacky and stick together. With spray adhesive, be careful of overspray and make sure to use it in a well-ventilated environment.
The best way to adhere Styrofoam is with a low-temperature hot glue gun. “Did I just read low-temperature and hot in the same sentence?” Yes, you did. Using regular hot glue guns can damage the Styrofoam via melting. Low-temperature varieties can be found online and in hardware stores to get the same adhesion without damaging the project.
Wrapping it up
Most materials can be bonded with some kind of glue, solvent or epoxy – it’s simply a matter of knowing which one to use and how to use it. Remember, whichever project you’re undertaking or glue you’re using, always read the instructions and pay special attention when reading the warnings.