Most of us are already familiar with what glues and adhesives do and their common uses. Although these products are fairly simple with well-defined uses, there exist quite a few types of adhesive products and choosing the right type depends on the task at hand. This guide covers some of the most common types of glues and adhesives, explore what each type is meant for and how to use them.
Let’s start with some general gluing tips before moving on to different types and applications.
Tips for Glue and Adhesive Application
- Plan ahead when using adhesives, including storage, where you’ll apply it and where you’ll leave it to dry. Trying to figure out these things in the middle of a project can become an issue, especially when you are in a rush
- The best practice in most cases is not to use adhesives in a closed space. Many adhesives contain dangerous chemicals, which if inhaled can become a real issue, especially if you regularly use them
- Read the instructions on the packing, especially when using a product for the first time
- Although the application process is fairly similar, not all adhesives are equal and work in the same way
- Clean the surfaces of materials you want to put an adhesive on and make sure there is no moisture, dirt or dust on it, which can weaken the bond between surfaces
- Score/sand certain materials lightly such as ceramics, wood and metals for a stronger bond
- Keep rags and a piece of cardboard handy before application, so you have something in case things get messy and you need something to clean up spills
- When working with joints, try applying super glue and rubber cement on both sides for a stronger bond
- Having someone to help you in large projects can come in very handy
- Tightly seal the adhesive tube/container immediately after use to prolong its effectiveness
- Wipe off the excess glue on the inside of bottle/tube cap before closing so you don’t have to struggle when opening it later
- Unused glue and adhesives can harden with the passage of time after which you might have to through them away, resulting in wastage. Most adhesives can be stored in a refrigerator for longer life, but make sure to keep them away from children’s reach
- Try applying the adhesive on a small area first to make sure it works as described
- Not all adhesives work well with very smooth and shiny surfaces. You can roughen the surface a bit using a sand paper for longevity and more bonding strength
- Applying too little or too much or applying the glue unevenly can affect the outcomes. It’s better to make line of beads to maximize distribution across the whole surface
- You can use a hair drier to quicken the drying/curation process, which can be helpful if you are in a hurry or using a glue that takes too much time to try
Types of Adhesives and Glues, Uses and Application
Many of us tend to use the same adhesive for multiple projects mostly because that’s the only option available. However, not all types of adhesives work well on every surface, so we need to be careful when choosing an adhesive. Picking the right one depends on different factors, including the type of materials, required bonding strength, weight, application and to some extent price. Here are the most common types of glues and adhesives and their appropriate uses.
As the name suggests, Wood Glue is made specifically for woodwork and secures wooden surfaces and wood joints. Different types of wood glue include epoxy, hide glue and PU (polyurethane) glue. Whether you are dealing with a project involving furniture or decorative items made of wood, you need wood glue in most jobs.
Although wood glue can have varying strength and qualities, they share some common properties including dampness and moisture resistant, excellent bonding strength and excellent ability to fill gaps (provided they are applied evenly over the surfaces).
Wood glue usually takes at least a couple of hours and usually around a day to set and completely dry. Pieces of wood glued together need to be pressed together firmly for glue to be effective.
The two-part adhesive usually consists of resin and the hardener, which mostly come packaged as a single unit. Some epoxy adhesives are material-specific such as wood, plastic and marble while other types are multi-purpose and made for general use. Epoxy has excellent ability to fill gaps, provides greater adhesive strength. it is a great option for repair projects requiring an adhesive that can hold up well in extreme conditions.
It’s very important to read the instructions about mixing and applying epoxy to make sure you mix it in the right proportion. You also need to apply it right after mixing by using a disposable applicator. Make sure to spread it evenly on the joints and surface to achieve desired results. High chemical resistance and thermal properties make epoxy adhesives a better choice for applications that require strength, clarity, flexibility and fast curing.
White Glue or Craft Glue
Being the most common type of glue, craft glue has a wide range of applications at home, schools and offices and is an essential product for crafters. It is used to attach paper and similar porous objects such as card sheets. Water-based craft glue is very easy to apply and has almost zero (or very low) toxicity, which makes it safe for kids.
White glue can also be easily cleaned from the skin and other surfaces, so there is not much to worry about spillage. It only takes a few minutes for white glue to dry. Compared to other types of glues you don’t need a lot of ventilation when applying white glue. But it’s still a good practice to use it in a ventilated space to avoid any smell. Glue tubes and bottles mostly come in with a narrow nozzle so it’s fairly easy to apply. You can also mix it with other materials such as glitter for different effects.
Glitter glue is a fancier version of white glue and very popular among kids. It allows them to experiment with their creative ideas using the shiny and shimmering adhesive. Glitter glue is mainly used for aesthetic purposes and not because of any specific functionality. Tts usage and application is the same as crafting glue.
Glue pens are designed to join small objects, fill small cracks and provide a smooth transparent finish. These pens have a transparent and quick drying liquid adhesive and have tips shaped differently for different projects.
Glue sticks are an essential component of childhood and craft starter kits. The plastic tubes contain soft and pasty glue roll that you can apply directly to the surface by rubbing. These sticks are only suitable for lightweight tasks that require very little adhesion such as holding paper, sealing envelopes, scrapbooking, paper crafting and labeling.
This type of glue is a specialized adhesive made for bonding fabric together. Most other types of adhesives don’t work well on fabrics. This makes fabric glue the appropriate option for different fabric-related tasks such as mending worn-out clothing like jeans and repairing old or damaged upholstery.
Fabric adhesives are available in different variations, but they share the common property of remaining flexible even after they have dried. Since these adhesives are waterproof, you can safety wash the clothes after the glue has dried.
Many fabric glues can be used just like crafting glue and come as ready-to-use products, while some are available in a webbing form. You need to melt such glues before applying it to fabrics. It’s a good practice to read the instructions as they can vary from one manufacturer to another.
It is another common type of glue that must be heated when applying using a glue gun. You can easily apply hot glue as it melts like normal liquid glue. It can be used on almost all materials except metal. It dries pretty fast and is easy to use, which is why it is used in so many household applications.
Hot glue is available in transparent and long sticks that you can put in a glue gun to melt and apply. The glue solidifies shortly after application. The sticks are available in different sizes and width for different applications.
The name itself suggests the excellent bonding ability of super glue. This ability makes it a more appropriate option for bonding heavier materials such as ceramic, metal, glass and wood. Being a cyanoacrylate adhesive, super glue provides quick adhesion and can form strong bonds in very little time. Because of the same properties, you also need to be extra careful when applying super glue and make sure it does not touch any part of your body.
When applying super glue, try not to apply too little or too much. The bonding strength depends on various factors, including coverage and surface contact. Super glue dries very quickly, so care is needed when applying it otherwise you might end up gluing your fingers.
PSAs (Pressure Sensitive Adhesives)
Also known as self-stick adhesive, PSAs are non-reactive and form a bond when pressure is applied. You don’t need any water, solvent or heat to apply PSAs. These are available in different shapes, including tapes, glue dots, labels, automobile trims and notepads. The amount of pressure you apply can influence the strength of bonding.
PSAs are usually used on plain surfaces and work best at room temperature. These adhesives are not suitable for very low or high temperatures. However, special PSAs are also available made specifically for extreme temperatures. PSAs have a wide range of applications, including small tasks such as craft projects, pasting notes pictures and other jobs such as HVAC duct work and sound dampening.
PSAs can either be temporary or permanent. Removable PSAs form a temporary bond and can be easily removed after some time without leaving any residue. Some PSAs are difficult to remove than others and you might need to use heat or an organic solvent to remove the adhesive without damaging the stuff it is adhered to.
These solidified adhesives are a variation of PSAs and available in sheets, rolls and dispensers, which makes application a lot easier. The sticky dots can be applied and removed fairly easily and are suitable for long-lasting bonds for small and lightweight objects. Glue dots can also be used as design elements to create dimensions.
Being a multi-purpose easy-to-use aerosol adhesive, spray glue can be used on a wide range or surfaces and have many applications. It is usually used in tasks that require to cover more area. Bonding strength mainly depends on the type of surface the spray glue is sprayed on. You need to use it in a well-ventilated area, preferably an open space and leave it there until the residue evaporates completely.
Using spray glue is simple and straight forward like using any spray paint. You just have to remove the cap, shake the bottle a little and spray on the desired area. Spray glue is more expensive with limited availability than other common types of adhesives. Choosing spray glue over other types depends on specific project requirements and many believe that it’s not worth the high price in most home and DYI projects.
PU is used in many types of adhesives and is also available under its own generic name. PU adhesives have many similarities with epoxy including the two-part system and mixing (some are also available as a one-part adhesive). It is suitable for projects that require high tensile strength such as fastening concrete, wood, glass, rubber, metals such as steel and aluminum, plastic and many other materials.
It is commonly used when an adhesive is required for permanent bonding. In most applications, you need to clamp the objects together tightly for 5-8 hours for greater bonding strength. PU adhesives can be removed before complete curation using solvents like acetone or mineral spirits. You need to sand it off if you want to remove it after completion of the curation process. We have already covered some of the best PU adhesives and tips for using them in separate posts.
Made of solvents that provide it a rubbery texture and elastic polymers, rubber cement is either material-specific or multi-purpose. That’s why you need to read the description and application instructions carefully to make sure you are using the right type of rubber cement. It is used in projects that require durable and strong bonds such as handicrafts and those that involve pasting (rubber cement can be rubbed off or peeled easily).
Knowing the key differences between different types of adhesives and glues can help a lot in DYI jobs and other projects, allowing users to select the most appropriate product. All adhesives help keep things from falling apart, but they differ in application and bonding strength. Make sure to read the instruction before using any adhesive and teach children about how to use them properly. It’s a good practice to give them water based and non-toxic glues and adhesives to minimize risks of any damage.