The Crafter's Glue Guide

Sometimes I think half of my crafting life is spent sticking one thing to another thing—and when those two things don't stick together, I get very annoyed. Unfortunately, sometime after 5th grade, you discover that Elmer's can't hold everything together, just many things. Here is my knowledge about glue and how to stick things together accumulated in one place.

Glue Types

White Craft Glue - Also known as Elmer's glue, though there's plenty of other makers. Its ideal use is to adhere paper to paper. It dries clear, but not perfectly clear. It only works on very porous objects. It's great for making a temporary bond before using something else to make the full bond. It can't take washing, and can't hold heavy objects together. Its biggest strengths are that it comes in non-toxic varieties for kids and can be easily washed off of hands and surfaces.

Super Glue - Also Crazy Glue, or instant glue, and made by many manufacturers. It dries very quickly and creates a strong bond between most objects. Some of them claim to dry clear or nearly clear, but don't trust that. Not good for use on jewelry, because the super glue can create a gross film on anything it touches and also creates little bumps where the crafter accidently got it outside of where they meant to. It can withstand water, but not washing. I've heard it works better than E6000 on some plastics, but I haven't tested this myself. Also, it's not flexible, which means anything that will be bending or twisting will break free eventually (like jewelry findings). Over time, the bond seems to degrade faster than that of glues like E6000 or a glue gun. Its biggest strength is the fast bond and strong bond on many objects, but the marks it leaves and the annoyance of gluing your hand to your project move it down off of my favorites list.

Glue Gun - Glue gun glue is heated, and oozes out of the gun to be put on any project. It is clear and slightly flexible, and works well on most surfaces (wood, metal, some plastics, fabric). It dries faster than fabric glue or craft glue, but not as fast as super glue. It can be peeled off of some non-porous surfaces, like glass. It can hold up to washing a few times, but not for long. Future applications of heat will weaken it again, so don't use it on something that will reach 100+ degrees regularly. Also, because the glue is hot on application, it can't be used on meltable materials (like styrofoam or nylon). Glue guns are a crafter's best friend, and for good reason: the bond is nearly as good as that of E6000 but you don't have to wait as long for it to dry.

Fabric Glue - Fabric glues dry almost clear, and dry about as quickly as a white craft glue will. Its ideal use is fabric to fabric, and it can also be used to glue rhinestones to fabric. Its biggest strength is that it can withstand washing and dry cleaning, though not as well as good old sewing. The glue will stiffen the fabric it's used on, so be aware of that. My uses: gluing felt to felt for appliques, gluing fabric to paper for a card, gluing fabric to fabric for an easy seam on projects that won't be worn or washed, and as a replacement for basting/pinning before sewing.

E6000 - Industrial strength E600 is a clear drying, flexible epoxy that works well on wood, metal, glass, ceramics, rubber, vinyl, leather and (most) plastic. Think rubber cement but much better. It dries very clear, though can form air bubbles if you're trying to use it as a sealant. It can be hard to get the exact perfect amount of glue, and can goop out the side a little if you're trying to glue back together a broken vase—luckily, it rubs off like rubber cement until it's dry. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to make two items stick together, and at least a full 24 hours for the bond to really set in. It's biggest strength is its strength, even when trying to glue metal to metal. If used properly, it's very unlikely a human will be able to pry the two pieces apart anytime in the next few years. Its weaknesses are styrofoam and gluing things that aren't laying flat —it takes so long to dry that gravity will move things around before the bond sets in. My uses: gluing magnets to glass, extra security on findings in jewelry making, gluing rhinestones to wood and canvas, gluing shells to glass.

Modge Podge - This is a clear drying glue that is meant to be used as a sealant more than to hold things together. It's used when doing decoupage, it comes in glossy and matte finishes, and in many brands other than actual Modge Podge. The ultimate decoupage glue craft project involves piling pictures and papers on a wooden table, and creating a new clear surface over the papers with lots of Modge Podge. Different brands of decoupage glue do better than others, but none of them create as perfect of a surface as they'd have you think—in humid, warm climates a craft like the table will feel slightly sticky when you rest your arms on it. To fix this, apply a clear varnish over the glue. It's also important to use a coaster and not leave standing water on a decoupaged surface.

Glue Tips

These are just some general tips about when and how to use glue on different projects.

  • If you're having a hard time securing two things together, try putting a strip of fabric or paper in between it. IE, if you're having problems gluing beads to a piece of rubber, sew the beads to some ribbon then glue the ribbon to the rubber.
  • When working with E6000 and other slow drying glues at odd angles, taping an item down with plain old clear Scotch tape is an easy alternative to using a clamp (just be careful not to move the item as you tape it down).
  • Secure findings to jewelry the normal way, then put a tiny dab of glue on it (usually E6000).
  • Rhinestones glued to t-shirts never last as long as you hope they will. You can use fabric glue and settle for a 3 month t-shirt, or give in and buy a rhinestone applier with metal backings.
  • If you plan to sell many of an item, put some serious thought into what glue you use. There are literally hundreds of different glues out there, and you might discover that using one which is UV resistant will help your windchimes last years longer (for an example).
  • If you're getting annoyed with how long it takes for E6000 to stick, put the glue on the surface then just hold the surface for about 5 minutes before pressing it to the other item. Also, try bringing a space heater into your work space. The goal is to warm up the room by 5 or 10 degrees, not to put the space heater near the glue.
  • Cut down on glue gun stringiness by cleaning the head of your glue gun regularly (while it's cold!). I've heard a dryer sheet works well for removing little strings of glue. For hardy projects, pick off what strings you can, then use a blow dryer on high heat to melt the strings back onto the project.
  • When gluing glass together, E6000 will work on rough cabochans and shapes, but if both pieces of glass are slick use aquarium bonding cement.
  • When decoupaging, first go through and use a small dot of white craft glue to secure down a picture, and let it dry. This prevents the papers from moving when you're applying a product like Modge Podge.