If you’re in a hurry, have a clothing emergency, or looking to do away with seams, you may have wondered if you should use super glue. But is it a good idea? Can you use super glue on fabric? It’s a good question. Many times, I’ve put super glue on fabric. With two young kids in school, you can’t imagine the number of times I’ve had to quickly come up with a costume or had to help with creative school projects that entailed cloth.
As a busy mom, I’ve needed to come up with quick solutions and learned the hard way that yes, you can technically use super glue to fuse fabric together, but it isn’t the best solution. First of all, super glue isn’t made to work with fabric. Since it’s designed to work with stiffer and less porous materials, super glue will easily and quickly seep through the cloth and create stains. It can even be a fire hazard.
In a perfect world, we’d all have time to sew beautiful clothes and make neat-looking seams. However, what if we’re in a hurry and only have time to smear super glue for the latest costume or school project? In this article, I’ll share with you a few tidbits about super glue, what to expect if you super glue fabrics together, how it works on different fabrics, and what you can use instead.
What Is Super Glue?
Super glue comes in little magic tubes that can easily create a strong bond with almost any material. The industrial name of super glue is “cyanoacrylate glue,” and more commonly referred to as “crazy glue.”
As you know, super glue is very handy to have around the house. From metal, plastic, wood, paper, and fabric, you can use super glue to bring together all types of material. It is primarily produced using acrylic resin to create a quick and efficient bond that can potentially glue different objects together for a long time.
How Does Super Glue Work?Unlike traditional glues and adhesives, super glue requires special bonding conditions that rely on moisture-dense objects. If you try to superglue two overly dry objects together, they can render the glue ineffective and won’t produce the gluing effect you’re looking for.
To work well, super glue relies on the curing process, which means that the liquid needs to harden and become plasticized. However, this can only happen if there is a degree of moisture on the surface of the materials you’re trying to stick together. In most cases, little or much moisture is present on objects, so the glue accomplishes its task easily and quickly.
In such cases, the cyanoacrylate molecules react with the moisture on the surface to establish a solid and tight chain between the surfaces of the two materials. As soon as the glue comes in contact with the surface’s moisture, it creates a plastic mesh that becomes stronger as the glue hardens. This mesh is what keeps the two surfaces firmly together.
If the objects you’re trying to fuse together are too dry and keep you from successfully initiating the curing process, you can apply a layer of water on both surfaces before using the glue to bind them. Keep in mind that certain objects may not react well with moisture and can repel the water because of the way they’re made. On surfaces like heat-resistant plastic, I recommend you use epoxy resin before applying super glue.
You must have noticed by now that among the objects that superglue works well with is human skin. Since our skin provides just the right amount of moisture (and sweat), it’s really easy to have a super glue-related mishap, so be careful when working with it.
Can You Use Super Glue On Fabric?
Super glue isn’t the best option for fabrics. It doesn’t react well with cloth since they’re too porous and aren’t hard enough. If you wash them, the glue washes away and will most likely leave a hard and unattractive patch of plasticized glue. This residue will, in turn, make the fabric stiff and will inevitably affect its softness and drape.
It can even be a fire hazard since super glue rapidly polymerizes and burns the fiber by generating excessive heat when it comes in contact with cotton, wool, or any other piece of cloth.
If you’re determined to superglue cloth, consider fabric glue. It works in the same way as super glue and is designed to work with cotton, leather, wool, denim, and vinyl. Fabric glue won’t stain your clothes as much as super glue would. However, it still shares some similarities with super glue in the sense that it can be washed away when you do laundry, so it’s best to use it for small embellishments and temporary applications.
Does Super Glue Work on Fabric?
While you can use super glue to quickly mend a tear or patch up your clothes, super glue won’t work on fabrics over the long haul. If you must use it and there are no other alternatives, consider it a temporary fix.
It’s also less reliable since the glue that forms will be weak and easy to pull apart. While super glue generally creates a good bond, it isn’t very flexible, unlike cloth which is more pliable and soft.
You’ll also need to be careful when applying super glue since the excessive application can make your clothes stiff, limit your movement, and can make wearing them an unpleasant experience.
How To Use Super Glue on Fabric
Fabrics are made to have flow and movement, but super glue works best on stiff and less flowy objects. If you use it on fabric, it’s unlikely that the bond created will remain for very long.
However, for times when using super glue on fabric can’t be avoided, remember the following:
- Use a very light layer of glue on the fabric.
- To make the adhesion stronger, wet the fabric a little bit before supergluing.
- Movement while you’re wearing the fabric can cause the super glue to become flaky and lose adhesion. It’s best to use it in areas of your clothing that don’t get a lot of stretch and movement.
- To prevent damage to your clothes or fabrics, read the care and maintenance tags on your clothes thoroughly before applying super glue.
- Super glue is only effective on fabrics when used for short periods and as a temporary fix. To minimize any damage to your clothes, wash the remaining residue off when convenient.
Why Does Super Glue Get Hot on Fabric?
When super glue is applied to the fabric, you might notice that the fabric begins rising in temperature from the glue and burns the fibers.
Why does this happen? The answer: spontaneous combustion. Upon applying super glue to fabric, energy is released in the form of heat. This is one of the chief reasons why super glue is not recommended for fabrics.
If not adequately dealt with, this rapid chemical reaction can emit enough heat from the fabric and lead to minor burns on the skin. If the amount of glue applied to the fabric is too much, the fabric can combust into a full-fledged flame.
How Does Super Glue Affect Different Fabrics?
Despite all the disadvantages, there might be times when we’re short on options, and putting super glue on fabric can’t be avoided. For instances like these, it’s good to know how it will react with different types of clothing. Let’s take a look.
Super glue tends to react with cotton fibers and can easily generate a fire. Unless you want to impress everyone by how quickly you can create a flame in a survival situation, using super glue on cotton should be avoided.
Seriously though, don’t underestimate the potential chemical reaction. This article talks about it and shows how easily it can happen.
Applying super glue on polyester fabric can significantly affect its longevity. You may end up with a massive stain on your polyester clothes and ruin them.
Nylon is a porous and polished material that does not adhere to any fabric easily. You cannot use just any type of glue when you are working with it. It’s safe to say that super glue is not the best long-term option for nylon fabrics.
Leather will lose its ability to move and flow around freely if it is subjected to super glue. The excessive application of super glue on leather fabric can make it brittle and rigid.
While you might still use super glue during clothing emergencies, at least now you’ll know what to expect and why you need to be careful.
How To Remove Super Glue From Fabric
When we’re dealing with super glue, we’re never far from the topic of how to remove it. It’s just too easy to accidentally apply too much of it or spill drops in unintended places. But don’t worry because the next time it happens, you’ll now know what to do.
Here’s how to deal with a super glue emergency:
- If there’s only a light layer on the fabric and it hasn’t dried yet, just wash it off. There’s a good chance it’ll come off with water and detergent.
- Got super glue on delicate fabrics like lace or silk? Your best bet so the fabric doesn’t get damaged is to send it off for dry cleaning.
- Has the super glue been there a while and become completely dry? Try scraping it off with the edge of a spoon or a coin. However, note that doing so might tear the fabric, especially if the glue has become thoroughly enmeshed with the fibers.
- If the fabric isn’t damaged with acetone (you can check by doing a small patch test), you can use an acetone-soaked cotton ball to coax the super glue off the fabric.
Unfortunately, clothing emergencies and super glue are a fact of life. While we know better, sometimes there’s just no avoiding them. I’ve been guilty of putting super glue on fabric too many times myself.
It took me a couple of ripped fabrics and a few clothes I can no longer wear before I purchased my first tube of fabric glue. Now, I even have one of those small sewing kits in my purse at all times.
Wherever you are in your super glue learning curve, I know that in time you’ll learn to be more prepared like I have. In the meantime, here’s to super glue and the many things you can do with it. (You may want to seriously keep it away from cotton, though.)
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