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A Glue Glossary: The Best Adhesives & When to Use Them

April  7, 2017

I have a drawer just for adhesives in my storage unit at home. There are so many varieties of glue in the world! Combined, they can solve just about any household snafu or help finish off any DIY project.

All the glues you need. Photo by James Ransom

Below, my favorite types, brands, and how to use them all:

Craft Glue

  • Brand I like: Aleene's Original Tacky Glue
  • Uses: For small craft and hobby projects, including paper projects. It's great for gluing paper to just about anything and is my go-to for smaller, bitsy craft projects that don't entail heavy-duty materials like metal. It's also great for small, odd objects: shells, buttons, etc. Aleene's is water-based and non-toxic, and comes in varying sizes (I recommend the largest one available as I use it so often). The only downside here is that it's a little thick and therefore takes some time to dry—but there's a quick-dry version if you're in a hurry!
Aleene's Original Tacky Glue

Wood Glue

  • Brand I like: I've always reached for Elmer's!
  • Uses: For craft projects involving wood-to-wood adhesion (especially larger wood objects, where craft glue just won't do the trick). Wood glue is great for projects around the house, too—that loose knob or chipped piece wood furniture in need of a quick repair.
Elmer's Wood Glue

Fabric Glue

  • Brand I like: Magna Tac
  • Uses: For gluing fabric to fabric (lace, leather, denim, etc!) and non-fabric materials to fabric (beads, trim, metal embellishments). This bond takes a bit longer to set (24 hours), but it's worth it: That patch for your jean jacket isn't going anywhere.
Magna Tac Fabric Glue


  • Brand I like: Mod Podge
  • Uses: Decoupage glue doubles as an adhesive and a sealant. It's miraculous and dries clear—perfect for adhering specialty paper, photos, fabric, or most small objects to multiple surfaces, especially wood. I like to think of it as another version of a laminator! Whatever you're adhering truly stays put under a magic blanket of clear, adhesive coating.
Mod Podge Decoupage

Liquid Stitch

  • Brand I like: Dritz
  • Uses: This non-toxic, permanent fabric adhesive is best when used on porous fabrics (not to be used on heavier denim, canvas, linen, etc). It's perfect for mending rips or tears as it literally stalls the damage. Hence the name. I use Liquid Stitch to stop cut fabric from fraying.
Dritz Liquid Stitch

Spray Mount

  • Brand I like: 3M Spray Mount Adhesive
  • Uses: Spray mount is so cool. This adhesive is just the ticket for more serious paper projects when you really want to get a perfect, clean (and strong!) adhesion—it leaves little room for imperfections (like when the ends of a piece of paper want to stick up). Spray mount is also the best option when adhering paper to any surface (or, paper to paper like this recent envelope lining project). Also, it's re-positionable! Once you spray, you have a few moments to move whatever you are glueing around. Best to use this glue near an open window and be sure to cover any surface you are spraying on (or you may be sticking to that surface for weeks to come).
3M Spray Mount

High-Performance Permanent Glue

  • Brand I like: E6000
  • Uses: This is a real-deal, permanent glue—for those heavy-duty projects entailing wood, metal, concrete, glass, you name it. I've used it to fix the handle of broken ceramic mug at home and a chipped planter. I prefer this adhesive for projects that adhere two strong substances: a copper end-cap and wood (this project), metal to metal (this project), or glass and just about anything!

Hot Glue Gun

  • Brand I like: Any! You cannot go wrong.
  • Uses: Great for all craft projects that are relatively small-scaled (glueing plastic to plastic, plastic to metal, odd objects to anything! (I once covered an entire headband blank with 200 mini acorns using a glue gun). It's probably the glue I use most, as it's hands-down the quickest way to get one relatively simple material to stick to another—though I wouldn't use it for heavier objects. Remember, it's HOT. Like, really hot, and not advisable to use around or with kids unless you're the only one in control of it.
Blusmart Hot Glue Gun

What glues would you prefer not to live without? Tell us in the comments.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Glitterglue
  • isw
  • amysarah
  • Smaug
  • foofaraw


Glitterglue August 1, 2020
I use Aleene's original tacky its very convenient 2 use its not supper messy. (Depends i guess.)drys clear and you can find it just about any where you shop 😉 Also The E 6000 IS GREAT STRONG GLUE! I definitely give it a 9.5, "Aleene's" I give a 9.9 only because I use it more within my work. Thank u! Ak from socal
isw April 8, 2017
A couple you didn't mention:
RTV (stuff that smells like vinegar) is almost *never* the right solution (or even a good one), but on rare occasions, it is the *only* solution. And if you don't know about mixing it with cornstarch to make a moldable compound, google around for "Oogoo".
Then there's "Instant glue", which is also frequently a bad choice but once in a while ...
And there's a nifty material you can make by mixing it with baking soda; again, google around.
amysarah April 7, 2017
I've used so much Spray Mount in my life, it's amazing I don't have brain damage from the fumes (or maybe that explains a lot.) But any mention of Spray Mount must also include Bestine - rubber glue solvent, aka Acetone (plus its iconic cone shaped metal dispenser with a nozzle.) Makes re-positioning far easier - also a simple rubber 'pickup' is indispensable for cleaning edges.

In the land before time, I spent many summers as slave labor in graphic studio 'bullpens.' As huge an advance as computer graphics are, I miss that tactile part of it...don't get me started on the guys who could replicate any typeface freehand - lost art. But I digress...
Smaug April 7, 2017
I'm not sure what Elmer's offers- the generally preferred brand for wood glue is Titebond; they also have Titebond II (highly water resistant) and Titebond III 9essentially water proof)- TB III also has a relatively long open time. In a pinch, white glue can serve. Surprised the author doesn't mention cyanoacrylates (superglue)-there are now many types developed for specific needs. Epoxies (available in small quantities in double syringes, very convenient) are the old reliable for indestructible bonds, gap filling and difficult materials; theree are quick versions, and formulations for various preferred usages. Gorilla glue (polyurethane- there are other brands too) is tricky to use, and probably not good for craft purposes. There is also hot melt polyurethane; this is an amazing performer, making instant, near indestructible bonds similar to epoxy, but requires a special applicator; the only consumer-grade one I know of had some real problems for me, Some plastics are best bonded with specialized glues that melt the pieces together- essentially a weld; you need to know the type of plastic. There are many others available- lot of chemists in the world.
foofaraw April 8, 2017
Another vote to Titebond III for the wood glue. It is proven to be stronger than Elmers Gorilla glue, etc , .