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Glue Buying Guide

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Sticky News You Can Use

Glue makers have enlisted snarling rhinos, glaring gorillas, and sumo wrestlers to tout their promises of "incredible strength," "truly all-purpose," and "Glues whatever. Bonds forever." But those claims didn't stick in our lab tests.

Most of the multipurpose adhesives, superglues, epoxy, and wood glues that we tested were adequately strong for their intended purpose. But no single adhesive worked for everything—and a few barely worked at all.

Convenience Comes in a Tube

Many superglues are now sold in single-use sizes, and manufacturers sell packs with two, four, and even up to a dozen tubes. That means dried-up, half-used tubes of superglue are a thing of the past. "The tubes got smaller because people complained they'd go back to reuse the glue and it was too hard and crusty," says David Nick, a consultant to the adhesives industry. None of the tested glues had an expiration date, so if you have a lot of repairs or projects, buy multipacks to save money.

One Type can Pose Health Issues
Polyurethane glues can cause skin irritations and respiratory problems, and subsequent exposure to them could cause stronger reactions.

Of less concern but more common are fingers stuck together with superglue. "Soak your glued fingers in warm, soapy water," Dr. says James S. Taylor, M.D., a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said. Then ; gently separate the skin with a soft spatula. If water doesn't work, use acetone or nail-polish remover. Taylor cautions that both of those materials could irritate your skin.

No matter which adhesive you use, carefully follow the directions and safety information on the package. And wear thick rubber or vinyl gloves and work in a well-ventilated location or outdoors.

Doing It Right
Don't make the mistake of using the wrong glue for the job. If you're working with an item for the outdoors, for example, choose a water-resistant glue. And although some multipurpose glues do well with wood, we recommend that you use a wood glue for wood projects. Types will tell you which glues are right for which materials and tasks.

Don't Expect Miracles
Whatever you're gluing together must have a clean break of the kind you'd expect from broken ceramic or glass; if you're using superglue, the two parts must fit together perfectly with no gaps. And if you're gluing unlike materials, you'll need a glue that's suitable for both, if possible, for satisfactory results.

Pay Attention to Color
The Devcon Plastic Steel 5-Minute Epoxy, $4.25, for instance, dries dark gray, but some adhesives come in other colors. If there's a chance that the glue will be seen after it has dried, use one that is colorless after drying.

Use the Right Amount
Remember this mantra of proper gluing: Less is more. Use the minimal amount of adhesive needed to get the job done.

To control how much you apply, squirt some onto a piece of aluminum foil or the product's plastic packaging. Use a toothpick or a wood or plastic coffee stirrer to apply the glue. (Some two-part epoxies come with a plastic paddle for mixing.) Immediately wipe up any excess glue that comes out of the joint as you work.

Make It Last
Extend the shelf life of a glue by squeezing excess air out of the tube, cleaning up adhesive around the opening, and replacing the cap tightly. Store the unused portion in a cool, dry place that's out of the sunlight.

Be Patient
Despite what might be indicated on the package or label, avoid putting a heavy load on a glued joint until the adhesive has set for a full 24 hours.

A Type of Glue for Every Job

Use on wood and plastic; many can handle ceramic and some metals. Polyurethane excels at filling gaps, resists water on wood, and dries in 24 hours or less. Contact cement dries in as little as 16 hours.
Polyurethane expands, requires clamping, and might cause skin and respiratory reactions. Don't use contact cement near a heater or an open flame. Sand or scrape polyurethane to undo it; use special solvent for a contact cement.

Use on plastic or wood; most also intended for ceramic. A drop will do. Fast setting makes clamping unnecessary, but it's still useful to align pieces with tape.
Don't use for filling gaps. Don't assume water resistance. Good fit needed for strongest bond. It can bond skin, and its vapors are irritating. Seals are tough to break; use acetone or nail-polish remover.

Wood Glue
Use on wood repairs. All did a fine job filling gaps; most made strong joints. Safe to handle; washes off with water while wet.
Tips: Figure 24 to 72 hours for drying. Clamping usually required. Some are not very water resistant. Bonds are tough to undo; scrape the glue with tools.

Quick-Set Two-Part Epoxy
Use on wood and rigid materials where you want fast results; most are also intended for ceramics. Very good at filling gaps and generally water resistant. Epoxy comes in a two-piece syringe.
You need to mix the two parts to activate. Drying time is 24 hours. Some quick-set epoxies irritate skin and emit vapors. Use a hammer and chisel to undo the bond.

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