what is pva glue?

What Is PVA Glue? Uses, Pros, Cons, & Best Types

When it comes to woodworking, one of the materials that I guarantee that you will eventually find yourself using is PVA glue. So you may have asked yourself what is PVA glue? Its also known by its full name Polyvinyl Acetate, many newbie woodworkers have often asked me several questions about this adhesive, including what exactly is it, what is it used for, and the pros & cons of it, among other things.

A quick answer to what is PVA glue? PVA glue is a synthetic polymer used as an adhesive for porous materials. PVA glue is used to secure or “paste” things like clothing, paper, and wood, among other things. It’s a very versatile adhesive, not only because you can use it in many different materials, but also because it’s inexpensive.

PVA glue was first introduced more than 100 years ago by Fritz Klatte, and it has become a fundamental part of any DIYer kit. However, it’s important that you make sure you know how to use it properly. If you are interested in knowing more about the pros & cons of this adhesive, the best PVA glues on the market, and more general information about this adhesive, please check below!

Check out this Titebond PVA glue over on Amazon if you just want to cut to the chase. 

Most Common Uses Of PVA Glue

strongest wood glueFirst of all, I think it’s important that we mention the most common uses of PVA glue. As I said above, this is a very versatile adhesive, so no matter if you are looking to glue together 2 pieces of wood, or work on an art project, I’m sure you can find this adhesive useful. Anyways, these are the most common uses of this product

Woodworking

Woodworking and PVA glue go hand in hand. In fact, PVA glue is almost exclusively used for modest woodworking projects because it does a great job of gluing pieces of wood together while at the same time being easy to apply and cheap to purchase.

While you could technically use epoxy or polyurethane for joining wood joints, they tend to be more expensive materials.. 

If you are interested in using PVA adhesive to glue pieces of wood, then let me tell you that the type of PVA glue you use will depend a lot on the kind of work you are doing. For smaller pieces of wood, any type of PVA glue will suffice, but if you are thinking of leaving the wood outside where it can get wet or you are thinking of working with bigger, heavier pieces, then you might have to use wood glue for it, which is a type of PVA glue that tends to hold materials better and for a longer time, plus it tends to be waterproof or at least water resistant.

Bookbinding

bookbinding

Another very common use of PVA glue is for bookbinding. If you do not know what that is, then let me tell you that It refers to the process of assembling a book using several materials, including paper, the book cover, and obviously, the glue! PVA glue is so commonly used for this purpose that several manufacturers have made special adhesives made specifically for this purpose. 

PVA glue is a great choice for bookbinding primarily because it doesn’t dry as quickly as other glue types, plus it’s much easier to apply, something that can’t be said for other types of glues out there. PVA glue is also often used for this purpose because it’s so versatile. This is because it can be mixed with other substances to lengthen it’s already lengthy drying time, perfect if you are looking for the perfect paper alignment. There are even some bookbinders that like to get creative with it, mixing it with coloring dyes for a cool effect that goes very well with the paper being pasted.

Art Projects & Crafts

When it comes to art projects, PVA glue reigns supreme. From kindergarten kids using Elmer’s glue in art class to hobbyists working on an airplane model, this type of adhesive is used by pretty much anybody involved in crafts. The first reason why is that it’s non-toxic. Since many people doing art projects tend to work on them indoors, glue that produces toxic fumes is a no-no. PVA glue is a solid replacement because the scent it emits is not going to negatively affect your body, but not only that, it’s a solid choice for kid’s projects because consuming it is not going to hurt their bodies either.

PVA glue is also very often used for working with mosaics, especially if they are going to be set indoors. Common brands used for this purpose include Weldbond and Macglue. It’s not as popular for outdoor use because (most) PVA glue tends to only be water resistant to a degree, and because of this it tends to be replaced by epoxy and other types of glue, which have their own cons, such as being a drag to use.

Gluing Leather

leather shoes

While typically not the first choice of most, PVA glue will also do a good job of gluing leather. Not only will it make sure the material stays well adhered to its surface, It’s not going to damage the leather at all, making PVA glue use a possibility on materials such as leather shoes, handbags, and more. 

However, PVA glue is typically not the first choice for working with leather because of the fact that after you paste something with it, you can’t really reverse it without doing some damage to the leather, unlike other types of adhesives out there. If you are looking to use PVA glue to work on leather, I would advise that you use an adhesive like wheat paste if you think you might want to reverse what you have done at a later date without any repercussions. 

There are many other uses of PVA glue, such as pasting wallpapers, using it as a primer, and more. So whether you are working on a new dining table, are looking to glue the joints of a shelf, or are just working on an art project, you can’t go wrong with PVA glue. Just make sure you buy the correct type of adhesive for whatever you are doing. This means buying wood glue for gluing joints or water-resistant glue for projects that are going to be left outside where water can reach them. 

Pros & Cons Of Using PVA Glue For Your Projects

Now as I said above, PVA glue is among the most popular adhesives for many kinds of activities, but it’s by no means perfect. Like anything else in this world, It has it’s pros & cons, so because of that, I think it’s important that we talk about them a bit so that you can compare it with other types of glues on the market!

PROSCONS
More Than Adequate Binding Strength For Most Projects
Very Accessible & Cost-Effective
Completely Non-Toxic
Some PVA Glues Are Not Waterproof
PVA Glue is slow to dry

Pros Of PVA Glue

  • More Than Adequate Binding Strength For Most Projects: Among the reasons why PVA glue is so popular these days is because it will be strong enough for 99% of projects. As you probably know, there are several different types of PVA glues which are specifically made for pasting different materials, including PVA woodworking glue, craft glue, school glue, and more. Woodworking glue in particular will be strong enough for pretty much 99% of projects that you use in on, not just wood. However, where PVA glue falls short is in pasting plastic materials. So if you need to work with plastic materials, specifically things like PVC plastic and the like, it would be wise to use a different type of adhesive, preferably epoxy.
  • Very Accessible & Cost Effective: Aside from the fact that PVA glue provides more than adequate binding strength for most projects, one of its greatest pros is that it’s very affordable these days. Of course, this is going to vary depending on the brand and type of PVA glue that you purchase, but in general, it’s going to be much more affordable than other types of adhesives on the market, with prices ranging from 20-25 dollars for a gallon of PVA wood glue. It also tends to be the easiest type of adhesive to find because it’s so demanded. 
  • Completely Non-Toxic: If you are working indoors, then you really want to work with non-toxic materials that won’t affect your body short & long term. This is where PVA comes in: 99% of these glues are non-toxic, which is why they are so used in school settings. The fumes this glue emmits won’t hurt you at all, and there are even some folks that say that you technically could eat PVA glue without anything bad happening to your body. While I wouldn’t take it that far, the truth is that this is a very safe substance fit for all ages.

Cons Of PVA Glue

  • Most PVA Glues Are Not Waterproof: One of the main disadvantages of this type of glue is the fact that 99% of them are not fully waterproof, which means that you can’t really use it as an adhesive in things like boats, or anything that you might leave outdoors. Some PVA glues these days are water resistant, but this only means that it can withstand light contact with water, but nothing too extreme like full on submersion or anything like that. There are a few PVA glues that are marketed as waterproof, but still, even those will be affected by humidity. Because of this, I would personally recommend that you use a different type of adhesive if you are looking to fix or paste things that are going to be in constant contact with water.
  • PVA Glue Is Slow To Dry: This can actually be a pro or a con depending on the person using the glue. The truth is that most types of PVA glue are going to take a long time to completely dry, with 12-24 hours of drying time being very common. Because of this, using this type of adhesive isn’t a good idea if you are on a hurry. The time it takes to dry will also vary depending on factors like the ambient temperature and the type of material being glued.

Types Of PVA Glue 

As I mentioned above, there are 2 main types of PVA glue that are ideal for specific materials. After all, you wouldn’t use school glue for a woodworking project. Below I will talk about the differences between each of them and which ones should you choose for which project:

Woodworking Glue:

As the name implies, this glue is made specifically for pasting wood pieces together. Typically found in a tan or yellowish color, the best thing about this PVA glue is the fact that it’s bonding strength is pretty much unmatched for working with wood. While you technically could use other types of PVA glue for working with wooden materials, wood glue is what’s recommended since it’s so affordable and easy to find, plus it tends to last for much longer than other types of PVA glue.

Check out this Titebond PVA glue over on Amazon. 

Another big pro of it is the fact that there are several water resistant versions of this type of adhesive. In fact, there are some manufacturers that even claim that their products are waterproof, perfect if you are looking to work on a bench to leave outside in your patio or anything similar. 

School/Craft Glue:

Also known as white glue, this is the type of adhesive you used in 2nd grade art class. It’s almost always found in a white color, and its especially good for working with paper materials. If you or your kids are doing an art project where you are going to be working with a lot of paper, then this is the type of glue that you want. There are several brands available in the market, but 99% of people prefer elmer.

How To Remove PVA Glue

If you made a mistake when gluing something and now you want to remove the dried PVA glue, then let me tell you that there are a few things you can do about it. Below I provide several methods you can use to get rid of dried PVA glue, and the method that you choose will depend on which material is the glue stuck on. 

Removing PVA Glue From Clothing

The first step is to heat up some water. It doesn’t have to be boiling for this to work, but the hotter it is, the better. Also, if your clothes shrink with hot water, then you could always work with warmer water instead. 

After the water is hot, you are going to submerge the clothing into the water. If the glue has a some time already in your clothes, you could also use soap or detergent on the glue stain. Doing so will help you remove the glue stains much more quickly.

After this, you should be able to remove the glue stain very quickly. Simply remove the clothing for the water and the glue should be easily removable with your fingers. 

Removing PVA Glue From Wood

Unlike Removing glue from clothing, this one can be a little bit trickier, and it may not even be possible depending on how well did the glue bond itself to the wood.

The first step is heating up the glue with a blow dryer or a heat gun. You are going to do this for about 5 minutes, and you should notice the glue softening up a little.

After this if you are trying to remove the wood from a joint, you should try to remove the glue creeping outside of it. If not, try to remove the softened wood with a paint scraper in a firm, but gentle way.

Continue doing this until you have removed all the glue.

Alternatives To PVA Glue

Aside from PVA glue, there are many other different types of adhesives out there in the market that you could also consider if you don’t want to use this one. As I said in this article, they all have their pros & cons, making them a better choice than PVA glue for some situations.

Epoxy Glue

epoxy glue

One of the most popular adhesives out there is epoxy, and this is because it’s perhaps one of the strongest ones you can find on the market today. This is the glue that you want to use if you are going to be working with bigger pieces of wood that require a stronger bond or if you are looking to paste wood to a non porous surface like metal and plastic. 

It also is a great choice if you are going to be leaving the glued material outside with frequent contact with water. This is because most types of epoxy are very waterproof, in fact, there are some epoxy glues made specifically towards boating applications because it’s going to do such a great job in that kind of environment.  

The problem with this glue though is the fact that it requires some preparation on your part. Depending on the kind of epoxy that you use, there’s the chance that you are going to have to buy a special syringe plus you are also going to have to swirl the products together to create the final mix. Some people find this tedious and avoid using it just because of this reason. 

Epoxy also tends to be more expensive than PVA glue. It’s not a significant difference but if you are going to be using a lot of this product, then the prices can add up. That’s why I would recommend only using epoxy glue if the situation really calls for it.

Polyurethane Glue

Polyurethane glue differs from PVA glue by the fact that it’s a much more versatile adhesive. While you can’t use PVA glue for bindings things like metal or plastic materials, you can do that with this adhesive, perfect if you have a project where you need to use a diverse set of materials. 

Also, polyurethane glue is popular in woodworking because it tends to expand minutes after applied. This means that the glue covers a more extensive surface than PVA glue. This is something that is going to be super useful if you are looking to paste wood joints.

Now there are a few cons with this product, and one of them is that while this glue is going to do a great job of holding materials together, PVA glue is thought to provide superior binding strength, making this glue a no go if you are looking to build things that can withstand a lot of weight. Now don’t get me wrong, this glue has great binding strength, just not as much as PVA glue.

Another bad thing is that you need to moisten up the surface of where you are going to be applying the paste, and also, it dries much more quickly than PVA glue, which might be a pro or a con. Also, please don’t get this glue on your fingers! It can stick to them and removing it will be a pain in the butt.

Best PVA Glues On The Market

Mant DIYers have often wondered which PVA glues are the best in the market today, and because of that, I decided to make a list of the products that I consider the best. After going through several different brands, these are the glues that I personally would most recommend. 

Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue

Among wooden glues on the market, this is perhaps the very best one out there. Titebond has been making quality products for years now, and this wood glue is no exception. The Titebond III is going to bind wood really well, and it’s an especially great choice for exterior use since this wood glue is marketed as waterproof. This is my favorite wood glue and I have years using in with very little complaints. It is cheap, easy to use, and it is everywhere. Highly recommended!

wood-glue

Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue

When it comes to working with crafts, this is my favorite product. If you are going to do an art project, you want the adhesive to be as clear as possible. This glue isn’t yellowly as wood glue making it a wise choice for any kind of craft. Also, another thing that I like about this glue brand is the fact that it dries really slowly, unlike some other products on the market. Combine this with the fact that this is super affordable, and you can see why I recommend it!

Elmer’s Liquid School Glue

If you have children and are looking for a worthy PVA for them, then you can’t go wrong with Elmer’s glue. This is the classic white glue that you will find in all schools, and this is the best brand for that type of setting. This is super affordable, super cheap, and most importantly, non-toxic. 

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ABOUT GizmoPlans

Hey, this is Brian and Gene Luoma. Since the two of us have pretty much been self-employed our entire lives, we have a lot of experience designing and creating all sorts of DIY projects for businesses and homes—projects that have helped us make money or save money through the years!

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