Everybody works with glue at some point, whether it’s at home or at work. But is it a fire hazard waiting to burst into flame or are you safe to work with glue at any time?
Glues that are water-based are usually not flammable, but they can still burn if exposed to direct flame and high temperatures. However, adhesives or glues like superglue (Cyanoacrylate), model glue, rubber cement, and spray adhesives are quite flammable.
It’s important to understand the type of glue you are working with so you know if it could be dangerous when exposed to heat or flames. Let’s take a look at the different types of glue.
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Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Does it Catch on Fire?
If you get anything hot enough it will eventually catch on fire, but that doesn’t mean it is flammable, technically.
Glue, however, is complicated.
- there are many types of glue
- the chemical properties of glue before and after curing (drying or setting) are often dramatically different
Different Types of Glue
There are a lot of different types of glue and each of them has different properties from the others. Of course, many of these glues are unlikely to be part of our day-to-day lives, but some of them are quite common in every home or office setting.
- Epoxy. A two-part resin that when the parts are combined form a particularly strong bond.
- Fabric Adhesives (typically Poly Vinyl Acetate or PVA). A glue used to bond fabrics together.
- Glue sticks. A children’s glue that doesn’t form hard bonds and is totally non-toxic.
- Hot glue. A glue made of polymers that must be melted in order to work with them.
- Polyurethane. A polymer-based glue that requires clamping to cure.
- Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA). A set of compounds that cure under pressure.
- Spray adhesives. Spray adhesives are simple contact adhesives that you spray on to a surface.
- Super glue (cyanoacrylate adhesives). These are not water-based and set very, very quickly to form a strong bond.
- White craft glue. A water-based glue that is easy to clean up and is almost completely non-toxic.
- Yellow wood-glue. Another water-based glue. This sets very quickly and there are three different types with different properties.
So, when we talk glue – it’s best to get into specifics about which glue, exactly, we are talking about.
Epoxy resin, for example, is not particularly flammable once it has cured, but the individual chemical agents prior to mixing can be flammable.
So, let’s take a look at the types of glue you will most commonly encounter and see if they are flammable or not.
Also read: Is Glitter Flammable?
What About Elmer’s Glue?
It depends on which Elmer’s Glue we are talking about?
The white school version of Elmer’s glue is not flammable.
As you’d expect, American society may not always agree on much, but we all prefer our children to stay away from flammable products when possible.
The clear Elmer’s glue, on the other hand, is flammable but only when it has dried out. Otherwise, it’s water-based and that means it’s not going to catch fire. Under normal circumstances, Elmer’s Glue won’t burn.
Also read: Is Tape Flammable? Sometimes…
Yes, Gorilla Glue is a form of super glue and it is very combustible as a liquid.
You should never smoke near Gorilla Glue when using it and ideally, it should be used outdoors or at a minimum in a well-ventilated area to prevent combustible fumes from building up as you use it.
Also read: Are Mothballs Flammable or Combustible?
Is It Flammable When Dry?
According to Gorilla Glue’s own advice on Amazon, the clear Gorilla Glue is not flammable once it has cured.
This is true for many types of glue, as the flammable components of many glues have evaporated once the glue dries and it will no longer be flammable. Though, remember, even something that isn’t flammable can still burn.
Super Glue (Cyanoacrylate)?
Super glue of all types, including Gorilla Glue, is flammable in its liquid state, but it also emits fumes that are also flammable.
You may also find that just a drop of the chemical itself can ignite certain materials (such as cotton) because the curing of super glue is an exothermic reaction (it creates heat as it dries).
This video shows how this can happen:
PVA glue is not flammable and there are no fumes emitted when using PVA glue, either.
However, this does not mean that PVA won’t burn – it just needs a lot more heat than you will typically encounter.
Also read: Is Turpentine Flammable? Flashpoint
Wood glue is relatively non-flammable and has very little fumes emitted from it. That means it’s generally safe to use in enclosed spaces if needed too.
However, as with every material known to humanity, you can burn wood glue and it’s important to note that over the years, some very toxic materials have been used in wood glues.
If you must burn it, burn it away from other people because the smoke can be toxic.
Also read: Is Paint Thinner Flammable? Technically No…
No, as we noted before, most school glues and also glue sticks are not flammable. They are water-based and will extinguish flames, instead.
However, to err on the side of caution, we’d recommend reading the label on any glue just to check and also to keep your children as far away from sources of flame as possible, because glue is not the only likely combustible element around.
Also read: Is Soap Flammable? Will it Burn? It Depends…
What Glue Is Not Flammable?
A good rule of thumb is that water-based glues will not be flammable and that some plastic glues such as PVA (see above) are not.
However, the best thing to do with all glues is to read the packaging and find out how they should be used safely.
Some types of glue are very flammable and others are not. As you’ve seen, it can depend on the type of glue and whether or not it has been cured. It’s always best to take precautions if you don’t know if the glue is flammable and assume that it is. In that case, work in a well-ventilated space or outdoors, don’t smoke and stay away from sources of flame or sparks.