What is PVA Glue? Types, Uses, Advantages, and More

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You may not know, but not all types of PVA glue are used for the same application. Some resist moisture, and some are great for joining wood pieces. It makes you wonder, what is PVA glue generally used for? 

In this brief discussion with our DIY experts, let’s explore if Polyvinyl Acetate is the right glue for your arts and crafts project.

About PVA Glue

In 1912, a German chemist named Fritz Klatte discovered PVA. For those who don’t know, PVA stands for Polyvinyl Acetate. It’s a thermoplastic mixture categorized under polyvinyl ester. 

PVA wood glue is manufactured through polymerized vinyl alcohol and is widely used in the industry for porous materials. Newbies may not be familiar with these PVA glues because they’re referred to as school glue, wood glue, carpenter’s glue, or white glue nowadays. 

PVA wood glue

Notable Characteristics of PVA

It Dissolves in Water

Being water-soluble is one of the perks of using PVA glue in your DIY project. You can mix water with polyvinyl acetate if you need to apply a thin coat on porous materials. Trust us when we say that doing this will enhance the wetting properties of the PVA glue. 

The wood glue should mix well in the water as long as you don’t pour it all at once. Add the water slowly and stir it well until it dissolves.  

It's Non-Acidic

When you use polyvinyl acetate glue, it doesn’t alter the material’s pH balance. Because of this, this versatile adhesive mixture is widely used in binding paper projects. Given its non-acidic properties, your arts and crafts materials won’t deteriorate upon contact. 

It Turns Clear Once Dry

Another viable reason you should use PVA glue in your arts and crafts projects is its aesthetically pleasing appeal. Unlike regular craft glue that can turn yellow, the white PVA glue often dries clear. 

Besides that, dried PVA glue remains flexible, making it suitable for a bookbinding or woodworking project. 

dried pva glue

It's Best for Porous Surfaces

If there are any materials PVA glue best sticks in, it’s the porous surfaces. After it dries clear, this PVA adhesive builds a strong bond into the material. This is highly advisable for DIY projects that use wood, cloth, paper, and cardboard. 

It's Non-Toxic

You may be wondering why this adhesive material is called school glue. The real answer is that it’s composed of non-toxic elements less likely to irritate the skin. 

On the other hand, being non-toxic doesn’t mean it’s safe to ingest. So if you’re letting your kid use these wood glues on their art projects, our team still advises strict adult supervision. 

It's Odorless

Unlike polyurethane glue, polyvinyl acetates don’t have an unpleasant odor when applied. In fact, its dried form doesn’t have any scent at all. And because it doesn’t produce harmful fumes[1], PVA glue is safe for children’s use.

glue applied on the wood board

Different Types of PVA Glue

Wood Glue

As the name implies, wood glue is utilized in projects that require combining pieces of wood. It’s easy to distinguish because it’s yellow glue. If you scan today’s woodworking market, you’ll notice that this yellow glue is also sold as carpenter’s glue. 

Unlike other craft glue options, wood glue builds a stronger bond with the material when it dries. It can also be sanded once the permanent bond is formed. All you need to do is clamp the pieces of wood together during the drying process to push the PVA glue tips into its pores. 

If you observe further as we did, it’s also hard to ignore the level of durability when you glue pieces of wood together. In fact, the wood has more chance of breaking than the glue joint itself. 

However, not all wood glue options are water-resistant. Should you need an adhesive for an outdoor woodworking or art project, PVA water-resistant glue is still the best choice. 

White Glue

Materials with small pores, like paper and cloth, work well with white glue. Besides not having toxic fumes, one of its perks is it doesn’t turn yellow over time. Unfortunately, white glue products aren’t the same as water-resistant PVA glue, so outdoor projects aren’t the best venture to tackle for this option.

white glue

On the bright side, you can be sure that this glue product is more favored for child use than polyurethane glue or super glue. Besides kid-friendly art classes, professional crafters also use this type of PVA glue for furniture, cloth, and mosaic. 

Water-Resistant Glue

This adhesive is the type of PVA glue you can use outdoors. You may confuse it with waterproof PVA glue, but it’s important to remember that water-resistant options won’t dissolve when mixed with water. 

True to its name, it can resist moisture caused by external elements. Because of this, you can ensure that this adhesive can withstand harsh conditions. We highly recommend it for projects like benches, garden planters, or birdhouses. 

Is PVA Glue the same as Elmer’s Glue?

Before we answer, it’s important to note that Elmer’s Glue sells different adhesives. However, if we’re talking about its famous bull logo variant, it’s safe to say it’s a PVA-based product. 

But is Elmer’s Glue the same as PVA glue? Not exactly. Although it’s composed of PVA elements that make it easy to use and flexible, it’s not as strong as the wood or carpenter’s glue we discussed earlier. 

elmers glue

Another notable difference between the two is that Elmer’s Glue turns yellow, and PVA glue doesn’t. Nevertheless, it’s an economical option and could be great for simple craft-making projects or repairs.

Uses of PVA Glues

DIY Crafts

Crafters of any age use white glue mainly because of its clear appearance. Its aesthetic value and strength make it a suitable adhesive for projects like scrapbooking. It’ll also stick well on fabric materials. 

Woodworking

Since it has a strong bond when it dries, PVA glue is an essential adhesive in the woodworking scene. For many years, woodworkers have used this glue for furniture building, wood repairs, cabinetry, etc. 

Did you know that you can also make wood filler using this mixture? You just need to mix PVA glue and sawdust, and you’ll be able to use them to fill gaps in the construction. 

Bookbinding

People in the publishing industry call PVA “Hide Glue” mainly because it sticks very well in paper and leather materials. Its strong and flexible characteristics make it well-suited for assembling book pages into the spine and cover. 

bookbinding with pva

And because this adhesive is pH neutral, it helps keep the book pages white for the longest time.

School Projects

As previously mentioned, this glue is a non-toxic adhesive. Thanks to this, you don’t have to worry about your kid inhaling harmful fumes while doing school projects. Generally, this glue option works well with school materials like construction paper and wood sticks.   

Wallpaper

By now, you should know that some PVA types work well with paper materials, and that’s why it’s also used as wallpaper adhesives. Its durability and resistance to moisture are two of the main reasons it won’t deteriorate that easily when applied with wallpapers. 

Leather

You may not know, but leather is also a porous material. Applying PVA glue on its surface won’t break down the leather’s pH levels. Unlike other alternative adhesives, you don’t need to worry about damaging your leather bags or shoes when using this glue. 

using pva gue on leather

Other Notable Purposes

It may surprise you, but PVA can act as a drywall primer. On top of that, you can use this glue as an effective box-sealing and envelope adhesive.

(You may also check out the best super glue for all kinds of projects here.)

Benefits and Downsides of PVA Glue

Pros

Cons

How to Use White and Yellow PVA for Gluing Wood and Other Surfaces

  1. Put the adhesive mixture in the area where the two pieces will be joined.
  2. Connect the two pieces and apply minimal pressure to keep them intact.
  3. Wait 30 minutes to let the glue set and an hour for it to dry.
  1. Apply minimal glue to one of the pieces you want to combine.
  2. Spread it into a thin coating using a brush or paint scraper
  3. Slowly push the materials together and rub them back and forth to eliminate trapped air. 
  4. Keep them together with a clamp to solidify the bond.
  5. After 30 minutes, scrape the excess glue outside the joint.
  6. Please wait at least 24 hours before releasing the clamp.

PVA Glue Application Tips and Tricks

If you don’t want any hassle, our DIY experts recommend only using PVA glue in porous materials. Other than that, it’s best to let the glue mixture set in an air-conditioned room so it can dry properly. 

We urge you to use clamps when gluing pieces together because they’ll secure strong bonds. Don’t forget to put a bit of pressure on it too. 

Remember that white glue variations have a longer shelf life than yellow ones. Because of this, we highly suggest checking the label before purchasing any PVA product. 

pva glue on wood

How Do You Remove PVA Glue?

Removing PVA glue should be easy as long as it’s not yet dry. However, you’ll encounter some difficulties if you’re removing dried glue. Here are the steps you can do depending on the material you’re handling. 

Wood

If the dried glue you want to remove isn’t in the joint, you can use a paint scraper or wood sander to remove it. However, the removal will be complicated if the glue is already dried out in the material’s joint. 

For this incident, you’ll have to make the glue soft via a heat gun or hairdryer. You can use these tools for a few minutes, but we advise caution as this could scorch your materials and cause accidents. After the glue softens, use a knife or scraper to remove it.

Clothes

Before you do anything, check any washing instructions labeled on the fabric. There are certain garments that’ll shrink when exposed to hot water, so it’s crucial to ensure that this won’t happen. 

Next, pour warm water into a bowl or any clean container. Dip the cloth stained with PVA glue and let it sit for a few minutes. If you want, add soap or detergent to the water mixture and rub the fabric gently until the glue residues are removed.   

dipped cloth

Top PVA Glue Products in the Market Today

Elmer’s Liquid School Glue

The popularity of Elmer’s Liquid School Glue is highly justified because of its affordability and safe elements. Despite its wide availability, this brand doesn’t compromise its quality, which explains why schools and parents prefer them over other adhesives. 

Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue

You can rely on Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue for exterior projects, as it’s a waterproof adhesive. It’s also been a popular choice for years since it binds with wood really well. 

As one of the toughest options in the market, Titebond is also comparable to Gorilla Wood Glue, another staple option among woodworkers. 

PVA Glue Alternatives Worth Trying

Polyurethane

It’s not a secret that polyurethane is more versatile than PVA glue, so it’s a wise alternative if you’re working on plastic or metal materials. It also expands faster and covers more surfaces, making it suitable for woodworking.

polyurethane, paint brush and paint roller

Epoxy

Another strong alternative to use is epoxy glue. It offers great adhesive even if the material is in frequent contact with water. However, this option is sold at a higher price range than PVA glue. 

Conclusion

Now that you know what PVA glue is, you can determine if it’s a safe and effective option for your project. 

We also recommend checking what kind of materials you’ll use it with, as it has specific surfaces where it works well. Nevertheless, we don’t doubt that you’ll find it useful in typical applications. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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