Many types of glue in use today are PVA-based, from regular glue to school glue and many woodworking glue products.
Unfortunately, the manufacturer may fail to indicate that it’s PVA glue. However, take a quick look at the ingredients, and you’ll find polyvinyl acetate mentioned.
As a result, a common confusion in the industry is whether PVA glue and wood glue are the same. But, more importantly, can you use them interchangeably?
So, What is PVA glue and It’s uses? Let’s find out.
Is Wood Glue the Same as PVA Glue?
No, wood glue is not the same thing as PVA craft glue. Instead, PVA is just one of the many types of wood glue. Other types include Polyurethane (PUR) glue, animal/hide glue, cyanoacrylate, and epoxy glue. Nevertheless, non-toxic, water-based, low-cost PVA is the most common wood glue.
What is Wood Glue?
The term “wood glue” applies to any form of adhesive you can use to bond two or more pieces of wood. This doesn’t mean you cannot use wood glue to bond other materials.
On the contrary, most wood glues are versatile adhesives that you can use on many other materials, from stone to ceramic, tile, and metals. Wood glue can also be used on plastic materials.
They are only called “wood glues” because they’re primarily intended for woodworking projects, such as furniture making and repairing cabinets.
Similarly, there are many types of glue not branded “wood glue” which you can use to bond wooden joints. Gorilla glue is an excellent example.
Though it doesn’t specifically target woodworking applications, you can still use Gorilla Glue to make strong wood joints.
Wood Glue Varieties
There are five main types of wood glues, or seven if you wish to include hot glue and aliphatic resin wood glues.
PVA wood glue
Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) wood glues are made from a rubbery synthetic polymer known as polyvinyl acetate. PVA is a colorless, odorless, thermoplastic substance that forms a strong, permanent bond when it penetrates the surface.
Titebond ii (water resistant) and Titebond iii (waterproof) are two of the best examples of PVA wood glue.
Polyurethane wood glue
Also known as polyurethane reactive (PUR) adhesives or reactive polyurethane (RPU) adhesives, polyurethane glue is a one-part formulation derived from polyurethane polymers.
The adhesives are melted in a solid state (like candles) and applied when hot. Then a chemical reaction between the glue, bonding surface, and surrounding moisture forms a tight bond.
Unfortunately, PUR glues take long, typically 24-48 hours, to cure fully. However, their bonds are waterproof and highly resistant to heat and chemicals. Gorilla Glue is the best example of polyurethane glue.
Cyanoacrylate wood glue
Cyanoacrylate glue is the formal name for what people commonly call super glue or crazy glue. It primarily comprises an acrylic monomer known as cyanoacrylate that transforms into a hard plastic when it cures.
This category of glue products cures the fastest, typically within seconds. They also form a super-strong bond. Gorilla Super Glue, Super-Weld, and Krazy Glue are the best-known cyanoacrylate wood glue brands.
Epoxy wood glue
Epoxy glue is a synthetic mixture of an epoxy polymer (or resin) and a hardening substance. It forms a strong, durable, and resilient thermosetting bond used to attach or join many different surfaces.
Many woodworkers also use liquid epoxy glue to fill voids in wood joints. It dries without shrinking and offers the highest joint strength of all wood glue types.
You can purchase two-part epoxy glue with the polymer and hardener in different containers or one-part, pre-mixed epoxy. Loctite and Water-Weld are some of the most popular epoxy glue brands.
Finally, animal glue is the oldest type of wood glue. It is made from animal hide/skin and bones, especially cattle bones. The glue is often supplied as flakes, granules, or flat sheets.
To use it, dissolve the glue particles in a water container, then heat the contents lightly. Hide glue is applied warm, at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Titebond offers a few “Genuine” animal glue products if you’re interested. Another popular animal glue brand is J.E. Moser’s Perl Hide Glue.
NB: You may come across “hot glue” and “aliphatic resin glue” as other wood categories. All you need to remember is that “hot glue” refers to any glue applied when hot, whereas aliphatic resin glue is a type of PVA glue.
Wood Glue Pros and Cons
- Provides high binding strength.
- You can choose from several options.
- Wood glues are cost-effective.
- Most wood glues are non-toxic.
- Standard wood glues are slow to dry.
- Weak end grain connections.
Wood Glue Uses
The main use of wood glue is holding. For example, woodworkers use it to hold joints and panels before binding them with bolts or screws. Additionally, wood glue is ideal for fixing broken wood pieces.
What Is PVA Glue?
Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) glue is a type of glue made from polyvinyl acetate, a synthetic (artificial) polymer first discovered in 1912. PVA polymers are colorless, odorless, and non-toxic.
The main difference between PVA and other glues, including PUR and Super Glue, is that whereas other glues require water to bond onto surfaces, PVA does the opposite – it releases water as it bonds.
For instance, when applied to wood, the glue seeps into the wood pores, allowing the wood to absorb the water. This leaves the glue to dry, creating a strong bond as it cures.
It takes 18-24 hours to cure and requires clamping for the first 30-60 minutes to set as the glue dries.
Types of PVA Glue
There are many ways to categorize PVA glues. For instance, you can identify them as water-resistant vs. non-water resistant. Alternatively, you can group them by colors (yellow, white, etc.). So, let’s only focus on the most common types;
PVA white glue (aka craft glue)
White glues are the most common type of PVA glue. They come in many names, depending on the application. For instance, those designed for school projects are known as school glue, and those for children are called craft glue.
PVA white glues are primarily for bonding things like fabrics, paper, and cardboard. They are also ideal for school projects as they are odorless, non-toxic, and easy to clean up with water (no need for soap).
The glue is a milky-white liquid in the bottle. However, it dries to a hard, translucent, or colorless finish. Unfortunately, it has no water resistance.
So, you must protect it from water to maintain its integrity. Additionally, PVA glue takes a long time to dry, typically 24 hours. So, you must support the bonded items during this period.
PVA wood glues
PVA glue designed primarily for bonding wooden items is known as PVA wood glue, PVA-based wood glue, or wood PVA glue. Some people even call them white PVA wood glue.
They are almost similar to standard PVA wood glues. Indeed, both are made from the same synthetic resin – polyvinyl acetate. However, manufacturers usually add a few features to make PVA wood glues more suited to woodworking projects.
For instance, wood PVA glue features chemical additives that make it them the strongest glue compared to standard craft glues. Additionally, they dry much faster due to slower setting properties. Above all, wood PVA glues are a lot more water resistant than craft glues.
However, like standard PVA glues, PVA wood glues harden to a translucent film when dried, though it forms a harder finish than craft glue. You can sand the dried glue to achieve the desired finish.
Aliphatic resin wood glue
Another common category of PVA glues is aliphatic resin wood glues. These are PVA glues improved with tackifiers to address common weaknesses of regular PVA wood glue.
For instance, aliphatic PVA glue is exceptionally water resistant. It’s also resistant to creep. Color is the first recognizable difference between aliphatic resin glue and other PVA glues.
Whereas the other two PVA glue types are white, aliphatic PVA wood glue comes in various colors, from yellow to light brown, to better match the project. They derive the colors from dyes.
Another difference is that whereas you can unstick standard PVA glue by adding water, the same doesn’t apply to aliphatic resin PVA glue. Instead, you must heat the joint to unstick aliphatic resin glue joints.
Finally, aliphatic resins form the hardest dried layer of all PVA glues. So, as you’d expect, you can sand the finished surface into a smooth layer as you wish.
The only downside is that aliphatic resin glue is more expensive than craft glue and PVA wood glue.
Pros and Cons of PVA Glues
The pros and cons of PVA glue depend on what you’re comparing it to. For instance, are you comparing PVA glue to PUR or epoxy glue? Additionally, it depends on the type of PVA glue in question – craft glue, wood glue, or aliphatic resin glue?
We’ll only discuss the pros and cons of PVA wood glue to other wood glues, especially PUR and epoxy glue.
- It is inexpensive and more readily available
- Dries quickly, forming a strong, durable bond
- You can choose from clear-drying or colored PVA glues
- PVA glue doesn’t alter the PH of the bonded surface
- The glues are non-toxic and safe for your bare hands
- PVA is generally a food-safe wood glue usable on kitchenware
- They are nonflammable
- PVA glue doesnt form strong bonds on smooth surfaces, such as plastic and metal.
- The glue must not be allowed to freeze as this can break the polymer bonds, rendering the glue ineffective.
- PVA glue typically requires clamping with no movement for a few hours as the glue cures to achieve full strength.
- Not all PVA glues are water resistant. Indeed, craft PVA glues lose their integrity when exposed to moisture.
- Although you can paint over PVA glue, the glue doesn’t absorb wood stains. This can be a problem when repairing furniture.
What is PVA Glue Used For?
PVA glue is used as an adhesive for joining porous materials. For instance, many people use it to secure or paste paper, clothing, and wood onto each other or other surfaces. Its main advantages are its high versatility and cost-effectiveness.
The following are some common use cases;
- School projects: In many schools around the country, kids use school glue for art projects and making posters. It allows them to safely stick construction paper, wood craft sticks, and many other materials.
- Arts and crafts: You can find white PVA craft glue in many craft stores where hobbyists use them for homemade cards, scrapbooking, and paper mache. It’s also the go-to adhesive for mosaic and fabric crafts.
- Woodworking. PVA wood glue is a staple in the woodworking industry. It’s the ideal alternative to nails and screws in cabinetry and furniture. A PVA glue joint is as strong as a screw or nail joint. Additionally, you can mix carpenter’s glue with sawdust and use it to fill gaps in furniture joints.
- Binding books: Bookbinders typically use PVA glue which they apply to the book spine to create a strong but flexible bond. Aliphatic resin glue is the favorite because it allows the bookbinder to add colors for aesthetics.
- Others: Other uses of PVA glue include leather binding, wallpaper gluing, drywall priming, and plaster sealing. To use PVA glue for sealing plaster, mix one-part PVA with one part water. You can use the same solution as a non-waterproof interior varnish.
PVA Glue vs Wood Glue
Now we know the basics of wood glues and PVA glue. So, how do the two compare, and can you use them interchangeably? Here’s what you need to know;
What is the Difference Between Wood Glue and PVA Glue?
The main difference between wood glue and PVA glue is that wood glues are designed primarily for joining wood surfaces, whereas only selected PVA glues target woodworking applications.
For instance, school glue is a PVA glue designed to help kids join art projects. So, you cannot use school glue for serious woodworking applications even though it’s PVA-based glue.
On the other hand, any glue labeled “wood glue” targets woodworking applications.
Can You Use PVA Glue and Wood Glue Interchangeably?
Unfortunately, you cannot use wood glue and PVA glue interchangeably – not always. Why? Because not all PVA glues are wood glues.
For instance, craft glue, a PVA-based white glue, isn’t strong enough to hold a wood joint. The same applies to school glue. Though PVA-based, these glues are not strong enough for wood joining.
Similarly, you can not use wood glue for craft glue applications as it may be too strong or cost-ineffective. For instance, many offices use white PVA glue to seal envelopes.
Can you substitute it with wood glue? No. Or, imagine you want to glue wallpaper in your room. Can you use wood glue? Again, no. Instead, you need to find less strong white glue.
Above all, remember that not all wood glues are PVA-based. Some are epoxies, others PUR-based, and others CA-based. Some of these wood glue types are stronger and more toxic than PVA-based wood glue. So, using them in place of white PVA glue is suicidal.
How to Use PVA Wood Glues
Using PVA wood glue is easy. Assuming you’ve purchased the right glue for your project, proceed as follows;
- Squeeze the glue onto the two surfaces you wish to bind.
- Use a damp cloth to remove the excess glue.
- Spread the glue throughout the surfaces using a spreader or brush.
- Join the two two wood pieces.
- Clamp the joint using a clamp and let it secure for 24 hours.
- Remove the clamp, assess the strength of the joint, and, if satisfied, sand off the excess glue.
PVA Glue Alternatives
We’ve highlighted some of the best alternatives if you don’t have PVA glue at hand. Our top choices are;
- Hide glues
- Epoxy glues
- Polyurethane glues (PURs)
CA glue (super glue) is also a good alternative when working on a small project. Unfortunately, it’s not cost-effective for large projects.
Can you use PVA glue on wood?
Yes, you can use PVA glue on wood. The glue is designed to absorb into the wood, which helps create a strong bond between the two materials. When using PVA glue on wood, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and allow the glue to dry completely before continuing with your project.
Is builder’s PVA the same as PVA glue?
No, builder’s PVA and PVA glue are not the same. Although they don’t have enough difference to notice, PVA wood glues are stronger, water-resistant, and set faster. You can also sand PVA wood glue plus some brands dry yellow, unlike builders PVA that is far more dilute and half water.
Wood glue vs white glue
The difference between wood glue and white glue is their water content. Whereas wood glue has lower water content, white glue’s is slightly higher. Because of less water content, the wood glue is stronger, dries quickly, and doesn’t warp easily. White glue is less strong and is likely to break down in water.
Is Elmer’s glue PVA glue?
Yes, Elmer’s Glue is a popular PVA-based synthetic glue. Polyvinyl acetate (PVA, sometimes vinyl) is the main constituent of many common household glues, including white glue, wood glue, and fabric adhesive. Elmer’s glue is made from ethanol, polyvinyl acetate, polymer resins, and water.
What is wood glue made of?
Wood glue is made of polyvinyl acetate and a catalyst. Polyvinyl acetate is created by condensing vinyl alcohol and acetic acid. The vinyl alcohol is derived from petroleum, while the acetic acid is generated through ethanol fermentation. These two substances are then combined in the presence of a catalyst to create wood glue.
What does PVA glue stand for?
PVA glue stands for Polyvinyl acetate. It is a water-based adhesive commonly used for crafts, as it is easy to use and dries quickly. It also has relatively low toxicity, making it safe to use even in close proximity to food.
Disadvantages of white glue?
There are a few disadvantages of white glue, primarily that it is not as strong as other types of glue and may not hold up well under heavy use. It also breaks down in water. This can be a problem if you’re working on a project that will be exposed to moisture or humidity.
Does Elmer’s glue contain PVA?
Yes, Elmer’s glue contains PVA. In fact, Polyvinyl acetate is the primary component of the glue. It is a water-based adhesive that forms strong bonds between materials such as wood, paper, and cloth. It is also non-toxic and safe to use.
What glue has PVA?
Wood glue, white glue, and carpenter’s glue are all glues containing PVA. This particular ingredient helps make the glue stronger and more durable. When you’re looking for a specific type of glue, check the label to see if PVA is listed as an ingredient.
What is white glue made of?
Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) is the main ingredient used to make white glue. It’s a water-soluble synthetic polymer formed from the monomer vinyl acetate through emulsion polymerization. It can be used to bond a variety of materials, including wood, paper, fabric, and plastic.
Disadvantages of PVA glue?
Polyvinyl acetate is degradable by bacteria, fungi, yeast, algae, and lichens, so it can break down easily. Once it breaks down, the glue becomes useless, which is why you should not let PVA freeze. Another downside is PVA cannot be painted, although it’s possible to varnish it.
Where can you get PVA glue?
If you’re looking for PVA, you can find it at most home improvement stores like Home Depot or online like Amazon. Overall, there could be many different options available when purchasing PVA, depending on your preference. Make sure to check the product specs to ensure that it’s the right type for your needs.
The terms “PVA glue” and “wood glue” can be confusing for starting woodworkers. But they shouldn’t. Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) refers to a polymer (ingredient) found in many types of glue, including some wood glues.
Meanwhile, “wood glue” is a catchall term for adhesives primarily intended for woodworking applications, including some PVA glues.
In short, not all wood glues are PVA glues, and vice versa. Therefore, woodworkers should focus more on finding the best wood glue, not the best PVA glue.