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Stick to it! A Guide to the Best Glue for Plastic

 

Customers often ask us here at Craftech what the best glue for plastic is.  As anyone who has tried it knows, gluing plastics can be tricky.  Many plastics including Teflon, nylon, polypropylene, TPU, and PVC are notoriously hard to glue together.  Why is that, you ask?  The plastics that are the most difficult to glue are characterized by low surface energies, low porosity, and non-polar or non-functional surfaces.  They feature no functional site or surface roughness onto which an adhesive can secure itself.  In other words, they are extremely smooth and slippery, so there’s nothing for the glue to grab onto.

For this special post, we compiled a bunch of popular adhesives and materials and tested their compatibility and bonding power. We tried sticking each hard-to-glue material to itself and then to stainless steel, grade 304, to determine what the best glue was for each plastic.  After allowing the adhesives to set over a 24 hour period, we tried to bust the various components apart and took note of the result.

Among the plastic materials tested, noted for their difficulty bonding with glues were Teflon, Nylon, Polypropylene, TPU, and PVC.  Best glue for plasticIn our search for the best glue for plastic, we tried everything from things you’d have around the house, such as Loctite superglue, a hot glue gun, and Amazing Goop, to more specialty items such as JB Plasticweld and plastic cement for model making.

After sticking everything together (including our fingers), here’s what we came up with:

The Best Glue for Plastic: JB Weld PlasticWeld- This glue bonded nearly every material perfectly, with the exception of Teflon to itself (not surprising given the material’s use for its non-stick properties).
It spread to create a gap-free bond, filling in all the available space for strong adhesion that just wouldn’t quit, even after we tried desperately to separate the parts. The only downside of PlasticWeld is that it’s a two-part epoxy which must be mixed in equal amounts to form the adhesive, which can get messy. It also sets quite quickly, which can be either a pro or con depending on your project.

The Worst Glue for Plastic: Testors Plastic Cement- For an adhesive made specifically for connecting plastic pieces for constructing models, it did a poor job of keeping our pieces together. Even after making sure we followed their instructions to the letter, nothing stuck together despite our best efforts.

The Rest: All Purpose AMAZING GOOP- This definitely worked quite well. Despite it taking over an hour to set on TPU, it was able to bond it well to the stainless steel. However, it was easily broken apart when sticking two TPU or Nylon pieces together. For all the other trials, though, it worked well. On the downside, it is true to its name in that it’s goopy, making it less than ideal for many small, delicate applications.

Loctite Super Glue (Ultra Gel Control) – This also worked well with most of our applications, with the exceptions of Teflon to itself and Polypropylene to stainless steel. This was definitely the easiest to use, with a small dropper tip making for easy applications. There are some things to think about, however when using any sort of superglue. First, Super Glue will discolor and cloud clear pieces.  best glue for plasticThe fumes even created some white discoloration on our black TPU. 

NB: Never use Super Glue on acrylic!  The superglue has a chemical reaction with acrylic, essentially burning itself into the acrylic.  This chemical burn creates extensive white clouding that will spread even beyond the limits of where you applied the glue.  Also, the only thing that can remove Super Glue is acetone.  Acrylic has extremely poor resistance to acetone.  Wiping an acetone-soaked tissue gently over a piece of acrylic will make the plastic look like it’s been scratched with a Brillo pad within seconds.

All-purpose hot melt glue sticks- The glue sticks were somewhat hit or miss. After the 24 hour period, we were able to break apart Teflon, polypropylene, TPU, and PVC apart with varying degrees of difficulty.  The adhesive did a good job with nylon.  The glue sticks bonded most materials well to the stainless steel, with the exception of TPU. This part of the project also got quite messy and stringy. There’s also always the risk of burning yourself when dealing with this molten “glue”, which is in fact made of various plastics, usually Ethylene Vinyl Acetate. So be careful!

Glue Properties According to Their Makers

 

All-purpose Hotmelt Glue
Sticks

Testors Plastic Cement 

AMAZING GOOP All Purpose

JB Weld PlasticWeld

Loctite Super Glue (Ultra Gel Control)

Active Ingredient

Ethylene Vinyl Acetate

Ethyl Acetate

Silicone

Epichlorohydrin and Bisphenol A

Ethyl Cyanoacrylate

Bond Time

Instant bond

20 seconds

24 to 72 hours

1 hour

 

24 hours

Tensile strength

Not Available

Not Available

3800 PSI

3200 PSI

 

3063 PSI

Temperature guidelines

0° to 356°F

Not Available

-40°F to 150°F

-67° to 500°F

50° to 180°F

As always, you’ll need to run your own tests to determine the best glue for plastic for your application.  This post will give you a starting point to finding the right adhesive for you!

Check our complimentary Guide to Glues for Plastic to learn even more about what adhesives work best for difficult to glue plastics.

Download the High Performance Plastic Material Guide Today

 

Comments

It's not surprising that Testors Plastic Cement won the booby prize -- it is designed for polystyrene (the plastic usually used for models)and only polystyrene. Your article doesn't list which material/adhesive combinations were tried but if polystyrene-to-polystyrene wasn't among them than that's likely why Testors scored so low.
Posted @ Friday, November 22, 2013 9:44 AM by David Ernst
Hi David, 
 
That's a good point-thank you for pointing that out.
Posted @ Thursday, December 05, 2013 12:04 PM by Katie Gerard
There is a product called UHU Allplast which contains three solvents that dissolves a bit of the surface of the plastic as it sets creating a very solid bond relatively quickly with no mixing. I have found that it fixes broken kids toys quite well so that they can withstand some flexing, and I even used it to jigsaw my side-view mirror back together after a mishap.
Posted @ Wednesday, December 11, 2013 2:29 AM by MJ
2 other excellent plastic adhesives are DP8005 (methacrylate) by 3M and west system G/flex (epoxy). Both are 2 part systems but are definately worth the extra mixings.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 10:36 AM by Alex
Hi Alex and MJ, thank you for the recommendations! We have a longer article on glues coming out soon that will include more adhesives. 
 
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 11:07 AM by Katie Gerard
There are two ways in which a glue can work on plastics, depending on the plastic type. Conventional glues fill a very small gap between two parts and use surface roughness to grip. The bond strength therefore relies both on the strength of the bulk adhesive as well as how well it grips the surface. Plastic glues generally work differently. They are gels made up of aggressive solvents specific to the plastic family in question and dissolved plastic and they attempt to actually weld the two surfaces together into one which is what testors does. PVC, ABS, Polystyrene are resin systems that lend themselves to this. Nylon, teflon, polyurethane are among the ones that do not. This is how PVC pipe glue works.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 08, 2014 12:02 PM by Stan Burton
Thanks for the tip, Stan!
Posted @ Wednesday, January 08, 2014 12:04 PM by Katie Gerard
Great article and very helpful. The limited repeat limited success I've had with ethyl cyanoacrylate usually involved my fingers and another body part. I am looking forward to the next article.
Posted @ Friday, January 10, 2014 2:57 PM by Patrick Pihana
Nice blog
Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 8:26 AM by Trucker
Thanks!
Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 9:38 AM by Katie Gerard
Hi, great info on the glues, but I am wondering about what you might suggest to REALLY glue plastic (think fake fingernails kind of plastic) to an rtv silicone. I need something that is super secure and permanent. Thanks in advance for your help!
Posted @ Saturday, February 15, 2014 8:04 PM by D J
Polyurethane sticks to a bunch of stuff. Can get it in a caulk tube at hardware stores. It's what is used to glue car windshields into their metal frame.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 18, 2014 5:26 AM by Ain
That's a good suggestion, Ain! DJ, I don't know the answer to your question off the top of my head. To speak to one of our engineering experts about your project, please fill out the form here: http://info.craftechind.com/request-a-free-material-consultation-with-an-expert Thanks!
Posted @ Tuesday, February 18, 2014 2:16 PM by Katie Gerard
Have you ever tested Konishi GP Clear Bond? It is a one tube polypropylene bond. It appears to work well in Japanese YouTube model building. I can not find it in the USA.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:39 PM by Tony Currao
Very interesting and helpfull.  
I also heard great things about methacrylate glues. I know Dentists use versions of this to glue crowns and fill cavities. Please include a consumer available version (DP8005 as Alex points out?)in your next test.
Posted @ Sunday, February 23, 2014 2:33 AM by Joe
Thank you for the tips, Joe and Tony!
Posted @ Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:49 AM by Katie Gerard
i recently backed my car(subru) over a trailer ball &when i pulled forward i broke a small piece off. what can i use to cement it back on. thank you
Posted @ Sunday, March 23, 2014 10:54 AM by shay mcgarry
Shay, your bumper is most likely made of TPU. Sorry I don't have suggestions for adhesive 
Posted @ Thursday, March 27, 2014 6:03 PM by Ryan Jackson
Shay, it depends on the material. You may want to take ask a car mechanic-they have lots of experience with this sort of thing.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 09, 2014 10:23 AM by Katie Gerard
Did you happen to try Devcon's Plastic Welder? I wonder how that compares to JB Weld's Plastic Weld?
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 4:22 PM by Sara
Sara, have you downloaded our full glue guide yet? All the glues we've tested so far are listed in there. Thank you for reading!
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:52 AM by Katie Gerard
I did check your glue guide (thank you for it), but see no mention of Devcon Plastic Welder and how it might compare PlasticWeld by JB Weld. Both are epoxies that must be mixed. My local hardware store only carries the Devcon product. Am I missing something in the guide? Sorry if I am - appreciate any feedback comparing the two epoxies. 
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:37 PM by Sara
I want to glue a plastic tictactoe sheet onto a wood base. What type of glue do you recommend? 
Thanks
Posted @ Friday, April 18, 2014 1:05 PM by Jane
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