9 Surfaces Elmer’s Glue Works on (And 3 It Doesn’t)


Glues are one of the most functional tools we apply for various purposes, from creating crafts and artwork to repairing and mending things. One of the most famous glues that all of us are familiar with is Elmer’s glue. However, do you know on which surfaces Elmer’s glue works (or doesn’t)?

Elmer’s glue can work on porous surfaces including paper, cardboard, styrofoam board, canvas, fabric, felt, pottery and ceramic, wood, and leather. However, it can’t work efficiently on non-porous surfaces such as metal, plastics, and glass.

Here’s a table of Elmer’s products and their compatible and non-compatible surfaces:

ProductSurfaces It Works OnSurfaces It Doesn’t Work On
Elmer’s School GluePaper, Wood, Cardboard, Styrofoam Board, Felt, CanvasMetal, Glass, Plastic
Elmer’s Glue-AllPaper, Fabric, Wood, Ceramics, Leather, Metal, Glass, stoneNone
Elmer’s School Glue StickWood, Foam, Paper, Fabric, Cardboard, Display boardMetal, Plastic, Glass, 
Elmer’s Craft GlueWood, Fabric, PaperMetal, Plastic, Glass
Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood GlueWood Metal, Plastic, glass
Elmer’s Glue-AllMaxEverything, including Stone, Metal, Ceramic, Wood, Foam, Glass None
Elmer’s China & glass CementGlass, Ceramic, Pottery, and China, plastic None
Elmers Contact CementPlastic, Metal, Rubber, Glass, Wood, Laminate  None

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Paper?

Paper is one of the cheapest and most prevalent materials to create kids’ crafts and school projects. It’s also widely used in offices, colleges, art studios, and many other places.

Elmer’s glue works very well on paper. Besides its regular bottle glue, Elmer’s glue stick is safe and easy to use, especially for kids. These products are also non-toxic and washable. A more specialized product is Elmer’s craft bond which is resistant to bleed-through.  

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Plastic?

Plastic is everywhere, and almost everything we use today is made of it or has some plastic parts. Gluing broken plastic items is an easy and economical way that helps to use them for a more extended period and is also good for the environment. 

Since Elmer’s glue is a widespread type of glue found in nearly every home, it would be a helpful tool in most home projects.  

Elmer’s Glue-All doesn’t work on plastic surfaces because they aren’t porous. Although it may seem feasible to glue some plastic surfaces with Elmer’s glue, it doesn’t stick well, and the resulting bond won’t be strong enough to hold it. 

White glues, including Elmer’s glue, are engineered for porous surfaces. Why? Because when you apply it on such surfaces, the glue gets absorbed through its tiny pores and cracks. After the solvent evaporates, the adhesive hardens and works like a dovetail holding the two pieces together. 

That’s why Elmer’s Glue-All doesn’t work on non-porous surfaces like plastic. There’s no pore on them to let the glue get in and form a bond. 

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Wood?

Wood is another common material around the houses; it’s used in furniture, flooring, cupboards, and many more places. You can also use it for creating crafts and decorative artworks. 

Gluing wood pieces together is an easy, safe, and clean way for repairing wooden items or creating new ones. But does Elmer’s glue work well on wood?

Elmer’s glue works well on wood; it’s one of the adhesive’s favorite surfaces. It dries fast and creates a firm bond with its porous surface. But Elmer’s Glue-All is best suitable for minor damages and light works. For heavier projects, choose a wood-specific glue, like Elmer’s Carpenter wood glue

Because Elmer’s Glue-All is water-soluble, its resulting bonds can weaken and even break if exposed to water or moisture. You can use it for light woods like Balsa wood, and it works great.

However, if you’re considering mending or repairing furniture pieces or other bulky wood structures, Elmer’s Carpenter Wood glue would be the best choice. It’s another product with much stronger adhesive power that works great on wood and lasts long. 

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Metal?

Metal is also a common material found almost everywhere, from kitchen utensils to doorknobs, window frames, some pieces of furniture, or decorative items like sculptures. Imagine you accidentally break the handle of your favorite metal camp kettle. 

What would you do to fix it? Probably the easiest way that occurs to you is gluing. But does Elmer’s work on metal?

The regular Elmer’s glue doesn’t work on metal. Metal is a non-porous surface, and Elmer’s glue can’t bond well with it. But Elmer’s Glue-All can create long-lasting bonds with metal. It’s also sandable and paintable. However, for heavy pieces of metal, welding is a wiser choice. 

You can quickly mend small, lightweight pieces of metal with Elmer’s Glue-All and achieve your desired result. But if the metal surfaces you’re considering to bond together are heavy and bulky, glues may fall short. It’s better to weld them and get a strong, permanent bond.

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a type of material made of a petroleum-based product called styrene. It’s widely used in producing food packaging, appliances insulation, and even surfboards. 

Hence, there are so many situations where you may need to repair and glue a styrofoam item. But what goes well with styrofoam to do a clean gluing job?

Elmer’s glue (even its regular school glue) works efficiently on styrofoam. It’s an excellent choice for attaching styrofoam blocks and creating simple artworks or crafts for kids. It dries fast and clear and is also safe for children. 

Elmer’s liquid glues are great choices for working with styrofoam, and you don’t need to worry about the glue temperature to ruin your work – too hot glue can melt the styrofoam. 

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Leather?

We all have used leather items such as bags, belts, shoes, jackets, gloves, couches, and so many more in our lives. Leather Items can tear apart and need repairing. You may also wish to attach other things to leather or to create crafts out of it. 

While gluing leather seems feasible, it’s not that easy, and you have to choose the right type of glue to even make it stick. Can Elmer’s glue work on leather or not?

Elmer’s Glue-All’s new formula has made it a good choice for working with leather, especially if you’re on a budget. It dries quickly and creates strong, durable bonds. If you want a waterproof type, you can use the Max version.

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Felt?

Felt is an ancient durable material still widely used in a variety of industries, including furniture padding, garments, and draperies, or creating crafts and toys.

Gluing is an easy, safe, and economical way for bonding felt pieces to each other. But what glue works on felt?

Besides regular Elmer’s glue, Elmer’s craft glue – also known as tacky glue – works wonderfully on felt and dries clear with no mess. Elmer’s glue is safe and non-toxic, making it a great choice for kids’ projects or toys. But it functions as well for your own crafts and artworks. 

In addition to Elmer’s craft glue, its school glue also works well on felt – although its adhesive power is less. Elmer’s glue penetrates the felt’s tiny fibers and creates firm bonds with them. However, when it dries, it may harden the felt a bit.

Elmer’s Craft Glue works on porous and semi-porous surfaces, perfect for felt because of it’s no-run formula. 

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Cardboard?

Cardboards are very prevalent in different areas of our life, used both domestically and industrially. We use them for storage, creating artworks and crafts, packaging products, or other purposes. But what’s the best cardboard glue? Does Elmer’s glue work on them?

Elmer’s glue works on cardboard and is one of the best products for gluing this type of material. Cardboard has a porous surface, so it’s ideal for Elmer’s glue. Elmer’s school glue is super easy to use and clean, safe for children, and dries clear. However, the Glue-All version is much stronger.

The only point you should remember is that when sticking fabric to cardboard, the glue’s solvent, which is water, may get into the cardboard and make it soggy, ruining your project. 

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Fabric?

Another material we all regularly deal with is fabric and cloth; from our garments, bedding, draperies, and furniture to handkerchiefs, car seats, etc., are made of textiles.

Even many artworks and crafts are made of fabric, and one of the easiest ways of creating them is gluing.

Elmer’s glue with its original formula can work on fabric, but the resulting bonds may not be very strong. It’s water-soluble and easy to clean, so it’s better not to use it for fabrics exposed to water–such as clothes. However, the Glue-All formula is more capable of providing your desired result. 

Fabric is porous, so it can easily absorb the glue and form powerful, long-lasting bonds when it dries. However, if you want to use Elmer’s school glue for repairing clothes or customization, you need to know it wouldn’t last because this glue dissolves in water. 

Besides, Elmer’s glue can harden the fabric. Therefore, consider a stronger but specialized glue like the Tear Mender or even sew the fabrics if possible. 

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Glass?

While glass is also widely used and somehow omnipresent in our lives, it’s also common for glass to break and need fixing. 

You may want to seal a tiny crack or breakage in your window’s glass or wish to mend a broken glass sculpture. Whatever the case, gluing is the easiest way. The question is, does Elmer’s glue work on glass?

The original Elmer’s glue formula doesn’t work on non-porous surfaces like glass, and the resulting bond won’t last long. But its Glue-All version (especially Glue-All max) bonds efficiently with glass and is water-resistant. Elmer’s China and Glass Cement is also another reliable option.

Elmer’s China and Glass Cement, which is available on Amazon, is clear, dishwasher safe, and non-toxic. That’s why you can safely use it to repair broken glass.

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Canvas?

Canvas is a kind of fabric made of cotton or linen. It’s used mainly for creating artworks, but it’s also used for outdoor purposes due to its durability. You can also find it in bags and backpacks, coverings, or tents. 

You may want to use glue on canvas for many reasons. For instance, you may be an artist trying to glue your canvas to a board and paint on it. How do you do it? 

Elmer’s glue can work on canvas since it’s a porous surface and allows the adhesive to get in and dry. In fact, all PVA glues are good choices for gluing canvas. Elmer’s glue dries fast and clear, with the least mess or residue possible. You can also wipe out the unwanted glue with water. 

However, Elmer’s glue is acidic, which may have undesirable effects on your canvas. It’s better to choose neutral PVA glue for your canvas. But if you have to use Elmer’s glue, mix it with powdered chalk and water to neutralize it.

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Rubber?

Rubber is a kind of flexible polymer that stretches and shrinks. It’s made of natural and synthetic materials and is widely used in toys, pacifiers, medical devices, balls, protective pads, and many other products. Does Elmer’s glue work on rubber, too?

The regular Elmer’s glue or school glue doesn’t work on rubber, but Elmer’s contact cement is another beast specially designed for such uses. It can adhere firmly to materials like plastic, metal, rubber, glass, and others to create firm, long-lasting bonds.

You can use Elmer’s contact cement for gluing almost everything. For instance, you can use it for surfaces like a countertop and secure laminates (thin, plastic layers) on it or glue tiles to the floor. 

It’s a strong adhesive substance designed for working on non-porous materials. When we glue surfaces made of these materials, the existing water in the glue can’t escape, preventing it from getting dry.

But contact cement needs to dry before joining surfaces for about 15 to 20 minutes. Besides, it needs to be applied on both parts, so it adheres to itself and creates a flexible bond.  

Does Elmer’s Glue Work on Ceramic?

Another super common substance we use in our daily life is ceramic–pottery, china, or porcelain. They’re made of clay and heated to become hard and durable. 

However, ceramic items like dishware or decorative antiques are fragile and prone to breaking. Gluing is a safe and economical way to fix such things. 

While Elmer’s Glue-All works well on ceramic and pottery, Elmer’s has introduced a specialized product for such materials. Elmer’s China and Glass Cement is also dishwasher-safe and non-toxic, making it great for kitchen dishware. Besides, it’s excellent for outdoor items like pots. 

A Guide To Elmer’s Products and Their Surface Compatibility

Here’s a table of Elmer’s products and their compatible and non-compatible surfaces:

ProductSurfaces It Works OnSurfaces It Doesn’t Work OnKey Features Buy Online Here
Elmer’s School GluePaper, Wood, Cardboard, Styrofoam Board, Felt, CanvasMetal, Glass, PlasticSafe, washable, non-toxic, and no-run formulaAmazon
Elmer’s Glue-AllPaper, Fabric, Wood, Ceramics, Leather, Metal, Glass, stoneNoneSafe, non-toxic, quick-drying formula, sandable, paintable, and waterproof Amazon
Elmer’s School Glue StickWood, Foam, Paper, Fabric, Cardboard, Display boardMetal, Plastic, Glass, Acid-free, photo safe, non-toxic, and washable Amazon
Elmer’s Craft GlueWood, Fabric, PaperMetal, Plastic, GlassStrong, wet tack for multipurpose projects, dries clear, and no run formulaAmazon
Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood GlueWood Metal, Plastic, glassGreat for carpentry and home repairsNon-toxic, no harmful fumes, easy to clean up with water, and bonds stronger than wood20 to 30 minute clamp time and 24 hours to the full bondAmazon
Elmer’s Glue-AllMaxEverything, including Stone, Metal, Ceramic, Wood, Foam, GlassNoneWaterproof for interior or exterior use, sandable, and paintableAmazon
Elmer’s China & glass CementGlass, Ceramic, Pottery, and China, plasticNoneDishwasher safe and non-toxicSuitable for indoor and outdoor useDries clear, dishwasher safe, and non-toxicAmazon
Elmers Contact CementPlastic, Metal, Rubber, Glass, Wood, Laminate  NoneNeoprene rubber for an ultra-flexible bond, convenient, and fast dryingAmazon

Elmer’s Glue History

Elmer’s is a reputable company based in the US that works in adhesive, craft, home repair, and office supply products. Its glues come in white plastic squeezable containers with orange caps that are its trademark. 

It may seem strange to see a smiling cow as the logo of a glue-making company like Elmer’s. However, this logo is based on ‘Elmer the Bull,’ the spouse of Borden’s advertising symbol ‘Elsie the Cow’–Borden was a famous food product manufacturer, especially dairy products. 

It was initially introduced by the Borden company in 1947 and operated under its name. Its first glue product, known as Casecorez Glue, was based on casein, a milk by-product.

After World War II, the Borden company expanded its activities into synthetic resin glues. It introduced the first multipurpose white glue, known as Elmer’s Glue-All, though with a different package than what it looks like today. 

However, in 1999 Elmer’s spun off, and it was acquired first in 2003 by Berwind Corporation and later by Newell Rubbermaid in 2015. 

Elmer’s Glue Ingredients

Elmer’s glue (or Elmer’s Glue-All, to say correctly) is a white aqueous adhesive substance which most of us are familiar with. It’s also known as wood glue, white glue, school glue, or PVA glue. But let’s look more closely at its ingredients.

Elmer’s glue is an emulsion made of Polyvinyl acetate, Polyvinyl alcohol, and Propylene glycol, with some other additives. In addition, about 50% of Elmer’s glue is made of water. 

Polyvinyl acetate is a synthetic material (also called synthetic resin), which is the most important reason Elmer’s is famous for not using animal ingredients in its glues. 

Elmer’s glue works on many surfaces and bonds porous and semi-porous materials like wood, fabric, and paper. It’s noninflammable and also safe to work with bare hands. 

As we mentioned, Elmer’s glue is an emulsion; about half of it consists of a solvent (water) and when it evaporates, what remains is the vinyl polymer strands bonding together.

It dries well at room temperature and in good airflow conditions. It requires at least 30 minutes to dry, but after 8 hours, it’ll achieve its full strength. However, depending on the environment’s temperature and the amount of glue you use, these processes may take longer or shorter to complete.

Final Thoughts

Despite its great bonding with many materials, Elmer’s School Glue soluble with water; that’s why it’s so popular among teachers and parents and used prevalently in school projects. However, most people don’t realize that there’s an Elmer’s glue for every project imaginable. I hope this article has helped shed light on the subject.

Thanks for reading!

For more, check out What Surfaces Does Gorilla Glue Work on? | Complete Guide.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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