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How to Remove Glue From Fabric (Without Damaging It)

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When my kids were growing up, let’s just say they were a bit clumsy. On numerous occasions, I had to try and remove a variety of substances from their clothes. I found glue to be one of the most challenging, but with some trial and error I honed in on the best ways.

One of the best ways to remove glue from fabric is to scrape off as much glue as you can with a knife and then soak it in cold water for a few hours. Alternatively, you can wash it in a machine with laundry detergent or try acetone/white vinegar to remove more stubborn stains.

This article will go into greater detail on the different ways to remove glue from fabric. It will also discuss the possible dangers of using certain chemicals, so be sure to keep reading to learn more.

1. Submerge the Fabric in Cold Water

Old Metal Bucket Full of Water

If the glue stains on your fabric don’t seem too stubborn, the cold water method may work. It’s essential to soak it in cold water because warm water will set the glue, making it even harder to remove.

The cold water method is most suitable for weaker glues, like water-based ones. So, it may not work for stronger adhesives like super glue. It’s a standard method that many people like to use on their fabrics, so it’s certainly worth a try.

Here’s how to remove glue from fabric using the cold water method (without damaging it):

  1. Scrape off the dried glue. Once the stain has dried, you should try to scrape off as much as you can. You can use a knife or anything that will get the job done to do this. Don’t use a knife or object that’s too sharp because you certainly don’t want to cut into your fabric.
  1. Submerge the fabric into cold water. After scraping off as much glue as you can, it’s time to soak your fabric in cold water. Warm water will melt the stain into your clothes, and you want to prevent this from happening. Therefore, cold water should help remove any remaining glue. You should keep the fabric submerged in cold water for at least six hours. It’s generally more convenient to leave it soaking overnight rather than during the day.
  1. Remove the fabric from the cold bath and wipe down. After the material has been soaking for a few hours, you can remove it and wipe it down with a soapy sponge. The best soap to use for this step is laundry detergent. Ensure the detergent you use is suitable for the fabric, and scrub well (without causing damage).
  1. Machine wash. The final step is to machine wash your fabric. At this point, most of the glue stain should be removed. However, machine washing will ensure every last bit of residue gets washed away. I would recommend a cold wash if there are still bits of glue stuck on the fabric. 

Once the machine wash is finished, you should examine the fabric to check if all the glue has come off. If you still notice some residue left, you can go ahead and repeat the cold wash method. 

If it seems like all the glue is gone, that’s great! Allow the fabric to air dry and re-examine when it’s thoroughly dried. It can be hard to tell whether all the glue came off or not when the material is still wet, so allowing it to dry first can help you examine it better.

Avoid using a tumble drier (unless you do a cold dry). Warm air, just like warm water, makes these types of stains set much faster.

2. Soften the Glue Using Acetone

If the glue stain is persistent and difficult to remove, you may be better off using a chemical like acetone. Since acetone is a solvent, it works well with dissolving other materials. You may be wondering where you can find acetone, and luckily, it’s pretty easy to find.

Acetone is one of the main ingredients in many nail polish removers. If you have a nail polish remover at home with acetone, you can use that for this method. If not, you can easily buy the compound in most drugstores or online. 

An example of a pure-acetone nail polish remover is this recommended brand that you can find easily on Amazon. This option is powerful, yet gentle, as it’s meant to come in contact with skin, meaning it won’t damage your fabric in the process.

Important note: Before using the acetone method, make sure your fabric is compatible with the compound. Some natural fibers, like wool and silk, will get damaged from acetone. When it comes to materials like cotton, however, acetone shouldn’t cause any damage.

Now, let’s look at how to safely remove glue stains from fabric using acetone (without damaging the fabric):

  1. Soak a q-tip or cloth in acetone. Since acetone works best with cotton, it’s ideal to use a cotton q-tip or other items made from the same material. 
  1. Dab the glue stains with the q-tip. It would be best if you dabbed the stains directly. Concentrate as much acetone as you can right on the areas where the stains are; this should soften the glue, making it easier to pick off.
  1. Pick off the softened glue. Once you notice the glue softening up, you should begin scraping or picking it off. Like with the cold water method, you can use any scraping tool. But always make sure not to rub or cut too hard as this may damage your fabric.
  1. Machine wash the fabric. You certainly won’t want your clothes to smell like acetone for long, so you should clean the material once you’ve removed all the glue. Make sure to opt for a cold wash.

It may take some time for all the glue to soften, so try to be patient with it. If you begin scraping but feel like the glue isn’t coming off quickly, you likely need to apply more acetone. Eventually, it should soften up and be easily removable.

Test Fabric Before Applying Acetone

Since acetone may sometimes cause damage to certain fabrics, it might be best to test the material beforehand to get a better understanding of how it will react.

Use a q-tip soaked in acetone to apply the substance to a small section of fabric. If it doesn’t discolor it or cause any damage, you should use it to remove the glue stain. If you notice it discolors your fabric or damages it in some other way, steer away from this method.

In general, acetone works well with cotton and denim but may not work well with silk or wool. However, you should always test the fabric you’re working with before using this approach.

Make Sure Your Fabric Doesn’t Contain Acetate

Acetate is sometimes present in certain soft, silky materials. Since acetate is soluble when it comes in contact with acetone, you should never use acetone on fabric that contains acetate. 

The acetate will likely dissolve the fabric, and that’s something you want to avoid! Some types of clothing that most likely contain acetate are women’s blouses or high-end prom and wedding attire, for example.

Always check your garment’s label to make sure there is no acetate present.

3. Freeze the Fabric To Scrape the Glue off More Easily

Canned Food In Freezer

One of the best ways to remove hot glue from a piece of fabric is to place it in a freezer. Once it’s frozen, the hot glue will harden and begin to break off easily. By using this approach, you’ll be able to simply take the material out of the freezer and scrape off the glue easily and quickly.

If you’re interested in the freezer method, here is a guide on how to do it without damaging your fabric:

  1. Place the stained fabric flat and neatly in the freezer. 
  2. Allow it to sit until it is completely frozen.
  3. Once frozen, remove it from the freezer.
  4. Scrape off the glue using a scraping tool.
  5. Once all the glue is gone, give the fabric a cold wash.

The freezer method has been tried and tested and is proven to work with hot glue (and other types of adhesives). If, for whatever reason, you don’t have access to a freezer or don’t want to try this method, you could try the acetone method that I mentioned in the previous section.

Since hot glue comes out liquid and warm, it’s best to wait a while so that it dries up. Trying to scrape off warm glue will only worsen the situation because it will spread the adhesive across the fabric.

4. Soften the Glue Using Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can remove glue from fabric, particularly sticker glue that may be left behind by a sales price sticker, for example. Rubbing alcohol is a widely used solvent, so it is easy to buy. All you need to do is wipe the glue with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol until it loosens.

To remove a stain using rubbing alcohol, you should follow these steps:

  1. Place the stained fabric on a flat surface.
  2. Soak a sponge or cloth in rubbing alcohol.
  3. Begin wiping the glue stains with the cloth or sponge.
  4. Continue doing this until the glue loosens
  5. Scrape the glue off once it has loosened.

The rubbing alcohol method is highly similar to the acetone method, and both approaches work well. Like with acetone, you shouldn’t use rubbing alcohol on any delicate materials. You should test your fabric before trying out this method to ensure it won’t get damaged or discolored.

Rubbing Alcohol Might Remove Dye from Fabric

If you use pure isopropanol (the active ingredient in rubbing alcohol), it won’t leave any stains because it is colorless. However, most rubbing alcohols contain other ingredients that may leave stains.

Even pure isopropanol can strip some of the fabric’s dye. Once this occurs, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. You should keep this in mind before using rubbing alcohol and always do a patch test first.

Can White Vinegar Remove Glue Stains from Fabric?

White vinegar can remove glue stains from fabric. It works by dissolving the glue, making it easier to break down and scrape off. However, white vinegar works best with minor glue stains rather than larger or more persistent ones.

White vinegar is a common household item, so you likely already have it in your kitchen. If you do, it may be worth a try.

Here are the steps you’ll want to follow when removing glue stains from fabric using white vinegar:

  1. Soak the fabric in the vinegar until the glue softens significantly.
  2. Use a scraper or old toothbrush to scrub off the glue as gently as possible.
  3. Only try removing the glue once the vinegar has dried onto the fabric.

Can Hydrogen Peroxide Remove Glue Stains from Fabric?

Hydrogen peroxide can remove glue stains from fabric, but there is a chance it will stain or bleach your clothes if you use high concentrations. Better alternatives to using hydrogen peroxide include acetone, cold water and detergent, and white vinegar. 

When used in low concentrations, hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t stain a fabric. If you want to use it to remove a glue stain, you should do a patch test first to ensure it won’t cause any discoloration.

To use hydrogen peroxide to remove glue stains from fabric, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure it won’t damage or stain your fabric by doing a patch test first.
  2. Soak a cloth or q-tip in the solution.
  3. Rub the stain with the q-tip and keep doing so until the glue softens

If you plan on using hydrogen peroxide, it’s best to go for a 3% solution. Anything higher than this may bleach/discolor the fabric.

Consider the Fabric Before Choosing a Glue Removal Approach

No matter what method you plan on using to remove glue stains from your fabric, you should always make sure it won’t get damaged any further.

All methods mentioned in this article should work fine with fabrics like cotton and denim. However, they may cause damage to silk, wool, or any synthetic fibers (like acetate and nylon). To ensure the method you use won’t damage your fabric, you should do a patch test first, as I mentioned earlier.

Additionally, some fabrics may be more delicate than others. Since removing glue stains involves scraping or scrubbing, you need to be careful not to cause permanent damage. Only scrub or scrape hard if the fabric is tough.

Conclusion

There are many ways to remove glue from fabric, and they are all highly effective. Here are some critical points to take away from this article:

  • Soaking fabric in cold water and detergent is the safest way to remove a glue stain.
  • Using acetone (commonly found in nail polish) to remove glue stains from fabric is another effective method.
  • Always do a patch test before using any chemicals because some fabrics may get damaged/discolored.
  • The freezer, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide methods are all useful for removing glue stains from fabric.

For more, don’t miss 9 Surfaces Elmer’s Glue Works on (And 3 It Doesn’t).

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