Are you trying to decide which glue to use for your next crafting project?
If so, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re comparing super glue and epoxy so that hopefully, by the end of this review, you’ll have all the info you need to pick a suitable adhesive for you.
Let’s drive straight in…
Bottom Line Up Front
Both superglue and epoxy are strong adhesives. The critical difference is that while superglue consists of only one compound, epoxy consists of a hardener and resin that needs mixing upfront.
Super glue is used in small quantities for crafting projects and repairs around the house. Whereas epoxy is best used as a coating or resin for jewelry-related crafts.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Their Key Similarities and Differences
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of super glue and epoxy, here’s a quick comparison of their core similarities and differences.
Main Differences Between Superglue vs Epoxy
- Epoxy is stronger than superglue – it would take 25MPa of pressure to pull bonded elements apart, whereas it only takes 13.7 MPa for superglue.
- Superglue is much quicker to dry – it dries in only 10 minutes, whereas epoxy takes a full day to cure.
- Superglue is a pre-mixed compound, whereas epoxy consists of a hardener and a resin that must be mixed in a 1:1 ratio.
- Superglue is often applied in much smaller quantities, whereas epoxy can coat larger surfaces like tables, furniture, and even floors.
- Superglue is mainly used to bond two materials, whereas Epoxy is used as a resin for jewelry crafting and creating smooth surfaces.
- Superglue is often kept for general applications, whereas epoxy is usually purchased just for specific projects.
Superglue is made out of an adhesive compound called cyanoacrylate. The formula was first discovered during world war 2 while scientists tried to develop clear plastic gun sights. However, they found the formula too sticky to be used for their intended application. Luckily, researchers Harry Coover and Fred Joyner realized the formula’s commercial potential as an adhesive and came onto the market in 1958.
Fast forward to today, and super glue remains a popular product. In fact, Loctite, one of the leading adhesive brands in the USA, made over $7.9 million on their super glue product alone (in 2016).
Unlike superglue, which comprises one compound (cyanoacrylate), epoxy consists of two separate components. Therefore, it requires a ‘base’ made of resin and a ‘curing’ agent to harden the mixture. In simple terms, a chemical reaction occurs when the two compounds mix. The reaction generates heat which turns the liquid resin into hard plastic.
Epoxy has a long history originating in the 1890s. However, the formula we’re most familiar with was first formulated in 1936, making it older than super glue.
Even so, while epoxy enjoyed commercial exposure during the 50s, especially within aerospace applications and for laminate flooring during the 70s, it wasn’t as popular as it is today.
Fast forward to 2015, and it received a surge in popularity when it started being used to manufacture wind turbines. Since then, the global demand for epoxy resin has exceeded 3.1 million tons (as of 2020) and continues to grow.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Strength
Strength can mean lots of different things in terms of adhesives. For example, it can refer to how long parts remain stuck once the sealant’s applied. Or it may refer to how well the glue holds up to strain.
However, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus on how well the materials bond. I.e., the ability for an adhesive to resist force. In other words, how much energy does it take to pull items apart once they’ve been glued together? The test to measure this is called a lap shear test.
- Epoxy is generally more robust than superglue in this respect. Typically, it requires 25MPa of pressure to pull two bonded elements apart. To put that in perspective, that’s about 250kg of weight needed to create that force.
- On the other hand, superglue only has a lap shear strength of 13.7MPa, which is roughly 140 kg.
That said, there are some instances where superglue has a higher strength than epoxy. For example, the lap shear strength of glue increases when used with metal. For example, super glue applied to aluminum can be as high as 17MPa. Whereas epoxy used on aluminum only has a last shear of 6MPa.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Dry and Cure Time
Let’s preface this section by defining the difference between cure and dry time.
Drying refers to the time it takes for most of the moisture content to evaporate from the glue and shrink. Then once the glue has dried, it should feel solid to the touch.
Whereas the curing process often takes much longer and changes the glue on a molecular level. Curing is a chemical reaction in which the polymers cross-link and thereby harden. Once the glue is cured, it cannot be softened again with moisture.
- Average dry time: 10 minutes
- Average cure time: 24 hours
- Average dry time: 24 hours
- Average cure time: 72 hours
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Longevity
There are two ways to measure longevity:
- Shelf life
When we refer to shelflife, we’re talking about how long the product will last, either opened or unopened. Whereas durability tells us how long the product will last after it’s used.
- Shelf life: An unopened product is best used within 12 months. If opened, superglue products can typically be used for up to four and eight weeks.
- Durability: While superglue is designed to permanently affix items together, this isn’t always the case in practice. Superglue bonds weaken with exposure to vibrations, moisture, and temperature. Theoretically, a strong superglue will last approximately 30 years.
- Shelf life: The average shelf life of epoxy resin is 12 months unopened and six months opened.
- Durability: The life of an epoxy product depends on its application. Industrial epoxy products such as laminate flooring will last between five and 10 years. With less volatile applications, including crafts, epoxy can last approximately 20 years.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Eco-Friendliness
Suppose you’re thinking of using glue for an outdoor project. In that case, you might be interested in whether these adhesives have any adverse effects on the environment.
When fully polymerized and the mix is perfect, epoxy and superglue are eco-friendly.
In the case of resin, it’s essential to stick to the recommended ratio and mix the resin and hardener enough to completely close the molecular chain. Another good practice is to choose resin formulated with 100% solids, so no water or solvents are present. That way, once the resin dries and hardens, there won’t be any solvent emanation.
That said, never throw away liquid or uncured epoxy or pour it down the drain. Epoxy in its uncured form can harm marine life and ecosystems. If you want to dispose of uncured epoxy, do so at a local waste facility where it can be taken care of. Or let the resin polymerize for 24 hours before disposing of the hard, cured epoxy in household trash.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Safety
When handling glue, you might fear harmful fumes or skin irritation. However, superglue and epoxy are both relatively safe to use, as long as you bear a few best practices in mind.
Superglue is a cyanoacrylate solution that produces fumes when in use. Usually, this is a mild irritant. But it can have more severe effects if you’re exposed to the fumes for longer periods. Typically, opening a window while you’re crafting is enough to avoid any adverse effects.
You should also be cautious using superglue with natural materials such as cotton, wool, and sometimes even leather. Contact between these materials can produce a lot of heat, resulting in fire and smoke. To be on the safe side, avoid wearing gloves composed of those materials when working with super glue.
You should also take care not to get super glue on your fingers. The moisture content in your skin makes it easy for the glue to bond, making it easy to stick your fingers together, and pulling them apart can be painful. In the event of glued fingers, force a pen or pencil point between the bond to break them. You can also soften the glue by soaking your hand in warm soapy water.
Epoxy requires similar safety measures. So, be sure to work in a well-ventilated area, especially if you’re applying epoxy to a large surface. Fans, open windows, and doors all help. You might also want to use protective equipment to prevent irritating your skin or eyes. For example, nitrile gloves, safety goggles, and long-sleeved shirts help make the process safer.
With both superglue and epoxy, seek immediate medical attention if it gets into your eyes. Also, don’t use acetone (nail varnish remover) to remove glue on or near sensitive skin or open wounds.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Cleaning
Once these glues dry, it can be hard to get them off anything. That said, here are a few tips for cleaning them up:
You can remove excess superglue with sandpaper. Just be careful how much grit you use as you won’t want to accidentally damage the object’s surface.
To clean super glue stains from your work area, spot a small amount of acetone nail polish to clean away the glue. But don’t use too much otherwise, you’ll leave a stain. Then, scrub off any residue with a soft-bristle toothbrush and remove polish the area with a damp cloth.
For some surfaces (like painted metal), you may need to soak the area in a lubricant and then scrape away the glue with a putty knife or scraper.
You can clean epoxy resin spills with lacquer thinner, alcohol, or acetone. Be sure to follow the safety warnings on the containers.
Hardener residue can be cleaned using warm, soapy water. However, don’t use fine cellulose materials to absorb epoxy hardeners, and don’t clean liquid epoxy away by pouring it down the drain or into general waste.
To remove epoxy after it’s cured, use a heat gun to soften the resin and then scrape it off with a cabinet or paint scraper. Then, sand the surface to remove any leftover material.
From clothes, epoxy can be removed with an aggressive solvent. In contrast, the hardener can be removed using hot soapy water.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Use Cases
Below we’ve listed some typical superglue and epoxy applications:
Thanks to the sheer array of materials superglue bonds with (and at such speed), superglue is fantastic for crafting projects. It’s perfect for creating coasters out of wine corks, decorating fridge magnets, and much, much more.
As superglue typically comes in smaller quantities, it’s usually used to fix two items together. Paper, wood, metal, and many other materials are also easily conjoined using this glue.
That said, where crafting is concerned, superglue comes in handy for those minor fixes requiring a solid bond. In contrast, regular crafting glue is usually better suited to children’s and paper-related crafts.
Superglue can also be used for minor car repairs, fixing handles, or as an alternative to nails. Superglue is also great for repairing the soles of your favorite shoes, fraying cords and rope, and extending the lifespan of cables.
Epoxy is an immensely popular resin in the arts and crafts world. It cures with a dry, solid surface, making it ideal for projects like resin tabletops, resin jewelry, coasters, placemats, and more. Flowers, beads, glass, and other pretty objects can also be encased in clear epoxy.
Also, as epoxy is sold in higher quantities and has corrosion preventative properties, it’s great for coating craft projects or even household objects. Here, the epoxy acts as a sealant, protecting the surface from moisture and rusting. For this reason, epoxy is often used in decorative flooring applications like chop flooring, terrazzo flooring, and other aggregate flooring types.
Epoxy can also be used for repairs thanks to its strong adhesion properties. It can fix fragile items like ceramic, china, and glass and help bind wood, metal, latex, and other synthetic materials together.
Besides its use in craft projects, epoxy also has applications in the electronics industry. It’s used to produce insulators, motors, transformers, and more. In addition, epoxy resins function as an insulator to protect sensitive components from moisture, dust, and short circuits.
Now that we’ve covered a fair amount about super glue and epoxy, here are a few product recommendations:
Loctite All Purpose Super Glue
Loctite is a household name when it comes to superglue. This 20g adhesive is perfect to use with various materials for repairs, crafts, and other household uses. It offers long-lasting strength and comes with a functional design. The cap prevents clogging, and its long nozzle provides more control over your application. At $10.08, this product is a must-have to keep around the house.
Gorilla Super Glue
Gorilla super glues are perfect for DIY. They’re compatible with metal, rubber, and wood. The formula is reinforced with liquid rubber, which makes it more resistant to impact and ensures it’s less runny. This non-drip formula makes the glue ideal for vertical applications, including wall-decoration projects or repairs around the house. At $7.82 for 15g, it’s also an affordable option.
DAP Weldwood Contact Cement
If you’re looking for a reliable super glue for wood crafts, look no further than this contact cement. Thanks to a neoprene-based formula, this glue adheres to various types of wood, forms instantly, and dries in 20 minutes. Priced at $7.48 for 88ml, this glue is available at Walmart.
Nicpro’s 16-ounce Epoxy Resin Kit
This Nicpro resin kit is perfect for jewelry making, craft casting, and coasting. It comes with four measures, two silicone sticks, gloves, a spreader, and of course, crystal clear 1:1 ratio art resin. At only $15.99, it’s an affordable kit to get you started with everything you need. The glue boasts minimal order, is non-toxic, and resists yellowing over time. It’s also self-leveling to achieve a super smooth finish.
Craft Resin Epoxy Resin Kit, 1L
If you know you’ll use lots of epoxies, you might want a bigger kit. This craft resin kit includes 1 L of hardener and resin. The glue is high-gloss, UV and heat resistant, and avoids bubbles and yellowing. In addition, its low viscosity makes the glue easier to control. At $53.72, the kit is more of an investment but will meet your resin needs for a longer period.
ArtResin Epoxy Resin
ArtResin is likely a familiar brand if you’re an avid jewelry maker. Their clear resin has plenty of positive reviews and comes in 474ml bottles. It produces no fumes, isn’t flammable, and is certified food safe. In addition, ArtResin comes with unparalleled non-yellowing protection. However, because of the brand’s presence, it is on the pricier side at $48.36.
Last but not least, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about super glue and epoxy:
Question: Why Isn’t My Glue Sticking?
Answer: The quality of the adhesion hinges on several factors. But here are some of the most common causes:
There might not be enough humidity in the air to react with the glue
You might not have given the glue enough time to cure.
The glue might be past its use-by date and has outlived its shelf life.
It’s also worth noting there are some surfaces many types of glue struggle stick to. These include very smooth surfaces like glass, wet surfaces, and porous surfaces.
Question: Why Isn’t My Epoxy Curing?
Answer: Epoxy might struggle to cure if you’re using the wrong ratio when mixing the resin.
Or you might not have mixed the epoxy properly. Epoxy should be mixed vigorously for three to four solid minutes, with residue scraped off the sides and mixed into the solution.
Resin also doesn’t work well with water, so if your tools or the material are wet, this could affect the curing.
And finally, temperature also has an effect on cure time. The ideal room temperature for mixing resin is 75 to 85 degrees. Colder temperatures will make the resin thicker and more challenging to mix and take longer to cure until it’s fully dry.
Question: How do I Extend the Shelf Life of Cyanoacrylate?
Answer: Suppose you want to extend the shelf life of superglue. In that case, you can keep unopened bottles refrigerated to best maintain their properties.
However, opened bottles should be kept at room temperatures and not enter the fridge because the moisture content would cure the adhesive.
It’s also worth keeping the nozzle clean and securely sealed to ensure the glue is kept as airtight as possible. You can even store the glue in an airtight container with silica gel to remove excess moisture.
Superglue vs. Epoxy: Our Final Thoughts
In conclusion, epoxy resin and superglue are both incredibly useful and have strong adhesives.
However, resins are better suited to craft projects where the resin has to hold its form and produce a clear, even surface. As such, it’s great for jewelry making.
In contrast, super glue typically comes in smaller sizes. When it comes to crafting, its use is simple: you can stick nearly anything together and enjoy long-lasting adhesion.
So, that’s a wrap – we hope this article has given you a good idea of which glue to use for your project and what you need to know before working on them. Just remember whichever glue you use, ventilate the room well, and be mindful of the safety recommendations on the container. Happy crafting!
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