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What is the difference between PVA glue and Elmers glue? Answered

What is the difference between PVA glue and Elmers glue?



Best Answer 2 years ago

Technically, Elmer's Glue-All is a “PVA-based glue”, but it’s basically like all regular PVA glues. There isn’t much difference between Elmer’s and the regular PVA adhesives, in my experience. Elmer's Glue-All was probably modified from regular PVA glues to enhance its properties (strength, tackiness, viscosity, odor, etc.), ease of use, and safety.

As far as the mild acidity of Elmer's Glue-All, this shouldn't be a problem when used with paper. Cellulose, the main structural component in paper, wood and cotton, contains several hydroxyl groups on each of its monomers. This is ideal for acidic PVA adhesives because the PVA's acidic hydrogen ions (H+) will strip away hydroxide (-OH) groups from the cellulose molecules, and create water (H2O) molecules. With the H+ and -OH molecules removed, the PVA polymers will create strong bonds with the cellulose polymers. This is why Elmer's Glue-All is *mildly* acidic: the acid helps drive the PVA-cellulose reaction, but it's not acidic enough to adversely affect the cellulose or the PVA.

The acid will not break down the cellulose over time. Any remaining acid will become neutralized as the glue dries out and therefore the reaction will be complete.

Acids with pHs above 4 are considered to be mildly acidic. Elmer’s is designed to be safe for children. Listed below are the approximate pHs of many common substances. (Sources: various pH charts on the Internet while Googling for "common substances pH" and “beverage pH”)

pH = 7: pure water

pH = 6: milk, tea, well water

pH = 5: yogurt, brown sugar, Perrier, Aquafina, purified water, distilled water, coffee, Pepto Bismol, rain water

pH = 4: tomatoes, orange juice, grapefruit juice, red wine, Gatorade G2, Snapple Red Tea, acid rain

pH = 3: many sodas (Coca-cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, Mt Dew, Red Bull, etc.), beer, Vitamin Water, Dasani Plus, vinegar

pH = 2: lemon juice

pH = 1: stomach acid

pH = 0: battery acid

I've used Elmer's Glue-All on many paper projects for years, and there's never been any degradation of the paper. If anything, Elmer's has made the paper STRONGER. (Note: Elmer’s Glue-All slightly “clouds” the paper but ALL glues do this. The slight clouding isn’t due to acidic deterioration. The clouding is because Elmer’s Glue-All is opaque white in liquid form, but it’s ~99% clear when dry. The clouding is barely noticeable.) I use Elmer's Glue-All because it's safe, inexpensive, strong, easy to use, and it can be found at many stores (Wal-Mart, Michael's, Office Depot, etc.). I've used several different PVA brands, but their properties are fairly similar to one another, so I tend to use Elmer's the most because it works well and it's inexpensive.

I don't claim to be an expert on PVA adhesives but I have a Materials Science background (B.S. and graduate school; my emphasis is in alloys and ceramic materials, but I've taken some polymer courses). While I’m not a PVA adhesive expert, I understand the chemical mechanism as to how Elmer's Glue-All reacts with cellulose. In addition, I know Elmer’s Glue-All is safe with paper because I’ve been using it for years.

Btw, I don't work for Elmer's (nor have I ever worked for any PVA adhesive company), so I'm not trying to sell Elmer's Glue-All. My main point of this message is that Elmer's Glue-All is a good, safe, general-purpose adhesive for paper projects. If you're afraid of Elmer's Glue-All because you think it's harmful or because you thinks it’s a cheap kids glue, then don’t use it. Also, if Elmer's Glue-All is in fact harmful then PLEASE PROVE IT with facts/science/experiments/experience/whatever.

(Note: The reason my message is long is because I wanted to write a full explanation as to why I think Elmer's Glue-All is safe for use with paper. Seeing as how I've come across this thread six years after it was created [via Google] and seeing as how this thread has been viewed over 170K times, this thread will continue to be viewed for many more years, with thousands more views. I don't have any interest in checking on this thread so I wanted to post my opinion and move on.)

That is the best answer ever! Quite thorough and very interesting. Honestly it was almost sexy. But then again science rocks my world.
The end of the message seemed a little cold. I wish it would have ended with the great information and been a little more open for further questions. Still, thanks for taking time to share your knowledge, it is genuinely appreciated.


Speaking as a mother who has a kid that would rather make crafts than go out and play. Seriously they had to make her stop to go out for recess. I have paper crafts that my kid made 10 yrs ago with elmers that although they are dusty the paper has not broken down and my daughter used ALOT of glue. Not a scientist though. I have a major in Science and accounting intending to go into forensic accounting. Somehow I ended up in the financial sector. At any rate I have young boy who is now 9 and loves science projects. So on that note he wants to make crazy putty which calls for PVA glue. Would elmers glue all work for that or am I going to need to hunt down a bottle of PVA Glue. I am going to use this for a cub scout activity and would really like this to work out.

Yes! Elmer's school glue/glue all (Clear or white) contains PVA so it is a PVA glue. It would be fine to use Elmer's school glue for this putty.

i want to make my own clay and they say to use PVA glue, can i use Elmers-all?


1 year ago

What a great answer! Thank you for the whys and wherefores... love knowing how stuff works! (pH refresher spot on.)

Very interesting post. So if a mildly acidic PVA is chemically optimum for bonding to cellulose, this would suggest pH-neutral glues to be little more than a marketing ploy with respect to bonding uncoated paper. However the concept to market the acid free version likely had some basis for originating. I'm speculating here but it may have been due the slightly acidic affects of some PVA compounds in the case of photo print paper where it may have more easily caused a visual effect on the image emulsion vs. a structural effect on the paper. Thoughts?

Question, someone suggested I could coat plain craft foam(purchased at Michael's) in PVA glue. I suppose Elmer's Glue or something similar will suffice. Well, my question is, will it damage the craft foam at all?? My plan is to simply coat it all before painting it with acrylic paints. The whole point is so that the acrylic paint won't crackle or flake off :/


modpodge will give you a waterproof seal, an option of glossy or matte texture and save you on paint since the acyrlics won't soak so deeply into the porous texture of the foam's surface. ??? Best Wishes'

I've been using Elmers glue mixed with food colouring to create a sea glass effect on clear glass objects, but I've discovered that PVA is much cheaper. Will it do the job - does anyone know? If not, I'll just have to buy some PVA and experiment.

Elmers glue is PVA (PVAC) based - but has lots of other stuff (tackifiers and solvents), and has a pH of 5 (meaning it is acidic). For book binding, I would definitely recommend using a pH neutral PVA based glue that is specific to book binding. The acid in Elmers has a nice way of breaking down the cellulose in paper over time, and who knows what the other ingredients might do.

Those other ingredients will cause cancer. Or obesity, or both if the user is a paste eater....Yuck!

I did some research and found that elmers has an acid free glue. Reviews say that it can be used on paper. What would you say?

Hi Kayla,

I looked at the "Craft Bond Fabric and Paper Glue" that is acid free. Looks okay, depends how sure you want to be. Acid free doesn't mean pH neutral though... this particular glue has a pH of 8.8, making it basic.

Wouldn't that apply to any cellulose product, eg. wood? My mother has a popsicle stick jewellery box I made for her about 40 years ago using Elmer's white glue. Other than re-gluing a couple of the sticks that were knocked off over the years, there is no evidence of any acidic deterioration that I have seen.

Paper is different to wood, it's thinner and heavily processed. L

Holy-Cow! This has over 150K views!

Sweet! It is good information, with a lot of knowledgeable people participating.

I used PVA glue to seal a craft foam ball several years ago and then covered it with mosaics. That worked well but it did take several coats of the glue to seal it.

A project making sand bowls specifys Elmers white glue.
Can't get it in UK unless its shipped over from USA and the shipping cost makes it expensive.
I thought general PVA glue the sort used in kindergartens, schools etc would be ok.
Can anyone advise.

PVA = Polyvinyl Acetate...Don't worry about the brand name. It's essentially white craft glue. "Elmer's", actually has a higher than average Ph than most PVA's and depending on the wood you plan on using, it might cause staining...hope this helps.

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Lineco pH Neutral PVA Adhesive, its pH is between 4.0 and 6.0, while Elmer's Glue-All is between 4.8 and 5.1 according its own MSDS.

I expect that Elmer's Glue-All is sufficiently "pH neutral" for most purposes.

Jade 403, on the other hand, is 7.1 to 7.3, so which PVA you use *is* important for archival purposes.


8 years ago

None. Elmer's glue is PVA glue, poly vinyl acetate.

So when doing book binding and it says to use PVA glue, I would be just fine using Elmer's?

I think Chemantics deserves Best Answer :-)

Possibly, the formulation is basically the same for all PVA glues but the purity may vary due to the manufacturer's quality control process. I have pretty much limited my use of PVA to two brands, Elmer's and Titebond with no discernible difference, except Elmer's seems slightly more viscous than Titebond. I've seen some Chinese made PVAs in the dollar store but never used them, the price difference between them and the Elmer's and Titebond is negligible.

I was just going to say that Elmers is made by a cow. I'm glad you knew the right answer.

Actually, Elmers glue is entirely derived from petroleum products. This is from their FAQ: "Do you use animals when making glue? No, Elmer's does not use animals or animal parts to make glue. Our products are made from synthetic materials and are not derived from processing horses, cows or any other animals. "