Basics of Hot Glue

Introduction: Basics of Hot Glue

About: I used to work for, now I just make stuff. // follow me to see what I'm up to:

This tutorial on Hot Glue will go over how to use a hot glue gun, why they should be in every home, a few clever tips, and a fun project that will test your skills at reloading a glue gun over, and over, again.

What is Hot Glue?

Hot melt adhesive is a thermoplastic adhesive that can be melted in an electric hot glue gun. The gun uses a continuous heating element to melt the plastic glue that is then extruded through a tip or nozzle when the user applies pressure to the gun's trigger.

When the glue is squeezed out of the nozzle, it is VERY HOT, and will quickly burn the skin if you are not careful. In this lesson, we will go over many ways to avoid getting burned by the gun.

When deciding to get a hot glue gun, there are an overwhelming amount of options. There are small guns, large guns, cordless guns (my personal fav), multiple temperature settings, battery-powered etc. It's hard to know which glue gun is the right tool for the job.

If you are in the market for a new glue gun, I suggest looking for one that has dual temperature settings and interchangeable tips.

There are also tons of fun different kinds of hot glue cylinders available for purchase, colored, glow in the dark, glittery - there are lots of fun ideas to use hot glue not as an adhesive, but instead as a sculptural medium.

check out all these fun projects that turn hot glue into a sculptural medium

Step 1: Preparing Bonding Surfaces

Like almost every glue I write about in my adhesive tutorials, you can help strengthen an adhesive bond by giving your bonding surfaces some 'tooth'.

For hot glue bonds, you are going to want to rough up any smooth surfaces with sandpaper, giving the glue something on the bonding surface to grab on to. With most plastics 80-200 grit sandpaper is perfect.

Giving surfaces a quick alcohol wipe will help assure a clean bond too.

Step 2: Tips and Facts

High vs. Low settings

How do you know which temperature hot glue you should use?

Low-temperature glue sticks melt at around 250°F - this temperature is best suited for applications for fine details, fabric, silk flowers, paper, and generally lightweight materials.

High-temperature glue sticks melt at around 375°F - this temperature is best suited for wood, ceramics, some metals and more heavy-duty materials.

Some glue guns have a potentiometer that allows you to dial in temperatures - this is best for special materials that are either very sensitive to heat (leather, suede, certain fabrics), or very insulating materials (glass, metal, ceramics).

Protect your fingers

Keep a little bowl or jar of cool water near where you are working in case you accidentally need to quickly solidify glue that you get on your finger.

A little heat-resistant silicone spatula makes a great flexible forming tool, protecting your skin from being burned.

There are also these neat thermal thimbles you can get for just your fingers.

Protect your work surfaces

Keep your surfaces safe by never resting your glue gun on your project, or on a surface that could be damaged. A plate, dish, or bowl works great. Keep glues guns in an upright position when it is still hot, but not in use.

More Tips

For small parts, try squeezing out a pool of hot glue, then dipping your part into the molten puddle.

If you have A LOT of small parts or items to glue, you can use a hot glue pot to keep a molten pool of glue for parts to be dipped and adhered.

A pair of tweezers is helpful for removing glue strings, but so is a hair dryer! A quick blast of hot air from the dryer can blast pesky hot glue threads to oblivion.

Step 3: Example Repair

A lot can be fixed with Hot Glue, like A LOT. Shoes, household goods, even glass if it doesn't need to be food-safe.

Check out these example quick fixes!

A quick bead glue on the heels of shoes to add a bit of skid resistance in a pinch!

Protect your circuits by slathering component parts with glue (make sure your circuit works first :))

I could go on and on and on and on about how useful Hot Glue is, but the Instructables community has really nailed this one down.

Step 4: How to Remove Hot Glue

If you make an error with nonporous materials like metal or glass, you can usually just wait for the glue to dry, then pull if off and try again.

If, however, you make an error with a porous material like fine fabric, you will need to reheat the glue to remedy the problem.

To remove glue from fabric, you will need:

  • Iron
  • Sacrificial cotton cloth

Find a scrap piece of cotton fabric and lay it flat on an ironing board. Shop towels work perfectly.

Lay the stained clothing, glue side down, on top of the sacrificial fabric. Apply a hot iron with no steam for 10-20 seconds, and moderate pressure. Remove the iron and carefully peel the clothing off of the fabric.

You will have to do this a few times, and be sure to move the cloth underneath before you make the next pass, otherwise, the glue will be reabsorbed into the garment.

After the first pass of the iron.

After the second pass of the iron.

Continue until all of the glue is transferred off of the clothing and onto the cotton piece. There may be some residue left behind, but I've noticed that it kind of washes out over time.

Step 5: Creative Project

Ready to see how fast you can burn through sticks and sticks and sticks of glue? For this project, we are going to use a LOT of glue sticks, but this will really give you a feel for using a hot glue gun, and the importance of waiting for glue to cool. :D

Materials Needed

I transformed a leftover box from an online purchase into a cute handy organizer bin.

Check out the full Instructable here.

That's a wrap on hot glue, remember to protect your fingers and work surfaces when wielding molten adhesives. Hot glue is the best choice for adhering parts quickly because it cures to full strength as soon as it's cool.

In our next lesson, we'll go over the differences between rubber cement and contact cement, and embark on a paper craft project that is easily customized to match your style and creativity.

9 People Made This Project!


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Question 7 months ago

Hello!! I just got a new dip pen set and the ink bottles have a metal cap on top of a silicone/rubber stopper.The problem is that when I open my inks,the lid comes off but the stopper stays in which then requires that I pry the stopper out getting ink all over my fingers.I am trying to find a way to hot glue the cap and stopper together(I don’t have any super glue)but they just won’t stay! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Answer 7 months ago

The only thing that sticks to silicone is more silicone, you'll have to either use a silicone adhesive or maybe even a small screw through both.

Hope this helps!


Question 8 months ago on Step 1

do u sand first and then wipe with alcohol, or is it the other way around?


Answer 8 months ago

Yep! That's the right order! You want to rough up the surface and then make sure it's free of dust, debris, and oils with the help of an alcohol wipe.