You just spent a lovely afternoon gluing rhinestones to every available surface within the square mile just to notice that your favorite top is covered with glue. What to do now? Can you get the hot glue off fabric or should you give the shirt a Viking’s funeral?
Worry not, there’s still hope! Today, we’ll cover several methods that will help you take care of this problem. Now, turn off the glue gun to prevent further mishaps, and read on.
What’s the Glue in the Glue Gun Made From?
Most glue gun sticks are made from Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) copolymers, but you will also find polyesters, polyethylene, and ethylene-methyl acrylate (EMA). For all of us who did not do that well in chemistry, they are thermoplastics. They are used as glues because they become pliable when heated and solidify as they cool down.
Are All Glue Sticks Equally Easy/Difficult to Remove?
More or less yes, to both questions. EVA ones could be easier to remove when compared to others, but we are splitting hairs here.
Can Hot Gun Glue Sticks Ruin Fabric?
If the fabric consists mostly or completely of natural fibers, it’s very unlikely. The glue doesn’t get hot enough to burn through it or permanently stain it. However, if you’re wearing polyester or another synthetic fabric, chances are that you will have at least some discoloration. The hotter the glue gets, the chances go up – after all, these fibers are basically plastic.
Another thing that is not very likely to survive a glue stain is some types of T-shirt prints. Think of those types of prints you just know will crackle and wear off at some point. They are not “baked” into the fibers as well as the screen-printed designs and are already a lot more fragile. To know if this is the case with your T-shirt, check for labels like “transfer” or “laser-printed“.
How To Get Hot Glue Off Fabric
Whatever you do, don’t start mindlessly rubbing the glue trying to remove it, especially if it’s still hot and tacky. All you’re going to do is smear it all over the place, and maybe push it deeper into the fabric itself. It’s even worse if you try to use a paper tissue to withe the thing off – all you’re going to end up with is a new papery embellishment.
Leave the glue to dry a little bit. It needs to be soft but not tacky, maybe a little warm to the touch. Then you can slowly roll away the lump of glue and further assess the situation. Some very smooth fabrics (i.e. silk and viscose) will allow the glue to slip off and peel away easily, while some may still have a little residue left over, we’ll deal with that with a solvent.
If the glue is not willing to roll over, don’t force it. It’s fine if there is some left because we are going to dissolve it with a solvent.
If you can’t remove the glue properly right now, leave it to harden. You will have a bit more work to do, but it’s still possible to clean everything up even after the glue sets. Continue to read more on this below.
Acetone is one of the best multitaskers to keep around, especially if you are a messy crafter. It’s great for treating ink stains, as well as removing super glue. You can either use the stuff from the hardware store or an oil-free nail polish remover.
To deal with the problem at hand, take a clean cloth or a cotton bud and soak in acetone. Then, dab at the glue blob to dissolve it. Try not to soak the fabric itself because it could cause some discoloration. Keep in mind that acetone can cause damage to some synthetic fibers.
Once the glue is dissolved, you can wipe it away with a clean cloth. Then, wash the garment in cold water to remove the acetone as well.
Alcohol works the same as acetone, only it’s less likely to discolor fabrics and ruin prints. However, alcohol is also a bit less “potent” so it’s better suited to treating fresh stains instead of ones that had an opportunity to dry.
Just as with acetone, dab the glue directly with a soaked cloth or a cotton ball until it dissolves the glue, wipe away with a clean cloth, and proceed to wash in cold water.
All major crafts, hardware, and DIY stores carry a myriad of glue removers. If glue gun usage and glue gun mishaps are something that happens a lot to you, it may be a good idea to stock up.
Ask the attendant for recommendations. Make sure to clearly describe all the types of glue you may need to use the remover on so you don’t end up with something that is unnecessarily too strong. After that, it’s just a matter of reading the instructions at the back of the box and following them to a T.
Bonus Method: Freezing
This method requires the least labor, yet it’s not the most practical one. Also, it’s particularly disastrous for anything with laser-printed designs because it may cause them to peel as well.
The idea is simple: once the glue freezes, it peels off the fabric with minimal effort and no need for additional treatments. To do this, all you have to do is place the garment in a freezer for anything between 30 and 60 minutes. Preferably, place the garment first into a Ziplock bag to prevent freezer burn and something nasty getting into your food.
The freezing method is the most efficient if you have some liquid nitrogen lying around. Not only is it quick, but you can also use it if you end up with glue on furniture, curtains, and other fabrics that can’t fit into the freezer. If you have some, just pour about a teaspoon the glue blob and leave it to do its thing. Of course, make sure that you are wearing protective gloves and that liquid nitrogen never comes in direct contact with your skin.
Once the glue freezes, it will become brittle and you can simply pick it off. Though note that this will be less effective on acrylic glue sticks since they have better resistance to cold.
How To Get Dried Hot Glue Off Fabric
We just talked about leaving the glue to dry a little bit before removing so we don’t smear it or push it further into the fabrics. But, what happens when it dries completely? Well, it depends.
First, whatever you do, don’t tug and pull the glue residue. If you do that, you may rip and damage the fabric. Sturdier fabrics like denim and twill may withstand a bit of rough play, but if the glue refuses to budge, leave it be. Even if the fabric doesn’t rip today, there will be enough damage for a hole to appear in that place after some time of regular wear.
Let’s try and soften the glue first. Since we’re playing with thermoplastics, some heat will do. However, it has to be indirect heat, so you don’t burn the fabric. A standard-issue hair dryer could do the trick. Pretty much, keep the hair dryer at least 4 or 5 inches away and blast the section with the heat until the glue softens.
The glue has to be pliable but watch out, so it doesn’t start to melt. When it’s soft enough, try to roll it off the fabric. if you roll instead of plucking, you’ll not create a hole in the fabric. Plus, you may also end up removing everything in one go. If you don’t and there is still some glue left, you can come back in for a second treatment using any of the methods above.
But, the heat method will not work that well with some types of fabrics and garments. Don’t do this with anything that has elastin because it may damage it (relax is so it doesn’t stretch and snap back anymore). Also, if the garment in question is a laser-printed T-shirt, you may end up damaging the print as well.
In those cases, you will have to go back to using a solvent and let it soften the glue instead. Though, there’s still no guarantee that there will be absolutely no damage to your laser-printed T-shirt.
To remove dried hot glue off fabric with solvent alone, soak a piece of cloth, a cotton ball, or a Q-tip with a solvent of choice. Then dab at the glue lump until it softens. When it becomes soft, test to see if it will roll away on its own. If there’s a bit of residue left behind, repeat the same treatment with the solvent until you remove it as well.
Once you’re done, wash the garment in cold water to remove the solvent.
How To Get Hot Glue Stain Off Fabric
First things first, is it a stain or a burn mark?
As mentioned above, the glue doesn’t usually get hot enough to burn through clothes, especially natural fibers like cotton, silk, linen, or wool. However, it’s still possible for the gun to overheat when you keep it on for a long time. This makes the glue hotter as well, which brings more bad news besides the raised chances of your clothes getting burned.
While we’re at it, a quick health warning: overheating this type of glue will cause it to release fumes and turn toxic. Don’t keep the glue gun on for too long and always work in a well-ventilated area.
Now, back to our stain. A removable glue stain will look like a thin layer of glue on the fabric. It will happen usually if you wipe the glue off the garment while it’s still hot.
To deal with this, you will need acetone (or 100% acetone nail polish remover). Please don’t use anything with additives (like pigments or oils), since they may stick to the fabric. For tools, you’ll need clean cloths, cotton balls, or paper towels. Cotton balls will work best because they allow you full control over where you’re applying the treatment.
Start by dabbing the stain gently to soak it with acetone. Then, use a clean cloth or towel to wipe the stain off. Let it dry a bit and check if you need to repeat the treatment. If the glue is gone, wash the garment in cold water to get the acetone out as well.
Removing Hot Glue Stains from Wool Sweaters
This one needs a special mention since it can be a bit tricky. Depending on the size of the knit, the acetone may not be a good idea. The wool (or whatever fiber the yarn is made from), will absorb a lot of it and it could start dissolving the color itself.
Better quality yarn and pigments are usually stable and will survive treatment with no issues, but you don’t want to find out it’s the opposite situation by experimenting on your favorite sweater.
The solution? Shave the “stain” off. This works best on chunkier knits, plus it will freshen up the look of your sweater overall.
You will need a lint shaver. The electric ones work best because they do all the heavy lifting instead of you dragging a sharp tool over the garment. Use your nails to pick up as much excess glue as possible, then go in with the shaver for the final polishing touch.
In The End, Wear an Apron
Look, working with a glue gun is messy. And even though it’s relatively safe, you are still playing with a hot tool. You have to pay attention not only to protect your clothes and furniture but your skin as well. You probably won’t experience severe burns, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In terms of protecting your clothes, an apron or even a smock is always a great choice. All materials will work just fine, as long as it’s not super thin polyester or other synthetic fabric.
Your local craft store will probably have a great selection of crafting aprons that are suitable for any task, but something that you can pick up from a supermarket will do the trick as well. However, if you have an Asian market nearby, consider going there and looking for a kappogi. Kappogi is a Japanese long-sleeved apron, very similar to a painting smock. But, they are usually made from 100% cotton and will be great for working with a hot glue gun.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and creating fond memory for all of us.