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How Do I Choose the Best Contact Adhesive?

Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber

Selecting the correct contact adhesive for your project can be a daunting task. Manufacturers offer a dizzying array of adhesives for every conceivable purpose. Choosing the proper material for your job does not need to be difficult. Consider first the extent of adhesion you will need for your project, as manufacturers have special adhesives for certain jobs. Decide whether you want to spray or paint the adhesive, whether you prefer a solvent-based or water-based product, and look for a reputable name brand with a history of producing quality products.

The very first step in choosing a glue is ascertaining the type of adhesive best suited for your project. Contact adhesives come in two forms: liquid and spray. Liquid is applied with a paintbrush or paint roller. Spray aerosol adhesive is sprayed onto the material.

A can of spray contact adhesive.
A can of spray contact adhesive.

The liquid product is a strong-bond adhesive. This adhesive is best suited for heavier applications, such as gluing a sheet of laminate to a wooden or particleboard substrate. Its high shear-resistance and superior bond prevent the laminate from warping or buckling.

The spray-on product is best for lighter applications, such as gluing veneer to cabinetry or other furniture. These larger applications are common in an industrial setting and use a pneumatic compressor and spray gun. Small aerosol cans are available for crafts, woodworking and other small hobby projects.

A tube of contact adhesive.
A tube of contact adhesive.

Your next step is to decide whether your project requires a solvent-based or water-based adhesive. Contact adhesives were once all solvent-based, but concerns over its safety gave rise to the less toxic and less polluting water-based products. Solvent-based contact adhesive provides a superior bond, dries faster, and is more water-resistant than water-based products. Yet the solvent-based is also highly flammable, more expensive and produces toxic fumes unless ventilated properly. Additionally, some states and provinces have banned solvent-based materials completely.

Solvent-based glues are not often used for home projects anymore, due to the extreme flammability of the material and the dangerous gases it produces. Water-based products have improved since their introduction, and many products are as good as solvent-based. If you decide that your project requires a solvent-based contact adhesive and its use is legal in your region, consider working outside or in a very well-ventilated area. Keep the material away from open flames and dispose of any unused product lawfully. If you prefer a water-based adhesive, look for a can labeled as GREENGUARD® certified, low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and complies with the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC).

Finally, select a contact adhesive that is manufactured by a reputable, recognizable company. Avoid selecting a contact adhesive based solely on its price, as many of the bargain adhesives offer substandard results. A well-known company with a consistent background of high-quality products is much more likely to stand behind its product and support its customers.

Discussion Comments


Liquid and spray aren't the only types of contact adhesive. There is also powder and foam adhesive and some people prefer these as well.

I'm not a fan of spray adhesives because they are messy and I feel that they are more harmful because the toxic gases spread all around. It's best to use these outdoors and not indoors. Even when using liquid adhesives, it's necessary to open a window. Non-toxic adhesives are nice but unfortunately, they don't hold as well.


@candyquilt-- Technically, any product that has to be applied to the surface of two materials in order to adhere them, is a contact adhesive. So anything that fits this definition can be categorized as such.

I agree with you that there are a lot of options but doing a little bit of research and reading reviews of various type of adhesives should give you a clear idea of what type you need.

For example, I use adhesive for craft and art projects and my preferred adhesive is aerosol spray adhesive. I find this easiest to use and it looks beset for projects where the adhesive will be visible because it dries clear.


What all is categorized as "contact adhesive?" I get confused about this. Are essentially all adhesives on the market contact adhesives?

I agree with the article that it's a daunting task to choose the right ingredient. What makes it worse is that a lot of these adhesive are labeled as "all-purpose." But every type of adhesive isn't best for every type of project.

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    • A can of spray contact adhesive.
      By: difught
      A can of spray contact adhesive.
    • A tube of contact adhesive.
      By: Tinga
      A tube of contact adhesive.