Hot glue is a common solution for arts and crafts projects of all kinds. It’s easy to use, dries as soon as the glue cools down, and forms a secure, permanent bond on various substrates. If you’re in need of a quick fix for fabric tears, you may wonder whether or not you can use hot glue.
Does hot glue work on fabric? Although hot glue is not a long-term solution, it can be used to bond pieces of fabric together quickly. However, you will need to use the right type of hot glue gun and the right type of glue so that you don’t ruin your fabric.
In this article, we’ll talk about what you’ll need to know if you want to use hot glue on fabrics and how to effectively use hot glue on fabrics.
How Does Hot Glue Work?
A hot melt adhesive – commonly called hot glue – is made using a combination of various additives and polymers, such as plasticizers, resins, and waxes. These elements are then heated and cooled down to form a solid and durable bond between various materials.
Among the base ingredients of hot glue, a thermoplastic polymer is a key to creating a flexible and strong bond. The other components of the process, such as wax and resins, provide the necessary hot-tack to quickly attach different surfaces together while giving the material some flexibility.
Some types of hot glue also contain antioxidants which help maintain the adhesive’s properties even at high temperatures.
But how does hot glue work, exactly? The glue stick alone won’t be of any use as an adhesive because it comes as a solid, stable, and not at all sticky tube.
For hot glue to work, you’ll need a glue gun to apply heat to the glue stick, which transforms it into a molten material that you can apply to the material you want to glue. As the glue cools down, it will form a strong bond between the materials.
Depending on the type of glue that you have, the heat applied by the glue gun doesn’t have to be very high to melt the glue stick. Hot glue can be applied at 260-550°F, so the glue gun only needs to reach this temperature to melt the hot glue.
Hot Glue Vs. Fabric Glue
Artists and crafters usually have both hot glue and fabric glue because these are two popular options to bind various materials, including fabrics, together.
Fabric glue refers to a type of adhesive that is designed for fabrics, especially thinner fabric, where any appearance of dried adhesive would look unseemly. Fabric glue forms a permanent bond that appears almost invisible, and the bond is also washable.
Most types of embellishments are done using fabric glue because it’s quite a durable adhesive. However, on high-end fabrics such as silk, hot glue tends to leave a stain.
Hot glue is thicker in texture, so it’s often used on thicker materials like felt, braided ropes, or leather. However, hot glue can be a bit messy if you don’t know how to handle it correctly.
Can You Use Hot Glue Instead Of Sewing?
Hot glue can be used on various types of fabrics, such as leather, for quick and easy repairs. However, it’s important to note that not every type of fabric can handle hot glue.
That’s because, by nature, hot glue requires high heat to work. High heat is the enemy for a lot of different types of fibers, especially synthetic fibers.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon will melt when exposed to high heat, so a touch of hot glue will cause the fabric to become distorted, and you may even poke a hole in the fabric if you’re not careful!
Certain fabrics, such as acrylic, wool, linen, and cotton, can handle the high temperatures, but leather can have a bad smell after being exposed to the heat.
Take a look at the handy guide below for what types of fabrics can and cannot work with hot glue.
|Can You Use Hot Glue?|
|Leather||Yes (may smell when exposed to hot glue)|
For the best results, use low-temperature hot glue guns. These allow the adhesive to melt and stick to the fabric at a lower temperature, around 260°F. This temperature will allow the hot glue to melt, but it won’t ruin the fabric.
Hot glue can also be used to bond fabrics with other substrates, like plastic, wood, or foam. As long as the fabric can tolerate the temperature of the heat gun, you should be able to use it to bond fabrics to different things.
Although hot glue can be used to bind fabrics, it’s not a replacement for sewing. Although dried hot glue does have a certain amount of flexibility, it’s definitely not comparable to sewing.
This is especially true for clothing garments that you’re planning to wear. Your clothes need to have a high degree of flexibility because of your body’s movements throughout the day, so if the bond is not flexible enough, it will easily break just from the wear and tear of everyday use.
That’s not to mention that hot glue bonds can also bulk up the seam, making the garment look distorted, and it can also be quite uncomfortable to wear. So, although hot glue can be a quick, temporary fix, we definitely recommend replacing the hot glue bond with sewing later on.
Can You Use Hot Glue On Fabric And Wash It?
After using hot glue on fabric, you may wonder whether it’s safe to launder your piece of fabric. Will the hot glue lose its strength when exposed to the water, heat, and friction inside the washer and dryer?
Yes, and no.
Fabrics bonded with hot glue can definitely be washed – the bond is waterproof and quite strong. However, how you wash the fabric will determine whether the bond will survive.
Although hot glue is applied at a very high temperature (260-550°F), it can actually start to soften around 170°F.
Your washer and dryer will wash and dry your clothes at around 140°F, so the bond will remain after the first trip through the washing machine and dryer.
However, you should know that repeated washing can weaken the bond. Combined with the friction that happens inside the washing machine and dryer, your bond may be pulled apart after a few washes.
That’s why it is recommended that you hand-wash your hot glued item using cool water. Hand-washing is the best option for hot glued fabrics because you can easily control how much friction you apply to the fabric to wash it and the temperature of the water.
When you hand-wash your fabric, make sure to apply gentle pressure and be careful around the glued area so that you don’t accidentally pull it apart.
After washing, you can air-dry the item so that no further heat is applied, which can weaken the bond.
Best Hot Glue For Fabric
When buying hot glue specifically for fabrics, there are three characteristics that you will need to consider: the hot glue’s melting temperature, viscosity, and durability.
The first is the hot glue’s melting temperature. As we’ve discussed, hot glue guns can sometimes ruin your fabrics. Some hot glues will only melt at very high temperatures, and high heat does not bode well with synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon.
You’ll want to find an ultra-low temperature hot glue that can melt at a relatively lower heat, so the hot glue gun doesn’t need to apply a lot of heat for the glue to melt. A lower melting temperature also means it’s safer to work with.
For this, we recommend the Surebonder “Cool Shot” Hot Glue Sticks, which can melt at relatively low heat, around 260°F, while still forming a strong bond for your fabric.
The second thing you’ll want in hot glue for fabric is durability. This is more important if you are planning on frequently washing the fabric. The glue will need to be water-resistant, durable, yet flexible so that it can survive frequent trips to the laundry.
A high viscosity allows the glue to penetrate deep into the fabric and fill in any gaps between fibers. It also means that the glue will not run off your project while you’re working with it. The higher viscosity also helps prevent clumping when you’re reheating the glue to apply more.
For this, we recommended Gorilla Hot Glue Sticks, which can also melt at a low temperature. Gorilla is a renowned brand when it comes to all kinds of craft products, especially adhesives. The bonds that this hot glue can create will surely last after frequent washing.
If you want to work with thin and delicate fabrics, you’ll also want a glue that has a higher viscosity when it’s melted. As we mentioned before, this kind of glue will easily be spread thin on the surface of the fabric, and it will also prevent the bond from looking too bulky. A longer set time will also give you more room to spread the glue.
For this, we recommend the AdTech All-Purpose Glue Sticks, which are also all-temperature glue sticks. When melted, they will have a viscosity similar to syrup, which makes the glue more suitable for fabrics that are a bit thinner and more delicate.
How To Use Hot Glue On Fabric
Using hot glue on fabric is not like any other hot glue task. Fabric is flexible and smooth, so any bumps created by the bond can look like a mistake on the fabric. And remember, not every type of fabric will work with hot glue.
If you are sure that your fabric can handle the heat applied by the hot glue gun, here’s how to effectively use hot glue to glue fabric.
Step 1: Get The Right Hot Glue Gun
The heat is applied by the hot glue gun to melt the glue, so the first thing you’ll want to make sure of is that the heat setting on your hot glue gun is set to the lowest possible.
Some hot glue guns only have one heat setting, and it’s typically the high heat setting of around 380°F. You definitely don’t want to use this heat because it will surely damage even the most durable fabrics like linen or cotton.
You’ll want to use a low-temperature hot glue gun that heats up to about 260°F. If you have a dual-temperature hot glue gun, such as the BLEDS Stand-Up Dual Temperature Hot Glue Gun, then you can adjust the heat setting to low.
Make sure that the type of hot glue that you are using is a low-temperature or all-temperature hot glue.
After inserting the glue sticks into the glue gun, you’ll want to warm up your hot glue gun by plugging it in. Most craft glue guns will take up to four minutes to warm up, but large industrial models can take up to 10 minutes.
This warming up time is essential because the hot glue gun cannot reach a temperature high enough to melt the glue stick in just a few seconds. Letting the glue gun warm up means the glue will be instantly ready to go when you want to apply it.
If you really want to make sure you choose the right hot glue gun for the job and know how to use it correctly, check out our article: How Do Hot Glue Guns Work?
Step 2: Apply the Hot Glue To Your Fabric
Hot glue will start to cool down the moment that it leaves the gun tip, so you don’t have a lot of time to apply and adjust the bond. In this step, it’s best to go at a slow, even pace and apply the glue a little bit at a time so that the bond will be more durable.
With your piece of fabric laying flat, you can squeeze a thin line of hot glue on your fabric. If you’re gluing fabric to another material, or if you’re gluing two types of fibers together, you’ll want to apply the glue directly on the more heat-resistant material.
For example, if you are gluing googly eyes on a felted animal, then you’ll want to apply the hot glue on the back of the googly eye because it is made of plastic and will be more durable than felt, which is made from wool or acrylic.
If you’re working on a large area of fabric, it’s important to apply the hot glue to a small area at a time. If you try to cover a big area, then the hot glue that was applied first will be cooled and set by the time you want to adhere your materials together.
Step 3: Press The Material Together
While the hot glue is still hot, press the other layer on top of the hot glue that you just applied. If you have a heavy book, you can also press the book on top of the two layers so that the glue will be able to spread flat in between the layers.
Make sure that the fabric is lying flat when you press. If you try to press using your hands, the hot glue won’t be able to spread evenly. It can even cause a big mess and hurt your fingers too!
This step needs to be done in the first couple of seconds after the hot glue is applied to the fabric. If you take too much time to adjust the bond, then the glue will already have cooled and settled, and you won’t be able to create a very strong bond.
Step 4: Let The Bond Cure
Hot glue sets very quickly and dries instantly, within 10 minutes. However, for the bond to become permanent, you will need to wait for the glue to cure completely, which can take up to 24 hours.
If you are planning on using or wearing fabrics that have been hot glued, we recommend waiting until the bond is completely cured. The curing process will make the bond more durable and water-resistant, so it can withstand wear and tear.
How To Use A Hot Glue Gun
If you’ve finally chosen the right glue for the job but now you’re wondering where to start with your project, take a look at the tutorial below for the best tips and tricks for using a hot glue gun from NS Creative Collections.