If you’ve got kids, chances are they’ll be using a water-based glue at home or in school to complete an array of art projects. This commonly used white glue is typically very safe and non-toxic. However, it’s quite runny and does have a tendency to get everywhere – kids spill it on themselves, dip their elbows in it and even (somehow) sit in puddles of it, leaving a nice sticky stain on the back of their trousers.
And when it comes to the champion of adhesives – superglue – even adults can struggle to avoid a spill. But how easy is it to remove glue from fabric?
Luckily, it’s easier than you may think and glue-stained clothing needn’t be confined to the bin. In most cases, the stain can be removed from clothes without leaving even a trace of sticky residue. Our handy guide shows you how.
How to remove glue from clothes: water-based glue
While removing water-based glue stains is actually very simple, it’s important to make sure you’ve lifted out the entire stain before allowing your garment to dry.
Whenever possible, dry your clothes naturally: tumble dryers and radiators will only set glue stains further into the fabric and make for a tougher removal job.
How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?
Remember to always check the care label on your garment before attempting any glue stain removal and if it’s a delicate fabric like cashmere or silk, don’t risk it – dry cleaning is probably best.
A stiff brush or spoon
A freezer or some ice
Cold running water
A clean cloth or cotton wool pads
Liquid laundry detergent
1. Allow the glue to dry completely. Trying to remove still-wet glue will only spread the sticky residue further across the fabric and cause you more problems, so it’s very important you do leave the glue to set (it will go clear when it’s dried).
To speed things up, you can put the item in the freezer for an hour to dry the stain first, or hold a bag of ice against it until dry.
2. Use either a stiff-bristled brush or a blunt object like the end of a spoon to gently scrape or break off anything you can. Be careful not to scrub too hard and risk ruining the fabric.
You won’t get all the glue off, but you should be able to remove most of the top layers, leaving just the glue that’s attached itself to the fabric.
3. If there is still a stain visible, you can try to soak it in cold water. As this type of glue is water-based, it responds very well to the flushing technique – just use water to flush out the sticky substance.
Cover it in cold water (warm water can set the glue, making it more challenging to remove) and leave it completely submerged overnight. This should soften the glue enough to make it simple to remove the following day.
4. Remove the clothing from the cold water and immediately apply a small amount of neat liquid laundry detergent. It’s best to use a product that has been specially designed to use as a pre-treatment, like Persil.
No matter what product you use, check the label to ensure that it is compatible with your fabric and that you are using it properly. Work the detergent into the remaining glue, gently massaging it to make sure it penetrates deep into the fabric.
5. Now all you need to do is pop the clothing into the washing machine, on not too hot a setting (30º is about right), and add your laundry detergent as usual. You’ll have clean, non-sticky clothing in a jiffy.
Note: If the stain persists, repeat steps 2-5 as soon as possible and without the garment drying in-between.
Need some help with removing glue from a surface? Check out our top tips on how to remove glue from plastic, wood or glass.
How to get super glue out of clothes
You’d be right to guess that removing super glue from clothes is slightly trickier than with other glue. This is because the product isn’t water-based and means that flushing the spill with water isn’t going to cut it. But there’s no need to panic about ruined clothes – despite super glue’s reputation for sticking around, following our easy steps will show you how to get super glue off clothes for good.
You will need something a little stronger though – acetone. Take particular care when using this product with delicate fabrics and test on an inconspicuous area first in case it damages or discolours the fabric.
Note: It’s a good idea to test it on a small area first in case it damages or discolours the fabric and remember to always check the care label on your garment for washing guidelines – if in doubt over whether it’s safe to attempt super glue removal on your clothes, consult a professional dry cleaner first.
A spoon or toothbrush
Emery board or fine-grain sandpaper
A clean cloth or cotton wool pads
Good quality laundry detergent
1. Let the super glue dry first before attempting to remove it. You can also try giving it a little bit of a scrub or scrape with a spoon once dry, although don’t expect to remove as much as you would when dealing with water-based glue as this is a much stronger adhesive.
2. Acetone, found in some nail polish removers, is one of the only chemicals that can eat its way through super glue. It’s effective on fabrics, and has even been used to successfully remove super glue from skin, which is a handy hint if you ever find you’ve accidentally glued your fingers together.
Apply to a piece of cotton wool or a clean cloth and gently wipe or dab your stain on both sides of the fabric, working from the outside in.
3. Using a dry cloth or a toothbrush, gently rub away the loosened glue. This process can be repeated as many times as is necessary.
If the glue remains stubborn to shift, an emery board or a fine piece of fine-grain sandpaper could be used – but great care needs to be taken to treat just the glue and not to ruin the fabric itself in the process.
4. The final stage of removing the glue stain should always be a cool cycle in the washing machine (never hot, as this will set in the stain). Check the care label of your item and use a good quality laundry detergent, as this will ensure that any remaining residue is removed.
Make sure the stain has been removed before drying your garment, as a dried-in glue stain will be much harder to get out. If any glue does remain, just pop it straight back in the washing machine. If the stain remains after washing a second time, don’t put the fabric in the dryer, as this will set the stain. At this stage, it is best to take your garment to a professional dry cleaners.
Your top questions on how to remove glue from clothes
Does vinegar dissolve glue?
Yes – vinegar contains acetic acid, which can break down both water-based and super glue. It’s best used for more stubborn glue stains that remain after either rinsing out with water or using acetone (detailed in the methods above).
It’s also ideal if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals on delicate fabrics, although always refer to your garment’s care label. To use, mix together one part white vinegar with one part water and dab onto the stain using a clean cloth. Gently work into the stain, removing any residue and wash on a cool setting.
Does WD-40 remove glue?
This wonder-product is a known lubricant, but it is also a solvent, which means it’s effective at breaking down and removing super glue and water-based glue stains from clothes.
To use, make sure the glue stain has dried and then remove as much of the glue from the fabric as possible using a spoon. You can then apply a small amount of WD-40 to the stain. Allow it to work into the stain for no longer than a few minutes before applying washing up liquid to the area and rinsing it under cold water.
This process can be repeated until the stain has vanished, before placing your item on a cool wash cycle. A note of caution: due to the brown liquid colour and chemical components, WD-40 is not suitable for use on delicate fabrics such as cashmere, satin or silk.
How do you remove glue naturally?
Lemon oil is a great way to remove stains from sticky residue like super glue or water-based glue, as it is a natural solvent.
Make sure the glue stain is completely dry, then dab some lemon essential oil over the stain and work it in with your fingers or a clean, dry cloth. The glue should come away easily.
Alternatively, baking powder can also be effective at cutting through sticky substances. Just mix together two parts baking soda to one part coconut oil and apply to the stain. Gently work in the mixture into the glue stain with a soft bristle brush or your fingers, removing any residue with a clean, damp cloth. Dab some liquid laundry detergent directly onto the stain and wash the item on a cool cycle.