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How to Get Hot Glue Off Wood (and Other Materials)

how to get hot glue off wood

Every arts and crafts enthusiast should know how to get hot glue off wood and other materials. Of all the types of glue and adhesives, hot glue from a glue gun is probably the messiest to use. Fortunately, getting hot glue off wood is easy enough. All you need is a little bit of rubbing alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl), a few cotton swabs, and some elbow grease.

Let’s begin, shall we?

How to Get Hot Glue off Wood

Hot melt glue is typically a combination of two substances: polyester and polystyrene. The good about its composition is that its adhesiveness is highly effective for sticking things together that you want to attach. And if you don’t want it to adhere to something, its unique composition leaves you several options to remove it.

Method 1: Letting the Glue Harden with the Cold

Applying something cold to hot glue is what I consider the more satisfying process. And it’s so easy to do!

  • Put an ice cube in a plastic bag or ziplock.
  • Let the bag sit on the spilled hot glue for a few minutes until the glue hardens.
  • When the glue hardens, it should be brittle enough for you to chip off using something flat and hard like a chisel. However, if you don’t want to damage the wood, use your fingers instead so you have more control. If you are using your fingers, you can easily pull off or peel the chunks of glue very cleanly.

This method is the cleaner method. It’s the one I recommend for most art projects involving wood and a lot of other materials. Other applications of this method are spilled hot glue on a carpet or fabric. The problem is that the pulling motion can ruin the fabric or carpet fibers if you are not careful. It’s best to use a dull knife for such instances.

However, there is a chance of damaging the wood or the material due to the pulling motion, and you should consider going another method.

heating the glue

Method 2: Heating the Glue Again

This process is safer in that it prevents the glue from peeling off the surface of the wood. If the piece of wood is covered with paint, for example, the paint might also peel off when you pull the hardened hot glue. This method does not involve any pulling or peeling. You just need a flat iron and a rag.

  • Cover the rogue glue with a clean rag, one you wouldn’t mind getting slightly damaged.
  • Set a hot iron on the rag for 30 seconds.
  • The glue will melt, and the rag will absorb it.
  • If the rag can’t absorb all of the melted glue, you can use another rag to wipe the excess.

It’s that easy! The potential danger here is the iron damaging the wood’s finish. But with just a little bit of carefulness, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

But what I like about this process is how effectively it works for a lot of hot glue mistakes. This method works wonderfully if you accidentally spill a dollop of hot glue on the carpet. You just need to use a rag on which the glue will stick better than the carpet. These steps also work on fabrics, but not as cleanly or effectively as the first method I shared.

Method 3: Use a Solvent

The one method that does not involve changing the temperature of the glue is the application of any solvent. The problem with this method is that most, if not all, solvents have acidic properties. Acid can ruin the finish of the wood.

  • Let the glue dry.
  • Use cotton swabs to lightly apply the solvent to the edges of the hot glue. Your solvent can be anything alcohol-based. I find that rubbing alcohol and acetone work best.
  • Allow the solvent to do its work on the glue. An acidic solvent has a chemical reaction with the glue and will make it less adhesive.
  • Peel the glue off the wood.

I don’t use this method often since I see it as less effective than the other two methods. For one, the solvent can ruin the finishing touches of the wood. And the second reason is I still need to peel off the glue, which can also peel off the pain of the wood. The process is also not ideal for materials such as fabrics or your carpet. The solvent might be too strong and damage the fibers of both materials.

However, this method can work great for other materials such as metals.

The Final Word

Learning how to get hot glue off wood and other materials is essential knowledge, even for basic arts and crafts projects. Thankfully, the unique composition of hot glue gives you several options for cleaning. Of course, the several methods have their ups and downs. It’s up to you to decide which way best suits your needs.

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