While super glue is undoubtedly the household champion when it comes to fixing just about anything, one of the most common questions when it comes to it is just how permanent it is. In theory Cyanoacrylate, or what we commonly know as super glue should be permanent. But of course that’s on ideal conditions, which life very often isn’t.
So is super glue permanent? It almost always is, except for the few exceptions where it isn’t. The biggest enemy of super glue is ultimately rain, so anything exposed to the elements will see it degrade faster. Gravity and general structural integrity also plays a role, super glue might bond items but gravity might cause hanging items to snap again. And lastly acetone is largely a perfect counter to super glue, but that’s not exactly something you’ll accidentally pour on anything.
So How Strong Is Super Glue, Really?
The overall strength of super glue varies by brand as the exact composition of each Cyanoacrylate will vary based on manufacturer. But in general super glue is really as super as the name indicates. Super glue is after all more than just sticky, as it’s bonding properties are completely chemical in nature. In fact super glue was initially delayed because it just was too good at gluing things.
Super glue operates on simple but strong principles. Super glue seeps on the crevices and cracks of surfaces before it hardens, meaning that unlike more superficial glues, Cyanoacrylate will glue inside the surfaces it contacts. And secondly it hardens just when exposed to air, so it’s too easy to apply and it’s likely to stick on anything.
There are some caveats with Super Glue’s strength, however. The less porous a surface is the less effective the glue will be, so smooth surfaces like metal won’t get such a good hold. And as we mentioned before acetone will straight up dissolve it. So ultimately super glue is not one hundred percent solid in all circumstances.
Still, super glue is far from weak. While there are cases where it won’t work as well, in every other case it’ll be amazing. If applied in ideal conditions, that is to say that the material, amount and spread is appropriate; super glue can hold a ton for each square inch. A literal ton. That already makes it one of the strongest bonding materials in the world despite it’s simplicity.
So super glue does indeed deserve that name. It’s just not meant for every single surface, and the more porous something is, like wood, the better it’ll fare on the long run. Like everything it has intended uses, but super glue is impressive due to how generally useful it is.
Is Super Glue the Strongest Glue Out There?
If we think of it on general terms, super glue is possibly the strongest glue there is in the market. As we saw previously, when used well it can hold an enormous amount of weight for something that you can easily apply from a tube. On it’s ideal conditions super glue is the king of adhesives, and more so when it comes to publicly available ones.
Super glue is not meant for every single material out there, and as such certain glues can work better on their respective area. If you need to glue metal together then an epoxy will likely provide a stronger bond, as it can stick metal surfaces despite the lack of crevices. And various other areas like woodwork have specialized glues that can provide a similar effect to super glue, which I’ve written more about here.
In general super glue still stands at the king of the hill, and short of super smooth surfaces it will likely be stronger than any other glue in the market. If other options exist it’s more due to ease of use. As I’ve written in another article, super glue dries fast, so using it on certain projects can prove to be a headache. But on raw strength super glue stands up to it’s name.
How Do Water and Super Glue Mix?
Super glue and water are an unique combination, and explaining how they interact together can be a little bit confusing. Super glue is not waterproof, in fact it can’t be because it hardens because of it.
The chemical reaction present in Cyanoacrylate depends on the glue interacting with the moisture on the air and surfaces. So super glue can’t be said to be waterproof because it interacts with it to function. But there’s more to how well you interact with water than being waterproof.
Super glue is to some degree water-resistant, but how much varies by brand. Contact with water won’t exactly dissolve super glue like acetone does, and in fact based on the brand super glue can even resist being submerged. But at the end of the day it’s just resistance, water will in due time affect the bond. After all while super glue relies on water to harden, the amount it needs is almost imperceptible.
So if you leave something outside in the rainy season the glue might last a long time; it might even last years. But as with all things in life it will eventually weaken enough to collapse. There’s really no hard numbers on the topic, and some brands can take a lot of exposure before seeing any effect. But super glue can’t be by definition waterproof, so even if it takes time the water will degrade the bond eventually.
How Can You Improve Super Glue’s Performance?
The best way to make sure your super glue works better is to buy the right brands, after all not all glues are made the same way. Certain brands are made to resist vibration or water and you can easily see this in the package, choosing the right one for the right task is the most important factor ultimately.
If you already have the right tools and the bond is still not as strong as desired there’s something that can help: break it down. Now, we don’t mean that you smash your chair to splinters to glue it back together. But as I’ve detailed, super glue works better on porous materials, so if a surface is giving you trouble an easy trick is to use sandpaper. Sandpaper will make the surfaces uneven and add the crevices super glue needs to truly shine. It’s simple, but so is super glue.
So at the end of the day is super glue permanent? Well not 100% of the time, but nothing really is, and despite all super glue still gets really close to it. Today we looked at it from a general outlook, but if you want to go deeper into the history and chemistry of it you can take a look here.