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What are Hot Glue Sticks Made Of?

You use hot glue to make bracelets, artwork, and glue things together. While adding hot glue to everything under the sun, it’s nice to stop and ask what hot glue sticks are made of?

Hot glue sticks are made of thermoplastics that don’t burn when you melt them. Most hot glues contain polymers and additives. 

Polymers are the molecules that make up the flexibility and heat resistance of hot glue. Understanding what glue sticks are made of can inspire new techniques. 

The wax, plastics, and antioxidants in glue may be what makes your favorite brand the best. Read to see how hot glue works because of what they are made of. 

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What are hot glue sticks made of?

Hot glue sticks are mostly polymers, including polyesters, polyethylene, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), and ethylene-methyl acrylate (EMA). A lot of fancy words for big molecules of plastic. They also contain additives to give the glue different properties. 

Each type of glue stick is made of something different, but most are made of different kinds of thermoplastics that don’t burn when melted. If you make your own hot glue stick at home, you’d likely use a candle or polythene bag with your favorite glue. That glue contains the additives that make hot glue sticks so versatile.

The additives in hot glue include:

  • Tackifying resins
  • Waxes 
  • Plasticizers
  • Antioxidants

While resins determine how sticky glue is, the waxes determine how long the glue will form a bond. These are what make the glue stick. 

When making things like bracelets out of washi tape, the plasticizers help with flexibility and toughness. This helps your bracelet and unconventional designs last longer. 

The antioxidants keep the bacteria down in the glue and protect them from light and flame. In other words, they keep the glue strong and safe for use. 

How does hot glue work?

Hot glue works as an adhesive bond between two materials. When glue sticks are in liquid form, bring two materials together as the adhesive cools, setting the two together.

With heat, hot glue begins to melt. The adhesive molecules break down and bond to whatever it comes in contact with while melted. The shrinking of the molecules as it cools that hardens the glue and causes it to become solid again. 

The bonds are what “glue” two pieces together. However, the temperature, amount of pressure, and open time can affect how well the hot glue works and lasts. 

Hot glue is affected by:

  • The temperature – glue needs to be hot enough to stay wet as you apply pressure. 
  • The open time – how long the glue stays wet gives you the amount of time you have to use the glue before it hardens
  • The amount of glue will change the open time
  • The texture of the polymer in the glue changes the way it sticks

Depending on how much glue you use, the open time and temperature can be affected. In the end, the texture and chemistry will affect how your glue will bond. Highly textured polymers or coating will adhere better and change how fast the glue cools. 

Are all hot glue sticks the same?

All hot glue sticks are different. The choice of materials will vary based on brand and type. The amount of heat for the perfect melt may even differ. 

Hot glue brands boast about more durability and faster or slower melt time. Even hot glue guns are slightly different as some glue sticks slowly melt. Slower melts give you more time to set your projects.

Glue sticks are made and chosen based on the projects they are used for. Arts and craft glue bond to most materials and are made for low-flow glue guns. They are made for delicate projects that may be heat sensitive. 

You can also use hot glue for more industrial tasks like repair and construction. These glue sticks are made to be larger. They are often 12mm but can be long or short. 

Construction glue works on textiles, cables, and wood. This is the glue you’d use for projects that require a lot of glue at once. They are stronger and are used for paneling or gluing down wood flooring.

Choosing the best hot glue stick based on what it’s made of can be difficult. You won’t always know every polymer and all additives that make the glue effective. What you can do is choose a universal glue.     

Are hot glue sticks toxic?

Hot glue sticks aren’t toxic when melted or poisonous when accidentally ingested. Yet, fumes can become toxic when hot glue is overheated. The low concentration of fumes is not likely to cause harm, but you should avoid the possibility by following directions. 

Hot glue should never be ingested. Similar to most household glue, hot glue sticks aren’t poisonous. If you eat hot glue it can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. 

Household glues contain harmful ingredients such as ethanol, xylene, and toluene. It’s best if you’ve ingested any glue to call the free poison help hotline. 

While hot glue sticks aren’t toxic, it’s important to use them properly. Follow the directions on each package and you won’t have to worry about toxic fumes. In addition, work in a well-ventilated area and do not ingest hot glue.

Most hot glue sticks come in a non-toxic variety, freeing them from harmful ingredients. Choose a non-toxic hot glue for your next project if you worry about toxicity.

Is hot glue food safe?

Hot melt glue is food safe for packaging. The right variety of glue is FDA compliant for direct and indirect food contact. The food-safe adhesive is what is used for stickers on fruits.

For food-safe hot glue, you have to choose FDA complaint food-safe adhesive. This includes metallocene hot melt glue. Different brands, including Infinity Bond and Permabond offer food-safe options.

Although some hot glue is food safe your hot glue gun is not meant to be used directly on food. Most hot glue is only used on packaging. If you want to hold your cakes and gingerbread houses together you’ll have to use sugar.

Summary: What are hot glue sticks made of?

Hot glue sticks are made of a variety of adhesives. You can find a hot glue that melts fast or slow for food packaging or gift baskets from food-safe metallocene to EVA. 

Choosing the right hot glue is all about safety and what will work best for your project. Hot glue isn’t toxic as long as you use it according to directions. All in all, be careful not to ingest it or burn your skin. Even food-grade hot glue wasn’t meant for snack time. 

Now that you know what hot glue is made of, you can use it to determine the best glue for your next project. When following directions, hot glue can be added to everything from the sticker on your pear to the wood on your floors. Just be sure not to use the same type of glue for those projects.