The Ultimate Handbook on Superglue

A broken tail light, a wrecked heel, a damaged appliance or ripped upholstery. Often, we are faced with such cases as we carry on with our daily endeavors. Thanks to super glue, you no longer have to stress about the broken handle on your favorite coffee mug. Honestly, the need for this quick fix arises at the moment when you least expect it. Most people who have used super glue to get out of a sticky situation can attest that it is the closest thing to man’s best friend after a dog, and probably duct tape. Unfortunately for duct tape, it cannot bind half the things super glue does.


Have you come across the name cyanoacrylate glue? This is the technical name used to refer to quick bonding glues or super glue as it is widely known. Though small, it is undoubtedly one of the most significant additions to the workbench which is evident from the technological revolution it has instigated in modeling. Isn’t the prospect of binding plastic to metal amazing? Let’s delve into more in-depth to grasp more about superglue and its best applications.

A Brief History

Cyanoacrylate, the principal chemical component of super glue was discovered in 1942 as a result of an accident. Initially, a team of scientists was working on developing a clear plastic that would act as a gun sight. While in pursuit of these materials, they stumbled upon a chemical that stuck to everything it contacted. As a result of these adhesive properties, cyanoacrylate was rejected for the project.

In 1951, Harry Coover and his counterpart Fred Joyner, researchers from Eastman Kodak rediscovered the substance and recognized the commercial potential it had as an adhesive. In 1958, it was introduced into the market and has been a household and industrial utility ever since.

Besides, urban legend has it that it was used to seal wounds during the Second World War, but that’s all it is a legend.

What is Super Glue?

While superglue may appear under a variety of brand names like Starbond and the likes, a chemist will refer to superglue as ethyl 2-cyanoacrylate or ECA. Most commercial super glues are made up of some organic sulfonic acid, less than 0.5% hydroquinone, 9% polymethylmethacrylate and 91% ethyl 2-cyanoacrylate. However, CA adhesives exist in a variety of formulas ranging from thick gels to thin-running formulations. Thin running superglue is helpful when you need the resin to run along a joint line. Thick gels, on the other hand, come in handy when you require a more precise application.

Unlike other conventional adhesives which resemble water-based school glues, cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin. An acrylic resin has two major components which include the resin, cyanoacrylate and a hardener which is water in this case.

Most people tend to confuse thread locking glue and CA glue, and we can understand why by traveling a while back into history. The confusion arose when a company which used to manufacture thread locking adhesives ventured into manufacturing other varieties of glue products including cyanoacrylate glue and kept the same name. However, to differentiate the two, you will need to consider the medium that catalyzes the bonding reaction or the hardener. While the thread locking adhesive initiates its bonding response or polymerization in the absence of air, cyanoacrylate glue utilizes the humidity in the air to bond to a surface.

How it Works

CA adhesive is a non-complex linear molecule which transforms into a plastic mesh after curing. It also tends to polymerize rapidly after being exposed to atmospheric moisture. This is why when the adhesive is trapped between two surfaces, it cures instantly. The hydroxyl ions in water are all the CA glue requires setting.

It is apparent that the moisture trapped between surfaces is what causes the super glue to cure rapidly. Therefore, it stands to reason that air humidity is a salient factor affecting the bonding qualities of cyanoacrylate. As a result, the bonding reaction may differ with each application.

Upon dispensation, super glue rapidly mixes with the hydroxyl ions in the atmosphere and bonding begins instantly. The curing reaction starts on the applied surface and progresses towards the middle of the bond. The time the CA adhesive takes to cure is contingent on the viscosity of the glue and the thickness of the blob. Therefore, large splotches and thick seams may take longer to harden than surface-to-surface bonds that fit well.

It is a common occurrence that a thick blob of superglue may be less efficient than a thin seam. This happens when the polymerization reaction stops before reaching the middle of the blob. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to avoid pouring seams exceeding 0.25 mm in thickness. This is because they also take longer to cure. However, you can turn this downside to your advantage. Since super glue is known to cure instantly, repositioning the items being glued together is close to impossible after applying the CA adhesive. Therefore, pouring a thick seam will allow you to adjust the parts and ensure that they fit accurately.

After aligning the bonding parts, you can press them together to decrease the glue’s thickness to 0.25 mm and below and in the process allow the glue to cure instantly. If you want to increase the curing rate even further, it is advisable that you ensure that the adjacent surfaces are smooth and clean.

How to use Starbond Superglue

Using superglue is not a daunting prospect. However, it is crucial that you learn a few do’s, don’ts and tips of using CA adhesive for safety and to achieve the best results.

  • Do not spread out the bead. Instead, squash it by joining the parts
  • Do not touch the super glue’s top to the project to avoid clogging it
  • When the tip clogs, do not push nails or pins into the opening. You can unscrew the top and push the plug through. You can also soak the cap in nitromethane or acetone, a debonding solvent
  • Applying paste wax blocks the glue

Applications of Cyanoacrylate

Besides their high binding power, CA adhesives are renowned for their extensive versatility. They have a limitless variety of applications and bond with a wide range of materials. Starbond super glue forms strong bonds with various surfaces including jewelry, wood, metal, rubber, ceramic and many more. Let’s explore some of the typical applications of super glue.

Woodworking- the task of mounting several pieces of wood can be aggravating without super glue. Super glue wasn’t meant to be a permanent adhesive for wood. However, applying super glue will allow you a free range of motion to screw, nail and join the wood boards. Also, it can also serve as a fast-drying shiny finish on guitars which also adds some acoustic benefits. When used together with sawdust, CA glue can be used to fill cracks and voids.

Medical and veterinary- during the 1970s, CA glue was used to mend hide, bone and tortoise shells. Legend also has it that it was sprayed on the wounds of injured soldiers during the Second World War to stop the bleeding. However, the FDA never approved it for medical use because of its skin irritating properties until 1998. Today, studies reveal that cyanoacrylate can serve as a safer, more useful wound closing aid than conventional stitches. In fact, medical adhesives can stop the bleeding 75% faster than sutures.

Cosmetics- Cyanoacrylate glue is used in the beauty industry to stick synthetic nail enhancements such as nail wraps and tips. Some beauty enthusiasts also use it to attach artificial eyelashes.

Filler- When added to sodium bicarbonate or baking soda, CA glue forms a hard yet lightweight adhesive padding. This method is commonly practiced by aircraft modelers to repair and assemble polystyrene form parts. Super glue is also instrumental in filling small chips in polyurethane, polyester and lacquer finishes. It is prudent to note that the reaction between baking soda and cyanoacrylate is highly exothermic and produces toxic fumes.

Under Water Bonding- It seems counterintuitive to join something underwater with a substance that uses water to cure right? Apparently, if you pour a blob of a highly viscous adhesive on a part and set it underwater, it immediately cures and forms a shell on the surface. However, the resin beneath the crust remains viable. Once you have immersed the part underwater, smash the glue glob against the section you wish to join and when the shell bursts, the super glue inside the shell will bond the components. This application is typical for joining hard corals to reef corals in fish tanks. Although the cured adhesive is not entirely water resistant, by the time the glue dissolves, the coral is already entrenched to its new home.

Forensics- When super glue isn’t busy sticking, it can be used to fight crime. Upon warming, cyanoacrylate releases vapor which reacts with atmospheric moisture and fingerprint residue to form a white polymer on the edges of the fingerprints which can then be recorded. This method is only practical on non-porous surfaces like plastic and glass.

Slow Setting Inhibitors

As aforementioned, cyanoacrylate contains its own hardener which is water. However, manufacturers add a weak acid to act as an inhibitor, preventing the bonding reaction and separating the molecules responsible for its liquid consistency. When the acid comes into contact with water, it dissolves. A chain reaction is than triggered causing the adhesive to harden into a plastic mesh.

Super glue manufacturers use the weak acid to regulate the glue’s cutting time. Does this answer the why some CA adhesives take a longer time to settle than others? It is because they contain larger proportions of inhibitors in their basic solution.


super glue accelerator

Apart from water, cyanoacrylate can polymerize in the presence of basic compounds and alcohols. Weak amines can also be used to create a superglue “kicker” which initiates rapid polymerization of the adhesive. Baking soda is an excellent example of such a substance.

Liquid accelerators are also available in the market. Similar to water, accelerators also affect bonding through contact with the surface. Therefore, it will also be less effective when you pour thick seams of glue. When looking use super glue to fill a large break, it is advisable that you build up the quantity using many thin seams than pouring a large volume of CA adhesive at once.

Advantages of Starbond Superglue

  • Unlike most conventional adhesives, super glue can stick to a finished surface
  • It is ideal for repair work since it sticks to old glue
  • It is an excellent filler since it does not shrink unlike other solvent-based fillers in the market.

Choosing Starbond Superglue

There are numerous brands and types of super glue in the market and selecting the best one for your project can be a tricky undertaking. But, by putting these factors into consideration, you can ensure that you end up with the best one for your application.

  • Nature of bonding materials- Super glues are made with varying strengths, and the one that does well with metal may not do well with wood, plastic or rubber.
  • Viscosity- Cyanoacrylate glue is available in medium, thin and thick viscosities. Projects requiring fast and deep penetration are best suited by thin adhesives. In other instances like fixing nuts, you may need using thick glue to avoid it running over before you can replace the bolt.
  • Ease of application- this is with regards to the type of applicator provided with the super glue. For instance, for use over large surfaces, super glue with a brush applicator may be the best option. Starbond super glue comes with extension tips for tighter areas.
  • Bonding strength- the bonding strength of a CA adhesive is subject to the environment, quality, material and other factors. While all super glues may form resilient bonds, it is imperative that you are keen on the actual strength you seek.
  • Brand- while there is a myriad of super glue brands on the market today, Starbond offers you with a product you can trust. Our super glue is non-toxic, waterproof, and non-flammable and boasts a shelf life of 20 months. Moreover, our CA glue undergoes a triple-distillation process that makes it a product of choice regarding performance and quality.
  • Resistance to temperature- Confirming the grade and temperature resistance of the super glue is crucial to ensure that you get the best fit for your project. Keeping Starbond super glue in a cold temperature can ensure longevity.

Safety Issues

It is always better to be safe than sorry when handling cyanoacrylate.

Super glue has a strong, distinct, acidic odor. Inhaling its fumes can be hazardous to your respiratory organs. For some, extended exposure can trigger prolonged allergic reactions. Super glue fumes can also be an irritant to the eyes in dry air and even cause tears.

Bearing in mind that the body retains some moisture to keep the skin hydrated, it is paramount to take precaution to avoid gluing your fingers together or rubbing your eyes with super glue on them. Super glue is deemed non-toxic for eye or skin contact. Therefore, if you find yourself in a sticky situation, do not panic. Instead, seek medical attention and never try to separate the bonded parts manually.

As a safety precaution, you may want to wear safety glasses and respiratory masks, especially for big projects. It is also advisable to work in a room with adequate ventilation.