The Great Debate: E6000 vs. the Glue Gun

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(Photo: Rain Blanken)

While it is hard to imagine a master crafter without a hot glue gun in their holster, the popularity of E-6000 adhesive is giving straight-shooters a run for their money. 

Times change, and so do craft trends and the tools of the trade. With a strong bond and easy availability, the recent boom of E-6000 adhesive has seemed to divide crafters into camps of die-hard fans; the new E-6000 or good old fashioned hot glue?

E-6000 is a quick-drying, versatile glue that has drawn legions of fans in recent years for its ability to keep nearly anything stuck together, even when it’s something that endures pressure or gets tossed in the laundry. The product has a reputation for being more durable than Krazy Glue and easier to use than those two-part epoxy compounds.

In the E-6000 vs. hot glue gun discussion, the glue gun is easily the home team. School or scout crafts brought at least one hot glue gun into our lives to provide both the inspiration and mild burns of pre-adolescence. In the 1980s through early 2000s, glue guns were followed by crafters with religious fervor, as a drooling magic wand that could bedazzle jean jackets in an instant.

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(Photo: Val D’Aquila )

But while the glue gun is nostalgic, those old projects are the writing on the wall. The fickle nature of hot glue is as apparent as the sad milky blobs where googly eyes should be on a frightening thrift store knick-knack. Pressure, heat, and time easily take a toll on hot glue projects. Jewelers have had an especially hard time establishing a relationship with hot glue, as even the best of melted sticks can’t create a permanent bond between metals.

For decades, alternatives to the hot glue gun were a host of superglues, 2-part epoxies, wood glues, and fabric adhesives. This cocktail of choices was narrowed down in the past few years as the availability, cost, and easy-use of E-6000 gave crafters a one-stop option for a permanent bond. 

I asked Teresa Morgan, Sr. Product Manager for E-6000, how the industrial-strength adhesive ended up on craft store shelves. Morgan shared, “E6000 found its way into the craft industry by accident.  [An] innovative crafter stole her husband’s E6000 out of his tool box and gave it a try.  The sequins [on her garments] adhered securely and remained in place even after the garment was washed and dried multiple times. The good news spread quickly and crafters soon realized the tremendous adhesive strength that E6000 had with virtually any substrate – including fabrics.  Crafters started requesting that they be able to purchase E6000 at their favorite craft stores rather than having to purchase it at an industrial supply store.”

That’s one happy accident. Since beginning sales on Amazon.com in 2009, E-6000 has received hundreds of positive reviews, often drawing comparisons to hot glue. At just a few bucks for a 2-ounce tube, E-6000 is now a cost-effective all-purpose glue that doesn’t require electricity, and the strength of the bond is often purported to be more permanent than hot glue could ever hope for. 

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(Photo: Sandra Callau)

Though E-6000 is the new adhesive darling of the craft world, the set time (up to 24 hours) and toxicity top the list of ‘cons’ that can’t be overlooked. 

The past few years of popular use have given crafters enough experience with the glue to provide cumulative feedback. Health concerns now top the list. E-6000 has a suspiciously strong smell that has led many to question the serious health risks of breathing the fumes.

The pungent odor of E6000 is due to the solvent perchloroethylene (also known as tetrachloroethylen), a known carcinogen that can cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea in the short term. The Material Safety Data Sheet for E-6000 states that gloves should be worn to prevent the toxic properties of the glue from being absorbed into the skin.

A frequent user of E-6000 in jewelry making, Ray Nichol of RayDichrotic Art has the following advice for maintaining a E-6000 workspace,

“I use a small fan that blows across my work area towards a 2 foot square furnace filter which is attached to a shop vac. The fumes are expelled outside of my workshop. I also wear surgical gloves with the finger tips cut off and a long sleeved shirt with the collar buttoned to minimize direct exposure to the fumes.”

The safety measures that Ray Nichol employs are a good strategy, especially if you are working frequently with E-6000 in your everyday crafting. Any kind of permanent adhesive will come with health risks, so making protection a top priority could eliminate the toxic concerns associated with E-6000. That said, there are many crafters who make it a rule to avoid craft materials that are hazardous to our health, and stand firmly in the hot glue gun camp for this reason alone.

In addition to toxicity, bonding time also puts E-6000 at a serious disadvantage. Often in this arena, E-6000 plays the part of ‘Mr. Right’, and hot glue is ‘Mr. Right Now’. Hot glue sets up almost too quickly; it offers an instant bond that can be incredibly convenient to execute.  However, plastic, metals, and glass can be too smooth for hot glue to grab onto for long.  Given the full 24 hours to set, E-6000 can adhere these materials for years to come due to the fact that it remains slightly flexible when cured.

The final ruling on the hot glue vs. E-6000 debate may be that these adhesives are simply too different to compare. E-6000 is replacing hot glue in a lot of jewelry projects, but it turns out that you should be willing to suit-up in a safe workspace. A glue gun can definitely provide that instant gratification of a fast bond, but packing heat may be best suited for kid’s crafts and fixing your Comic-Con costumes in a pinch. Employing both of these useful adhesives in your crafty toolbox should give you the versatility to stick on googly eyes for today, and gem bezels for the future.

Cheat sheet: Best uses for hot glue and E-6000

Hot Glue:  Excellent for bonding uneven surfaces that mate well together. The glue can be shaped as it cools, making it ideal for filling in gaps or creating textured surfaces. Ideal materials include shells, wood, paper, plastics, and fabric. Use only a low-temp hot glue gun for polystyrene (Styrofoam)-type plastics. 

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Hot glue applied and painted over to create texture on a cosplay helmet.
Photo: Dennis van Zuijlekom 

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E-6000 is perfect for permanent metal and glass bonds in jewelry making.
Photo: Alison Oddy

E-6000: Great for smooth surfaces like metal and glass on bonding points that will not experience a large amount of twisting. Clean porous surfaces like fabric, ceramic, clay, and wood will also bond well. Do not use E-6000 on polystyrene plastics.

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