What Is PVA Glue?

Polyvinyl acetate, is a common glue product found in Elmer’s glue and carpenter’s glue. In the US, it is commonly used for working with paper or wood.

If you have Elmer’s glue in your house, then you have PVA glue in your house. However, PVA is also known as “wood glue”.

Do you want to bind wood, PVC, or create some artistic paper mache or mosaic? PVA glue is the best you can get.

The non-toxic paste will hold all your wood, papers, plastics, or boards together for a decade! But, what exactly is PVA glue, and what does it do? And Is PVA and Michael Elmer’s glue the same?

This in-depth post about PVA glue covers the main features, chemical composition, and applications of the different types of PVA glues.

Everything there is to know about polyvinyl acetate!

We also have two articles on using wood glue to stop cracks in wood or to replace wood filler.

 Find the right long-lasting glue for the right building project, too!

See Related: How To Measure Chainsaw Bar Length 

What is PVA Glue Used For?

PVA glue has several applications. Each variation of PVA glue uses a specific chemical composition to meet a certain advertised demand. Generally speaking, PVA wood glue is a perfect adhesive for porous materials such as textiles, sandstone, wood, and paper. But, it will not work well for other materials such as glass or metal.

The clear PVA adhesives are non-acidic, and they create strong bonds without corroding the materials you’re attaching.

Some popular applications of PVA glues include:

  • PVA glue for bookbinding
  • Creates strong bond for fabrics, paper, and leather
  • Craft Glue for paper mache and mosaics
  • Primer for drywalls
  • As a wallpaper adhesive
  • Sealing plaster
  • Filling sawdust
  • Carpentry
  • Glue for non-waterproof varnishes
  • Non-toxic PVA is ideal for cigarette papers.
  •  Envelope adhesive
  • Some chewing candy gums have PVA
  • Some paintings last long thanks to the PVA lining

Standard PVA glues are cheap and non-toxic, and there’s a glue varian for every application. If you are looking for something that’s stronger than Elmer’s Glue, try woodworking glue.

Wood adhesives fill the spaces between porous surface materials, thus sticking them. You can even bond unrelated materials, as long as they can stick to the glue.

Uses of the PVA wood glue:

  • Bonds pieces of wood
  • Makes furniture without any nail or screws
  • Fortifies bolts and screws
  • Creates awesome decorations with wood and PVC materials.

PVA as Wood Filler

Looking to get a perfectly flat wood surface with no knots? If you need to fill knot holes, PVA glue can work really well as a wood filler.

If you have a smooth mixture of sanding dust and wood glue, you can fill up all the knots and obtain the laser-flat wood surface you want.

This video illustrates how you can use PVA as a wood sealer:

Is PVA glue the same as Elmer’s Glue?

Elmer’s glue is a PVA glue, but there are different variations of PVA Glue. For example, some adhesives are designed to work primarily as wood glue or bond other materials.

Elmer’s glue is a PVA-based adhesive.

You can use Elmer’s glue for crafting and paper projects. However, the pure PVA glue wins over Elmer’s glue when greater adhesion is needed. For example, PVA can bind two materials together for more than a decade. Elmer’s glue, on the other hand, becomes yellow and breaks over a shorter time period.

Some varieties of Elmer’s glue have polyvinyl alcohol that acts as a protective colloid. A few others contain the boric acid, which cross-links the polyvinyl alcohol to form tacky slime.

Cross-linked synthetic polymers have several applications, including the manufacturer of solar panels, regenerative medicine, tires, and oil-based paints.


Non-toxicity is not the only property of PVA. Polyvinyl Acetate glue dries up quickly as long as there’s enough ventilation and a conducive room temperature.

Properties and Facts of PVA Glue that you Probably Didn’t Know:

  • Polyvinyl acetate is a rubbery aliphatic polymer whose chemical formula is C4H6O2.
  • PVA has a  polymerization degree of between 100 and 5000.
  • It has a neutral pH
  • 30 to 45 degrees is the glass transition temperature of PVA. It remains flexible and clear when dry.
  • Some special microorganisms, including specific algae, fungi, lichens, yeasts, and bacteria, can digest and decompose PVA.
  • It’s the German chemist Fritz Klatte who, in 1912, discovered polyvinyl acetate. Since then, several odorless and non-toxic glues have been developed. PVA glue is non-toxic unless you eat it. In fact, it’s the preferred adhesive for school work because little kids can touch it, and it won’t leach through their skins.
  • PVA glue is soluble in water. It dissolves well in water, but this also means it could break the bond when you submerge bound materials in water unless you use the waterproof and resistant varieties.
  • PVA doesn’t emit irritating smells as other polymer glues do.

Production of Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) Glue

In the past, industrial preparation of monomeric vinyl acetate involved acetylene and anhydrous acetic acid reaction. The factory would throw a mercurous sulfate catalyst into the reaction chamber to speed it up.

Modern preparation methods involve the vapor-phase method in which the system bubbles ethylene through anhydrous acetic acid with palladium as the catalyst.

Then, they add an anti-polymerization inhibitor to prevent spontaneous polymerization. Instead, Vinyl acetate, together with other chemicals, increases the rate of co-polymerization and moisture resistance.

So, a sticky, amorphous, and non-crystalline polymer of polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue forms at the end of the experiment.

Types of PVA Glue

We classify PVA glues by their uses, brand, or chemical composition. Some of the best-known brands include the Titebond II, Titebond III, and Elmer’s glue. Titebond III PVA glue is a yellow outdoor adhesive. 

PVA glue comes in three main chemical compositions that determine their applications. As a DIYer, you must understand which glue works best for you.

Polyvinyl Acetate

The polyvinyl acetate PVA glue works well for archiving (bookbinding, other long-term storage of glued documents while being non-yellowing). The white PVA glue dries up into a clear matter that’s not only permanent but also flexible even after it’s dry. Such a quality is quite a contrast to other glues that become translucent or brittle when they dry up.

Polyvinyl acetate is a cheap, acid-free, and quick-drying adhesive. The silky liquid dries into a smooth lining and is therefore used for bookbinding, box-making cards, and other hobbies. 

Some glues that fall under the category of polyvinyl acetates include hobby PVA glue, Elmer’s glue, and paper bookbinding glue.

PVA wood glue is primarily a yellowish wood adhesive. Aliphatic resin is another word for wood adhesives and is used for binding wood. It’s a favourite glue among many carpenters because it binds wood tightly over a long time.

Some popular PVA wood glues include Elmer’s woodworker’s glue and the Titebond, Gorilla Glue, or Original wood adhesive.

Water Resistant Glue

Contractor working in the workshop

Then, the PVA water-resistant glue (also called yellow carpenter’s glue) prevents moisture from getting into the material beneath it. Moisture and mildew will not penetrate through this adhesive.  The bond overcomes some of the harshest water submersions and wet weather.

Understand that water-resistant glues are not necessarily waterproof. So, the PVA water-resistant glue may not work well when used underwater. PVA Type I glues are waterproof, while the PVA type II sealants have water resistance; and, your requirements tell which glue is good for you.

Difference Between PVA and White Glue?

The main difference between white glue and PVA is their composition: white glue is water-based and clear glue is solvent-based.

PVA is different from normal glue even though both rely on the polymerization principle for adhesion. The glue shares electrons with other molecules and therefore forms a long chain of adjoined molecules.

So, polyvinyl acetate is water-based, but superglue is not. You can tell if the glue is PVA if it is flexible, rubbery, and water-soluble.

How To Use

Using PVA glue for your DIY or professional work is easy. Here, we’re offering you a quick 4-step process for gluing surfaces with PVA glue.

If you need the PVA paste to bind wood or other materials, first prep the surface. Then, apply the glue on each surface. Stick the two materials together and wait.

Make sure to get the best PVA adhesive for your surfaces. If you’re looking to bond two wooden pieces, use wood glue because it’s stronger than ordinary PVA. PVA glue normally dries into a completely clear glossy layer that’s not easily visible.

1. Prep the surfaces

The first step of using PVA glue is to make sure the surfaces are ready for the adhesive. So, you need to clean the two surfaces before you can glue them.

Clean them and remove any material that might resist the glue. For instance, aim at prepping your timber enough to remove the bark or paint.

2. Apply the glue

Now squeeze the glue onto the clean surface of the bits of wood. Be sure to remove any spillages using a damp cloth.

Spread the glue with a specialist’s plastic or brush to obtain a thin coat between the two wood surfaces.

Now, stick the two objects together and press them against each other until all trapped air disappears.

3. Stick the objects and dry the surfaces

Now, you will want to ensure the glue has enough time to bond the two surfaces. So, use a C-clamp to hold the two objects tightly in position for 24 hours.

When the glue is dry, clump off the two pieces of wood or other objects and sand the excess glue away.

4. Use Clamps

Wood clamps are essential for holding the pieces in place during the drying stage. Apply the clamps so that the pressure is even across the glued surface. Leave it to dry for a minimum of 1 hour, and don’t jostle the bond for 24 hours.


  • PVA sometimes dissolves in water and is not fully waterproof.
  • Freezing breaks up the polymer in PVA and could render your glue useless.
  •  Some special microorganisms can actually break down PVA and destroy your bond. Yeast, bacteria, lichens, and certain fungi decompose and degrade polyvinyl acetate.
  •  It takes so long for the PVA to achieve a strong bond that you can’t do it if you’re in a hurry. Sometimes, the glue can last 24 hours.
  • You can paint on top of PVA, but you can never varnish on it.

How Long Does It Take To Dry?

Wood glue takes 30 minutes or an hour to dry, but the bond should not be stressed for 24 hours to allow time for complete curing.

How To Remove PVA Glue?

It’s not completely impossible for you to remove PVA from your surfaces. However, you have to appreciate that the strength of PVA increases with time.

It’s easy to remove the glue from a surface if you just applied it a few minutes ago. But, if it’s already over 24 hours since the application, the glue achieves its optimum adhesive power and could take time and a few tools to remove.

  • To remove PVA from wood, you can sand it.
  • If PVA gets to your clothes, wash with warm water a few times.
  • And, when you want to get PVA adhesive off your carpet, scrub it with warm water and Vax.
  • In case the glue sticks on your hands, rinse with warm soapy water.

is It Worth the Money?

PVA glue is the core of most furniture building and indoor woodworking.

It is non-toxic, and low-odor. Plus, it creates a strong bond, and you can stick to a wide variety of materials. If you are building or repairing anything around your home, the best PVA glue is worth the money as long as you pput it in the right course.

Do you have an idea or question about using PVA? Let’s talk about it in our comment section below. 

Zachary Drumm

Hey! My name is Zachary Drumm! This site allows me to test new tools, piddle around in the garage, and share the insights I get from flipping cars and houses. When it comes to tools, home improvement, and being a “shade tree mechanic,” you’ve come to the right spot. If I’m not in the garage creating content, you’ll find me outside, running, canoeing, and traveling. My goal is to empower more people to be self-sufficient.