Types of Glue or Adhesive You Can Use on Cardboard?

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Cardboard boxes come pre-assembled and don’t need any adhesives to give it its shape. When it comes to cardboard, people need glue or adhesive either to join single pieces of cardboard into a box or creating crafts such as a pet house or a cardboard boat. Sometimes, glue is used to make cardboard water resistant if not waterproof. There are a variety of glue and adhesives that can be used on cardboard either to join two pieces of cardboard or even join plywood and cardboards; crafting is a creative process may involve a lot of other elements other than just cardboard. After doing some research I’ve compiled this article to give you a comprehensive idea about the types of glue you can use and how they give different results.

Types of Glues You Can Use on Cardboard

1. PVA glue

2. Rubber Cement glue

3. Spray Adhesive

4. Super Glue

5. Tacky Glue

6. Wood glue

7. Mod Podge glue

8. Hot glue

9.PSA tape

10. Epoxy glue

11. Polyurethane glue

Aforementioned adhesives are designed for a specific application. Their consistency, price, adhesion process and performance will vary depending on the manufacturer of the type of adhesive. Among all glues, PVA adhesive is the most commonly used for intermediate to advanced cardboard application. We reckon, if you are looking for something that you will be using every day, either to bond two cardboards or stick some labels, this is the glue you need. However, below is a comprehensive description and application process of the adhesives.

01. PVA glue

PVA or Polyvinyl Acetates is a colorless, orderless, clear glue that is often used by painters who paint of cardboard papers. Although in the USA, PVA glue and Elmer’s glue are used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. Elmer’s glue tends to yellow over time and break down over time. However, if you are looking for a more permanent solution the PVA glue is the best option for you. Although you can bind two cardboard using PVA, it also has a water-resistant property, which is why it is often sprayed over the cardboard to make it water-resistant and not for gluing.

Type of PVA glue (Three Types)

a) PVA:

This is the type of glue typically used for cardboard and other paper application. It is commonly used for bookbinding, sealing cardboard boxes and on cardboard paints. PVA is a popular choice because of it’s clear and remains flexible after drying. Other glues tend to become brittle and break-down over time.

b) PVA Wood Glue

This is typically used to join two pieces of wood as the glue is absorbed into the wood and bond well after it is dried out. However, it does leave yellowish tinge. It too can be used on cardboards, but the clear PVA does a much better job.

c) PVA Water Resistant Glue

Most PVA glue used for the industrial application is grade 2 water-resistant, which means the applied product will sustain several cycles of damping and drying. However, it isn’t waterproof, hence the glue is typically used on cardboard boxes and sometimes sprayed over to give it a water-resistant layer.

02. Rubber Cement Glue

Rubber cement is just liquefied rubber mixed with other chemical solvents. When the glue dries, the solvents evaporate leaving a thin solid layer of rubber on the substrate. This glue holds pretty well for all cardboard products and also makes it weather-resistant to some extent. However, it is time sensitive and tends to break down on the long run.

This is either made from natural animal and plant product or synthetic polymer. It is widely used for its easy application and unlike other adhesive, cardboards joint with rubber cement can later be pulled apart without damaging the board. The glue is applied to only on the surface of the board and two surfaces are joined and clamped down while the cement is still wet. You can also adjust the joined board while the gum is wet. The adhesive features a quick join and above process is called ‘wet mounting.’ There’s also the process of ‘dry mounting’ where the applied glue is allowed to dry before bonding the second piece; however, the surfaces cannot be adjusted once they touch and it gives a much stronger bond than ‘wet mounting.’

On the other hand, rubber cement is not advised to be used on professional work such as paintings and photographs. As the glue dries out, it leaves a brittle residue which can damage the substrate. It is also time sensitive, which means its adhesive quality will weaker over time. This is one of the properties which makes it easy to clean up. Any excess residue can simply by balled up under the finger on the substrate.

03. Spray Adhesive

As the name suggests, spray adhesives are sprayed on instead of applied on the substrate. The product is typically canned and is the easiest to apply without creating much mess. However, it’s worth noting that there are four types of spray adhesives:

  • Artist spray adhesive
  • Foam spray adhesive
  • Photo spray adhesive
  • General spray adhesive

Each type of spray adhesive has its own application but technically all can be used to glue together cardboards.

How to use spray adhesive?

  • Prep the work area by laying over plastic sheets or old newspapers. Choose a well-ventilated area so that the fumes can find its way out. Because it’s a spray-on application, you should cover other valuable objects in your work area.
  • Shake the can well for a few minutes for the adhesive and pigment to mix well in the can. Don’t forget to wear your safety gear such as latex gloves, nose mask, goggles. Next, clean the surface of the cardboard and make sure it’s free from dirt, oil, or moisture. Cover the rest of the cardboard where you don’t want the glue to stick.
  • Keep the spray adhesive can 10 inches away from the surface and spray a thin layer of adhesive and run parallel to the surface of the substrate. Spraying too closely may moisten the cardboard, which could cause it to the puddle.
  • Make sure, you have a uniform coat on the surface of the cardboard. If you want to add a second coat, you should apply before the first coat dries out. After applying the adhesive, wait for at least 30 seconds before bonding to cardboards. This gives time for the solvent to evaporate before bonding.
  • All spray adhesive has a waiting period which varies depending on the manufacturers. Make sure the pieces are aligned properly, then add some pressure. You can press out excessive glue from the center to the ends.
  • Next, if you have any overspray area, simply wipe it out with a wet cloth.

04. Super Glue

Super glue or cyanoacrylate gives a fast, permanent bond on its substrates. This also makes it dangerous if it is exposed to the skin. It is the favorite adhesive for crafters and model builders. It can use on a wide range of objects, from rubber to glass and plastics. But, its trade-off is that it can’t be used on porous materials which makes corrugated cardboard boxes out of the question, because the kraft paper liner on the fluted medium is porous. On the other hand, it can be used on paper cartons and rigid cardboard boxes.

How to use Super Glue?

Although it doesn’t demand much preparation for the workspace, you have to take proper safety measures. Wear latex gloves, and eye protection gear while applying super glue.

  • First off, clean the two surfaces to make sure it’s free from dirt, oil, moisture or another residue. Clean the surface dry and then apply your superglue. If you find that cleaning the surface soaks up some water, that means the surface is porous and the super glue may not work.
  • First, do a test run and join to pieces without the glue to make sure it fits perfectly. If the surface is rough, you can sand it down to make it smooth.
  • Now apply super glue to one of the surfaces you are joining. You have to use just one drop of the glue; some manufacturers recommend one drop per sq inch.
  • The glue will set in just 30 seconds, so hold down the substrates tightly and then let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Because it’s a super glue, there’s no going back from here. If you are stuck with an unintended joint, there’s no other way but to start new with new substrates.
  • Super glue comes in brush-on, drip-on and pen application too. If you are too worried about your safety you can use the pen applicator for a much-controlled application.
  • Once the glue is set, it is hard to remove; however, not impossible. If you have mistakenly super-glued your finger, you can remove it by soaking in acetone. Same goes for other mistakenly bonded materials.

05. Tacky Glue

Tacky glue is a craft glue with a versatile application on cardboard, papers, wood, metal, fabric, and other crafts. Although there are manufacturers of tacky glue the most popular is the Aleene’s® Original Tacky Glue. it is relatively thicker than most glues and some varieties need time to dry up, whereas others dry up quicker than most alternatives. It is ideal for craft use where you need the substrates to dry quickly. Plus, it leaves a clear coat and is flexible, unlike other similar gules which are brittle. It is great for kids, as tacky glue is non-toxic and cleans up easily with water; so, it leaves little mess when working with kids on a craft.

How to use Tacky Glue?

  • Prep the work area by laying out sheets of plastic or old newspaper, on which your cardboard with rest.
  • Clean the surface of the cardboard with a clean cloth to make sure there’s no oil or dirt on the surface.
  • For semi-porous materials such as wood and pottery, spread a heavy coat of glue on the surface of the substrate. Clamp the two surfaces to apply pressure and let it sit for 1 hour.
  • For corrugated cardboard paper, apply a thin layer of glue for joining two boards. Too much glue could moisten the cardboard paper, which could damage the paper itself.
  • While the glue is still wet, press the two surfaces at the center and run towards the edges to remove any excess glue.
  • If you are trying to stick a piece of fabric such as canvas on cardboard, tackle blue is the best option. It is ideal for non-washable fabric as tacky glue is washable.

06. Wood Glue

Wood glue is a type of PVA or Epoxy or Cyanoacrylate glue, that is typically used to bond two pieces of wood. As the name suggests, it is most applicable in carpentry than cardboard. However, if you are on a craft project need to join together wood and cardboard, a wood glue would be a great option.

How to use Wood Glue?

  • Prep the area by laying sheets of plastic or old newspaper on the floor. Wear your safety gear including latex gloves and goggles.
  • Clean the surface of the wood and cardboard to remove any dirt or oil. If the wood surface is rough, you can sand it down to make it smooth. For cardboard, simply wipe with a little damp cloth and let it dry before working on your project.
  • Apply wood glue to any one surface of the substrates and fix the two pieces by clamping down our putting a bit of pressure for some time.
  • Wipe off any excess glue with a tissue paper and dump it.
  • There are various types of wood glue each with unique properties, such as a polyurethane wood glue would provide waterproofing to the joints, which makes it an ideal choice among carpenters.

07. Mod Podge

Mod Podge is a popular crafters glue. It is a decoupage medium which contains other elements such as sealers, and varnishes to make it better than the usual white glue. They come in various solution to suit various needs such as for fabric, furniture, outdoor use, dishwasher safe and also have various finishes such as glitter, matte, gloss, etc. Mod Podge is a brand for the decoupage medium and is the most popular one. If you are using cardboards for crafts, a can of Mod Podge will be a great option for you.

How to use Mod Podge?

  • Mod Podge is a decoupage medium, so you will be most likely using for craft and other decoupaging projects.
  • First, prep the area by laying over sheets of plastic or old newspaper on the floor, on which you will decoupage using your cardboard.
  • For any kind of application, first prep the surface of the substrate such as wood or cardboard by cleaning to remove any grease, oil, dirt, etc. You can use a variety of substrates such as wood, plastics, papers, terracotta, etc. So, prep the surface for the type of substrate you are using.
  • If you are using wooden structures, you could add a base coat with a layer of acrylic paint; however, it is optional, depending on the project.
  • Apply a layer of Mod Podge on the cardboard and press other pieces of the projects for a few minutes. If you are using colored paper, press out excess Mod Podge or lingering bubbles. Then let it sit for a few hours for the glue to work. Then add a clear spray if you want to give a shiny appearance to your project.

08. Hot Glue

Hot glue or hot melt adhesives are basically a gluing material that sticks as it cools down. The product itself came in the form of a stick which is already solid. You have to use a gun to melt down the adhesive and then let it cool off to make a bond between cardboards.

How to use Hot Glue?

  • Hot melt glue is a great solution if you are working on cardboard. To apply on your substrate first, prep the area. However, it wouldn’t need much prepping as hot melt glue is a much-controlled application, unlike spray-on adhesives.
  • Prep the surface by cleaning any grease, oil or dirt. Hot melt glue works based on temperature, so you have to choose a suitable workspace as well.
  • Bring the gun at the right temperature. Too hot, and the glue will take time to set and too cold, the glue would solidify before you could bond the other piece.
  • Apply a thin line of hot glue on the cardboard and immediately press the second piece and let it sit for a few minutes.

09. PSA tape

PSA (Pressure Sensitive Adhesive) Tape is typically a thin film of flexible material with peel over PSA adhesive on both sides. The tape contains adhesive that bonds under pressure. It doesn’t require water, or heat to act like other adhesives. PSA tapes come in 3 options:

  • Rubber adhesives – Cheapest but can’t take the high-temperature application
  • Acrylic adhesives – Acrylic polymers set a stronger bond and provide weather resistance
  • Silicone adhesives – Silicone polymers work best with silicon substrates

How to use PSA tape?

  • Clean the surface to remove any oil or dust.
  • Cut a strip of PSA tape depending on the length of the application.
  • Peel off the release liner from one side and stick it to one piece of the cardboard. Give an even pressure over the tape to make sure it as bonded strongly.
  • Next, peel off the release paper from the other side of the tape and stick the second piece of cardboard. Apply some pressure over the taped adhesion and let it sit for a few minutes.

10. Epoxy glue

Epoxy glue provides superior bonding as well as provide waterproof properties. It typically requires mixing two part of compounds: resin and hardener. The epoxy adhesive can be used a variety of substrates and has a wide application considering its effectiveness.

How to use Epoxy glue?

  • Choose the right epoxy adhesive for your project. You will find both liquid and paste alternatives. Liquids are typically used for smaller application and paste to cover a wider area.
  • Prep the area by spreading out plastic sheets or old newspapers. Put on your latex gloves and eye protection gear.
  • Create the formula by mixing equal parts resin and hardener based on the instructions given by the manufacturer.
  • Apply the adhesive immediately after mixing. Apply a thin layer of the adhesive covering the joints and edges as well.
  • Now apply some pressure on the glued joints, and let it sit for a few hours. The time to bond depends on the manufacturer of the adhesive.

11. Polyurethane glue

The polyurethane adhesive can be applied on basically anything including wood, plastic, glass, and even concrete. It could be overkill if you are using it to bond two cardboards, which it does perfectly. But for crafts that involve sticking metal or glass or plastic to cardboard, a Polyurethane adhesive could be a great option.

How to use Polyurethane glue?

  1. Most Polyurethane glue comes in tubes, so it’s pretty easy to apply. Still, you should prep the area and wear safety gear.
  2. Clean the surface of the substrate as it doesn’t bond well on oily, or wax-like surface.
  3. Squeeze a thin line of adhesive on one of the surfaces and place the other piece on the board. Apply pressure with your arm and let it sit for a few hours.
  4. You can moisten the surface of the substrate to quicken the curing process.


All the aforementioned adhesive are standard adhesives used on cardboard papers. Most of the adhesives are for professional use, which you may not need for your everyday errands. Some are specialty adhesives used only for crafts. Many of the adhesive listed above could be expensive and overkill for the kind of application you will be doing. So, before buying any adhesive, learn the application of the adhesive and what you want to achieve.

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