What Is Cyanoacrylate (Super Glue) and How Does It Work?

What-Is-Cyanoacrylate-(Super Glue)-and-How-Does-It-Work

There are glues called cyanoacrylates that form long and strong polymer chains when water is present. The brand names of the most popular types of cyanoacrylate adhesives are Super Glue and Krazy Glue. If that term is new to you, you may recognize them.

That’s not true. This type of glue is very strong, with tensile strengths that can go up to 4,000 pounds per square inch (depending on what you’re bonding) and no mess.

Because of its strength and how easy it is to use, you might wonder why it’s only used for small things. If you want to build a house, you can’t use cyanoacrylate very much because it isn’t very good at fixing things to the ground. Cyanoacrylate has been very important in the fields of industrial, medical, and technological production.

In this article

  • How Does Cyanoacrylate Work?
  • When to Use Cyanoacrylate
  • Varieties of Cyanoacrylate
  • Removing Cyanoacrylate

How Does Cyanoacrylate Work?

Cyanoacrylate’s acryl groups make polymers when there is water around. There is a lot of moisture in the air where we live, so when you open the tube of Super Glue, it doesn’t take long for moisture to get inside and make the whole thing hard. Other times, though, you may need to add some water. Because cyanoacrylate can be used to glue things like glass and steel together, you may want to lightly mist them with water before applying the glue.

When to Use Cyanoacrylate

Cyanoacrylate is a good choice because it is easier to use than some other types of glue. Even so, there are a few drawbacks to think about: a quick set time, which means you have little to no time to position and clamp work; and brittle bonds that don’t hold up well to impact loads.

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of cyanoacrylate:


Ease of use. Unlike two-part epoxy, there is no need for complicated mixing. Just put a small amount of glue on the surface you want to stick to another.

Strength. It has the same tensile strength as epoxy and polyurethane products.

Versatility. Super glues can be used with most types of materials, both porous and non-porous.

Short work time. In most cases, you don’t need to clamp Super Glue. Hold the two things you are joining together for a few minutes, and they’ll be joined together and ready to be used (though it is best to leave them for 24 hours to cure fully). This can also be a problem when you’re building things, but see below.


Expense. Cyanoacrylate is a lot more expensive than other glues. It’s not a big deal for small repairs, but if you’re framing a whole house out of wood, you’ll want to use wood glue instead of Super Glue because it’s stronger.

Unable to fill gaps. Make sure to spread the glue in a thin layer to make sure it sticks to two surfaces that fit together well, then let it dry. It’s better to use an epoxy or other adhesive that also acts as a filler if the gap between the two surfaces isn’t very uniform.

Short work time. Yes, having a short work day can be good, but it can also be bad. You won’t have a lot of time to get your object where you want it before cyanoacrylate starts to harden.

Low ductility. Cyanoacrylate makes very strong bonds, but it isn’t very durable or tough, so it could break if it was hit quickly. People should think about wood and glass. In the long run, wood may bend under a lot of pressure. But if you hit the wood with a sledge, it won’t break. Glass, on the other hand, won’t bend under pressure, but it might break when it hits something. When you put pressure on them, cyanoacrylate adhesives hold up well. Other adhesives, on the other hand, aren’t as strong as cyanoacrylate adhesives. They’re fragile, and they could break.

Varieties of Cyanoacrylate

A lot of different types of super glue are available, which makes them better or worse for different jobs. Factors to think about:

Viscosity. In Jordan’s words, this is how “flowy” a substance is. A high viscosity means that it is less liquid, or not as “flowy.” In general, glue that has a higher viscosity usually takes longer to harden, but it can be easier to work with, especially when adhering something that is on a flat surface.

Temperature. Cyanoacrylate can break down when it gets hot. If your bond is going to be exposed to a lot of heat, look for one that can handle that.

Strength. Each and every type of Super Glue makes very strong bonds. If your repairs are going to get a lot of wear and tear, you’ll want something with the highest strength bond formula.

Cure time. With other adhesives, Super Glues usually work and cure quickly, but there is still a wide range in how long it takes them. If you want to make small changes, look for a cyanoacrylate that can work for a long time.

Removing Cyanoacrylate

People like the fact that Super Glue works quickly when wet, but they don’t like how quickly it works when we touch it. Remove cyanoacrylate if you don’t want it there.

On Skin

In most cases, cyanoacrylate will fall off on its own after a few days of washing your hands with soap and water, but this can vary. When acetone is used, it can speed up the process even more (nail polish remover). It is better to use lemon juice, margarine or oil, and laundry detergent that has been mixed with water as alternatives.

On Other Surfaces

Acetone is usually good at getting rid of cyanoacrylate that has gotten on surfaces where you don’t want it to, like on your clothes or furniture. Soapy water and vinegar can be used to clean wood, plastic, and fabrics that might be damaged by acetone. Once the glue has been cleaned up, sandpaper can often be used to get rid of any leftover residue.

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