Can glue freeze?

Can Glue Freeze?
By Bill Wyatt
November 7, 2020
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Can glue freeze? And what happens if you try? How cold can glue actually get before it freezes? Let’s find out together!

Can you freeze glue?

You could freeze glue. You could do a lot of things with it actually. But SHOULD you?

As a rule of thumb, most household glues should not be frozen while in liquid form, since it may destroy the chemical structure of the glue, making it useless even once thawed.

Once they have already had a chance to fully cure, most household glues will be able to withstand freezing temperatures, although they may become a little more brittle. 

Problems with freezing glue

Although different glues have different chemical makeups, most household glues will be completely ruined by freezing them before they are cured.

Problems with freezing PVA glue

PVA is usually a mixture of a solvent and an adhesive. The adhesive is suspended in the solvent to create a liquid, which is easy to apply. When the glue is applied, the solvent can evaporate leaving behind the adhesive to form a strong bond.

When you freeze PVA glue, the solvent may solidify before the adhesive, causing the two to separate, and the adhesive part to join together in to a solid clump of plastic.

Problems with freezing cyanoacrylate & polyurethane glue

Some glues like CA (superglue) and PU (Polyurethane/Gorilla Glue) are made from only one main adhesive ingredient (without solvent).

These types of glue would also break were they to be frozen, however they usually have an extremely low freezing point. (-80°C for CA, -60°C for Polyurethane)

Problems with freezing hide glue

Non-synthetic glues can not be frozen. 

Hide glue, for example is made from sticky animal proteins called collagen. 

When frozen, these proteins break down and lose their flexibility and adhesion properties, rendering your glue completely useless.

What type of glues can be frozen?

Some glue is designed to be used in very low temperatures. 

Although freezing glue will generally damage it, there are glues with below zero freezing points, which means you can use them in freezing conditions and they will still cure.

Specifically, many construction adhesives, silicone-based adhesives and solvent (not water based) adhesives perform well in low temperatures.

My recommendation is usually E6000 for its flexibility, but there are many low temperature adhesives available.

Can you freeze superglue?

Superglue is a Cyanoacrylate glue, which is a synthetic monomer hydrocarbon. If you wanted to freeze it, you would need to get the temperature all the way down to an incredible -80°C (-112°F). To put this in to perspective, the coldest place ever recorded on earth was -89°C, in the deserts of Soviet Antarctica.

If you did manage to freeze it, the act of freezing would chemically alter the adhesive permanently, rendering it useless. It wouldn’t become usable again if you were to thaw it.

Unless you live at the south pole, Superglue is going to be just fine in freezing conditions, although it will take an extremely long time to cure. 

The best option is to make your repair indoors at room temperature, where superglue will bond almost instantly, then move it outside, where the cold temperature will have no effect.

Can you freeze Elmer’s glue?

Elmer’s School Glue is made by suspending the PVA adhesive in water. You should not freeze it, because the water and the adhesive will separate as the water freezes, leaving you with a bunch of unsticky liquid, and a solid lump of plastic in the bottom of the bottle.

The plastic will never turn back in to usable glue, so don’t waste it by freezing!

Once Elmer’s (or any other PVA) has had a chance to fully cure, freezing temperatures will not affect the finished bond.

This means you can use it on a project that’s going to be somewhere freezing cold. Bear in mind Elmer’s is not waterproof, so even in freezing conditions it will dissolve if it’s exposed to liquid water.

Can you freeze gorilla glue?

Gorilla Glue is made from Polyurethane.

If you did manage to freeze Gorilla Glue, it would be completely ruined. The freezing temperatures would break apart the hydrocarbons that make it up, permanently chemically altering the solution and rendering it useless as an adhesive.

In practice though, you will likely never have this problem because Polyurethane has a freezing point of below -60°C (-76°F), so it will not be destroyed in most common freezing conditions, even in a household freezer.

At low temperatures, Polyurethane becomes less and less reactive so the adhesive may not properly function, however it will not be permanently damaged.

If you need a quick repair for something that’s going to be outside in freezing temperatures, Gorilla glue can be a possible solution. It’s waterproof, and once it’s fully cured freezing temperatures won’t affect it, however the bond may become a little brittle.

Best glue for freezing conditions

It really depends on the materials you’re working with, but a good option would be E6000 glue.

It works all the way down to -40°F (-40°C), is completely waterproof, works on most household materials (with the exception of some types of plastic), and remains flexible when cured. (Unlike superglue or Gorilla glue, which become brittle in freezing temperatures)

You can read more about E6000 and what it can do in my in-depth guide here.

Conclusion

I hope this was useful for you.

In short, all household glues will be destroyed if you freeze them, but some types of glue have such a low freezing point that it’s unlikely you will ever be in an environment cold enough.

If you need a glue for low temperatures, I would usually recommend E6000, because it remains a bit more flexible than superglue or Gorilla Glue, which become brittle when exposed to extreme cold.

If you’re wondering about the operating temperature of a specific glue, check out my glue reviews page, where I go over the properties of various types of glue.

Thanks for reading

-Bill

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