How to Remove Super Glue

Removing Cyanoacrylate Adhesive

Super Glue is a fast-acting cyanoacrylate adhesive
Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

Super Glue is a strong, fast-acting adhesive that sticks to just about anything almost instantly, so it's easy to accidentally glue your fingers together or drip the glue onto clothes or surfaces. Even though it sets quickly and won't wash off, you can remove Super Glue with acetone.

Acetone: The Anti-Super Glue

Super Glue is a cyanoacrylate adhesive. It's impervious to water, but it can be dissolved in an organic solvent such as acetone. Some nail polish removers contain acetone, but be sure to check the label because many acetone-free products are available and will not dissolve Super Glue. You can find pure acetone in stores that sell home or art supplies because it is a useful solvent.

If you view the Material Safety Data Sheet for acetone, you'll see it's flammable and toxic, so it's not a chemical you want to ingest or inhale. It is absorbed into the skin on contact. It dehydrates and de-fats skin, so wash any spills with soap and water and apply a moisturizer, if possible.

Removing Super Glue

How you apply the acetone depends on what you stuck together with the glue. Do not apply acetone to your eyes or lips, but it's still possible to remove Super Glue from other areas.

Fabric: Acetone will remove Super Glue from fabric, but it may discolor the material or alter its texture. Work acetone into the affected area from both sides. Use a gloved finger or a soft-bristled toothbrush. The acetone will dissolve the glue and be rinsed away by still more acetone. Acetone evaporates quickly, but wash any fabrics that can withstand cleaning.

Glass: Super Glue does not bond very well to glass, so you can scrape it off. It may help to soak the affected area in water until the glue is loosened. Acetone won't harm glass, but its use shouldn't be necessary.

Counters and surfaces: Acetone dissolves Super Glue on counters and surfaces, but it may harm varnish on wood. It will cause some plastics to become cloudy in appearance and it may discolor some materials. Try to pry or scrape off the adhesive using acetone as a last resort.

Skin: For fingers and most body parts, remove Super Glue by soaking the skin in warm water and then slowly peeling away the glue. You can usually pull the stuck skin apart because your skin is more likely to tear than to detach from the glue using this method. If necessary, apply a small amount of acetone using a cotton swab. Since acetone is toxic, avoid using it if possible. If you do need to use acetone, apply only the smallest amount needed to remove the glue.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you stick together lips or eyelids or if Super Glue gets stuck on an eyeball, contact a physician: Do not use acetone. The cyanoacrylate adhesive bonds instantly to moist areas, so it's nearly impossible to swallow liquid Super Glue or for it to travel far into the eyes. That's the good news. The bad news is that you'll have to wait for your cells to rid themselves of the glue on their own.

Fortunately, eye and lip tissue regenerates very quickly, so the glue naturally detaches. If you get Super Glue on your eyeball or eyelids, you may wish to wear an eye patch or cover it with gauze. The glue naturally detaches from an eyeball after several hours.

According to Super Glue Corporation, there are no known cases of permanent damage from this type of injury. It may take a couple of days to unstick eyelids or lips, although tears and saliva hasten the removal. People who have stuck their lips together tend to work at it with their tongue, but even if you leave the area alone, it will un-stick in one to two days.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Remove Super Glue." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 26). How to Remove Super Glue. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Remove Super Glue." ThoughtCo. (accessed August 5, 2021).