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Accidents happen. Water-based and protein glues are popular for packaging, laminating, and labeling applications and need to be applied as a liquid. The risk of having an accidental spill increases when glues are in the liquid state. 

Let’s cover how to clean up adhesive spills to keep your equipment and production running in top shape. 

Water-Based Adhesives Overview

Generally, water-based adhesives come as a premixed solution or as a dry powder which manufacturers and distributors must mix with water to gain adhesive properties. The water in the glue needs to evaporate or become absorbed into the substrate to bond to a surface. Due to this process, at least one permeable substrate must be used when working with water-based adhesives.

How to Clean Up Water-Based Adhesives

Before the adhesive hardens, follow these steps to prevent any damage to the affected surfaces.

  • Act quickly! Cleaning up a spill while it’s still wet is easier than after it dries.
  • Apply Borax to the adhesive spill. You can use a multi-purpose household cleaner with Borax to make the glue rubbery and peel off the surface.
  • Clean any remaining residue with hot soap and water. 

After water-based adhesives dry, not all is lost! Generally, this type of glue dissolves in warm, soapy water. Follow these steps to remove dried water-based adhesive:

  • Dip a sponge in a mixture of warm water and soap and scrub the affected surface until the glue dissolves. 
  • If water wasn’t effective, scrub the area with rubbing alcohol until the glue dissolves.
  • Use a metal scraper to remove any remaining glue.
  • Rinse the surface with water to remove any residue and dry with a towel. 

Protein Glue Adhesive Overview

Protein glue, also referred to as gelatin glue, is distributed in dried cakes or packaged in plastic bags. Before the glue can be used, it needs to be heated to about 140-150°F or 60-65°C in a glue pot.

Temperature plays a key role in applying protein glue, as too much or too little heat can make the glue difficult to use properly. For example, too much heat causes protein glue to become runny and increases the chance of spills.

How to Clean Up Protein Glue

Protein glue is biodegradable and dissolves easily in water. Before the adhesive hardens, follow these steps to stop the glue from drying to the wrong surface.

  • Move quickly to clean up the spill. Protein glue has enough strength to etch glass and can buckle surfaces if allowed to dry. 
  • Use a wet sponge dipped in hot water to clean the affected surface.
  • Pat the surface dry with a towel. 

After protein glue hardens, the hold can be reversed! This property makes protein glue invaluable for woodworking, especially when creating or restoring instruments and wood furniture.

To remove hard protein glue from a surface, use the following steps:

  • Pour a little bit of hot water (around 160°F) over the glue and let it soak for a few minutes.
  • Use a stiff-bristle brush to loosen the glue.
  • Remove the loose glue with a damp rag.
  • Repeat these steps until the surface is free of glue.
  • Remove leftover glue residue by wiping the surface with a wet rag.

Troubleshooting Your Glue Application? We Can Help

Having excessive adhesive spills can mean something is not quite right with your glue application process. Many factors need to be considered when working with adhesives, including application temperature, production speed, and the surface materials you’re using in your manufacturing. If you have questions, contact our adhesive experts.

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Topics: protein glue, protein glue tips, troubleshooting, water based adhesive, liquid water-based glue, Glue Troubleshooting, glue best practices