Rubber cement is a unique adhesive in that there's actual rubber in the mixture and items bonded with it are repositionable for a while, making it great for some art projects, such as figuring out image placement on a collage. This adhesive is great for bonding rubber, paper, leather, and other materials that may require some flexibility, such as shoe soles. Depending on how it's used, it could be temporary or permanent. Unlike ordinary school glues or wood glue, most rubber cement is toxic if ingested and it's flammable, so only use it in well-ventilated areas.
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Temporary Rubber Cement Bonds
Like other adhesives within a particular type, some rubber cements are specialized for specific uses, such as mounting photos, for temporary adhesion, or for rubber repairs. If you only need a temporary bond, a general rubber cement such as Elmer's Rubber Cement works well, especially one with a brush built into the cap.
While working in a well-ventilated area, brush the cement onto one of the surfaces you're adhering, using as little as seems necessary for the bond. Applying too much won't hurt the project in many cases, but the thicker it goes on, the longer it takes to dry and the more likely the excess squirts out the sides when you press the pieces together, as is true with any liquid or gel adhesive. Allow some of the solvent to evaporate so the rubber cement looks a bit less wet or shiny and then press the two project pieces together.
Feel free to move the pieces around for the next few minutes as needed; some rubber cement remains tacky for much longer, while others create a more permanent bond over time. Read the specific product label to determine how long the pieces remain movable once cemented in place.
Creating Permanent Bonds
Rubber cement creates a more permanent bond if applied to both surfaces and allowed to nearly dry before pressing the pieces together. For instance, with two pieces of foam board or cardboard, brush the rubber cement onto the areas you wish to adhere on each piece. Once the rubber cement loses its shine and feels dry or close to it, press the pieces together and the bond becomes strong. This method works well on substances such as paper, cardboard, and foam board.
For permanent bonds on items, such as when adding a patch to a damaged rubber tire, use a rubber cement made specifically for tire repair. Scuff up the damaged area of the tire with the scuffing tool that comes with the repair kit; then brush the rubber cement over the scuffed area. Once the solvent within the rubber cement evaporates a bit and the cement becomes tacky, smooth the patch over it to remove air bubbles. Allow the cement to dry as long as recommended on the package before using the repaired item or before refilling the tire with air.
Cleaning Up Rubber Cement
Rubber cement turns into a stretchy, rubbery substance when its dry, which makes it easy to remove from many surfaces. Don't attempt to clean up excess rubber cement on a project when it's wet, or it will just make more of a mess. Picking at the dry cement with your finger is enough to remove it in many cases or use a rubber cement pick-up device that works like an eraser. Gently rub the pick-up block over the spare rubber cement, as you would if erasing pencil marks.