How to Remove Dried Elmer's Glue

Elmer's Glue-All cleans up with just water while the glue is wet, making it an ever-popular choice for school craft projects. But spills happen, and sometimes that glue isn't noticed until it has dried and hardened. Depending upon where the mess is, removing that dry glue could be as easy as softening it with moisture or heat.

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How to Remove Dried Elmer's Glue

Elmer's Glue Basics

Elmer's glue (or white glue) and similar school glues are forms of Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) glues. Most wood glues are also PVAs, but stronger and longer lasting than a school glue. All of these glues harden and dry as air exposure causes water in the glue to evaporate. These glues (as well as craft varieties like glitter glues) clean up easily while wet; a simple wipe of a damp cloth does the trick.

Clearing the Cap

Even if you're careful enough not to spill glue on other surfaces, wet glue inside the cap itself can harden. Once dry glue clogs the cap, it becomes impossible to squeeze more glue from the bottle. Clear that orange cap by pulling it all the way up and off the lid assembly. Push a bent paperclip or piece of craft wire through the cap from the top down to clear out the clog. Soaking the cap in lukewarm water also helps loosen particularly stubborn glue. Once the dry glue is gone, wipe the cap dry and press it back onto the cap assembly atop the bottle.

Carpet Cleanup

Dry glue has a way of showing up on carpet fibers long after a project has been completed. To remove glue crust from carpet and rugs, soak a white, lint-free cloth in warm tap water. Wring out most of the excess moisture, then press the cloth onto the problem area. Check the spot after 30 minutes. If the glue has softened, gently scrape it away with a plastic scraper or edge of a butter knife. If the glue is still hard, soak the cloth in warmer water, then reapply it to the area, scraping once again.

Clothing and Fabric

Scrape as much dried glue off the clothing or fabric as possible using the edge of a spoon, or by rubbing the material against itself. Soak the piece in cool water overnight. For machine-washable fabric, wash in cool water using your usual laundry detergent. Check the spot before drying the item; if glue remains, wash the item again. If the fabric requires hand washing, wash it gently in the sink in cool water, rubbing a small amount of a delicate laundry soap into the spot. Hang the piece to dry.

If dealing with fabric or leather furniture, scrape off as much of the glue as possible with a plastic knife or spoon, then dab cool water over the spot, wiping gently. Continue scraping. If the spot remains, apply the smallest drop possible of liquid dish soap and rub gently. Blot with cool water and wipe away any remaining glue.

Wood Surfaces

Remove Elmer's glue from finished wood surfaces—such as furniture and flooring—by first picking at it with a fingernail or a plastic tool (like the edge of a plastic spoon), using care not to damage the wood. If that doesn't work, apply a dab of cooking oil or petroleum jelly to the spot and let it sit overnight. This generally softens the glue enough to scrape it away.

Countertops and Solid Surfaces

Clean counter tops, laminate surfaces, plastics and metal by applying petroleum jelly, vinegar, cooking oil or a little water-displacing lubricant. Wipe the spot after 30 minutes or so. If the surface resists heat, use a hair dryer set to warm or hot, aiming the air at the spot for a minute or two. Wipe the soft glue away or reapply heat if necessary.