Jan 17, 2012

Posted by | 36 Comments

How Do you Glue?

I can’t believe I haven’t dedicated a post to glue yet, so here it is!   Now, I know art teachers all have different methods for managing the “sticky situations” with glue in the art room, but for what it’s worth, I want to share what I do, and hopefully my tips will help you “un clog” some really good ideas to manage your glue.  (Too many puns already?)
Glue bottles are not fun. In keeping it real, I will admit: Sometimes I pawn off the job of refilling them on my volunteer (Sorry, Lois!). Sometimes I even just crack open some new bottles instead of refilling old ones (I was pregnant and tired, do you blame me?).  But like you, I do prefer to refill. It’s much more cost effective, good for mother nature and just smart.  If you are indifferent about refilling glue bottles you could try shopping the Back to School Sales. You can find glue very cheap, stock up, and have lots of backup bottles.  Even better, you can get some half full bottles donated to you by asking for supplies from other teachers at the end of the year and simply use up someone else’s leftovers. I do all of the methods in combination to make glue work for me.  It all just depends on my time, level of frustration, and the projects we are doing at the time.
Pump it Up! 
I purchase the gallon Elmer’s refill and the pump that goes in it. You will love the pump.  It’s only like 10 dollars and should be in the glue section of any art catalog.  Then you just squeeze down (like the ketchup at Mc Donalds) and a few squirts will fill the bottle. I put the gallon right in the sink as I fill so all drips go in the sink and not on my counter. I soak the lids in warm soapy water while I am doing this to loosen up the gunk. I did purchase the Crayola thicker no drip anti clogging glue and it was ok, but a little too thick for the little hands to squeeze out. Plus the caps are not attached so they can easily get lost.
To Encourage students to use less glue, I do two things:
1.  Use the chant “A dot dot dot is a lot lot lot” and model examples and NON examples of how to use the glue, which I teach in a mini lesson one day, allowing them to practice.  I can’t stress the importance of non-examples enough. Making a big show about a river of glue or a kid who just keeps squeezing and squeezing (which I demonstrate on the Elmo, and then CRY a river because I just wasted so much glue, right in front of the kids. They love it!)
2.  If a kid is squeezing too much and I know it’s not a fine motor issue (ie: they are just being careless) I sanction them to a “Tap and Glue” – which only lets out a little tap of glue when you push down. Look up “Tap and Glue” – they are red caps you attach to bottles and some teachers love them and others hate them.  I occasional use Tap and Glue with the younger kids and if you buy the special bottles that go along with them (as seen in the photo below), they work better. I don’t mind the tap and glue, but that is me.  You just have to be ruthless about cleaning off the tops or you will constantly be picking off “Glue Buggers” as I call them to the kids. Ewwww!
I also enlist students to help me. I send a kid around with a damp rag at the end of a glue-y class period and wind down and wipe off the tops of the glue lids.  This makes all the difference in clogs.  Remember how I now keep the glue bottles on the tables instead of on my supply shelf? It’s still working out well I am happy to say!
What Not To Do When a Bottle Clogs
When a student approaches me in the middle of class and says my glue doesn’t work here is what I DON’T DO. I don’t try to unclog it. It’s maddening for me to sit there with 5 others kids who need my help and try to stick a little paper clip into a glue bottle.  If it seems to be a quick fix, I’ll do it on the spot. Otherwise, I will just set it on the counter and deal with it later. I simply give the kid a new glue bottle or an extra from the table that is working.  Easy!
Other Stuff About Glue:
I’ve tried off brands of glue (Blick, etc) and they work fine, too, but I would have to say my favorite is just the Elmer’s School Glue. You can’t beat it!  Also do not be afraid to just throw away gunky old bottles. You can’t save them all and remember: time is money. Is 15 minutes of soaking, unclogging and scrubbing worth 30 cents? I didn’t think so. But maybe I am too quick to give up. Still, I value my time and mother earth, so it’s all about balance.
I’m pretty sure I don’t even need to prompt you to share your own Drippy Dilemmas and Sticky Solutions(am I almost too much for you in this one? I thought so!) Tell me about glue and link up any blog posts you have done about the topic, too, in the comments section below.
PS. I was not paid or perked for mentioning any of these products, I just happen to like them!
PPS. Don’t forget to vote if you haven’t for Art Ed Blog of the Year!
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  • Marla

    When I teach glue use, I have the bottle “kiss” the paper as it drags. I encourage them not to squeeze too much or at all when they are doing this. This creates a tiny even flow of glue that is just the right amount.

  • Anonymous

    Jessica, thanks for your eeweey gooey glue ideas,. Glue is always a dilemma. One thing I learned from my Preschool Teacher, pour a little glue in a milk cap and they can use their finger or I give them an old tiny paint brush. This works pretty well for the young 5 crowd. I put the glue cap on a little piece of cardboard to try and keep the table clean. I’ve collected so many caps I throw them out at the end of the class.

  • Lisa Ricciardelli, Coppell, TX

    I save yogurt or sour cream lids and pour a bit on that for each table to share. They are taught “dot-dot…not a lot” and they scrape the excess on the sides. Dried glue that next day can easily be peeled off and replenished. I tell them their finger is the best glue stick on earth! ONE finger only, that is. :)

    • Karen

      I do this too, only “pinky” is the finger of choice, he never gets his own job and kids don’t get so sticky.

      • Jessica Balsley

        He never gets his own job! hahaha! cute, Karen!

  • Mrs. Euken’s Art Mooseum

    If you have not seen some of the AMAZING Vimeo videos of Tricia Fuglestad, you really need to check them out. Her “Glue Blues” song is a fantastic way to get the kids to listen to some sound advice about glue. She has several other great jingles for your art rooms. Go to: ENJOY!!

    • Jessica Balsley

      Yes, I’ve seen lots of her videos, and I love them. Not sure if I’ve seen the glue one, so I’ll have to check it out thanks for the tip!

  • Michael Watson

    I do save the empty bottles. I put them in a sink with Dawn detergent and hot water and let them sit overnight and then clean them out. I then add black paint and glue in a gallon container and refill the old empty glue. For projects that we do black glue painting this works fine.

    • Jessica Balsley

      Good thinking, Michael!

  • Jan

    I teach kids every year how to deal with clogged glue bottles….then tell them they may not ask me for help with them again for the rest of the year. If someone forgets and asks me for help, I tell them to ask a friend what to do. (Maybe it sounds mean, but they do learn how to take care of the problem themselves.)

    In my first gluing lesson of the year, I teach them to try these solutions to a non-working glue bottle:
    …check to make sure the cap is open
    …peel off old glue from the cap
    …take one of my open paper clips (located next to the glue bottles) and poke it in the hole.
    …try a different bottle of glue
    …if all else fails, share with a neighbor

    • Jessica Balsley

      Jan, It’s not too harsh, I don’t blame you. We have to teach independence and save our sanity!

    • Mrs. Euken’s Art Mooseum

      I TOTALLY agree Jan! Good for you!!!!!!!

  • Jen

    uuuuh glue!!!! I sorta feel like I gave up on glue bottles this year! I just got tired of unclogging bottles during class! Last year I created two plastic containers for my glue. “Fix Me” container and ”Fixed!” The problem…My ”Fix Me” container was over flowing while my ”Fixed” container was empty….another issue to solve ;)

  • Heather

    I am a 2nd year art teacher and gave up on glue bottles within my 2nd lesson in my 1st year. Now, I get donated cream cheese and baby food jars and put the glue in there. The students use the yucky paint brushes that come with watercolor sets to dip in the glue and I have a small cup of water to put the paintbrush in at the end of class (or while not using the brush.)
    I tip my hat off to all of you that put up with those bottles!

    • Jessica Balsley

      I might try this for some of the projects, like collage. Thanks, Heather!

  • Janis

    Thanks Jessica for posting this!! Its nice to hear that other art teachers hate wasting their master’s degree on time spent unclogging glue bottles!
    Lets hope someone at Elmers or Crayola hear us, and invent a solution.

  • Daevid

    GLUE! I’m glad to know it’s not just me. I’ve tried so many of these ideas but generally keep the paper clips handy, teach the kids to use themselves, and, when all else fails I simply dump them and open a new bottle.

    • Mrs. Euken’s Art Mooseum

      Hmmm….. after having taught kindergarten and first grade for 26 years prior to moving into art and not being a fan of glue sticks, I have simpy learned to deal with it. I realize it is a hassle, but it is also a “skill” they NEED to learn. I guess I feel that in elementary art we aren’t suppose to just teach them about art, but how to use supplies and materials properly. I’m sure some of you don’t really want to hear this, but after having been in a regular ed. classroom, I think we need to be responsible in teaching our students the proper way to use glue bottles. And YES Elmer’s bottles are superior to the others. :)

  • EJ

    Noone’s mentioned my favorite option… glue sticks! Glue bottles/ white glue makes an appearance in my room at most once or twice a quarter, I do very few projects which require glue that can’t be completed with a glue stick. Yes theyre more expensive, but they’re worth it in my opinion. The glue sticks are in their table boxes (much like the glue bottles in the picture above), and we make a game out of keeping track of your cap, plus we sing a song in the tune of “on top of spaghetti” with rolling away caps.

    When we do use the glue bottles, they are stored in a box with every bottle labeled by table (green table, blue table) and seat (every table has a seat labeled square, triangle, circle and oval so each has certain “jobs”). So kids only take their their glue bottle (“this is the blue square’s glue”) and when they put them back in the storage box, i have one of my students (ovals are “inspectors”) check them to see who hasnt screwed down the cap (GASP!).

    • Jessica Balsley

      I use glue sticks for some projects, too. They are just the ticket. We get a lot donated from the classroom teachers at the end of the year. The only complaint I have with glue sticks is the work doesn’t always last over time, it peels back easily, otherwise, whatever works for you, go for it!

  • Katie Morris

    Do you do anything to your glue pump to keep it from clogging? I ordered a glue pump last year and it was great for a while- then got clogged and the cap glued on. When I tried to fix it, it broke. I decided to try it again this year and make sure the cap was ALWAYS on so it wouldn’t dry out and get clogged. Then the cap got stuck on and when I tried to uncap the pump to refill some bottles, it broke, too! I’m pretty disappointed and don’t know if there is some magical fix I haven’t tried yet. Maybe I need to try ONE MORE TIME and use the vaseline trick…

    • Jessica Balsley

      Hmm..Maybe my memory doesn’t serve me well, but I do remember the cap sticking on. Maybe an issue once with some clogging, but for the life of me I don’t know if I’ve had issues. I soak and rinse the pump in a lot of warm water often, that might help. Worst thing ever- kid pumps down the pump with the cap on. Then, when I go to remove it, it’s either stuck or glue comes gushing out. Yikes. I need to hide it.

  • Linda Jones

    I read a tip to clean the orange lids then lightly soak them in some veggie oil and very lightly wipe them– this worked wonders in my classroom, we went 2 weeks without a clog and before I was dealing with them daily and repeatedly.

    • Jessica Balsley

      I am going to try this, Linda!

  • Cristin

    Biggest pet peeve – when kids use scissors or pencils to try to un-jam their glue caps!

    One other tip – if you sign up for an account at Terracycle you can actually recycle all of your glue bottles. I actually collect glue bottles from the whole school and ship in a box every couple of months. The shipping is paid for by the company, you’re recycling some otherwise non-recyclable things, and you actually get a credit from the company that you can donate to various charities. It’s a win-win-win!

    • Erica

      Love this! Thanks!

  • Heidi

    Hello Everyone!

    I enjoyed reading this post. I had no idea glue bottles were such a hot topic! I’m also a second year teacher. In general, I don’t have issues. I use Elmers glue and bottles. They do clog from time to time. If I can’t fix it then I’ll swap it out for a new one.

    One thing that makes mangement a little easier, I don’t have very many bottles to deal with. I have 8 tables (4 to a table) with supply buckets. I only alllow each table 2 bottles of glue. I teach students to share. Generally, it’s not an issue. If we’re doing something with a lot of glue I build in a little extra time into the lesson because kids are sharing the glue.

    I love the tip on unclogging old caps. I will totally give that one a try!

    Happy glueing!

  • rtcteech

    Great Article.. my only concern with the pump is does it leave much glue left that cannot be pumped out of the large Glue jug? Otherwise I too despise refilling glue bottles, and find that glue sticks are a waste and do not last nearly as long. Another trick I have to help unclog the glue, a more on the spot rather than soak approach. I use a wooden barbecue/shishkabob skewer (sp) to poke through the gunk in the orange cap (after its removed from the bottle of course). Another great option if you do not have any barbecue skewers around find a large paper clip, unbend it and clear at that gunk. Thanks again for a very practical article.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure if someone responded with this, but I have to share this tip. It’s the best glue tip I’ve EVER heard – rub vaseline on the threads of the glue bottle proper and the threads for the nozzle and YOU WILL NEVER HAVE STUCK GLUE BOTTLES AGAIN. EVER. You will never hear kindergarteners complain that they can’t open the glue bottle (unless they’re “pinching and twisting” the wrong direction, of course :o) and even if bottles get left open, they will not get stuck. It is worth the time it takes up front – I used to use pliers to open some glue bottles to refill and now I can do it quickly and easily. It’s like butter!

    • Cinderenee

      I just started using Vasoline on my glue bottles last year, and it has a made a world of difference!!

      When I do have a bottle that I can’t open, I put on a pair of yellow kitchen gloves and try again.  The cap will usually come off pretty easily.

  • Sheil

    This article has elevated the importance of glue in the art room and I have taken away many valuable tips. Thank you! I continue a glue practice of my former art predecessor that helps to cut down on the time spent refilling bottles. You will need extra tops, so when throwing out old ones, remember to save and keep the extras in a wide mouth plastic container in warm water. This will loosen all the dried glue over time and they will clean themselves. When refilling, just switch the tops and “squeeze” away.

  • Hannah

    Thanks for this post! I think cleaning out and refilling glue is definitely my LEAST favorite thing to do! Sometimes I trick my students and saying I need some “really strong” helpers to help unscrew the caps (they hurt!), and I always get a rush of boys who want to do it for me, ha. I’m definitely going to try the vaseline thing mentioned above? I also ordered the tap-n-glue caps this year- meh. Sometimes they’re awesome, most of the time- nothing comes out. I didn’t realize there were coordinating bottles that go with the caps, so now I’m definitely adding that to my list of items I need to buy as requisitions come up. After this year, if the tap-n-glues don’t work.. I might just have to resort back to the frustrating unclog/ refill days.

    I do remind students on a continuous basis, “A little dab’ll do ya!” but… you always get those one or two stinkers that either don’t listen, or that just don’t clean when you ask them to, or don’t clean properly.. which pretty much starts the snowball effect.

    Here’s a link to my cutting and gluing practice done by my Kinders:

  • mrs g

    Most of the time I use glue sticks but I also have Elmer’s glue in Cheerio containers, the ones that toddlers use for snacks. (mine actually have smiley faces bought from walmart years ago) One side opens up for a students paintbrush and the other side stays secure. To fill, the top can be unscrewed. I have them stacked in a shoebox and when needed I hand them out with an old paintbrush and after a brief demo let them glue. If the glue dries up in the container I simply dump more glue into it. Also quite easy to wash -just close both flaps and stick under hot water.

    • jess

      Now this is a new concept- I like it. I think I will try it. It just seems easier then messing with the bottles, especially for specific projects like collage. Thanks for sharing something new!

  • Kirsten

    Starting my first year I taught the kids to say “dot-dot-dot, you don’t need a lot” and it stuck REALLY well. The K teachers were ecstatic and all of the students still use it. I teach the K students all about glue, starting with a parade around the room with an example of SNEEZE art which is what happens when you squeeze a whole lot. I make sure that the kids who have major glue accidents are reassured that they will improve if they keep trying.
    For the clogged bottles I keep some extra tips with the bottles. I can switch out the cap pretty easily for a clogged one which goes to a cup of water always in the sink. Eventually ( overnight usually ) they are unclogged and go back to the extra pile.
    I rarely use glue sticks because I had hardly any supplies the first year, find them wasteful and unreliable for sticking long term.

  • Scott

    I have a glue hospital. I have glue on the tables, but when one is clogged and can’t be opened they know glue first aid: Oh, no! The glue isn’t breathing. I have to clear it’s air passage. Close the lid! Pick off the obstruction! Open it! Is it breathing? If it’s breathing it will work, If not breathing or too wheezy it goes to the glue hospital for repair.
    The glue hospital is a shoe box with a divider in the middle. Clogged or empty glue goes to the hospital side, they can take a new glue from the “ready for action” side.