Adhesives and Fixatives


Some forms of adhesives, such as epoxy resins, can be irritants. Sensible precautions must be taken to avoid skin contact. If it is considered necessary to use contact adhesives that give off heavy, toxic or flammable vapours, good ventilation is essential. Aerosol-propelled fixatives and adhesives should only be used in controlled conditions with adequate ventilation (see Management and Organisation - Services - Ventilation).

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 163 - Spray Adhesives

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 162 - Adhesives used in Art

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 009 - Water based adhesives

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 090 - Adhesives Used with Compliant Materials

'Super Glues'

Children should not use these cyanoacyrlate-based adhesives, which can instantly bond body tissues. The following guidance from CLEAPSS, sets out the conditions within which teachers may use such glues on behalf of pupils.

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 002 - Cyanoacrylate

Glue Guns

Glue guns propel electrically heated hot-melted glue through a nozzle onto the surfaces to be joined. They can propel the hot glue as drops or a continuous stream, using either a trigger or by applying pressure on the cool end of the glue stick projecting out of the back of the gun. When not being used, but still heated, they can drip hot glue and so care should be taken to place them correctly on their wire stand, so dripping poses less risk. Glue guns are fitted with short cables to reduce the hazards from tripping, although snagging remains a more significant problem to the user if the glue gun is 'jerked' while being used.

Glue gun adhesives solidify rapidly as they cool and therefore enable quicker working practice. However, this can present a potential for injury where pupils are working three-dimensionally and there is a risk of molten glue dripping onto exposed skin. The positioning of a glue gun area working area needs careful planning to provide good ventilation, the positioning of electrical sockets so there are no trailing cables, and sufficient undisturbed working space  away from pupil movement. 

Cool-melt glue guns are available and are better suited for younger pupils and when joining paper, card and materials where a cool-melt adhesive is sufficient. 

Teachers must ensure they separate any stock of hot-melt and cool-melt adhesive sticks to prevent the wrong stick being inserted into a glue gun. As a principle, these often use different diameter sticks, but keeping glue sticks in their correct packaging can keep them straight so they easily move through the glue gun, and assist with stock control.

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 004 - Hot-Melt Glue Sticks

Petroleum-Based  and solvent-Based Adhesives

These must be properly stored (see Storage) as the solvents may be flammable, although some products may not. 

This form of adhesive is normally applied in a thin coating to both surfaces, The solvent is then allowed to evaporate or become touch dry prior to both surfaces being brought together firmly. Use within a well ventilated area is essential and such adhesives should not be applied to large surface areas without careful risk assessment.

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 007 - Solvent-based adhesives, cellosics, polymer cements, rubber solution

CLEAPSS guidance - MRAT - 008 - Solvent-based, Repositionable Adhesives

Addictive Habits

Teachers should be aware of the addictive and dangerous habits that can arise from sniffing some adhesives and fixatives. Hence, storage should also be secure in order to prevent the deliberate inhalation of solvent vapour by pupils.