Why Does Super Glue Melt Styrofoam?

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Have you ever tried to use super glue on a Styrofoam material, only to realize that it melts the foam almost instantly? It can be quite perplexing and frustrating, especially if you’re not aware of the science behind it. In this article, we will explore the reasons why this occurs and provide helpful tips on how to prevent it from happening in the future. From the chemical reaction to the vulnerability of the Styrofoam material, we will reveal the secrets behind this unique phenomenon. So, let’s dive in and discover why super glue melts Styrofoam, and how you can avoid it.

The Science of Super Glue and Styrofoam

The Science Of Super Glue And Styrofoam
Have you ever wondered why super glue can melt Styrofoam? To understand this phenomenon, we need to delve into the science behind these materials. Super glue, also known as cyanoacrylate, is a powerful adhesive that can bond quickly and strongly. Meanwhile, Styrofoam, which is actually a brand name, is a type of expanded polystyrene foam that is commonly used in packaging and insulation. In this section, we will explore the properties of each material and how they interact with each other. For more information on the ingredients in glue, head to what-ingredients-are-in-glue.

What is Super Glue?

Super glue, also known as cyanoacrylate, is a type of adhesive that has been around for over 70 years. It was first discovered during World War II while scientists were searching for materials to create clear plastic gun sights. They noticed that a certain chemical compound – cyanoacrylate – stuck to everything it came into contact with, including skin! As a result, the compound was shelved for a few years until it was rediscovered and marketed as a fast-drying, strong adhesive.

Common Name Cyanoacrylate Name
Super Glue Methyl 2-cyanoacrylate
Krazy Glue Ethyl 2-cyanoacrylate
Permabond Alkoxyethyl cyanoacrylate

Super glue is known for its rapid-drying abilities, which can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on different factors such as temperature and humidity. It works by reacting with the moisture in the air and on the surface it is being applied to, creating a bond that is difficult to break. However, this rapid-drying effect can lead to some undesirable outcomes, such as melting certain materials like Styrofoam. To avoid such mishaps, it’s important to take the appropriate precautions when using super glue. If you want to know how long does super glue take to dry on wood, you can find information by following the link.

What is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is a type of expanded polystyrene foam, commonly used for insulation and packaging due to its lightweight and excellent thermal insulation properties. This material is composed of about 98% air and 2% polystyrene, which makes it lightweight and a poor conductor of heat. However, the surface of Styrofoam is somewhat porous, making it susceptible to damage from solvents, including super glue.

Polystyrene is a synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer made from monomer styrene. Polystyrene was first manufactured in the 1930s and was later used to make a variety of products like disposable cutlery, foam beverage containers, and packing materials. Polystyrene foam, also known as Styrofoam, is made up of tiny plastic beads that are fused together using heat and pressure.

Expanded Polystyrene Foam, or EPS, is a rigid and closed-cell foam insulation material. When expanded polystyrene beads are exposed to heat, they expand and fuse together to form a solid block of foam. The foam is then molded or cut to the desired shape and size for its intended use. Expanded polystyrene is popular for use in the construction industry as an insulation material, as well as in packaging and manufacturing.

Despite its widespread use, Styrofoam is particularly vulnerable to damage from super glue, due to the fact that it’s composed of plastic, which is naturally reactive to a wide range of solvents. The chemical structure of the polystyrene material of Styrofoam reacts chemically with the cyanoacrylate super glue, resulting in a thermal reaction that often melts the plastic and creates heat. This effect is especially noticeable when large amounts of super glue are applied to large areas of the foam.

There is a great deal of information available online about the use of super glue on various materials, ranging from puncture repair glue to PVA glue. However, when it comes to using super glue on Styrofoam, it’s essential to be mindful of the material’s inherent vulnerability to solvents and chemicals. While it’s possible to use super glue on small areas of Styrofoam without damage, it’s crucial to follow specific guidelines to prevent the material from melting or becoming deformed.

Why Does Super Glue Melt Styrofoam?

Why Does Super Glue Melt Styrofoam?
As we’ve learned about super glue and Styrofoam, it’s time to investigate why exactly does super glue melt Styrofoam. The answer lies in the interaction between these two materials, and it’s not as straightforward as one might think. The following sections will delve into the science behind this odd but fascinating phenomenon. So, let’s expand our knowledge and discover what causes the melting of Styrofoam by super glue.

The Chemical Reaction

The chemical reaction between super glue and Styrofoam is complicated yet fascinating. When in contact with Styrofoam, the ethyl cyanoacrylate in the super glue begins to break down the polymer chains in the Styrofoam. This process is called depolymerization, which essentially means the long chains of Styrofoam molecules are broken down into shorter ones. This is where the heat release comes in – the energy released by the depolymerization reaction heats up the Styrofoam and causes it to melt.

It’s important to note that not all types of glue have this effect on Styrofoam. Super glue is particularly problematic because of its chemical composition and quick-drying nature. In fact, other glues such as PVA glue or polyvinyl acetate glue are safe to use on Styrofoam without causing any melting or damage.

Styrofoam, on the other hand, is highly vulnerable to chemical reactions such as those caused by super glue. This is because Styrofoam is made of polystyrene foam, which is a petroleum-based plastic. The structure of this plastic is such that it easily breaks down when exposed to certain chemicals.

The reaction between super glue and Styrofoam is affected by several other factors such as temperature, humidity, and amount of glue applied. For example, applying too much glue or using it in a highly humid environment can accelerate the chemical reaction and cause the Styrofoam to melt even more quickly.

The chemical reaction between super glue and Styrofoam is a complex topic that requires a bit of scientific knowledge to fully understand. It’s important to be aware of the potential for damage when using super glue on Styrofoam and to take precautions to prevent the reaction from occurring. For tips on how to prevent super glue from melting Styrofoam, check out the next section of this article.

The Heat Release

When super glue comes into contact with polystyrene foam, it creates an exothermic reaction. This reaction generates heat, and that heat can melt the styrofoam. The temperature of the reaction’s heat release can reach up to 200°C, depending on the amount of super glue used.

The heat release from the reaction can cause the following:

  • The styrofoam to melt and lose its shape
  • The styrofoam to shrink in size
  • The styrofoam to produce toxic fumes which can be harmful when inhaled

It’s important to take note of the toxic fumes produced by the reaction, which can have adverse effects on human health. Inhalation of these fumes can cause respiratory problems and skin irritations.

To prevent the reaction from producing toxic fumes and melting the styrofoam, it’s important to only use super glue in a well-ventilated area. It’s also essential to use the correct amount of super glue and not overdo it.

Using a primer or sealant can act as a protective barrier between the super glue and the styrofoam. This can prevent the heat from the reaction from reaching the styrofoam. The correct use of super glue and sealant can prevent any damage to the styrofoam and maintain its shape.

Link: To know how long it takes for puncture repair glue to dry, go to how-long-does-puncture-repair-glue-take-to-dry.

Why Styrofoam is Vulnerable

Styrofoam is known for its unique texture and structure that makes it lightweight and insulating. However, this structure also makes it vulnerable to certain chemicals, including super glue. Styrofoam is made up of expanded polystyrene foam, which is composed of several individual spheres of polystyrene that are fused together. When super glue comes into contact with Styrofoam, it can easily dissolve the polystyrene foam due to its unique chemical composition.

The porous nature of Styrofoam makes it vulnerable to super glue penetration. Unlike solid materials, Styrofoam has tiny air pockets or pores in its structure. These pores can become filled with super glue, leading to further chemical reactions and the eventual melting of the foam. Additionally, the polystyrene used in Styrofoam is not very chemically resistant. It can easily melt or dissolve when exposed to certain chemicals, such as super glue.

The heat produced during the reaction between super glue and Styrofoam also contributes to the vulnerability of the foam. When super glue comes into contact with Styrofoam, a chemical reaction occurs that produces heat. This heat can quickly melt the polystyrene foam, destroying its structure and causing it to break down. This rapid destruction of Styrofoam is why it is so important to take precautions when using super glue around this material.

Other factors that can affect the vulnerability of Styrofoam to super glue include the type of glue used and how much is applied. Different types of super glue have different chemical compositions and can react differently with Styrofoam. Some types of glue can be more aggressive than others and cause even more damage to the foam. Additionally, applying too much glue can lead to excess chemical reactions and a more severe breakdown of the foam.

To learn more about different types of glue, including PVA glue, LOCA glue, DNS glue, and more, visit here. If you are curious about the lifespan of glue, check out this article.

Other Factors that Affect the Reaction

There are several other factors that can impact the reaction between super glue and styrofoam. One key factor is humidity. When humidity is high, the glue will take longer to dry, which can cause it to generate more heat and increase the chances of melting the styrofoam. On the other hand, if the air is too dry, the glue may not bond properly.

Temperature is another factor that can affect the reaction. If the glue or styrofoam is too cold, the reaction will slow down, and the glue may not bond properly. Additionally, if the temperature is too high, the glue can become runny and lose its effectiveness.

The porosity of the styrofoam can also have an impact on the reaction. If the styrofoam is highly porous, it may absorb more of the glue, which can cause it to melt. Additionally, if the surface of the styrofoam is rough or uneven, it may be more prone to melting.

Finally, the type of glue used can impact the reaction. While super glue is the most likely culprit for melting styrofoam, other types of glue can also cause a reaction. For example, some types of polyvinyl acetate glue may contain solvents that can melt styrofoam. Similarly, LOCA glue is known for producing heat during the curing process, which can potentially melt styrofoam.

Understanding these other factors is key to preventing super glue from melting styrofoam. By taking steps to control humidity and temperature, choosing the right type of glue, and ensuring that the surface of the styrofoam is smooth, you can reduce the risk of a negative reaction occurring. For more information on the science behind glue and reaction mechanisms, check out our article on how glue works .

How to Prevent Super Glue from Melting Styrofoam?

If you’re working on a project involving both Styrofoam and super glue, it’s important to know how to prevent this adhesive from melting your crafting material. To get the job done without melting your Styrofoam, you need to be careful with your glue choices and application techniques. Here are three tips for preventing super glue from melting Styrofoam.

Use the Right Kind of Glue

To prevent super glue from melting Styrofoam, it is important to use the right kind of glue. Not all adhesives are created equal and some are more effective than others for particular materials. When it comes to bonding Styrofoam, there are a few options worth considering.

Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) Glue: PVA glue is a water-based adhesive that is known for its strong bond and versatility. It is a popular choice for bonding a variety of materials including wood, paper, and Styrofoam. PVA glue is also non-toxic, making it safe for general use.

Low Oxygen Content Adhesives (LOCA): LOCA glue is a type of optical adhesive that is used to bond camera lenses, touch screens, and other electronic components. It has a low oxygen content, which enhances its adhesive properties and makes it ideal for use on Styrofoam.

DNS Glue: DNS glue is a type of adhesive that is used to bond concrete and other porous materials. It is known for its strong bond and fast-drying properties. DNS glue can also be used on Styrofoam, but its strong chemical properties may cause it to melt the foam if used incorrectly.

To determine the best glue for your Styrofoam project, it is important to consider the bonding properties of each type of adhesive. PVA glue is a safe and effective option for general use, while LOCA glue is ideal for use on electronics and other specialized applications. DNS glue should be used with caution on Styrofoam to avoid melting or damage to the material.

It is also worth noting that super glue is not always the best option for bonding Styrofoam due to its reactive properties. If super glue must be used, it is important to use a high-quality product and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

By choosing the right type of glue for your Styrofoam project, you can ensure a strong and lasting bond without risking damage to the material.

Apply the Glue Sparingly

Using super glue sparingly when working with styrofoam is crucial in preventing the melting of the material. Although super glue has many uses, when it comes to styrofoam, it can cause more harm than good. Applying a small amount can greatly reduce the risk of melting and damage to your project.

It is important to note that using too much glue can cause the temperature to rise faster, leading to the melting of the styrofoam. This is because the chemical reaction between the glue and the styrofoam produces heat, so applying too much glue accelerates the reaction and causes more heat to be generated. Applying the glue sparingly is an essential step in preventing damage to your styrofoam project.

When applying the glue, it is best to use a small applicator, such as a toothpick or a wooden stick, to control the amount of glue being applied. Avoid using your fingers or other larger applicators, as they can transfer more glue and cause more damage. Additionally, it is important to work quickly to avoid leaving the glue on the styrofoam for too long, which again can cause increased temperature and melting.

Pro tip: If you are working on a larger project and need to apply a lot of super glue, consider working in small sections, allowing each section to dry before moving on to the next. This not only ensures you control the amount of glue being applied, but also gives the glue time to dry and cool down before adding more.

Applying the glue sparingly is one of the key steps in preventing super glue from melting your styrofoam project. Using a small applicator, working quickly, and applying the glue in small sections are all ways to ensure the glue is applied in a controlled manner and avoiding overheating. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your styrofoam project stays intact and free from damage.

Use a Primer or Sealant

One effective way to prevent super glue from melting Styrofoam is to use a primer or sealant. These substances create a barrier between the glue and the Styrofoam, reducing the likelihood of a reaction. Primers and sealants are readily available at hardware stores and online retailers.

A primer is a substance that prepares a surface for bonding by promoting adhesion. When applied to Styrofoam, it can help the glue adhere better and prevent melting. A common primer used with Styrofoam is polyvinyl acetate glue (PVA glue). This type of glue can be diluted with water to create a thin, even coat. Once dry, it creates a tacky surface that promotes the adhesion of other glues.

Sealants, on the other hand, are substances that prevent air or liquid from passing through a surface. When applied to Styrofoam, they create a barrier that helps prevent the glue from penetrating the foam. One common sealant for use with Styrofoam is LOCA glue, which stands for “liquid optical clear adhesive.” This type of glue is typically used in the electronics and screen repair industries due to its clarity and durability.

When using a primer or sealant with Styrofoam, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. To help you get started, here is a table summarizing the key features of PVA glue and LOCA glue:

PVA Glue LOCA Glue
Water-based adhesive Acrylic-based adhesive
Easy to apply with brush or roller Applied using a syringe
Dries clear and flexible Dries clear and hard
Creates a tacky surface for bonding Creates a strong barrier against water and air

Using a primer or sealant can be an effective way to prevent super glue from melting Styrofoam. PVA glue is a common, water-based primer that creates a tacky surface for bonding, while LOCA glue is an acrylic-based sealant that creates a barrier against water and air. By using one of these substances, you can protect your Styrofoam projects and avoid the frustration of melted foam.


In conclusion, understanding the science behind why super glue melts Styrofoam is important for anyone working with these materials. The chemical reaction between the cyanoacrylate in the glue and the polystyrene in the Styrofoam causes the melting effect, which is only worsened by the heat released in the process. Certain factors, such as humidity and temperature, can also exacerbate this reaction.

However, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Choosing the right kind of glue, such as polyvinyl acetate or LOCA glue, can reduce the likelihood of melting. Additionally, applying the glue sparingly and using a primer or sealant on the Styrofoam beforehand can also help prevent melting.

It’s important to note that if your super glue turns white, it may be an indication of a failed bond. In this case, it’s best to remove the glue and start again.

Ultimately, by understanding the root cause of the melting reaction and taking steps to prevent it, you can ensure that your projects involving super glue and Styrofoam are successful and long-lasting. For more information on the science of adhesives, consider learning about DNS glue and how it works.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some alternatives to super glue for styrofoam?

Some alternatives to super glue for styrofoam include using white glue, such as Elmer’s glue, or hot glue instead.

Can you use super glue on other types of foam?

Yes, super glue can be used on other types of foam but it is important to test the glue on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it does not melt the foam.

Why is styrofoam used in packaging material?

Styrofoam is used in packaging material because it is lightweight, inexpensive, and provides good insulation to protect the contents from temperature changes and physical damage during shipping.

What are the environmental concerns with using styrofoam?

Styrofoam is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose. It can also release harmful chemicals when burned, posing a risk to human health and the environment.

Can you still use styrofoam after it has been in contact with super glue?

While styrofoam may become weakened or damaged by super glue, it may still be usable depending on the extent of the damage and the intended purpose. It is recommended to inspect the styrofoam carefully before use.

What is the difference between super glue and super glue gel?

The main difference between super glue and super glue gel is the thickness of the adhesive. Super glue gel is thicker and more viscous than regular super glue, which can make it easier to apply to vertical surfaces without dripping.

Is super glue safe to use?

Super glue can be safe to use if used properly and with caution. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, wear gloves if necessary, and work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.

Can super glue be used on other materials besides styrofoam?

Yes, super glue can be used on a variety of materials including metal, plastic, wood, and ceramic.

How long does it take for super glue to dry?

Super glue can dry in seconds to minutes, depending on the amount of glue used and the humidity and temperature of the environment. It is recommended to avoid touching or moving the glue until it is completely dry to prevent bonding to skin or other surfaces.

Can super glue be removed from skin?

Super glue can be removed from skin using acetone or nail polish remover that contains acetone. It is important to avoid soaking the skin in acetone and to seek medical attention if the glue is accidentally ingested or gets into the eyes or mouth.


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