In the past, glue was usually homemade and natural. There are so many alternatives to store-bought synthetic glues. You can make homemade natural glue with various natural ingredients like flour, gelatin, egg white, milk and tree resin.
Natural glues have been used for around 200,000 years while synthetic glues have only been used for less than 100 years!
Below are 25 recipes for homemade natural glues: All these glues are perfectly safe for kids and are easy and quick to make at home with kitchen ingredients! But there are also historical glue recipes for special applications, such as DIY water-proof glue and homemade natural super glue.
And by the way, all these homemade natural glues don’t go moldy when dried!
How To Make Homemade Natural Glue
Easy No-Cook Flour Glue
Flour glue – also known as wheatpaste – is my favorite homemade glue because it’s easy and fast to make! I often use it to stick labels to glass, or to glue paper and cardboard. Wheatpaste has been used since ancient times for book binding, paper mache (e.g. Victorian furniture and dress forms) and to stick posters and wallpaper on walls.
Stir together flour and cold water until thoroughly combined. The mixture should look like thick pancake batter. Let the flour glue stand for about 5 to 10 minutes for the gluten to develop. Then the flour glue is ready for use.
I’ve already used this glue for my DIY cookie cutters, DIY candle molds, eco-friendly snowy pine cones, DIY icicle luminaries, pine cones with DIY glass glitter, snowy oil lamps and to stick labels to glass.
Flour Glue Aka Starch Glue
In contrast to the homemade glue above, this flour glue is cooked. You can use all kinds of flour or starch for this non-toxic glue: wheat flour, rice flour, rye flour, corn starch or homemade potato starch. ‘Rice flour makes an excellent paste for fine paper work. […] Rye flour affords a more adhesive paste than starch, but of a grey colour. […] Rye flour paste […] is particularly valuable for pasting cloth on wood or leather.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
- flour or starch – wheat flour, rye flour, rice flour, corn starch or potato starch
- optional: alum
‘Use a cheap grade of rye or wheat flour, mix thoroughly with cold water to about the consistency of dough, or a little thinner, being careful to remove all lumps; stir in a tablespoonful of powdered alum to a quart of flour, then pour in boiling water, stirring rapidly until the flour is thoroughly cooked. Let this cool before using, and thin with cold water.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
‘Corn starch makes a good paste for scrap-books. Dissolve a small quantity in cold water, then cook it thoroughly. Be careful and not get it too thick. When cold it should be thin enough to apply with a brush.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
‘Boiling the paste is very injurious, rendering it less adhesive, and liable to peel off. […] The addition of a little alum to the water with which paste is prepared renders it more permanent, and the use of boiling lime-water instead of pure water adds to its adhesiveness. […] By incorporating with the paste a quantity of turpentine, equal in weight to half of the starch employed, and stirring well while the paste is still hot, it will be rendered more impervious to moisture, and at the same time more adhesive.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
Related: How To Make DIY Buckram With Starch
This fermented flour glue is stronger than traditional flour glue. It was even used as homemade shoe glue in the past!
- barley flour
‘Shoemakers Paste is made by taking barley-meal and, with warm water, mixing into a thick paste. Hot water is added to bring it to the required consistency. It should then be placed in a warm place to ferment, which may be ascertained by the sour smell. This is a tenacious, smooth paste, free from lumps, and is a splendid adherent.’ (The Manufacture Of Boots And Shoes, 1902)
Dextrin glue was the traditional glue for postage stamps. It was also used to glue labels to glass. And it was even used as shoe glue: Dextrin glue ‘is very brittle, and, if excessively used, is the cause of broken and blunted needles. To lessen its brittleness, glycerine is sometimes added. Dextrine is more adhesive than flour pastes, and is disliked by vermin.’ (The Manufacture Of Boots And Shoes, 1902)
‘Dissolve in hot water a sufficient quantity of dextrine to bring it to the consistency of honey. This forms a strong adhesive paste that will keep a long time unchanged, if the water is not allowed to evaporate.
Sheets of paper may be prepared for extempore labels by coating one side with the paste and allowing it to dry; by slightly wetting the gummed side, the label will adhere to glass.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
In the past, glue was synonymous with hide glue. So if you read ‘glue’ in an old text – especially in the Victorian and Edwardian era, but also up to the 1920s and 1930s – they probably meant hide glue. Hide glue was the basis of almost all homemade glue recipes with different additives to make the glue water-proof or fire-proof.
Hide glue was used for almost everything in the past: To glue wood furniture parts – hide glue is still used today for restoring antique furniture – to glue down linoleum flooring, to stiffen hats and bodices and to make silk flowers.
Related: How To Make A Straw Hat From Scratch
‘Glue is prepared from waste pieces of skin, horns, hoofs […] The best glue swells considerably (the more the better) when immersed in cold water, but does not dissolve, and returns to its former size when dry. Inferior glue made from bones, will, however, dissolve almost entirely in cold water. […] The cohesion of a piece of solid glue, or the force required to separate one square inch, is four thousand pounds.’ (Practical Hints For Furniture Men, 1880)
- 1 part hide glue granules
- 2 parts water
Cover hide glue granules with water. Wait for a couple of hours (about 12 hours or longer) until the hide glue has absorbed all water. Now dissolve the hide glue over low heat (or over a water bath). Be careful that it doesn’t become too hot. As soon as it’s dissolved, the hide glue is ready for use. Hide glue must be applied warm.
‘To prepare glue for use it should be broken up into small pieces, and soaked in as much cold water as will cover it, for about twelve hours. It should then be melted in a double glue pot, covered to keep the glue from dirt. Care must be taken to keep the outer vessel full of water so that the glue shall not burn, or be brought to a temperature higher than that of boiling water. The glue is allowed to simmer for two or three hour, then gradually melted, so much hot water being added as will make it liquid enough, just to run off a brush in a continuous stream, without breaking into drops.’ (Practical Hints For Furniture Men, 1880) ‘For ordinary purposes it should run freely, and be of the consistency of thin treacle.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol1, 1903)
‘The thinner the layer which is applied the stronger will be the joint, and the less water there is combined with the glue the sooner will it dry […] Carpenters should remember that fresh glue dries more readily than that which has been once or twice melted. […]
The glue should be well rubbed in with a stiff brush […] The hotter the glue the more force it will exert in keeping the joined parts glued together. In all large and long joints it should be applied immediately after boiling. Apply pressure until it is set or hardened. In applying glue, where the part is end grain, first fill the pores of the wood with thin glue, and let dry; then clean off, and glue it at the joint with strong glue.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
‘Glues that take the longest to dry are to be preferred to those that dry quickly, the slow drying being always the strongest, other things being equal. […] In all cases work it well into the wood, in a similar manner to what painters do with paint. Glue both surfaces of the work, except in cases of veneering. Never glue hot wood, as the hot wood will absorb all the water in the glue too suddenly, and leave only a very little residue.’ (Cyclopedia Of Painting, 1908)
‘Glue loses much of its strength by frequent re-melting; that glue therefore, which is newly made, is much preferable to that which has been re-boiled.’ (Practical Hints For Furniture Men, 1880) ‘Powdered chalk, brick-dust, or saw-dust added to glue, will make it hold with more than ordinary firmness.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol1, 1903)
Gelatin glue is a variant of hide glue. So if you don’t have hide glue at home, you can use gelatin instead to make a similar type of glue.
I usually use gelatin sheets but you can use gelatin powder instead. If you use gelatin sheets, soak the sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Then squeeze out the excess water. Now dissolve the soaked gelatin over low heat. Be careful that it doesn’t become too hot. As soon as the gelatin is dissolved, the gelatin glue is ready to use.
If you use gelatin powder, combine 1 part gelatin powder with 3 parts (by weight) water. And dissolve it over low heat.
I’ve used this homemade natural glue to glue silk ribbon to the wire stems of my DIY silk flowers.
To glue leather to metal: ‘Wash the metal with hot gelatine; steep the leather in an infusion of nut galls (hot) and bring the two together.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
‘It has quite recently been discovered that gelatine mixed with glycerine yields a compound liquid when hot, but which solidifies on cooling, and forms a tough, elastic substance, having much the appearance and characteristics of India rubber […] used for printers’ rollers and for buffers of stamps’ (Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes, 1872).
Related: DIY Natural Fabric Printing Inks
Gelatin Glue With Vinegar
- acetic acid
‘Put a pinch of shredded gelatine into a wide-mouthed bottle; put on it a very little water, and about one-fourth part of glacial acetic acid; put in a well-fitting cork. If the right quantity of water and acid be used, the gelatine will swell up into worm-like pieces, quite elastic, but at the same time, firm enough to be handled comfortably. The acid will make the preparation keep indefinitely.
When required for use, take a small fragment of the swelled gelatine, and warm the end of it in the flame of a match or candle; it will immediately “run” into a fine clear glue, which can be applied at once direct to the article to be mended. The thing is done in half a minute, and is, moreover, done well, for the gelatine so treated makes the very best and finest glue that can be had.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
Gum Arabic Glue
Gum arabic glue was used to glue labels to glass, and to glue leather or oilcloth to tabletops. ‘Moisten the leather before applying the paste. […] When cold, the table or desk top, etc., is covered with a thin coat of the paste, the cloth, etc., carefully laid on and smoothed from the center toward the edges with a rolling pin. The trimming of edges is accomplished when the paste has dried. To smooth out the leather after pasting, a woolen cloth is of the best service.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
- gum arabic (or gum tragacanth)
- optional: starch
- optional: vinegar
‘Two parts of gum-arabic, one part of brown sugar ; dissolve in water to the consistency of cream.’ (Farm And Garden Rule-Book, 1911)
Or: ‘Finely powdered white sugar, 1 oz.; finely powdered starch, 3 oz.; finely powdered gum arabic, 4 oz. Rub well together in a dry mortar; then little by little add cold water until it is of the thickness of melted glue; put in a wide mouthed bottle and cork closely. The powder, thoroughly ground and mixed, may be kept for any length of time in a wide mouthed bottle, and when wanted a little may be mixed with water with a stiff brush.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
Or: Gum tragacanth glue ‘is largely used by shoemakers […] Equal parts of tragacanth powder and powdered gum arabic, moistened, according to requirements at the time, with dilute acetic acid, or, if the colour will not be of any importance, with ordinary vinegar. This forms a very strong mucilage which keeps well.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
Mastic Glue (Tree Resin Glue)
Mastic is a resin. Mastic glue was used as jewelry glue to glue glass and precious stones to metal: The jewelry is ‘warmed gently and the glue applied, which is so very strong that the parts thus cemented never separate.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
- gum mastic (or other tree resin)
- optional: isinglass
- optional: gum galbanum or gum ammoniacum
‘Dissolve five or six bits of gum mastic, each the size of a large pea, in as much alcohol as will suffice to render it liquid; in another vessel dissolve as much isinglass, previously a little softened in water, (though none of the water must be used,) in good brandy or rum, as will make a two-ounce phial of very strong glue, adding two small bits of gum galbanum, or ammoniacum, which must be rubbed or ground until they are dissolved.
Then mix the whole with a sufficient heat, keep the glue In a phial closely stopped, and when it is to be used set the phial in boiling water. To avoid the cracking of the phial by exposure to such sudden heat, use a thin green glass phial, and hold it in the steam for a few seconds before immersing it in the hot water.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
Or cover tree resin with alcohol. Keep it at room temperature and wait until the tree resin is dissolved. This tree resin glue works well for gluing paper together.
You can use milk glue aka casein glue to glue paper, cardboard, cork and wood.
- 1 cup skim milk
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- optional: 1 tsp baking soda
Heat the milk in a saucepan. Then stir in vinegar until the milk separates into curds (solid part) and whey (liquid part). Strain it through a kitchen towel or a sieve. Discard the whey (or use it for baking) because you only need the curds (casein) in the towel for your homemade glue.
Now neutralize the curds with baking soda: Just stir in the baking soda and the homemade natural glue is ready. If the glue is too thick, you can thin it with skim milk.
Instead of neutralizing the curds with baking soda, you can also wash the curds in water (similar to washing butter) until it no longer tastes sour.
Egg White Glue
- 1 egg white
‘Fresh egg albumen is recommended as a paste for affixing labels on bottles. It is said that labels put on with this substance, and well dried at the time, will not loosen even when bottles are put into water and left there for some time. Albumen, dry, is almost proof against mold or ferments. As to cost, it is but little if any higher than gum arabic, the white of one egg being sufficient to attach at least 100 medium-sized labels.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
Flaxseed glue is similar to flaxseed hair gel.
- 1 tbsp flaxseeds
- 1 cup water
Combine flaxseeds and water in a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes. Then strain the homemade natural glue through a sieve to remove the flaxseeds. If the flaxseed glue is too thick, you can thin it with hot water.
Related: DIY Flaxseed Hair Gel
Homemade Natural Waterproof Glues
Casein Glue – Waterproof
Casein glue is traditionally used for woodworking, cardboard crafts, to mend broken china and glass, to glue flooring and to make printing blocks. ‘A cheap and excellent cement, insoluble after drying in water, petroleum, oils […] very hard when dry and of very considerable tensile strength’. (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
And did you know that you can use casein to make your own DIY bioplastic (Galalith)? ‘Coagulated casein, when dried, is a hard, horny, yellow solid. It can be so toughened as to resemble celluloid, a state in which it is made into buttons and similar articles.’ (Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery, 1916)
- lime water
‘First, a tannin solution is prepared either by dissolving a tannin salt, or by extraction from vegetable sources (as barks from certain trees, etc.), to which is added clear lime water (obtained by filtering milk of lime, or by letting the milk stand until the lime subsides) until no further precipitation occurs, and red litmus paper plunged in the fluid is turned blue. The liquid is now separated from its precipitate, either by decantation or otherwise, and the precipitate is dried. […]
The lime tannate obtained thus is then mixed with casein in proportions running from 1:1 up to 1:10, and the mixture, thoroughly dried, is milled into the consistency of the finest powder. This powder has now only to be mixed with water to be ready for use, the consistency of the preparation depending upon the use to which it is to be put.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
Casein Glue 2 Aka Curd Glue
- skim milk
- optional: egg whites
‘Add 1/2 pint of vinegar to 1/2 pint skimmed milk; when the curd has settled, pour off the liquid, and wash the curd until free from acid. Add the whites of 5 eggs and beat thoroughly; mix with sufficient finely powdered quicklime to form a paste. This is an excellent cement for mending glass and earthenware. It resists waters and a moderate degree of heat.
The chief cement used in the island of Sumatra is made from the curd of buffalo milk, prepared in the following way. The milk is left to stand till all the butter has collected at the top. The latter is then removed and the thick sour mass left is termed the curd. This is squeezed into cakes and left to dry, by which it becomes as hard as flint. For use, some is scraped off, mixed with quicklime, and moistened with milk. It holds exceedingly well, even in a hot damp climate, and is admirably adapted for mending porcelain vessels.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
DIY Waterproof Glue With Linseed Oil
- hide glue
- linseed oil
‘Ordinary [hide] glue is kept in water until it swells up without losing its shape. Thus softened it is placed in an iron crucible without adding water; then add linseed oil according to the quantity of the glue and leave this mixture to boil over a slow fire until a gelatinous mass results. Such glue unites materials in a very durable manner. It adheres firmly and hardens quickly. Its chief advantage, however, consists in that it neither absorbs water nor allows it to pass through’. (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
‘For a strong glue which will hold in a damp place, the following recipe works well: Take of the best and strongest glue enough to make a pint when melted. Soak this until soft, pour off the water as in ordinary glue-making, and add a little water if the glue is likely to be too thick. When melted add three tablespoon-fuls of boiled linseed oil. Stir frequently, and keep up the heat till the oil disappears, which may take the whole day, and perhaps longer. If necessary, add water to make up for that lost by evaporation. When no more oil is seen, a tablespoonful of whiting is added and thoroughly incorporated with the glue.’ (Cyclopedia Of Painting, 1908)
Pitch Aka Pine Resin Glue
Pitch is the oldest known glue: Since 200,000 BC pitch has been used to glue weapon and tool parts together. And because the glue is waterproof, it was also used to make boats waterproof:
‘Pitch, a black resinous substance, commonly known as black pitch, constituting the residuum when the volatile portions of tar are driven off by heat. It is soft and sticky when warm, but becomes solid and brittle when cold. It is one of the products of the pine tree […] and is largely used in ship building to pay the seams and thus render them impervious to water. For this purpose it is mixed with a small portion of oil, to render it less brittle. […]
In Europe pitch is manufactured chiefly from the tar produced in northern regions from pinus sylvestris (Linn.) and P. Ledebourii (Endl.) or larix Siberica (Ledeb). These trees form the vast forests of arctic Europe and Asia. The pitch used in this country is all made from the distillation of tar furnished by various species of pine, especially pinus palmtris’ (The American Cyclopaedia, 1873). Pine resin is non-toxic because it was even used as medicine and chewing gum.
- pine resin
- optional: charcoal
‘The resin is melted in hot water, and strained through coarse cloths.’ (The American Cyclopaedia, 1873) ‘The pieces to be united have to be warmed.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
To make the glue stronger, you can mix 2 parts resin with 1 part charcoal.
DIY Waterproof Glue With Resin
- hide glue
‘Dissolve a small quantity of sandarac and mastic in a little alcohol, and add a little turpentine. The solution is boiled in a kettle over the fire, and an equal quantity of a strong hot solution of [hide] glue and isinglass is added. Then filter through a cloth while hot.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
- 2 quarts skim milk
- 1/2 pound hide glue
‘To two quarts of skimmed milk add half a pound of the best glue; melt them together, taking care they do not boil over, and you will have a very strong glue, which will resist damp or moisture.’ (Practical Hints For Furniture Men, 1880)
Waterproof Glue With Blood
This waterproof glue was known as ‘Chinese cement’ or ‘Shio-Liao’: ‘Even baskets made of straw became, by the use of this cement, perfectly serviceable in the transportation of oil. Pasteboard treated therewith receives the appearance and strength of wood. Most of the wooden public buildings of China are painted with schio-liao’. (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
- 3 parts fresh blood
- 4 parts slaked lime
- a little alum
‘To three parts of fresh beaten blood are added four parts of slaked lime and a little alum; a thin, pasty mass is produced, which can be used immediately. Objects which are to be made specially water-proof are painted by the Chinese twice, or at the most three times.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
DIY Natural Special Glues
DIY Natural Removable Adhesive Aka Temporary Glue
- powdered Venetian red
‘Melt yellow beeswax with its weight of turpentine and color with finely powdered Venetian red. When cold it has the hardness of soap, but is easily softened and moulded with the fingers, and for sticking things together temporarily it is invaluable.’ (Industrial Recipes, 1912)
Quick Dry Glue
- hide glue granules
‘Put your glue into a bottle 2/3 full, and fill up with common whisky; cork tight, and set by for 2 or 3 days, and it will dissolve without the application of heat, and will keep for years.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
Natural Flexible Adhesive
- 4 ounces starch
- 2 ounces white dextrin
- 10 fluidounces cold water
- 1 ounce borax
- 3 fluidounces glycerine
- 64 fluidounces (0.5 gallon) boiling water
Stir together starch, dextrine and cold water until dissolved. ‘Dissolve the borax in the boiling water; then add the glycerine’. Pour the starch solution into the borax solution. ‘Stir until it becomes translucent. This paste will not crack, and, being very pliable, is used for paper, cloth, leather, and other material where flexibility is required.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
Extra Strong Super Glues – Homemade & Natural
DIY Natural Super Glue
- fish glue
- acetic acid
- garlic paste
‘Mix 50 parts, by weight, of fish glue with equal parts of whey and acetic acid. Then add 50 parts, by weight, of garlic in paste form and boil the whole on the water bath. At the same time make a solution of 100 parts, by weight, of gelatin in the same quantity of whey, and mix both liquids. To the whole add, finally, 50 parts, by weight, of 90-per-cent alcohol and, after filtration, a cement is obtained which can be readily applied with a brush and possesses extraordinary binding qualities.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
How To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Homemade Glue
Extend Shelf Life Of Natural Glue
To make homemade natural glue last longer, some add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon vinegar or 1 teaspoon salt. All these are natural preservatives. In the past, they often used clove oil, camphor, borax, formaldehyde or salicylic acid.
However, I always make DIY glue fresh in the amount that I need. Therefore I make my homemade natural glue without natural preservatives.
‘Various antiseptics are employed for the preservation of flour paste, mucilage, etc. Boric and salicylic acids, oil of cloves, oil of sassafras, and solution of formaldehyde are among those which have given best service. A durable starch paste is produced by adding some borax to the water used in making it. A paste from 10 parts (weight) starch to 100 parts (weight) water with 1 per cent borax added will keep many weeks, while without this addition it will sour after six days.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916) ‘A few cloves form, perhaps, the best preservative for small quantities.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
‘Put a small piece of camphor in the mucilage bottle. Camphor vapors are generated which kill all the bacterial germs that have entered the bottle. The gum maintains its adhesiveness to the last drop.’ (Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes, 1916)
Natural Glue With A Long Shelf Life
- tree resin
- clove oil
‘Dissolve 4 teaspoonfuls of alum in 1 gal. water; when cold, stir in as much flour as will give it the consistency of thick cream, beat smooth, add 1 teaspoonful of pulverized rosin, and 20 drops oil of cloves, pour the whole into 2 qt. boiling water, stirring thoroughly until it is cooked; pour into a glazed earthen vessel, and when cold cover the top with oiled silk, and put it in a cool place; when needed for use, take out a portion and soften with warm water. This will be found very convenient for use at times when very little paste is required at once.’ (American Library Edition Of Workshop Receipts Vol2, 1903)
- 1 pound hide glue
- 4 ounces isinglass
- 1/2 pound brown sugar
‘Boil one pound of the best glue, strain it very clear; boil also four ounces of isinglass; put it into a double glue-pot, with half a pound of fine brown sugar, and boil it pretty thick; then pour it into plates or moulds. When cold you may cut and dry them for the pocket. This glue […] immediately dilutes in warm water, and fastens the paper without the process of dampening: or, it may be used by softening it in the mouth, and applying it to the paper.’ (Practical Hints For Furniture Men, 1880)
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