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How to Find the Best Glues for Book Repair

Author:

Mickie Gee is a retired librarian and a grandmother. She knows a little bit about a lot of topics. Life experiences are wonderful.

When the spine of a book breaks, it's easy to fix with the right glue.

When the spine of a book breaks, it's easy to fix with the right glue.

Why and How I Found the Correct Glue to Repair a Book

I have repaired a great many torn pages and loose covers in my lifetime. I prefer to use glue and not tape when mending books—as long as that glue is acid-free and dries flexible. This article is where I share what I have learned about glues for book repair from my own experiences.

Most of the books I have repaired belong to me or my grandchildren. I have also repaired cookbooks and study Bibles that belong to my closest friends. How did I end up with the job of book repair? In the recent past I worked as a librarian and volunteered in another local library where I learned the art of mending books. I learned from experience and workshops in those places.

Yet, I continue to learn something new every day about repairing my precious books. My personal motto has become "Saving the world one book at a time."

Please note: For antiquarian or old, collectible books, you'll need a specialist's advice, which is not covered by this article.

What to Look for in Book Repair Adhesives

AppearanceFinished TextureGlue ContentsEnvironmental Option

Dries clear when dry

Dries flexible when dry

Acid-free

Methyl-Cellulose glue, which comes in powder form

 

 

PVA (polyvinyl acetate)

 

My Personal Choices for Book Repair Glue

I prefer to use a PVA (polyvinyl acetate) white glue. Elmer's makes a glue called Elmer's Craft Bond, an acid-free, flexible-drying product. I absolutely recommend this glue for repairing every-day, well-loved books. This glue dries clear and flexible. That is why I use it to repair books. Plus you can use it on any type of craft project! Truly an all-purpose adhesive for real people.

I suggest you try to find an acid-free glue. Glues that are not acid-free will eventually eat away the paper. If a glue is acid-free, it will be clearly stated on the label. If there is no information about the glue's acid ingredients, then assume the glue is not acid-free.

PVA glue is a liquid but they are not all the same. Eileen's Tacky glue is thick and, just as it says, tacky. It is not easy to reposition paper with this glue but I have found that these types of thick glues work well on book cover repairs.

When repairing pages, I like to use one of Brodart's book repair glues. It can be thinned with water if it is too thick. I have used Brodart's Bind-Art Adhesive and like it, too. I have a small container into which I squeeze the glue. Sometimes I add a bit of water for thinning the glue. Then I apply the glue with a small brush or a bamboo toothpick or skewer.

Please, I do advise that you do not use Rubber Cement to make book repairs.

Note: PVA glues are permanent and cannot be reversed once they dry.

A Non-Toxic, Non-Allergen Glue Option

If you have sensitivities or want to be environmentally safe, you can use a mild methyl-cellulose glue. It will come in a powder form that is mixed with water. This kind of glue is usually used with Japanese paper when repairing a torn page.

The repairs you make with methylcellulose glue can be reversed in the future if need be. Conservators usually prefer this kind of glue as it does the least harm to valuable texts. Look for the terms "soluble" if you desire this kind of glue for a repair to a valuable book.

  • Be forewarned, this glue might not be the easiest to make. If you can find a pre-mixed glue at an art supply store, get it. I have heard that this glue can be mixed with PVA glue, which will make the glue easier to handle and extend the drying time. This will give you more time to work on the repair.

A recipe for glue was developed by Anna Embree at the University of Alabama that is nontoxic. Enjoy!

Questions & Answers

Question: My 45-year-old scriptures recently ripped apart from the binding/cover. Is a product like Elmer's Craft Bond strong enough for re-attaching all of a book's pages (when they have luckily separated in a single mass, as have mine) from the wrap-around outside single leather part which serves as spine and cover?

Answer: Yes, it is.

Question: Is fabric glue suitable for repairing the spine of a small book?

Answer: I would recommend a "craft" glue that states it can be for use on paper. Make sure the label says it dries flexible.

Question: I have an old book that the spine is deteriorating and peeling up at the edges and the pages are coming loose. Will Elmer's Craft Bond glue work to repair the spine?

Answer: Yes, Elmer's Craft Bond is a good choice.

Question: What glue is best for repairing the binding of a Bible?

Answer: Any quality of acid-free glue that retains flexibility when dry is good. However, if the book is valuable in any way, find a good book restoration artist.

Question: Would gorilla spray adhesive be a good glue to use for repairing books?

Answer: No.

Question: Do you have a preference of a kind of brush for application when using them to repair books?

Answer: I have no preference for brushes.

© 2011 Mickie Gee

Did you discover what you need for your BOOK repair?

Mickie Gee (author) on August 06, 2020:

I have not used the spray, so I have no opinion to offer. Thank you for bringing this product to attention.

Shivani on June 29, 2020:

Is OK to use just any pva/craft glue and can wood glue work

Trish on May 13, 2020:

Could I use Elmer's Craft Bond spray?

Paula on August 28, 2019:

Paula

Pat on January 25, 2019:

This was very helpful. I used Elmer's Craft Bond glue and it worked great on my Bible that was falling apart.

Pat

vickie on January 01, 2019:

i can only find the elmers craft bond acid free glue in a glue stick. is this okay to glue a book spine back with? Thank you in advance

Mickie Gee (author) on August 07, 2018:

A recent visitor to this page asked what glue he should use to repair a Bible. If that Bible is not an antique or valuable, any of the adhesives mentioned above will do a good job. If the Bible is an heirloom or very precious, take it to a professional book restorer.

Umesh on March 13, 2018:

Need advise on repair of stamp stock books.

These have hard sheets and quite thick.

Jaynae on February 22, 2018:

Can you use rubber cement?

Nancyjwoodward@gmail.com on December 28, 2017:

Can I use “YES” tacky glue.? It is acid free but not sure if it dries flexible.

sheila on October 04, 2017:

TY. .we live in a rural area with no book repair stores. Your article was extremely helpful! !

Dwan M Hartner on September 27, 2017:

Thank you thank you thank you!!!! You really saved me!!!! I would give you a huge hug if I could!

Mickie Gee (author) on April 18, 2016:

This is just an article about the best glues for book repair. Cannot help you here.

Freddy on September 13, 2015:

I have the project which involving the problem to join 2 laminated or varnished surfaces together. Could you suggest me if there is any type of special solvent or special glue for this condition?

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on July 20, 2015:

I have so many falling apart books that could use a little TLC. Thanks for this helpful information.

WriterJanis2 on June 27, 2014:

This is very helpful as I have some children's books that need repair.

Deborah Carr from Orange County, California on June 26, 2014:

This is a really helpful lens!

chrins on June 20, 2014:

Helpful for Mom's like me whose children always has a torn cover of books.

Great lens!

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on June 18, 2014:

Thanks, adhesive research is very handy to read about. Some of these new found products will be fun to try, because changing your practices always leads to new adventures.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on May 05, 2014:

Traditional books will always be important to me. I greatly admire your mission to save books. Thanks for always teaching me so many valuable tips for caring for my library. Appreciated!

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on April 27, 2014:

Very informative article. Real books (the hold-in-your-hand, turn-the-actual-page books) are very important to me and I have a large personal home library. I reread my books often and some of my favorites stem from many years ago, so this article on book repairs is very helpful should one of my old books become damaged and in need of repair.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on April 27, 2014:

Selecting the right glue when repairing books has indeed been a concern in our home in the past. We did not want to use a glue that would age, yellow or crack and make a harder repair in years to come. Thank you for this excellent advice.

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on March 20, 2014:

I rely on the Elmer's brand. I like using the glue stick.

Mickie Gee (author) on January 17, 2014:

@MariaMontgomery: I have a Pinterest Board where I am rounding up reviews of glue products and projects. Check it out at http://www.pinterest.com/mickie_g/a-glue-gun-sling...

MariaMontgomery from Central Florida, USA on January 16, 2014:

Wonderful: a lens of your's that I haven't seen! This is a really great lens about some good glues. I need to find one that will work on metal, too. Wish me luck.

Peter Messerschmidt from Port Townsend, WA, USA on January 12, 2014:

Lots of useful info here, thanks! My mom passed away a few years back and we got her extensive library of cookbooks-- many of which are quite old, and falling apart because... well... cookbooks tend to get USED a lot, and don't always get the kindest treatment in the process. We would like to restore/preserve some of the favorites, because we USE the recipes, and something seems "lost in translation" if we just add the info to a computer program.

Mickie Gee (author) on January 06, 2014:

@ecogranny: No, thank you for the kind comment. Make sure you visit my main book repair page at http://www.squidoo.com/BookRepair.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on January 06, 2014:

I have the first book I ever purchased, and while I have since given away many books, I still have a substantial collection. They are useful to me, one way or another, and your tutorials about repairing old favorites are a blessing to find. Thank you so much.

RANADEEP on August 20, 2013:

Very good info,and a great lense,thanks for sharing maam!!

Mickie Gee (author) on August 06, 2013:

@Bercton1: Thank you. I try to make good suggestions.

Bercton1 on August 06, 2013:

Very useful tips and information for repairing books.Great lens!

Mickie Gee (author) on July 18, 2013:

@ChimpWithKeyboard: Hope you found some tips to repair these books. Feel free to contact me via my profile page if you need help.

ChimpWithKeyboard on July 17, 2013:

Love of books seems to be going out of fashion. It seems to be getting ever harder to find a second-hand book that been treated with respect and unfortunately the books that I want always seem to be out of print, so the majority of my books are pre-owned. Sadly many of these are in need repair.

Kimberly Schimmel from Greensboro, NC on April 25, 2013:

Great information! I love my old books, too, although I also love my e-books. In fact, there are very few books I dislike:)

KimGiancaterino on April 22, 2013:

Excellent tutorial, as always. I also love my books and have a few over 100 years old. It's good to know how to properly care for them.

Natalie W Schorr on March 26, 2013:

An excellent reference for book repair.

Mickie Gee (author) on March 06, 2013:

@i Dia1: Good luck with your book repair!

i Dia1 on March 04, 2013:

I was looking for a way to repair an old book. Glad I found this article.

NicoleDean on October 16, 2012:

Very interesting and helpful lens - thank you!

CalobrenaOmai on September 19, 2012:

I'm so glad I found this lens. I have this book that is practically new but started to fall apart while I reading it. These glue suggestions are of big help. Thanks for sharing.

Mickie Gee (author) on September 11, 2012:

@Virginia Allain: Thanks Vallain. I often receive requests from my friends to repair their Bibles.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on September 11, 2012:

Great info to have. I'll add it to my Care for an Old Bible.

MintySea on August 30, 2012:

. what a good lens for people trying to fix books. I read both ebook and paper books. Sometimes the paper books are so delicate and I want to fix them

Mickie Gee (author) on July 16, 2012:

@anonymous: I am not familiar with that product. I have found that if you email the company, they are very glad to answer questions.

anonymous on July 16, 2012:

I work at a library and do some minor book repair. I've not really been trained in it, it's more of a learn as I go thing. We recently got some Demco NeutralBond modified vinyl adhesive, which I like pretty well, but I wondered if it could be thinned with water. So far, I haven't been able to find out. Does anyone know? The glue we used to get was mave with PVA and something but the book repair person quit, so we don't get that any more. I could thin that.

anonymous on May 04, 2012:

@anonymous: HI There. I don't know if you can get it in the States but I've found an excellent glue. It's made by Bostik and called 'No More Nails - Wood Adhesive' it's very strong (and I do mean very) but is flexible when dry. ideal for both binding signature (even without stitching) and gluing in end papers

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on February 02, 2012:

I would definitely repair my own books. If I had a first edition or something that is worth many dollars, I would use a professional. Thanks for these glue tips. I use my share of it.

SaintFrantic on October 06, 2011:

Very good Lens.Thanks for the hard work.

anonymous on September 20, 2011:

Great information coming from an individual not "in the business". I see so much online that makes me cringe it's nice seeing information from someone who has obviously done their homework. Again, great information for the at home person to use. Thanks and kudos to you! Tracy Lamphere, Bindery Manager, Grimm Book Bindery, Inc.