What Are the Best Glues for Book Repairs?

Updated on April 18, 2018
Mickie Gee profile image

Mickie Gee is a retired librarian and a grandmother. She learned all her book repair tricks on the job!

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. | Source

Find 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 specialists advice, which is not covered by this article.

What to Look for in Book Repair Adhesives

Finished Texture
Glue Contents
Environmental Option
Dries clear
Dries flexible
Methyl-Cellulose glue, which comes in powder form
PVA (polyvinyl acetate)

Repairing Books and Damaged Pages

Please examine the photos below to see how I repair my own books. Yes, the photos are mine and that is my own hand that you see.

Repairing Books and torn pages:

Gluing the separated signatures of a paperback cookbook. Notice how the signatures have been separated due to time and use. I am using Brodart glue.
Gluing the separated signatures of a paperback cookbook. Notice how the signatures have been separated due to time and use. I am using Brodart glue. | Source
A ripped page in a child's book.
A ripped page in a child's book. | Source
Applying the glue. Put waxed paper under the tear before you apply the glue. Put waxed paper over the repair. Close book and apply weight.
Applying the glue. Put waxed paper under the tear before you apply the glue. Put waxed paper over the repair. Close book and apply weight. | Source
Applying glue with a brush to a book's spine. I used a small, flat brush to apply the PVA glue.
Applying glue with a brush to a book's spine. I used a small, flat brush to apply the PVA glue. | Source

My Personal Glue Choices

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.

Since real books appear to be going the way of the vinyl record (actually, vinyl records are making a comeback big time; happily, real books are still preferred by young and old readers, too), I suggest that 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.

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

A Non-Toxic, Non-Allergen 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 methyl cellulose 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.

Below you will find a link to a recipe for glue that was developed by Anna Embree at the University of Alabama.


I should remind you that I am not a professional book restorer. I leave restoration to those more qualified than myself. I am merely sharing my research and experiences repairing books for my friends and family.

Note to you the reader: Have plenty of waxed paper on hand to make your repairs!

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Mickie Goad

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      • profile image

        Umesh 5 weeks ago

        Need advise on repair of stamp stock books.

        These have hard sheets and quite thick.

      • profile image

        Jaynae 8 weeks ago

        Can you use rubber cement?

      • profile image

        Nancyjwoodward@gmail.com 3 months ago

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

      • profile image

        sheila 6 months ago

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

      • profile image

        Dwan M Hartner 6 months ago

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

      • Mickie Gee profile image

        Mickie Goad 2 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Freddy 2 years ago

        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?

      • sheilamarie78 profile image

        sheilamarie78 2 years ago

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

      • WriterJanis2 profile image

        WriterJanis2 3 years ago

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

      • DeborahDian profile image

        Deborah Carr 3 years ago from Orange County, California

        This is a really helpful lens!

      • chrins profile image

        chrins 3 years ago

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

        Great lens!

      • paperfacets profile image

        Sherry Venegas 3 years ago from La Verne, CA

        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.

      • Diana Wenzel profile image

        Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

        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 profile image

        Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

        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.

      • Sylvestermouse profile image

        Cynthia Sylvestermouse 3 years ago from United States

        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.

      • Charito1962 profile image

        Charito Maranan-Montecillo 4 years ago from Manila, Philippines

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

      • Mickie Gee profile image

        Mickie Goad 4 years ago

        @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 profile image

        MariaMontgomery 4 years ago from Central Florida, USA

        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.

      • HSP Connections profile image

        Peter Messerschmidt 4 years ago from Port Townsend, WA, USA

        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 profile image

        Mickie Goad 4 years ago

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

      • ecogranny profile image

        Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

        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.

      • profile image

        RANADEEP 4 years ago

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

      • Bercton1 profile image

        Bercton1 4 years ago

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

      • Mickie Gee profile image

        Mickie Goad 4 years ago

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

      • ChimpWithKeyboard profile image

        ChimpWithKeyboard 4 years ago from East coast of England in the county of Suffolk

        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.

      • kimberlyschimmel profile image

        Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 4 years ago from Greensboro, NC

        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 profile image

        KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        Natalie W Schorr 5 years ago

        An excellent reference for book repair.

      • Mickie Gee profile image

        Mickie Goad 5 years ago

        @i Dia1: Good luck with your book repair!

      • i Dia1 profile image

        i Dia1 5 years ago

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

      • NicoleDean profile image

        NicoleDean 5 years ago

        Very interesting and helpful lens - thank you!

      • profile image

        CalobrenaOmai 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        Mickie Goad 5 years ago

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

      • Virginia Allain profile image

        Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

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

      • profile image

        MintySea 5 years ago

        . 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 profile image

        Mickie Goad 5 years ago

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

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        @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

      • paperfacets profile image

        Sherry Venegas 6 years ago from La Verne, CA

        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 profile image

        SaintFrantic 6 years ago

        Very good Lens.Thanks for the hard work.

      • profile image

        anonymous 6 years ago

        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.