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How to Glue and Iron Rhinestones Onto Shirts and Clothes

I love to design and sew clothing and accessories such as handbags, and I like to add a little sparkle with rhinestones!

Rhinestones add wonderful sparkle and texture to your clothes (and anything else you want to put them on).

Rhinestones add wonderful sparkle and texture to your clothes (and anything else you want to put them on).

How to Put Rhinestones on Clothes

For those of you who love rhinestones on clothing and/or just about anything and everything, this article is for you. I don't know about you, but I sometimes get a little agitated when I see how expensive items with rhinestones on them are in stores. I have seen hoodies, belts, and jeans that cost a mini fortune.

Of course, most of the cost goes to the crystals if they are Swarovski—not to mention the labor, especially if there are a lot of rhinestones to glue on. However, the mark-up can be a little ridiculous, so the DIY option is better! In this article, I will provide a step-by-step guide with photos on how easy it is to iron and glue on rhinestones.

What Rhinestones Should You Buy?

Swarovski rhinestones are the best, in my opinion. They come in too many colors to count and in various cuts and sizes. They also sparkle and shine the best. If you want something to stand out, definitely go with the Swarovski. Check online or in craft stores for bulk crystals and rhinestones. You will get more for your money when you buy in bulk.

When I lived in California, I used to buy them in the Los Angeles Fashion/Garment District. I absolutely love that area because you can get great deals and wholesale prices on almost anything and everything. Check them out online.

Some rhinestones can be glued on.

Some rhinestones can be glued on.

How to Use Glue-on Rhinestones

Rhinestones come in all shapes, sizes, and backings. Some backings of rhinestones are for gluing, some for ironing, and some already have glue on them that's called heat-activated adhesive.

In this case, you would use either a bejeweler, which is an electric rhinestone applicator that usually comes with as many as eight tips to fit the different-sized rhinestones, or you can use a hot plate, which is what professionals use for doing multiple projects.

What Glue Do You Use?

The photo above includes some of the supplies I suggest for gluing on rhinestones. This E-6000 glue is the best, in my opinion. It's very strong and dries fast and clear. Always be careful while handling this glue; as with most glue, it contains chemicals and is also industrial strength, and we wouldn't want you to glue your fingers together. This glue is also waterproof, non-flammable, flexible, paintable, and safe for photographs.

Using the Pink Squares

The other supplies in this photo will help make gluing on rhinestones very easy and not as messy. The pink squares are flexible for wrapping around the end of the toothpick.

  1. After you mold the pink square to the toothpick, you can use the pink end to pick up the rhinestone from the sparkly side.
  2. Add a dab of glue to the other side.
  3. After you have some glue on the rhinestone, place it on the spot where you want your rhinestone to go.
  4. Use your finger to keep the rhinestone in place while carefully taking the toothpick off of the rhinestone.

What Can You Glue Rhinestones To?

You can add rhinestones to pretty much anything, fabric, clothing, glass, wood, leather, ceramics, paper, foams and metal. Try it out on whatever you want to shine; you won’t be disappointed.

A sweatshirt with added rhinestones

A sweatshirt with added rhinestones

How to Use Iron-On Rhinestones

Ironing on rhinestones is the easiest and fastest way to make your clothes and accessories sparkle. You can find single rhinestones and crystals that are iron-on to get the look you want. There is also my favorite, iron-on appliqués, which can be words, numbers, symbols and other fabulous designs. You can find pretty much any design of appliqué you want already assembled for you and ready to iron on.

Below is my step-by-step guide to easily transform your t-shirt, hoodie, belt, or even purse from bland to glam.

Wash the item first.

Wash the item first.

Step 1: Wash

If you are going to use a new item of clothing or fabric to iron on an applique, always make sure to first wash the item so that there is no future shrinkage or color fading after the rhinestones are in place. I am using a purple hoodie sweatshirt that I found on sale for $7.

Choose the placement spot for your patch.

Choose the placement spot for your patch.

Step 2: Decide Where to Place Your Appliqué

Pick out your iron-on appliqué, and then decide where you would like to place that appliqué. I chose to place mine at the top right front of the sweatshirt. Make sure you are happy with where you want it placed; once it’s ironed on, there is no turning back.

Stick on the appliqué.

Stick on the appliqué.

Step 3: Remove the Backing and Stick on the Appliqué

Take the white backing off of the iron-on appliqué and place it sticky side down on your garment or fabric. Make sure it is on there smooth and that it is not moving around. You want it to iron on exactly where you want it.

Put a cotton pillowcase (or other fabric) over the appliqué.

Put a cotton pillowcase (or other fabric) over the appliqué.

Step 4: Cover the Appliqué With a Piece of Fabric

Now we are ready for ironing. Make sure that before you plug in your iron, there is no water in it. You don’t want to use water or steam when ironing on appliqués.

Next, you will want to find something to place over the appliqué while ironing. You can use a piece of cotton, fabric or maybe an old t-shirt. You don’t want to use anything heavy, and you don’t want to use anything that will ruin your iron, so cotton would be perfect. I always use a pillowcase, which works perfectly. I only use one side of it because using both might be too thick to get the heat all the way through.

Iron over the fabric.

Iron over the fabric.

Step 5: Iron

  1. Make sure the iron is on a medium setting, and remember to make sure that the steam setting is off.
  2. Place the iron on top of your cotton piece that is on top of the appliqué and press down for 30 seconds.
  3. Turn your item to the other side and hold the iron down on that side for about 20 seconds.
  4. Then turn your item back to the right side and place the iron on it for another 20 seconds.
  5. Let it cool for a few minutes.
  6. After a few minutes, it’s time to make sure that all of the rhinestones have been set on your item.
Peel off the plastic cover.

Peel off the plastic cover.

Step 6: Remove the Plastic and Touch Up as Needed

Slowly and carefully start peeling the plastic cover off of your item. You want to make sure that all of the rhinestones have set into your item. There might be a few stragglers; as soon as you see one or more rhinestones that have not stuck, carefully place the plastic cover back down on your item and place the pillowcase back over it and hold down your iron over it for another 20–30 seconds.

Let cool for another minute or two, and then try to slowly and carefully peel the plastic cover off again until all the rhinestones are attached to your garment or fabric. That is the last and final step.

Care and Maintenance for Your Finished Item

Make sure you let your item fully cool before you wear it, 10 minutes or so. Also, wait at least 24 hours before washing again if you need to. I suggest that the next time you do wash your garment or fabric, use the gentle cycle so that there is more of a chance of the rhinestones not falling off. Also, hang dry. The rhinestones will sometimes fall off with use and washing; however, if you take care of the item, they will last longer.

I sometimes use huge appliqués like angel wings, and I have had to individually glue on some of the missing rhinestones. It’s a quick fix, and all this is way cheaper than what you might find in some stores.


Sabrina Standley on May 22, 2019:

What are the “pink squares”?

Esther on November 02, 2018:

Wow that is great

Michelle on October 13, 2018:

Can you have your own design pre made somewhere and have them sent to you to now iron on?


Barbara Todd on May 21, 2018:

What's the best glue for fixing jeans and Shirts that the stones have fallen off of?

Fauzia on February 05, 2018:

Very informative! How about self adhesive, can they be used on fabric and what you can do to makesure they stay on?

Linda Bradshaw on May 20, 2015:

I bought a shirt off of Ebay that had rhinestones on it. When it arrived, some of the rhinestones had already fallen off, leaving some glue spots in their place. I have the rhinestones (they were still in the bag.) What is the best way to re-apply these stones?

JessicasPulse (author) from Virginia on June 21, 2014:

Thanks erorantes! I love putting rhinestones on everything. ;)

Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on June 21, 2014:

I like your hub misss. Jessica. Thank you fot your instructions on how to apply the rhinestones on the T shirt. I love it . You are creative with your writing. Marvelous hub.

JessicasPulse (author) from Virginia on April 01, 2012:

Thanks Talfonso, I agree, it is so worth the maximum bling. And if you live near a city that has a garment district or are going to be visiting one, I recommend getting them there because they sell them for wholesale prices. I usually get mine in L.A. or NYC. If not, then maybe look online for places that sell them in bulk. If you go to the craft stores, they are going to cost, but I always try to use a coupon. ;)

talfonso from Tampa Bay, FL on March 31, 2012:

Many accolades to this Hub! I am a rhinestone-holic and love all different kinds of stones - acrylic, Korean hotfix, and all that. But I have to agree that while Swarovski is expensive, it's worth the maximum bling. In fact, I haven't used it before, but am considering buying it if I have the money!