What does contact cement not stick to?

Title: “Cracking the Code of Contact Cement: The Surprising No-Stick List”


Ever had that frustrating moment when contact cement just refuses to stick to your project? We’ve all been there. But fear not, my friend, because today we’re going on a wild ride through the baffling world of contact cement’s sticky limitations.

Contact cement is like the superhero of adhesives, boasting unmatched bonding power and versatility. It’s the go-to choice for pros and DIY enthusiasts alike. However, lurking in the shadows are certain materials that laugh in the face of contact cement’s attempts to bond. Plastics, some metals, and even specific types of wood have their own secret code that keeps them immune from its adhesive grip.

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So buckle up and join me as we dive headfirst into this mind-bending topic. I’ll arm you with the knowledge you need to conquer any adhesive challenge in your future projects. Together, we’ll unlock the hidden secrets of contact cement and discover what it truly can’t stick to.

What is Contact Cement?

Adhesives are essential in woodworking, construction, and crafts. Among them, contact cement stands out for its strength and versatility. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of contact cement, discussing its uses, characteristics, and limitations.

The Instant Bonding Magic:

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Imagine materials bonding instantly upon contact, without waiting for drying time or applying pressure. That’s the magic of contact cement. This adhesive creates an immediate bond when two coated surfaces are pressed together. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional, contact cement saves you time and effort.

Forms and Application:

Contact cement comes in two primary forms: liquid and spray. The liquid form is commonly used and applied using a brush or roller. It has a thick consistency that allows for easy application and control. The spray form provides even coverage and is ideal for larger surface areas.


Contact cement’s remarkable feature is its ability to adhere to a wide range of materials. From wood to metal, plastic to fabric, laminates to leather, it bonds with them all. This versatility makes it a go-to adhesive for countless projects, including furniture crafting, shoe repair, and structural building.


While contact cement is powerful, it does have limitations. Non-porous surfaces like glass and certain plastics pose challenges due to their low surface energy. Silicone rubber can also be problematic due to its unique composition. Specialized adhesives are required for these materials. Additionally, surfaces coated with oil or grease may hinder the bonding process.

Safety First:

Contact cement has a strong odor due to its solvents. Use it in a well-ventilated area or wear a mask to minimize fume exposure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe and effective application.

Non-Porous Surfaces

This adhesive is celebrated for its instant bonding power and versatility. However, when it comes to non-porous surfaces like glass, metal, plastic, ceramic tiles, and certain types of coated wood, contact cement may not be your best option. Let’s dive into the reasons why and explore some alternatives that guarantee a strong and lasting bond.

The Slippery World of Glass:

Glass, that delicate material that adds elegance and transparency to our lives, presents a challenge for contact cement. Its smooth texture and resistance to liquid absorption make it an unsuitable surface for this adhesive. When applied to glass, contact cement struggles to achieve a strong adhesion, resulting in peeling and detachment.

Metallic Bonding Blues:

Metals like stainless steel, aluminum, and copper are renowned for their strength and durability. However, these non-porous surfaces also pose difficulties for contact cement. The lack of porosity and the smoothness of metal hinder the adhesive’s ability to form a robust bond. Over time, this can lead to weakening or even complete failure of the bond.

Plastic Predicaments:

Plastics have become an integral part of our everyday lives due to their versatility and affordability. Unfortunately, their low surface energy makes it challenging for contact cement to adhere properly. Materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and PVC have a smooth texture that inhibits the adhesive from forming a reliable bond, resulting in poor adhesion or easy detachment.

Ceramic Tiles: Glossy but Tricky:

Ceramic tiles are renowned for their glossy finish and durability. However, this very finish makes them non-porous surfaces that present challenges for contact cement. The glaze on ceramic tiles acts as a protective layer preventing liquid absorption, making it difficult for the adhesive to bond effectively. As a result, weak adhesion and potential detachment may occur.

Coated Wood: A Slippery Slope:

Laminate or melamine-coated wood surfaces offer a sleek and glossy finish that adds sophistication to furniture and cabinetry. Unfortunately, this very smoothness reduces the adhesive’s ability to penetrate the surface and create a strong bond. When using contact cement on coated wood, you may find that the bond is not as secure as desired.

Silicone Rubber

In the realm of adhesive bonding, contact cement is hailed for its tenacious grip on a wide array of materials. However, there exists a formidable opponent that challenges even its might: silicone rubber. In this article, we delve into the reasons why contact cement struggles to adhere to silicone rubber and explore the realm of specialized adhesives tailored for this purpose.

Low Surface Tension:

Silicone rubber possesses a unique molecular structure that bestows upon it a low surface tension. This property proves to be an ardent adversary for contact cement, as it causes the adhesive to bead up and slide off the rubber’s surface instead of forming a sturdy bond. The battle between these two forces is ultimately won by the low surface tension of silicone rubber, preventing the adhesive from adhering effectively.

Formidable Silicone Oils:

Silicone rubber harbors within it silicone oils that act as an impenetrable shield between contact cement and the rubber itself. These oils create a formidable barrier that impedes the adhesive’s ability to establish a strong bond with the rubber. Moreover, over time, these oils are gradually released from the rubber, further hindering any potential adhesion.

Unyielding Release Properties:

One of silicone rubber’s greatest assets lies in its exceptional release properties, which grant it the power to repel various substances and discourage them from adhering to its surface. While this attribute proves invaluable in applications requiring easy removal or detachment, it poses a challenge for contact cement in establishing a robust bond with silicone rubber.

Specialized Adhesives:

Although contact cement may falter when confronted with silicone rubber, fear not. There exist specialized adhesives precisely engineered to surmount the obstacles posed by silicone rubber’s low surface tension and release properties. These adhesives are formulated with precision to ensure a strong and enduring bond between silicone rubber and other materials.

Low Surface Energy Plastics

Imagine the frustration of trying to stick two surfaces together, only to find that they repel each other like oil and water. This is the struggle faced by those attempting to bond low surface energy plastics with contact cement. These plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, possess a smooth and non-porous surface that makes it difficult for traditional adhesives to adhere effectively.

In this article, we will explore the challenges of bonding low surface energy plastics and discover techniques that can be used to improve adhesion.

The Challenge:

Contact cement relies on both mechanical interlocking and chemical bonding to create a strong bond between surfaces. However, low surface energy plastics lack the necessary polar or hydrophilic groups on their surface, hindering effective chemical bonding. Additionally, their smooth and non-porous nature makes it challenging for the adhesive to mechanically lock onto the surface.

Surface Treatment Techniques:

To overcome these challenges, various surface treatment techniques can be employed to enhance the adhesion of contact cement to low surface energy plastics. One popular method is the use of primers or adhesion promoters specifically designed for these plastics. These products contain chemicals that increase the surface energy and create bonding sites for the adhesive.

Another technique involves modifying the plastic’s surface through processes such as corona treatment or flame treatment. Corona treatment exposes the plastic to a high-frequency electrical discharge, while flame treatment uses an open flame to oxidize the surface. Both methods introduce polar groups onto the plastic, improving its affinity for adhesives like contact cement.

Testing and Considerations:

It is important to note that even with these surface treatment techniques, the bond strength may not reach the same level as with materials possessing higher surface energy. Therefore, it is advisable to test the adhesion strength before relying solely on contact cement for bonding low surface energy plastics. This will ensure that the bond is strong enough for the intended application.

Grease and Oil Coated Surfaces

Imagine this scenario: you’re engrossed in a DIY project, meticulously applying contact cement to unite two surfaces, only to be dismayed as the adhesive refuses to stick. Frustration sets in. Fear not. This article delves into the perplexing reasons why contact cement struggles to adhere to surfaces coated with grease or oil.

The Significance of Grease and Oil:

Grease and oil are ubiquitous substances found on a diverse range of surfaces, from mechanical engine parts to pristine kitchen countertops. While these substances serve vital functions, they present a formidable challenge when it comes to achieving a robust bond with contact cement.

The Barrier Effect:

When contact cement encounters greasy or oily surfaces, it confronts an insurmountable barrier. These slippery substances act as impervious shields, thwarting the adhesive’s ability to establish a firm connection with the surface. Consequently, the strength of the bond is compromised.

Special Considerations and Solutions:

Thorough Cleaning and Degreasing:

To triumph over this adhesive conundrum, thorough cleaning and degreasing of the surfaces are imperative. Utilize specialized cleaning agents or solvents tailored explicitly for banishing persistent grease and oil residues.

Alternative Adhesives:

Despite meticulous cleaning efforts, certain surfaces may retain trace amounts of grease or oil that can jeopardize adhesive strength. In such cases, resorting to alternative adhesives formulated to excel on oily or greasy surfaces may prove indispensable.

Testing for Success:

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Before wholeheartedly entrusting contact cement for bonding purposes, it is paramount to conduct strength tests on a small area. This meticulous evaluation ensures that the desired level of adhesion is achieved, sparing potential disappointments in the future.

Prolonged Wet Environments

When it comes to adhesive options, contact cement is often the go-to choice for its strong bond and versatility. However, not all glues are created equal, and contact cement does have its limitations. In this article, we will explore why contact cement may struggle in bonding surfaces that are constantly exposed to water or high levels of humidity.

The Moisture Factor:

Contact cement is typically made up of a solvent-based adhesive that requires evaporation to form a strong bond. Unfortunately, when faced with prolonged wet conditions, such as underwater or high humidity environments, the adhesive may not dry or cure properly. This can result in a weak bond that is prone to failure over time, leaving your project in a sticky situation.

Adhesion Challenges:

Certain materials commonly found in wet environments pose additional challenges for contact cement. Materials like rubber, silicone, and some plastics often have low surface energy, making it difficult for the adhesive to create a strong bond. In such cases, specialized adhesives or primers may be required for effective bonding. These materials can be slippery and resistant to traditional adhesives, leaving you struggling to find a suitable solution.

Specialized Formulations:

Thankfully, there are variations of contact cement available on the market that are specifically designed for use in wet environments. These specialized formulations offer enhanced resistance to moisture and can provide more reliable bonds in damp conditions. They contain additives that make them more resilient to water exposure, ensuring your project stays intact even in the wettest of environments. However, it is crucial to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these products to ensure proper application and maximum effectiveness.

While contact cement is known for its strength and versatility, its performance can be compromised in prolonged wet environments. The vulnerability of contact cement to moisture and its limitations in bonding certain materials make it less suitable for projects exposed to water or high humidity.

Consider exploring alternative adhesives or specialized formulations specifically designed for wet environments to ensure a durable and long-lasting bond.

Alternatives to Contact Cement

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While contact cement is a reliable adhesive for many projects, there are times when it falls short. Whether you need a stronger bond, better moisture resistance, or an adhesive tailored to specific materials, fear not. In this blog post, we’ll dive into some fantastic alternatives to contact cement that will help you conquer any project with ease.

Epoxy Adhesive:


  • Creates a robust bond on a variety of materials.
  • Perfect for porous surfaces and waterproof applications.
  • Offers precise mixing and curing time control due to its two-part design.


  • Requires quick application due to limited working time.
  • Demands careful handling.

Construction Adhesive:


  • Designed for heavy-duty materials like wood, metal, concrete, and stone.
  • Provides a sturdy bond capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and heavy loads.
  • Easy application using a caulk gun.


  • Requires patience due to long curing time.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper drying time.

Fabric Glue/Leather Glue:


  • Specifically formulated for textiles and leather.
  • Forms a strong and flexible bond withstands washing or dry cleaning.


  • Limited to fabric and leather applications.
  • May not be suitable for heavy-duty projects.

Double-Sided Tape:


  • Quick and effortless application.
  • Ideal for lightweight and temporary bonding needs.
  • No need to wait for drying or curing time.

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  • Not recommended for heavy-duty applications.
  • Limited to flat surfaces.

Hot Glue:


  • Versatile adhesive suitable for various materials.
  • Bonds quickly using a hot glue gun.
  • Commonly used in crafts and DIY projects.


  • May not withstand high stress or high temperatures.
  • Can be messy and challenging to remove.

Advantages of Using Contact Cement

Say goodbye to weak bonds, messy clean-up, and long drying times with traditional glue – contact cement is here to save the day. Contact cement is the superhero of adhesives, offering a range of advantages that make it the go-to choice for DIY enthusiasts, craftsmen, and professionals alike.

First and foremost, contact cement creates a strong and durable bond between two surfaces. It adheres to a variety of materials such as wood, metal, plastics, and even fabric. Once applied, it forms a bond that is resistant to moisture, heat, and chemicals, ensuring that your projects stand the test of time.

One of the biggest advantages of contact cement is its quick and easy application process. Unlike other adhesives that require time for curing or drying, contact cement bonds instantly upon contact with the surfaces it is applied to. This eliminates the need for clamping or holding the materials together while waiting for the adhesive to dry, saving you valuable time and effort.

Contact cement is also incredibly versatile. It can be used for a wide range of projects and applications. Whether you’re working on woodworking projects, repairing furniture, or installing laminates, contact cement can provide a reliable bond. It is also suitable for bonding materials with irregular shapes or uneven surfaces, as it conforms well to contours and provides an even bond.

Another advantage of using contact cement is its resistance to temperature changes. This adhesive can withstand high temperatures without losing its bonding properties, making it perfect for applications that involve exposure to heat sources or extreme weather conditions. So whether you’re working on an outdoor project or installing materials near heat-emitting appliances, contact cement ensures a long-lasting bond that remains intact under different temperature conditions.

In case of damage or detachment, contact cement allows for easy repairs. Unlike some other adhesives that may require complete removal and reapplication, contact cement simply requires re-bonding the detached parts without extensive preparation or additional adhesive application. This makes it a convenient choice for quick fixes and repairs.

And let’s not forget about the minimal clean-up required with contact cement. Unlike traditional wet glues that leave a sticky residue or require solvents for removal, contact cement forms a dry and non-tacky bond once it has cured. This makes it easier to clean up any excess adhesive that might have seeped out during the bonding process.


In conclusion, contact cement is a versatile and powerful adhesive that excels at bonding a wide range of materials. However, it does have its limitations. Non-porous surfaces like glass, metal, plastic, ceramic tiles, and certain types of coated wood pose a challenge for contact cement. The smooth texture and low surface energy of these materials make it difficult for the adhesive to adhere effectively.

Silicone rubber also proves to be a formidable opponent for contact cement. The low surface tension, presence of silicone oils, and release properties of silicone rubber prevent contact cement from forming a robust bond. Don’t fret though. Specialized adhesives formulated specifically for bonding silicone rubber are available as an alternative.

Low surface energy plastics like polyethylene and polypropylene present their own set of difficulties for contact cement. These plastics have sleek and non-porous surfaces that hinder effective bonding. Fear not. Surface treatment techniques such as primers or corona/flame treatment can enhance adhesion to these materials.

Surfaces coated with grease or oil can also put up quite the fight against contact cement. The slippery nature of these substances creates a barrier that inhibits bonding. So before you throw in the towel, make sure to thoroughly clean and degrease the surface before applying contact cement or considering alternative adhesives designed specifically for greasy or oily surfaces.

Last but not least, prolonged exposure to wet environments can compromise the performance of contact cement. Moisture hinders proper drying and curing of the adhesive, resulting in weak bonds. But don’t despair. Specialized formulations designed specifically for wet environments offer enhanced resistance to moisture.

While it’s true that contact cement has its limitations in certain situations, fear not. There are alternatives available to meet your specific needs. Epoxy adhesive, construction adhesive, fabric/leather glue, double-sided tape, and hot glue are just a few options worth considering depending on the requirements of your project.

In conclusion, by understanding the limitations of contact cement and exploring alternative adhesives when necessary, you can ensure successful bonding in a variety of applications.