Glues and Other Sticky Situations

Article by: Jan Iiams

Have you ever gotten yourself into a sticky situation trying to keep balloons together? It can be tricky choosing the right adhesive for the job at hand.

I’ve spoken with some other balloon professionals in our industry and discovered that we all have favorite adhesives for specific jobs, but tend to favor one over all the others. Consequently, we have developed techniques that we use in many different circumstances.

I would like to share a performance chart with you that can be copied and used in your shop for referral when you need it. I’ve listed the many types of adhesives and their advantages, disadvantages and sources.

Adhesive Type Pros Cons Comments
Hot Glue Gun Easy to direct application. Contact doesn’t need to be made immediately. Good for small areas. May weaken seams on foil balloons. Can cause latex balloons to pop. Affected by Atmospheric changes. Sources: Balloon & floral wholesalers, hardware and craft stores.
Low Temperature Glue Gun Easy to direct application. Good for small areas. Doesn’t burn skin. Dries hard but may break. When exposed to cold. Requires immediate contact. Same sources as hot glue guns. Note: Some glue guns have an adjustable temperature from low to high.
Pan Glue Economical. Can be used on latex and foil balloons. Is a strong glue, dries fast. Safe to work with. Not affected by atmospheric changes. Difficult to direct to specific areas. May weaken seams on foil balloons. Doesn’t dry clear. Sources: Floral wholesalers Note: Special small pans, bargain electric skillets, bricks and pellets.
Glue Dots ™ Economical. Bonds latex to latex well. Available in a variety of strengths. Not affected by atmospheric changes. Easy to transport. Clean and easy to use. Important to define the proper strength for the proper job. The standard dispenser is not convenient. Sources: IBAC office and some balloon wholesalers now carry this new product.
See Balloon HQ archives for additional information and subscribers suggestions and experiences.
Note: Be careful to buy Glue Dots for Balloons for best results on latex to latex bonds. Other Glue Dots products may be better for non-latex materials.
Rubber Cement Dries quickly. Makes a strong bond. Economical & widely available. Can pop latex balloons. Doesn’t work well with foil balloons. Once balloons are placed they’re stuck for good. Note: Standard rubber cement is not usually a good adhesive for balloons. However, One Coat rubber cement is available at some artist supply stores
and it’s performance is much better than standard rubber cement. It can be painted onto the balloon surface and dries quickly, leaving a sticky surface similar to post-a-notes but stronger. Balloons can usually be carefully repositioned.
Tapes Sticks well, has some give. Quick application. Self contained. Doesn’t hold well for pieces that will be handled. Types: Cellophane, packing and duct, double stick and sticky back foam tape, “booger” tape…a gun style dispenser for backless tape similar to tacky rubber cement. Colored electrical tapes and floral tape also are available in a wide array of colors.
Spray Glues Dries fast. Economical Excellent for covering Foils with fabric. You must work very quickly because it does dry very fast. Can be messy. Can pop latex balloons. Sources: Craft & hardware stores, floral and some balloon wholesalers.
Super Hi-Float Excellent inside and outside balloons for Special effects. Keeps Balloons from oxidizing as Well. Takes longer to dry on the outside than some products but with a clearer finish. Can be messy if not used properly. Sources: Balloon wholesalers.
Adhesive Grip Tabs
Clear tabs with strong adhesive on one end. Perfect for attaching balloons to any smooth surface. Especially great for centerpiece designs. Not recommended for use on painted surfaces. Source: Available from Conwin’s distributors or order online.
Misc. • Velcro is great for some displays that need to change frequently. (Avail at craft and fabric stores.)
• 3M Hangers can be secured firmly to a wall, yet removed completely and cleanly with a built in pull tag.
(Avail at hardware craft and chain stores.)

Following are suggestions of appropriate adhesives for specific tasks.

  • Pan Glue: Floral effects, picks, gluing Lomey and other containers, foil sculptures.
  • Hot Glue Gun: Strong performance in small placement (bows and other accessories that need to be held tight.)
  • Low Temp Glue Gun, Glue Dots, Rubber Cement, Tapes: Attaching latex and foil balloons together or to other products, latex sculptures.
  • Clear Packing Tape, Backless Tape Gun, 3M Hangers: Attaching balloons to a wall surface without damage.
  • Super Hi Float, Spray Glues: Confetti type products in or on balloons, fabric coverings.

Finally, don’t be afraid to be adventurous, but always remember to try new adhesives in the privacy of your workroom rather than on the job, or you may find yourself stuck in the middle of a very sticky situation.