Squeezing More Life Out of Your Wood Glue Bottle

You might be inclined to pour out milk once the expiration date stamped on the carton has passed. But don’t be so quick to toss out wood glue just because it has outlasted the manufacturer’s stated shelf life.

Most adhesives manufacturers stamp an official shelf life on their products to limit liability in case poor storage conditions cause product failure. The stated shelf life of wood glue typically is one to two years. However, the expected shelf life of many glues stretches well past those few years; for example, when stored correctly, the white or yellow wood glue (formally, polyvinyl acetate, or PVA glue) many DIYers and woodworkers keep on hand can last up to 10 or more years. These include popular glues such as Titebond® Original, Titebond II and Titebond III.

Bottles of Titebond wood glue.
Titebond wood glue.

Bob Behnke, senior technical specialist at Titebond-manufacturer Franklin International, says that a dry, cool basement is an ideal place to keep wood glues. “The worst storage conditions allow freezing, then thawing and heat,” he explains. “Most wood glues are designed to withstand a minimum of five freeze/thaw cycles. With each cycle, the glue forms gels. Mixing easily breaks up these gels, but each subsequent freeze/thaw incident will make the gels more difficult to disperse.”

With time, you won’t be able to break up the gels at all, and the glue will remain solid. Heat also can cause the polymer to clump and gel.

How will you know if your glue has gone bad? “If it pours, it’s probably good,” says Behnke. If the glue has thickened, shake it vigorously by firmly tapping the bottle on a hard surface until the product is restored to its original form. You also can add up to five percent water to water-based glues (such as PVA glues) to thin the product. If the glue comes out stringy or pasty or wants to stick to itself rather than to the wood, it’s probably past its prime. If Titebond II turns orange, it’s time for a new bottle.

Additional information on calculating the shelf life of a given bottle of Titebond glue and related subjects is available in the Titebond online FAQ section. Here’s hoping you enjoy a long and productive working relationship with your next bottle of Titebond wood glue.

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  1. sometimes I go a long period of time between using titebondIII,I have found it very difficult to get the top free from glue, most of the times I end up breaking the top up. I think if it came with a solid cap along with the cap that comes with it now,it would save alot of trouble. when through using it for that day put the solid cap on, then clean the original top . then the next time you would have no trouble……

  2. I had an old Gorilla Glue sitting in my closet for the last several years. First used it to glue a wooden chair, but since this doesn’t last forever, the time has come to reapply. The glue was thick & unmanageable, even after popping out the tip with an ice pick. So I placed the bottle under running hot water, and after that used an old nail file to spoon the glue out and into the chair. Worked like a magic.

  3. Yeah. Notice that you cannot find any information regarding WHY a wood glue goes “bad”
    What does “bad” mean ? WIll the glue not harden or bond? Will it die? will it just get hard to get out of the bottle.
    What information I have found implies that if you can get the glue out of the bottle and into the joint, it will bond as if it were new. I found no suggestion that the loss of vapors or chemical reaction will cause the glue to not bond.
    There is some comment that the glue will become gloopy, globby, but no indication that this will affect the bond.

    Iam forced to conclude that glue shelf-life is simply a marketing ploy to sell more glue.

    • Hi, Dennis,
      Wood glue can lose its strength, but proper storage can extend its life.
      We recommend following the tips in this article to do just that.
      Good luck!

  4. Once its opened, you better use it all before the tip clogs.. sometimes taking off the top is not possible… even washing the top could help prolong the glue dispenser, but once you let the glue harden it no good way to save the rest… maybe cut open the original bottle and pour the good glue in a new bottle..

  5. Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glues are a milky dispersion of tiny, sticky resin globules in water, making up somewhere between 40 and 65% of the liquid in your glue. The 40% ones have water added which makes them thinner and then a thickener like polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) added to give a better consistency.
    After an extended time, usually 2+ years, PVA in glue can react with water (hydrolysis) to give PVOH and acetic acid (vinegar smell).
    PVOH is soluble in water and gives a clear, viscous fluid. It could be used for non-durable craft work involving paper or card, but it is less effective than PVA and is readily dissolved by water.
    This decomposition process is more common in lower cost interior and craft PVA glues.
    Higher quality glues have other stabilisers and modifiers in them e.g urethane which make them less susceptible to hydrolysis. Urethane modification also can add a yellow tone to the glue.


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