What Is Contact Cement and How to Thin Contact Cement?

What Is Contact Cement? All Answers Are In One Place

If you want to stick two non-porous materials together, what will be the best adhesive solution? You may first think of using glue.

But how will you know which is the best-suited glue for your job?

Because when you go to a hardware store, you will see different adhesives lining the shelves, which is enough to confuse you. But the good news is- there is one particular adhesive, especially for non-porous material, that can remove all your confusion in an instant.

Yes, it’s contact cement, which is also known as a contact adhesive. This is a special kind of adhesive that is a non-sticky solid substance and can do a far better job than any other glue on the market.

If you have just heard about contact cement and don’t know much about it, then you are in the right place to find your answers. Because in today’s article, we are going to discuss what is contact cement and how to thin it.

Knowing about contact cement is great; supposedly, it is also important to know its thinning process. Without having the ideal consistency, it will fail to have an impact by any means.

So let’s jump in!

What Is Contact Cement?

Contact cement is an incredibly powerful adhesive that acts as both glue and primer. It can join most materials together permanently, both porous and non-porous.

What Is Contact Cement?

Contact cement is usually low viscosity for easy spreading but dries within seconds to a permanent bond that sets quickly under pressure (so make sure you line everything up correctly before pressing them together!).

Perfect to clean surfaces

Also, Contact cement work best on clean surfaces, so you’ll want to give the surface a good scrub with soap or denatured alcohol to remove any oils or residue that might interfere with bonding.

Available in different forms

Contact cement is available in several different forms, but the most common are liquid or aerosol formulations, and both of these can be found at your local hardware store.

What are the Uses of Contact Cement?

Contact cement is typically used in assembly work. It’s popular because it can act as an adhesive, making bonding two objects much easier. Additionally, you only need to apply the liquid. Another object can be pressed against it for an instant bond.

What are the Uses of Contact Cement?

The fumes released by the cement are toxic, so be careful when using this product to make sure your workspace is well-ventilated.

For carpet/foam board

Carpet adhesives and foam board glue also use contact cement in their manufacturing process, but this isn’t something that the average person would have any reason to use at home outside of certain specific hobbies.

Carpeted stairs may be glued with a type of contact cement instead of being stapled or nailed on. If you do any woodworking, this product may be helpful to you since it can be used on some veneers and assembled cabinetry.

For some art pieces

Contact cement is also seen in the production of some art pieces. Some artists use this adhesive to attach objects to other objects, though typically, it is used with things like fabric or paper rather than with metal or plastic materials.

The Three Main Types of Contact Cement Are:

  • Normal permanent.
  • Low odor/low VOC(volatile organic compounds).
  • Solvent-free.

01. Normal permanent.

Normal permanent works great on anything even slightly porous like balsa wood or basswood, but contains dangerous chemicals (VOCs), making it unacceptable for general indoor use.

02. Low odor/low VOC(volatile organic compounds).

Low VOC contact cement is excellent for many reasons. First, it’s safer to use, contains fewer harmful chemicals (VOCs), and has a lower odor. It allows you to work in an enclosed area without worrying about over-exposure to dangerous fumes.

The only downside to low-VOC cement is that it takes much longer to dry.

03. Solvent-free.

Solvent-free contact cement also takes a while to dry but will bond just as well as the other types discussed here.

Things to Consider When Choosing Your Contact Cement

The next thing you need to consider when choosing your contact cement is the surface of what you’re working with. For example, balsa wood has three different finishes:

  1. Fine sanded.
  2. Rough sawn.
  3. Smooth-cut wood.

The fine-sanded balsa is easiest to use as it has a minimal surface area that prevents bubbles and wrinkles from forming during drying. Rough-sawn and smooth-cut wood rely on paint or covering for adhesion, so I recommend sticking to your regular permanent contact cement if you plan to use those types of wood.

Here is a List of Common Solvents for Adhesives

Once you’ve chosen your type, determined what finish you’re working with, and find yourself ready to apply some glue, here’s what you should do:

Prepare work area: 

You don’t need much to start, just something flat like a table or workbench will do. You’ll want a newspaper under your glued pieces once they dry to prevent any surface stains or “sticky” fingers from marring the surface.


If you’re using an aircraft kit, resin parts usually come with their own adhesive, but for most other plastic kits (and especially if you’re using balsa wood), it’s good practice to measure roughly how much all of your pieces will need.

This ensures that you’ll have enough and even allows you time to purchase more in case of leftover or excess glue.


Once measured out, cut all your pieces to roughly the same size. This allows for easier handling when applying contact cement.

Also, having huge gaps between glued pieces can cause them not to stick together properly, so try not to rush this step either.


Now, the next step can be the trickiest. Knowing how much to apply and where to apply it is crucial, but don’t worry because a simple trick will get you through this process with no issues.

Don’t’ use too much glue when applying

Most people tend to use too much glue when applying, especially when using low-VOC or solvent-free cement.

For all normal cement, I recommend a thin strip down either edge of what you are gluing and in between every piece about the size of a grain of rice.

If you’re working with resin, make sure not to let any drip onto your kit, as contact cement eats away at plastic.


Once you’ve applied the glue, it’s a good idea to clamp your model together and let it dry under pressure. This ensures that everything sticks together nicely without any gaps or air bubbles being trapped between parts.

Is There A Common Solvent that Can Be Used to Thin Contact Adhesives?

Not really. Adhesives and sealants can be found in a large number of areas and industries. A particular type of adhesive is used for almost every process in many commercial applications because it effectively connects two surfaces.

Chemical companies manufacture chemicals for adhesives, sealants, coatings, concrete restoration, corrosion prevention, insulation materials, aerospace composites, automotive parts, and much more.

It is essential to know which chemical you are using with what surface to ensure that your application will live up to its full potential.

A List of Common Solvents for Adhesives

01. Water: 

Dispersed acrylics with water give off no odor or harmful vapors while drying quickly. It is safe to use around plants, animals, and children.

Things to Consider When Choosing Your Contact Cement

02. Oil: 

Oil solvents are used for polyurethane foam insulation materials because they are less harmful than other types of chemical solvents.

However, oil solvents have a low flash point; utilizing the adhesive is very dangerous if not done in a highly controlled environment with proper ventilation.

03. Acetone: 

Acetone is found in many different adhesives, including rubber cement, some spray glues used on foam or paper products, two-component reactive urethane systems, and more.

Acetone has a high odor and evaporates quickly, which means that it requires thorough cleaning after use. It can also cause damage to rubber and some plastics.

04. Methylene chloride: 

Methylene chloride is a solvent of choice for adhesives used on automotive, marine, and decorative applications such as wicker or plastic furniture. It is also often used with decoupage because it evaporates quickly and has no odor associated with its use.

The downside of using methylene chloride is that it can dissolve paints and varnishes, requiring a more thorough clean-up than other solvents.

05. Xylene: 

Xylene is most commonly found in two-component epoxy systems but can be found in some types of spray glues and general woodworking adhesives such as carpenter glues or contact cement.

It is very effective at removing paint or varnish, which makes it an ideal solvent for decoupage.

Xylene also has a low flash point, so you must be sure to use it in a controlled environment with proper ventilation.

06. White spirits: 

White spirit solvents are popular for woodworking adhesives because they have a minimal odor but evaporate quickly.

They are also used in some two-component epoxy systems and contact cement.

07. Dichloromethane: 

Dichloromethane is commonly found in spray-on polyurethane foam insulation materials, thread lockers, and glues on paper products such as decoupage adhesive, tissue glue, envelope glues, stamps, and more.

It is preferable to use dichloromethane in an environment that does not have an open flame or other ignition sources. It has a very low flash point, which will give off harmful vapors if heated too high.

08. Ketone: 

Ketone solvents are used to make safe solvent cement, rubber adhesives, contact cement, and general woodworking adhesives.

Most importantly, they are used for the adhesive on windshield wiper blades because it is fast setting with good flexibility.

09. Cyclohexanone:

Cyclohexanone can be found in many different types of two-component epoxy systems and spray glues used for craft applications.

Are There Materials that Contact Cement Does Not Stick To?

Materials that do not stick to Contact Cement:

  1. Ceramics.
  2. Glass.
  3. Marble.
  4. Slate.
  5. Porcelain-enameled steel.
  6. High-nickel alloys.

In general terms, the only metal or plastic object that will not adhere to a cement-based adhesive is one that has been chemically treated to form a surface coating of silicon dioxide (silica).

Are There Materials that Contact Cement Does Not Stick To

In this case, the final result is very close in appearance to the glass.

This treatment has historically been used on tools designed for cutting tiles and some types of woodworking applications. A drill bit coated with silica paste can cut through sheets of tile without breaking it apart near the surface where the hole drilling takes place.

On some plastics, this treatment produces a tough nonstick surface that can be used for grinding, sanding, or polishing.

Some substances are not necessarily coated with glass-like materials but do have extremely clean surfaces that do not require any form of surface preparation before gluing.

Such objects include certain ceramics, marble and slate tiles, porcelain-enameled steel, and high nickel alloys, with tiny grains of metal or ceramic suspended in the material matrix. The tiny particles provide a large surface area for bonding with the cement adhesive without being part of the final bond.

These “nonstick” substances are usually created by forming them into very thin sheets only a few molecules thick and then laminating them to sheets of paper or cloth using adhesives.

The process is called cold rolling. This produces tough, durable products that do not need to be “prepped” before gluing.

How to Thin Contact Cement?

How to Thin Contact Cement?

Contact cement is an invaluable tool for many artists and hobbyists alike, but its relatively thick viscosity makes application difficult on some materials.

One solution would be to dilute the product with water, as this effectively thins out the contact cement without compromising its bond strength.

Most users had good results using a one-to-three ratio – 1 part contact cement to 3 parts water- although some may prefer slightly thicker or thinner mixes depending on their specific working methods. The final mixture should appear somewhat translucent.

How to Use Contact Cement?

How to Use Contact Cement?

Cement is a term that most people are familiar with but not familiar with the proper use of. Contact cement has become an integral part of many scratch-building products but can be tricky to work with if not used correctly.

Luckily there are some steps you can take to ensure easy application and a successful bond between your parts. When applying contact cement, it is essential to choose the right type for your situation.

How to Clean Contact Cement?

The best way to clean contact cement is by using a solvent. This would prove helpful in dissolving the adhesive and making it easy for you to remove excess cement without causing any damage to your materials or surfaces.

You can use common solvents like acetone, paint thinner, etc., to wipe off excess adhesives. However, being flammable, they are harmful, so you must work in well-ventilated areas while cleaning contact cement!

You might experience some health problems such as dizziness if exposed to these chemicals for longer durations!

Is Contact Cement the Same as Rubber Cement?

No, rubber cement is a type of contact cement. Rubber cement contains rubber dissolved in butyl acetate or another solvent. It is used for bonding paper and other materials where a flexible bond line is needed.

Contact cement has no added rubber but usually contains considerable amounts of volatile solvents such as toluene, xylene, or hexane which vaporize during the setting process, causing the product to “contact” various surfaces very quickly without clamping.

Final Words

I hope after going through this article, you have got the answers about- what is contact cement and how to thin contact cement. You will find two types of contact cement in the market. 

One is a traditional solvent-based adhesive, and the other is a water-based adhesive. Whichever you use, make sure you read the precautions mentioned in the packaging for safe use.

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