Taking Care of Glue Sticks



It’s time to get my glue sticks cleaned up for classroom visits. For the most part I try to design the projects that I teach with an eye to using minimum amounts of glue, and then I supply the glue sticks. I buy the biggest size of  UHU glue stick that I can find (1.41 oz) as these seem to work the best for me, as well as being, in the long run, the most economical.


Students (and teachers!) greet my glue sticks with great enthusiasm, but then, if the particular stick they receive has been through more than a few classes, I hear yukky editorial noises coming from the students as they negotiate the tackiness and grunginess that glue sticks attract.




The fact is, I can’t stand dirty glue sticks either but it has taken me years and years to figure out an effective way to clean them up. I generally wipe the cylinder with very hot water, which works just fine, but it’s the  threads on the tip and the cap that have eluded my efforts at being presentable.  After many years of unsatisfactory results, I have finally figured out how to deal with this sticky problem.


The secret is soaking. To prepare the stick for soaking I take off the lid, and screw the glue down into the cylinder as far as it will go.



Next, they are put into a SHALLOW pan of water, caps off, threaded-end down. The water should be room temperature, not hot, as hot water will melt the glue.  I leave the glue sticks soaking overnight.


By morning, the water dissolves glue away from the stick. I wipe everything down with paper towels, but before I put the cap on there’s one more important step:


I screw the glue back up so that the bulk of the glue is flush with the top. On way up the barrel a thin sheet of glue is pushed up, which has to be wiped away. If I give the stick to a student without doing this step chances are that the consequences will be messy.


Next, the glue sticks get packed away. Now there’s just one more step: before I pass these glue sticks out I chat with the students about taking care of my tools. They see that the glue is near the top when they remove the lid,  we discuss what happens when a glue stick is completely unscrewed, and I ask them to make sure that they bring up the glue just enough to use, and then, when they are done, to retract the glue just enough, I want them to be mindful of the fact that if the glue is up too high when they put up the lid, then the glue will mash into the part that is the hardest to clean. The students generally seem to appreciate being given the awareness to take care of the tool that they are using.

In the winter, I give the barrels a wipe with disinfectant between classes, so as not to spread germs between school districts.

It may be that I am the only person in the world to think about cleaning glue sticks …maybe there’s one more?