Elmer’s Glue is an iconic product. Or, should I say, pair of products. Elmer’s Glue All and Elmer’s School Glue look a lot alike, and stores often sell them side by side. And Wikipedia says there’s no difference. But is there? Let’s look at Elmer’s Glue All vs School Glue.
Although the two glues share the same ingredients, the formulation isn’t identical. Elmer’s School Glue is easier to wash out, and forms a more flexible bond than Elmer’s Glue All. Depending on your use case, each can have definite advantages.
Use cases for each
As a parent, an occasional do-it-yourselfer, and a model railroader, I’ve certainly had more than one reason to have one or both Elmer’s products on hand. When I asked my wife if we had any around so I could take a photo for this blog post, it was a pretty silly question. I’ve come to prefer Titebond glue for woodworking, but we still use plenty of Elmer’s.
And what Wikipedia says about the two glues may be almost true. They may have the same ingredients. But they can have the same ingredients in different quantities and get slightly different properties. That’s likely the case here. They do have slightly different properties. Elmer’s School Glue is usually cheaper than Glue All, which tells me that it’s cheaper to make. If they were exactly the same, School Glue wouldn’t be cheaper.
And much like drugstore alcohol, depending on your use case, the cheaper one sometimes is better.
Elmer’s Glue All vs School Glue in Crafts
For crafting, especially kids’ crafts, Elmer’s School Glue is usually preferable. That’s because it’s easier to wash out. Kids get things in the darndest places, so you really want that washability. You can get either type of glue out of clothes if you wash them enough times, but when the glue gets on things you can’t throw in the washer, it’s nice to be able to clean it up easily with soap and water.
There is one caveat to this. When you make slime with either type of glue, the slime ends up with different properties. In most regards, the slime made with Elmer’s Glue All is better. But every child is different, so some may prefer School Glue. Of course, you may not want to turn them loose with Glue All until they reach a certain age, regardless of their preferences.
Elmer’s Glue All vs School Glue in DIY
Both Elmer’s Glue All and School Glue will bond wood. They’ll bond any porous surface. Elmer’s Glue All is perfectly acceptable for woodworking, even tricky glue-ups like gluing cracks or gluing end to end. I like Titebond because it sets up a bit faster and does a better job of filling gaps. But when you clamp your work together, there’s little to no difference in strength between Elmer’s Glue All and a more expensive wood glue once the joint is dry.
In DIY, you generally don’t want a more flexible bond. For woodworking, Elmer’s Glue-All is the one to use, and its longer setup time sometimes can be an advantage over specially formulated wood glues, depending on what you’re making.
Elmer’s Glue All vs School Glue in Model railroading
There’s a special application for Elmer’s School Glue: track ballast on model railroads. If you use Elmer’s School Glue to glue down your ballast, you’ll have an easier time if you ever have to come back and take the track back up. It will still put up a fight, but it will put up less of a fight than Glue All. So, if you’re going to be laying down ballast on a model railroad, load up on Elmer’s School Glue during the back to school sales in early August.
When mixing glue for ballast, common ratios are four parts water to one part glue, or even six parts water to one part glue. And when the time comes to take the track back up, wet the ballast down with water, let it soak in, and add more if it doesn’t soften enough to free the track.
For building model buildings and anything else that involves gluing pieces together, Elmer’s Glue All is preferable. You may even prefer another PVA glue, such as Tacky Glue.
Saving money on Elmer’s glue
Both varieties come in bottles of varying sizes, but they’re cheaper in a gallon bottle. If you use a lot of it, buy the gallon bottle, then refill a smaller bottle for use. Or, do what woodworkers do, and fill an old mustard bottle. If you don’t have an empty or nearly empty mustard bottle, buy one small bottle, then refill it going forward.