Water-Based Adhesives

Water-based (or more commonly referred to as waterborne) adhesives are typically formulated from either:

  • Natural Polymers – from vegetable sources (e.g. dextrins, starches), protein sources (e.g. casein, blood, fish, soybean, milk albumen), and animal (e.g. hides, bones), or
  • Soluble Synthetic Polymers – from polymers including: polyvinyl alcohol, cellulose ethers, methylcellulose, carboxymethylcellulose, and polyvinylpyrrolidone

These adhesives may be supplied as solutions or formulated as dry powders which must be mixed with water prior to application. The strength of the adhesive is attained when water is lost from the glue line by evaporation or absorption by the substrate. Because of this requirement, use of these adhesives requires that at least one substrate is permeable. Where neither substrate is permeable, it is possible to apply a thin coat of adhesive, allow it to dry, and then activate the adhesive by lightly wiping with a wet brush or roller or spraying with water. This gives the system “quick tack” and the amount of water in the glue line is so small that a porous substrate is not required. Because the polymers are water soluble, bonds made using these adhesives have limited resistance to moisture and water. Some plant glues and the casein glues have the special feature that the base raw materials are insoluble in room temperature water and have to be dissolved in alkaline media (sodium hydroxide solution or ammonia). These adhesives have improved moisture resistance compared to adhesives that are directly soluble in water. Many water-based solution adhesives are perishable and so extended storage is not possible.  

Commonly Used Water-Based Adhesives 

Type of Adhesive Origin of the Base Raw Material Area of Application
Glutin Adhesives
Skin Adhesives Raw skin waste and tissue Bonding Paper
Fish Adhesive 
Fish Skin
Gummed Adhesive Strips
Based on Natural Plant Products
Starch Adhesive Maize, Potatoes, and Rice Bonding Paper
Methyl Cellulose 
Casein: Cellulose and Wood 
Wallpaper Paste
Casein Adhesive
Protein Component of Milk
Bottle Labelling
PVAc Adhesives Saponification Product of Polyvinyl Acetate or Other Polyvinvyl Esters
Bonding Paper, Cardboard, Wood, Base Material for Moisture-Activated Bonding