Super glue can fix almost anything — but it’s not so useful when you glue your fingers together.
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The powerful adhesive cyanoacrylate, found in super glue and similar products, doesn’t let go easily. But dermatologist John Anthony, MD, explains how to get super glue off your skin safely.
Steps to getting super glue off your skin
If your fingers are glued together, or your skin is glued to something else, don’t panic. You can usually get the glue off with one of these steps.
- Lather up: “Wash the area with soap and warm water,” Dr. Anthony suggests. “Hand soap or dish soap works well. Washing it off will usually soften the glue and break the bond — if you do it before the glue hardens.” If it doesn’t come off easily after washing up, move on to the next step.
- Get a greasy product: Rub an oily, skin-safe substance onto the area. “Try hand lotion, mineral oil, petroleum jelly or vegetable oil,” Dr. Anthony says. “The oil breaks down the cyanoacrylate bond.” After massaging the oil into your skin, try gently tugging the stuck area off without forcing it. If you’re not free yet, move on to the last option.
- Use acetone: Nail polish remover with acetone usually works, but it’s the most damaging to the skin. “Acetone-based products will remove super glue from the skin, but they can make skin dry, cracked and irritated,” Dr. Anthony says. “Use the smallest amount possible, and don’t mix it with other chemicals. Once the super glue lets go, wash the skin with soap and water. Then, apply a thick, fragrance-free moisturizer.”
What not to do when removing super glue
When it comes to removing super glue from your skin, patience is key. “Don’t try to pull the skin off forcefully or pick at it,” Dr. Anthony says. “You could injure the skin and end up with a painful blister. And don’t use sharp objects like razors, nails or knives.”
If you do break the skin when trying to remove super glue:
- Don’t put any chemicals on the area.
- Wash the injured skin with gentle soap and water.
- Apply petroleum jelly to the injury.
- Put a bandage on it and let it heal.
- See your doctor if you notice redness, pain or swelling at the site of the injury.
And finally, don’t use scrubs, pumice stones or other harsh abrasives to remove super glue. “These items can irritate and damage the skin, and the other methods work better,” Dr. Anthony says.
Is super glue toxic?
“Getting a small amount of super glue on the skin isn’t harmful to most people,” says Dr. Anthony. “But a few people are allergic to it. It can cause a skin reaction called contact dermatitis. The reaction shows up a few days after the exposure and looks like a poison ivy rash.”
And if you swallow super glue or get it on your face, don’t take any chances. “Super glue in or near your eyes, nose or mouth is a medical emergency,” Dr. Anthony says. “Contact a poison control center or go to the emergency room.”
Can you leave super glue on your skin?
If super glue doesn’t come off with soap, oils or acetone, and it’s not bothering you, wait a few days. As the skin sloughs off naturally, the glue will come off, too.
Super glue is powerful, so use it with care. Treat it like any household chemical and keep it out of reach of children.