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A quick home improvement project or fun craft afternoon can become a major hassle if someone gets superglue on their skin. However, home remedies, such as warm, soapy water, nail polish, and butter, can help remove the substance.

Superglue can bind the skin to paper, skin, or any other surface. It can also glue the fingers together. The key component in superglue, cyanoacrylate, is not harmful except in cases of an allergic reaction.

However, the fumes from the glue can irritate the respiratory tract, nose, eyes, and mouth. Therefore, a person should use superglue in a well-ventilated area.

A range of quick home remedies can usually remove superglue from the skin. Small affected areas may also clear up on their own.

Depending on the size of the affected skin and the location, a person can help remove superglue with natural remedies. If these do not work, they could try using acetone or a store-bought glue remover.

However, an individual needs to take several safety precautions in mind when working with superglue and attempting to remove it from the skin. This article summarizes these removal methods and what to know before starting.

The following techniques can help remove superglue from the skin safely:

1. Soaking in warm, soapy water

If the superglue is not fully dry, soaking the affected area in warm, soapy water may help.

Fill a bowl or bucket with very warm — but not hot — water and soap or detergent.

First, soak the affected area. Once the glue is soft, gently rub it in a rotating motion and peel it off the skin. Do not continue if it is painful or seems like it may tear the skin.

Do not use tissues or paper towels, as these may stick to the skin.

2. Peeling apart stuck skin

If the skin gets stuck to another object or a finger gets stuck to another finger, soak the area in warm, soapy water first.

Then, using a blunt object, such as a nail emery board, gently try to separate the object from the skin.

Try a rolling or peeling motion, rather than trying to pull apart the skin if it is painful. Be careful not to break the skin’s surface.

3. Nail polish remover or acetone

If the soap does not help dissolve the glue, a person can try using acetone, a powerful solvent in most nail polish removers. However, note that acetone may alter the color of some objects, especially if they are plastic.

Before attempting to remove superglue from an object or skin, make sure to use a product that will not cause a chemical reaction. Several chemicals and even certain fabrics can react with the ingredients in superglue and cause a chemical burn or hazardous fumes. Additionally, avoid hydrogen peroxide, cotton swabs, or any cotton at all if possible.

Pour the nail polish remover into a bowl and soak the skin. Continue soaking until the bond of the glue dissolves.

Acetone is potentially toxic and can dry out and irritate the skin, so it is vital to wash the hands thoroughly afterward. People with eczema or dry skin conditions may also notice irritation and dryness after using the substance, so use a gentle moisturizer until the skin improves.

Do not use acetone on broken or injured skin, as it can burn. And never use acetone inside the body, such as in the nose or mouth.

Nail polish remover, which contains acetone, is available in many grocery stores, pharmacies, and online.

4. Butter and oils

Butter and oils, such as coconut or olive oil, can help separate fingers that are stuck together with superglue.

Try soaking the skin in warm water first, then rub oil or butter onto the superglue to dissolve the bond. Apply more oil and massage the area until the glue is gone.

5. Pumice stone

A pumice stone can remove calluses and dead skin and may help remove bits of dried glue. However, avoid using it on sensitive skin or the face.

To gently rub off the superglue with a pumice stone, soak the area in warm, soapy water first, then dip the stone in warm water. Rub the pumice on the area in a circular motion until the superglue is gone. If this causes pain or discomfort, try another method.

Pumice stones are available from many natural health stores, pharmacies, and online retailers.

6. Lemon juice

The acid in lemon juice can help remove superglue. This remedy works best on small patches of superglue and to separate glued-together skin.

Pour lemon juice into a bowl and soak the skin for 5–10 minutes. Then use a soft toothbrush or cotton swab to rub the lemon juice directly onto the area. Rub the skin with a dry washcloth to loosen the glue, then wash the hands and moisturize.

7. Glue removers

Some craft and hobby stores sell products that can quickly remove superglue without damaging the skin. However, certain people may experience skin irritation from these glue removers.

These products may also be very flammable and emit a strong odor, so a person should exercise caution when using them. Similar to acetone, it can also interact with hydrogen peroxide.

For skin glued to plastic, try a glue remover instead of acetone, since acetone can damage some plastics.

Unless the skin is visibly injured or painful, it is safe to delay removing superglue for 1–2 hours to allow a person time to purchase glue remover from a local store.

Most superglues contain cyanoacrylate, the main ingredient that causes the bonding effect. And while this substance is minimally toxic, it is important to use superglue correctly.

It is also particularly hazardous to the eyes, mouth, lungs, and, if a person inhales it, the brain. Many superglues are also flammable.

What to avoid

A person should do their best to avoid:

  • Inhaling or breathing in the glue: This could cause lung, nerve, and brain damage.
  • Getting superglue into the eyes, on the eyelids, or in the mouth: Superglue can glue the eyes or the mouth shut. If someone has swallowed superglue, have them rinse out their mouth, contact a poison control center or go to the emergency room.
  • Contact between superglue and stoves, ovens, hairdryers, and hot surfaces: Some types of superglue can be flammable, so never use a lighter or match to try to burn superglue off the skin. If a person has superglue on their skin, they should keep the affected area away from sources of heat.
  • Pulling superglue off the skin: This can cause the skin to peel or break open. If the skin breaks, do not use chemicals to remove the superglue. If the superglue has caused a burn or wound, keep the area clean and apply an antibiotic ointment. These minor injuries almost always heal on their own, but if it is very painful, turns red, or swells, seek medical attention.

Additionally, superglue can cause an allergic reaction in some people. These reactions can involve hives or symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis.

Anyone who experiences any symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a sudden rash or difficulty breathing, should go to the emergency room. This can be a sign of anaphylaxis, which is life threatening,

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

Here are some frequently asked questions around superglue on the skin.

How do you remove dried superglue?

To remove the glue, begin by soaking it in warm, soapy water to moisten the adhesive. Then, gently rub it off. Try oil, butter, or lemon juice if this is not effective. You can also use a pumice stone gently to remove it. You could also try using acetone or a store-bought glue remover.

Does superglue come off the skin?

Generally, if the glue covers a small area on the skin and does not affect an important area, such as the eyes or mouth, a person may wish to leave it alone. The glue could peel off on its own within 1–2 days. However, if the affected area is large or interferes with an individual’s daily activities, removal is a better option.

Does white vinegar remove superglue from the skin?

White vinegar may help soften the superglue for removal. The best way to use it is to add it to warm, soapy water and soak the affected area.

Superglue on the skin can be irritating and even scary, especially for children, but it is not usually dangerous. People with serious skin conditions should consult a doctor if they get superglue on their skin, but most individuals can safely remove the substance at home.

However, it may be safer to use gloves when working with superglue. Nitrile gloves are suitable, as they do not interact with the glue.

If home remedies are ineffective and the affected area seems fine, it is usually safe to wait a few days to see if the glue comes off on its own.

However, because infants and young children may put their hands or other affected areas in their mouth, it is safest to speak with a doctor for removal if home remedies do not work.