Super Glue Chemically Reacts with Cotton or Wool to Generate Enough Heat to Start a Fire

Applying Super Glue (cyanoacrylate) to cotton or wool results in a rapid chemical reaction that releases enough heat to cause minor burns, so typically this should be avoided.  However, if enough cyanoacrylate is added to the cotton or wool, the fabric will catch on fire, making this a great trick to keep in mind in survival situations.

Generally, cotton and wool are readily available and cyanoacrylate is always a good thing to have on hand in first aid kits, due to its wound sealing ability.  So if you ever find yourself lost in the woods with nothing but a first aid kit and no other easy means to start a fire, this little trick might help you out.

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10 comments

  • Just found this out the hard way… -_-

  • Found this out when I got too lazy to pick up a needle and thread and decided to try Krazy Glue to “stitch up” a small hole in a sweatshirt. Luckily, I only used a very small amount, and I actually managed to get the hole closed. I thought it was quite odd when the Krazy Glue came into contact with the cotton from the sweatshirt and started to smoke.

  • Yeah I had a bottle of super glue come into contact with my fleece hoodie. And smoke was plumeing out. Was right in my face, I couldn’t scream the smoke was choking me, and my eyes were burning badly. I don’t ever recommend letting super glue touch anything cotton.

  • I just wanted to let you know that the cyanoacrylate your local hospital use to close wounds and the one you buy at the hardware shop are not the same product. The one used for wounds has a different structure to the one we use at home. See below:

    Superglue
    During the Vietnam war it was used in field surgery with good effect, however, despite the promising results it was not approved for use in health care due to the toxicity and two significant side effects during the polymerization process:

    The curing process creates an exothermic reaction (heat) which can cause further tissue damage.

    The process releases cyanoacetate and formaldehyde – both irritants to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.

    Wound Care
    Derma+flex, SurgiSeal, FloraSeal and Dermabond cause less skin irritation and offer increased flexibility and strength compared to traditional ‘Super Glue’. In 1998 2-octyl cyanoacrylate for the closure of wounds and surgical incision and in 2001 was approved as “barrier against common bacterial microbes including certain staphylococci, pseudomonads, and Escherichia coli”.

    n-butyl cyanoacrylate wound adhesives are available under the trade names: LiquiBand, Histoacryl, Indermil, GluStitch, GluShield, and Periacryl (dental adhesive)

    Octyl ester, while providing a weaker bond, are more flexible. Butyl esters provide stronger bond, but are rigid.

    These do not have exothermic qualities and as a consequence do not harm tissue the way superglue does.

  • It should be written there on glue itself. In my case I wiped drop of glue with tissue paper and it started smoking.

  • Yup, learnt the hard way too. Tube split, landed on my tights, burnt my leg and the fumes on the smoke burnt my eyes. I’m now feeling very sorry for myself.

  • I was repairing a hole in a pair of jeans….I put duct tape on the back side and used that to hold the fibers in place covering the hole…..I put the super glue on and it got real hot…..I thought it was due to the reaction with the adhesive on the duct tape….Also here is a trick when using super glue….if you put Baking Soda on the super glue it will react and dry right away and form a stronger bond……USE BAKING SODA with super glue to make stronger bond and to dry glu faster…..

  • You would have to make sure the super glue was fresh as it has a very limited shelf life…

  • Superglue on clean white pipe cleaners is used by investigators to develop latent fingerprints. The pipe cleaner (cotton) is poked thru the bottom of an upside-down styrofoam cup. The styrofoam plays no chemical part in this, it’s just easy to work with. Tip the cup upright and squeeze some superglue onto the pipe cleaner, then place the cup upside down again over the latent fingerprints. DON’T BREATHE THE FUMES. They contain cyanide and formaldehyde and will spoil your day or kill your pet bird (don’t ask me how I know that). Leave the cup over the latent prints for a minute then remove, again being cautious with the released fumes. Your prints will be developed in hard purple ridges. Take ECU photographs of the prints, then dust them and press evidence tape over them to collect the dust. Press the tape onto clean white paper and your prints are preserved.
    If there’s a way to remove the hard purple ridges from the original surface, I haven’t found it yet. Some say nail polish remover works but it didn’t for me.

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