Removing Old Glue from Furniture

Tips and tricks for softening hide glue or old formulations of carpenter's wood glue. April 24, 2012

Question
Iím looking for a good source of methylated spirits. I do furniture restorations and need something to help break down glue joints. Can anyone offer any advice?

Forum Responses
(Adhesive Forum)
From contributor J:
Vinegar will break down hide glue. It can be soaked into a joint or injected with a syringe. If you use apple cider vinegar it smells good while it works.



From the original questioner:
Do you have any suggestions for PVA glues?


From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Many PVA adhesives from years past will soften with heat (or moisture or both). Today's advanced PVA adhesives (like Titebond II) are not so willing to deteriorate with heat. A hair dryer is often effective for softening the adhesive enough to break the joint.


From contributor W:
Vinegar will also work on some PVA glues like Titebond. It doesn't dissolve it, but turns it gummy, enabling the pieces to be taken apart and the glue scraped or wire-brushed off. Alcohol will crystallize hide glue, enabling the joints to be tapped apart.


From contributor T:
A solution of meat tenderizer is "magic" at softening/dissolving hide glue. I've syringe injected it into joints and under veneer and separated some very fragile joinery with minimal stress to the pieces and to me. It's essential to thoroughly rinse away all traces of tenderizer before regluing for obvious reasons. You can speed the release of PVA/AR glues by adding detergent to the water, again, leave no trace of detergent on the pieces.


From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
The use of a detergent with warm or hot water (although you will get grain raising) is effective IF the detergent has a surfactant (which breaks the surface tension of the water allowing the water to penetrate into very small holes, gaps, etc.). Make sure you check the label as some modern detergents do not have this surfactant. The key is that the older PVAs are softened with heat and water, but it is not true for many modern formulations.