Glue sticks are solid adhesives inside plastic tubes that can be twisted up and used and then retracted to be saved and put away. Because the glue is solid and encased in plastic, it is easy to use and less messy than traditional white glue, making it a popular choice for schools and offices.
The German company, Henkel, which specialises in personal care and household products, created the glue stick in 1969 after being inspired by women's lipstick containers. Under the "Pritt" brand, the Pritt glue stick has sold over a billion glue sticks. Other companies also make glue sticks, including popular glue-maker, Elmer's and Crayola, a popular manufacturer of art supplies for children.
There are a variety of glue sticks available. Many made for children and schools are washable and are to be used on paper and cardboard. However, there are other, more permanent types now available that will help crafters adhere fabric and other materials together. Acid-free glue sticks are also available for scrapbooking, which is becoming a popular hobby.
Most basic glue sticks are made with children in mind, so they are generally safe and non-toxic for use. They are free of solvents and PVCs. It is also easy to clean up, doesn't stain most clothing. Because they are solid, as long as the cap is replaced, they will not dry out and will last a long time. Glue sticks are generally inexpensive and because they last a long time, are an economical solution as well.
The ingredients of an Elmer's glue stick is considered proprietary information, but is described in their Material Safety Data Sheet as being a "Synthetic Polymer Mixture." No health hazards or risks are listed.
Glue sticks should clean up from most any surface with a clean cloth or sponge soaked in mild soap and warm water. On clothes, however, do not use hot water or dry cleaning solvents. Rinse the spot out in cold water - or allow it to soak overnight if necessary. Wash in a normal wash cycle but don't dry in a dryer until the stain has been checked. If it's gone, go ahead and dry the garment. If it remains, soak the item in cold water again and apply gentle soap with a cloth or nylon scrub pad. Wash again.