How to Soften Glue on Old Chair Joints

Written by sal marco
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How to Soften Glue on Old Chair Joints
Save money by repairing your own chairs. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Many woodworkers secure chair joints with wood glue to form tight bonds between the frames, legs, arms, seats and backs of chairs. Over time, through use and exposure to varying temperatures and levels of humidity, chair joints weaken. Loose chair joints can eventually cause damage to a chair and pose a danger to people. Removing a chair's leg, arm or back requires separating the glued joints, cleaning them and adding new glue to the joints to restore the chair to a safe and sturdy condition.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Tarp or newspapers
  • White vinegar
  • Pot
  • Eyedropper or squeeze bottle
  • Hand-held hair dryer
  • Acetone

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    White Vinegar

  1. 1

    Place the chair on a tarp or layer of newspapers and turn the chair over to gain access to the glued joint.

  2. 2

    Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into a small pot and place it on the stove. Turn the heat on low and warm the vinegar until it is hot but not boiling.

  3. 3

    Squeeze the bulb of an eyedropper to fill it with warm white vinegar, or pour hot vinegar into a squeeze bottle with a needle-nose tip.

  4. 4

    Pull the loose joint on the chair apart to create a small gap. Insert the tip of the eyedropper or bottle into the gap and squeeze the eyedropper bulb or bottle to release white vinegar into the joint. Push the chair joint in the opposite direction and add more vinegar. Let the vinegar sit for five to 10 minutes.

  5. 5

    Move the joint side-to-side to loosen it. Continue to add warm white vinegar, moving the joint side to side until the wood glue softens and frees the arm, back or leg from the joint.


  1. 1

    Turn the chair in a position to have access to the glued joint.

  2. 2

    Direct the heat from a hand-held hair dryer at the glued wood joint. Move the hair dryer about the joint.

  3. 3

    Grip the arm, leg or back joint and move it side-to-side or in a circular motion while blowing hot air on it until the glue softens enough to free the piece from the joint.


  1. 1

    Place the chair on a tarp or layer of newspapers.

  2. 2

    Fill a squeeze bottle with a long thin tip or eyedropper with acetone.

  3. 3

    Pull on the leg, arm or back joint to create a gap. Insert the tip of the dropper or bottle into the gap and squeeze in enough acetone to fill the joint. Let the acetone sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Move the joint side-to-side to loosen it, then add more acetone. Continue to move the glued joint and add acetone until the glue softens.

Tips and warnings

  • Sand the old glue off the chair joints before gluing the joints back together.
  • Extinguish all open flames including cigarettes, candles and pilot lights when using acetone.

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