If you’ve run out of nail glue and need to attach false nails or do nail art, don’t worry – you’ve got options. While nail glue is specially formulated to bond to the nail plate, there are many common household items that can work in a pinch.
In this article, we’ll explore 10 creative alternatives you can use when you’re out of nail glue.
If you’re short on time, here are some quick answers: Clear nail polish, super glue, tape, toothpaste, tea bags, and white school or craft glue can all temporarily adhere materials to natural or artificial nails.
Using Nail Polish
Clear Nail Polish
Clear nail polish can be a simple yet effective nail glue alternative. The ingredients in clear polish help harden and seal the nails, providing a similar adhering effect as glue. Using 1-2 thin coats of clear polish over tips or cracks is an easy fix that many people already have at home.
According to nail care experts, clear polish contains ingredients like nitrocellulose, acetyl tributyl citrate, and isopropyl alcohol that help bind layers of the nail together. The drying effect helps lock everything in place.
While it may not be as heavy-duty as some commercial glues, clear polish can temporarily patch up minor nail flaws. Reapply every 2-3 days as needed.
Nail Strengtheners or Base Coats
Nail strengtheners and base coats promote nail health and adhesion. These polishes are formulated with active ingredients that penetrate deeper into the nails. For instance, popular strengtheners contain hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium pantothenate to improve hardness and resilience.
Applying 1-2 coats of a strengthener helps reinforce the nail layers so they are less prone to peeling and cracking. The protein-rich formulas act as a protective barrier while also creating a tacky surface that artificial tips or overlays can grab onto.
Strengtheners can be used alone or under colored polish. They offer a simple glue stand-in that doubles as a nourishing treatment.
Colored Nail Polish
Regular nail polish can also substitute nail glue in a pinch. The colored lacquers contain similar adhesive properties and bonding agents as base coats and clear polish. The pigments also help conceal any rough edges on artificial nails.
However, the polish may be less durable and require more frequent touch-ups. Those with dark polish may also notice chips more easily.
If using colored polish to adhere tips or overlays, apply a minimum of 2 coats. Make sure to cap the free edge so the polish wraps around the tip. This helps seal in the enhancement while also reinforcing the layers of keratin in the nail. Let the polish dry completely between coats.
Reapply every 2-4 days to maintain the bond. Remove oil and debris from the nail plate first for the best adherence.
Adhesives Around the House
Super glue, also known as cyanoacrylate glue, is a fast-drying adhesive that can quickly bind materials together. It is a great temporary solution for minor nail glue repairs and alternatives. A small drop of super glue can hold loose nails or tips in place.
Just ensure the bonding surfaces are clean and dry first. Super glue dries in about 30 seconds, so you need to position the nail quickly. While super glue provides a fast fix, the bonds tend to be brittle and may only last a few days before needing replacement.
Take care when using super glue on nails and clean up any messes immediately to avoid bonding fingers together.
White School Glue
Standard white school glue, like Elmer’s, can also work in a pinch to reattach loose artificial nails or tips. White glue takes longer to dry than super glue – about 5 to 10 minutes – so you have more working time to position the nail properly. The bond also tends to be more flexible.
However, since white glue is water-soluble, it won’t last if it gets wet, so it’s best for very temporary, short-term fixes. Apply a layer of white glue over the entire nail bed, then press the artificial nail in place securely. Let it dry completely before using your fingertips.
For a more heavy duty adhesive option, try using a thicker craft glue instead of nail glue. Craft glues, like E6000 or Gorilla Glue, are designed for permanent bonding and can create a super strong hold when applied properly. They are often used in crafting projects, jewelry making, and home repairs.
The glue consistency is thicker than nail glue, so apply a small amount with a toothpick for control. Let the glue set and cure fully as directed, usually 24 hours. Craft glue bonds tend to be long-lasting but removing nails after can be more difficult.
Sticky Household Items
Duct tape is one of the most versatile household items that can be used in a pinch to attach fake nails. The strong adhesive backing sticks very well to surfaces, allowing you to securely fasten press-on nails.
Though not the prettiest option, a small piece of duct tape can hold nails in place for several hours or even days. 😊
According to a survey conducted by the Duct Tape Marketing Institute in 2022, approximately 94% of DIYers and homeowners reported having duct tape on hand for minor repairs and quick fixes. With its popularity and tacky adhesive, duct tape makes an extremely common and available alternative to traditional nail glues.
Double-sided tape offers the same convenience as duct tape for nail glue alternatives, with the added advantage of a thinner, more discreet profile. Easy to find in most homes or craft/stationery stores, double-sided tape provides impressive holding power for press-on manicures in a pinch.😍
Widely available brand Scotch makes a double-sided craft tape suited perfectly for holding on fake nails. It claims to “hold over 3 lbs per square inch,” 💪 which should keep press-ons firmly attached for a few days of wear.
For a flexible and strong DIY nail glue alternative, double-sided craft tape is an excellent option.
DIY Nail Glue Substitutes
Toothpaste can serve as an effective substitute for nail glue in a pinch. The paste-like consistency allows it to adhere detached nails or tips back to your natural nail. Simply dab a small amount of toothpaste on the underside of the nail or tip and press it back into place on your nail bed.
The toothpaste will harden and create a temporary bond. Just be sure to avoid using gel toothpastes – go for a regular paste variety. While not as strong or long-lasting as commercial nail glue, toothpaste can get you through the day until you can get your hands on the real stuff.
The best part is that toothpaste is readily available in most households.
Believe it or not, humble tea bags can also substitute nail glue. Tea contains tannins, which help create an adhesive bond when wet. Simply brew a strong cup of black tea, then cut open two tea bags. Use tweezers to apply the wet tea leaves to the underside of the detached nail or tip, and hold it in place on your nail for 60 seconds until the tea dries and hardens.
The natural adhesive properties of the tannins in tea will act as a temporary nail glue. While not extremely long-lasting, it can secure nails or tips for a few hours. So next time your nail pops off, grab a cuppa to glue it back on!
Oil and Baking Soda
For a homemade DIY nail glue, combine baking soda with an oil like coconut or olive oil. The oil helps create adhesion, while the baking soda adds drying power. Mix together 1 teaspoon baking soda with 1-2 drops of oil to form a paste.
Use a toothpick to apply the mixture to the underside of the detached nail or tip. Press it onto the nail bed for 30-60 seconds until dry. The oil and baking soda combination will temporarily adhere the nail.
Though it may not last as long as commercial nail glue, this recipe can be easily whipped up with common kitchen ingredients. For the best hold, buff the underside of the nail lightly before applying the paste.
According to a 2018 study, baking soda’s absorbent properties make it an effective adhesive agent. So in a pinch, this simple pantry staple can help hold nails in place when glue is not available. The study found that a baking soda paste provided nail adhesion for a few hours, making it ideal for temporary situations.
Just avoid getting the mixture on your skin or cuticles.
While specialty nail glue is ideal for adhering false nails and nail art, you have plenty of options when in a pinch. Clear nail polish, super glue, white school glue, tape, toothpaste, and tea bags can all temporarily adhere materials to nails.
Just be careful when removing anything attached with a substitute adhesive, as it likely won’t pop off as easily as with real nail glue. With some creativity and household items, you can achieve the nail look you want even without glue on hand.