DIY, craft, materials, and such / Household and DIY substances

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Glues and sealants

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

Wood glue, white glue, carpenter's glue, school glue and Elmer's glue (in the US), is based on polyvinyl acetate (PVA)

while PVA is the main ingredient, products vary in additives, so will vary in viscosity, strength, odor, and such
useful for porous materials
is slightly flexible itself
is nicer to paper and cloth than many other glues (polymer or otherwise), because it is non-acidic, or only mildly (just enough to help drive the reaction)
pretty cheap per volume

Superglue, crazy glue and a few other product names is typically cyanoacrylate, which is fast and works on quite a few types of surface (e.g. practical enough to use on metal). Note that it reacts exothermically with cotton so is typically a bad idea to let near clothing.

There are a few accelerants, some of which are very cheap and simple (such as baking soda, and steam), to some fancier chemical ones that will often make it be thinner and look cleaner.

(cleaner in that reacting faster gives it less time to vaporize and react with airborne moisture - this is the main reason you get a white-ish sheen near drying CA)

'Epoxy' is a general term, and can apply to many variations, most of which are thermosetting polymers that cure when mixed with a catalyst, and generally then very solid, so works as a glue on anything it sticks to. Also used by itself e.g. as floors or floor coatings, as it has a fairly durable surface.

Polyurethane is also used as a water resistant glue,

used in things like woodworking and bookbinding

Names involving 'cement' are often vague:

'Rubber cement' could refer fairly generally to polymers, though is regularly latex mixed with a solvent(verify)). The drying process is actually the evaporation of the solvent, leaving the somewhat flexible polymer behind.

Plastic cement can refer to:

a specific cement (in the masonry cement sense)
one of a few (organic) solvents, probably one of:
dichloromethane, a solvent used to melt together plastics
tetrahydrofuran, a solvent that is the main part of PVC solvent a.k.a. PVC glue.
butanone, a widely used solvent including in some glues

Poly Cement can refer to

cements that uses polymers instead of lime
e.g. polyurethane cement?(verify)
a solvent - basically, see plastic cement
polystyrene cement, a.k.a. plastic model glue, seems to be this (verify)

Descriptions / typologies

Contact glue describes glues that are applied to both surfaces, dry separately for some time (often between seconds to minutes, up to maybe a day, depending on product and purpose), then be pressed together hard.

This is practical when gluing larger areas, and the large contact area means the combined strength is plenty even in cases it is not a strong bond.

often neoprene solutions(verify)

Specific materials

Gluing wood

Gluing paper

Gluing metal

Gluing glass

Gluing plastics

Brick, mortar, 'n' stuff

Cement: (nl: Cement)

  • Ingredients: mostly oxides of calcium or silicon, plus silicates[1][2](verify)
  • a binder that hardens. So fine that it is itself only an ingredient of something bulkier
...although cement+water is sometimes used on walls and floors to get better adherence with the mortar added immediately after
(and some mixes that use cement can also add specific binding agent)
  • two broad classes:
hydraulic cement that hardens in reaction to water
non-hydraulic cement that hardens in reaction to CO2
  • Portland cement (hydraulic) is the most common mix used in building
there are many others used in specific uses, like Masonry cement, others[3]

Mortar: (nl: Mortel, specie)

  • Ingredients: cement, sand, sometimes lime
  • relatively fine
  • used for masonry, tiling, plastering, and more
    • probably more sand in mortar for masonry than in tiling

Grout: (nl: Grout)

  • Ingredients: water, cement, and sand
  • grout is thinner than mortar, and flows into gaps
Tiling grout used to finish tiling
Structural grout used to bond steel to masonry

Concrete: (nl: Beton)

  • Ingredients: (portland) cement, sand, large aggregate (gravel/rocks)


  • Ingredients: binder, smaller aggregate
  • may be relatively find or moderately rough, depending partly on whether it's used for protection or decoration

See also:

Plaster, gypsum and variants

Plaster is a generic term, describing function (indoor smoothing/decoration) more than a material. Something similar goes for stucco, though this more usually describes outdoor-resistant variants.

Plaster is often gypsum, lime, or cement. Stucco was originally similar (lime and sand) though later involved portland cement or such for durability, and possibly fibers for strength.

On the building and DIY sides we have some more well-defined mixes.

Gypsum itself is calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4·2H2O), a transparent mineral crystal. It is used in fertilizer, and also as a main ingredient in plaster, drywall, blackboard chalk, and a few other things.

Gypsum plaster, a.k.a. plaster of paris, is calcium sulfate hemi-hydrate (CaSO4·0.5H2O), a dry white powder produced by heating the dihydrate to 150 C. (there are four different hydrated stages, the two just mentioned are generally the most interesting.) With water, gypsum plaster reforms into gypsum,

Quicklime is calcium oxide (CaO)

Lime plaster is calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2), a colorless crystal or white powder, which you get mixing quicklime and water.

Also known as slaked lime, hydrated lime, caustic lime, builders' lime, cal, pickling lime

Limestone is calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is the set form of lime plaster, and is a modest portion (~10%) of sedementary rock out there, and e.g. what makes many caves.

Lime refers to calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide, though more broadly can include any of the above

See also:


On the DIY side, clays can be split into water-based and oil-based.

Water based clay will more easily shrink, which is also roughly why it is more likely to crack.

Oil based clay is, well, oil mixed in with clay. It will not dry out, though will slowly oxidize and become harder to work.

Oil based clay is great for things like stop motion

Note that some oil clays contain sulfur, which is relevant to people who make molds, in that e.g. silicone doesn't like sulphur.

You can make oil clays yourself, though it's a whole bunch of mechanical work per volume.

Pottery clay

Brick and building clay

Polymer clay

Oil-based clay

Ceramic clay

Paper clay

Homemade clay

air dry versus oven bake (or even microwave)

Flour / salt-dough clay -->

Household and DIY substances

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

Soda compounds

[written because I needed soda, and wanted to be sure I was using the right type:)]

Common sodium compounds that are useful in a household sort of way include:

Sodium carbonate can refer to (Na2CO3) or one of its hydrated forms

  • a.k.a. soda, soda ash, sal soda, washing soda (the last often seems to be the decahydrate, the larger crystals(verify))
  • the unhydrated and monohydrate are powdery. It is hygroscopic, meaning it will absorb moisture from the air and over time become one of the hydrated forms, which clumps into crystals
  • Apparently the name 'soda ash' comes from the fact that sodium carbonate was at some time extracted from seaweed ashes.
  • uses include
    • water softener: in washing machines, a little soda can be used in combination with detergent: hard water contains magnesium and calcium, which some of the detergent would bind to it instead of being effective; soda takes its place, which is a cheaper solution than using more detergent.
    • as a bleach for cotton, linen
    • in taxidermy, it can be used to clean bones of flesh (used as a fairly strong alkali solution)
    • in swimming pools, it can be used to balance the effect of chlorine, and raise the pH
    • helps certain types of dyeing
    • occasionally used in cooking or other cases of lyeing (where you might more typicall use NaOH)

Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3; reacted from soda, CO2 and water)

  • a.k.a. baking soda, bicarbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate, and things like alka seltzer.

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH),

  • a.k.a. caustic soda, lye, soda lye, white caustic
  • In dutch: natronloog
A strong base, exothermic (generates heat) when dissolved into water.
Dissolves hairs and many fats, so is useful in unclogging drains.
Corrodes aluminium, so not a general-purpose cleaner.


The alcohol we drink is ethanol (a.k.a. ethyl alcohol), and chemically almost all other alcohols are rather toxic ( even small amounts; ethanol is toxic only at larger amounts).

(There is also tert-amyl alcohol (a.k.a. TAA, 2-methyl-2-butanol), a byproduct of fermented ethanol, found e.g. in beer. It's a minor product and has effects similar to ethanol that we typically ignore it.)

These are effectively psychoactive drugs, and somewhat addictive. But we like it and have decent social control so heeey.

Non-drinkable alcohols you may see around include isopropyl alcohol, methanol in denatured alcohol, and some other cleaning products and solvents.

Solvents, cleaners, and related nasties

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)


Mineral turpentine, a.k.a. turps, White spirit

Denatured alcohol, methylated spirit

  • ethanol-based alcohol with an addition that makes it taste awful and probably toxic
Typically using methanol, and/or other things (so that you don't get the bright idea of drinking it for the ethanol when you're out of vodka)

Isopropyl alcohol, a.k.a. isopropanol, 2-propanol

rubbing alcohol is a generic name (mostly around the US)

basically intended as antiseptic
often isopropyl, and occasionally ethyl-based alcohol
often a specific percentage if sold as an antiseptic (around 70%, apparently above that the effectiveness as an antiseptic decreases again(verify)), and rubbing alcohol is a household name for that
even if it's ethanol, it's generally denatured and/or bittered, so really don't drink it

Wasbenzine (dutch name)

  • A mix of hydrocarbons, useful as a solvent and as fuel (CnH2n+2 with n between 5 and 15)
  • Its use as a solvent it is milder than things like turpentine or thinner
  • White gas[4], while a generic name that can also refer to petroleum-derived, now often refers to this. Note that this is not the same as white spirit.


Acetone (a.k.a. 2-propanone)

Ethyl acetate

  • cheap solvent/thinner, relatively harmless (to the point it's a natural byproduct in wine), sweet smelling
  • e.g. used in nail polish remover, PCB cleaning

Nail polish remover is one of many (organic) solvents

  • ...but often one of:
    • acetone (probably most common, but also the least gentle)
    • ethyl acetate[5] (often with some isopropyl alcohol)
    • isopropyl alcohol
    • propylene carbonate(verify)
    • acetonitrile[6] - but is more toxic, and banned for cosmetic use in the EU (but currently not america)
...and may include oils, scents, and coloring


  • more concentrated and purer acetic acid (CH3COOH) than in typical vinegar
often Synthetic or distilled(verify)
  • useful for cleaning limescale and some fat.

For context:

Naphta (Dutch: Nafta) is a mix of hydrocarbons that comes from distilling raw oil.

Some things that are more functional description than anything specific:

Paint thinner (in the context of painting)

Paint stripper

Kwastenreiniger (Dutch, literally 'brush cleaner')

  • May well be turpentine(verify) (when for alkyd/oil paints)

Removing stickers

Mild things that may work

  • just your fingernails - whatever you can get off without chemicals is not risky.
Possibly get a guy, their nails are harder.
  • sticker remover - (what do they contain?)
  • tape - apply, press down, tear off. Idea is that you take a little each time. May take a while, if it works at all.
  • peanut butter, cooking oil, or other oily things - no joke. Use a drop, and leave it soak for a monitor two. Tends to work pretty well on the sort of residue that you can sort of push around but have trouble removing, although there may be a lower layer of more dried-up glue that it won't get off.
  • washing-up liquid and a soft cloth - tends not to work, but nice and mild solution when it does work.

be careful with:

  • warming - warm glue is easier to remove
A cloth with hot water may work, but doesn't hold heat very long
(also works for price tags - I've seen someone in a CD store skillfully use a lighter)
Filed under careful because some ways of heating are bad ideas
  • nail polish remover
because you may not know whether it's the harsher acetone, the gentler isopropyl alcohol, or something else
  • wasbenzine (TRANSLATE) - depends on the plastic. Tends to make glossy plastic less glossy. If you use it, have another damp cloth to clean it off immediately.
  • aceton - more so
  • lamp oil - is an oil so likely leaves residue. Also can be one of a few different things

Bad idea:

  • turpentine - harsh on many surfaces
  • thinner - harsh on many surfaces

Unsorted / untested:

  • alcohol
  • WD40

Dehumidifiers / Dessicants

  • Hygroscopic substances, often adsorption. Some can be reused (water separates out easily), others are more bothersome
    • Silica gel - often seen in small packages shipped with products. Reusable through (careful) heating.
    • Calcium chloride - one of the cheapest and easiest chemical variants. Anhydrous CaCl (crystals) adsorbs water, which dissolves it (with some minor heat heat). That solution is often collected.
In small quantities it's perfectly safe, e.g. used as a food preservatives and in some doughs. You wouldn't want to drink the amounts used to dehumidify, of course.
  • Electric dehumidifers - e.g. condensation. Don't need refilling, but may still need maintenance


  • A few grains of rice is useful for salt shakers, because that works two ways: the rice helps keep the salt from lumping (perhaps more because of mechanics than because of absorption of water), and the salt means bacteria won't like the rice

See also:

Hydrogen peroxide



Bleach refers not to a specific chemical, but to anything that whitens clothes, lightens hair, remove stains, and/or disinfects.

You could say it's anything that messes with proteins, which is also why it's good against bacteria and viruses, and in fact many small things that are alive, which is e.g. why it's a quick way to make a bunch of water safe to drink (with the footnote that using more than a little is also not great for you).

Most general purpose bleaches are oxidizing agents. There are also reducing bleaches, but they are less generic in their use(verify) so rarer.

Stronger household bleaches are typically chlorine-based.

Gentler bleaches, e.g. the stain remover sort, are often a peroxide, typically hydrogen peroxide, in this use known under names like 'oxygen bleach', 'color safe bleach', and others.

Chlorine bleach

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

The more aggressive and typical household bleach, e.g. used to clean nasty floors, and take color from certain fabrics, is typically a chlorine-based bleach, often a hypochlorite (which is alkaline) and then typically sodium hypochlorite.

Sodium hypochlorite is unstable in solution and wants to decompose. Household bleach has a small amount of sodium hydroxide which slows this decomposition (into sodium chloride and sodium chlorate), but bleach in general has a limited shelf life.

The active ingredient is chlorine (which is a gas, and dangerous in larger quantities), which is released mainly on use, in an oxydizing reaction.


Cleaning, mostly.

Since most bacteria don't like bleach, it's also good at disinfecting surfaces, useful to stop growth in pools, and to help make water safe to drink.

Also removing stains and/or color from fabrics, which is a more complex topic.


In household use, 'concentrated' actually means the order of ~5%, which is aggressive enough for most cleaning use (and stays strong for a good while enough even as it decomposes). (Stronger variants are used for industrial processes)

Diluted to 0.1% (so that ~5% diluted 1 to 50ish) it is still effective against most bacteria and a lot of viruses, but be a lot gentler towards people, so a cheaper and less risky sanitiser.

Chlorine added to drinking water is often kept below 4ppm / 4mg/L / 0.0004% - and sometimes much lower. The necessity varies with e.g. infrastructure (type and maintenance of pipes) and the typical methodology used (chlorine, UV light, or ozone), so different countries associate more chlorine - or less chlorine - with better quality water.

You can do this yourself (from ~5% solution it's a few drops per liter) but there's a few mistakes you don't want to make (and you probably don't want bleach with fragrance either), so consider boiling the water instead.

Chlorine in pools is usually kept somewhere between 0.5ppm and 2ppm (0.00005% .. 0.0002%), to be effective but avoid much eye irritation. Public pools, outside pools, and particularly jacuzzis and such may be a little higher, for varied reasons (including ease of management).



In general, don't mix hypochlorite style bleach with other things.

There are plenty of safe combinations, but you sort of need to know what precisely is in each other thing is to be sure - it's not really something you want to figure out by trial and error.

The problem is that some combinations (e.g. vinegar, ammonia, alcohols, acids) cause reactions that quickly release much of the chlorine (gas), and/or interesting things like chloroform, chloramine, hydrochloric acid, chloroacetone, and more.

Other things you don't want

Since these weaken/damage proteins

don't use these on protein fabrics (wool, silk, mohair, leather).
synthetics vary - e.g. polyester, nylon, and acrylic seem fine, while e.g. polyether (so e.g. spandex) is not.

That typical swimming pool smell significantly involves chloramine, basically chlorine-based bleach that has already reacted with germs, saliva, sweat, urine, or other amines common in that context. There are other things that react, like cosmetics.

Note that you barely smell unreacted chlorine, so a stronger-than-usual smell at a pool signals there has been more muck it reacted with, so more byproducts.

At these concentrations it is more the byproducts than the chlorine that are unhealthy.(verify) (If you're trying to manage a pool, there are more footnotes to this, though)

Oils and waxes

Cooking fats

Lamp oils

Candle waxes


This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)


Smoke point, a.k.a. burning point, applies mainly to fats, because they will have a temperature (often well below flash point) at which it will start to decompose, and soon smoke, which is bad for taste, and also not too healthy.

Oils with higher smoke points can be more practical for stir frying, deep frying and such.

More fuel-wise:

Flash point is the temperature above which something will light on fire if there is an ignition source.

It may may not produce enough vapour to continue burning, though.

Fire point is the lowest temperature above which igniting it produces enough vapour for the burning to be self-sustaining.

This is often not too far above the flash point, so safety-wise you care mainly about the flash point.

Gel point - the point below which it is frozen enough that it can no longer flow, which is part of why diesel (~12°C gel point) is harder to start in winter.

There are similar concepts like cloud point and pour point.

For example

  • pure alcohols tend to have a flash/fire point around 10..15C
drinkable alcohol (where most liquid is water) mostly isn't
below approx 25% the water vapour puts it out(verify)
at 30% you get tiny bit of flame, but not very exciting
even 40% is a lowish controlled flame
only really strong alcohol (50% to 75%) is any fun, fire-wise
used to be a test that a strong whiskey wasn't watered down(verify) (though today whiskeys are often ~40%)
  • gasoline flash point around 40C, diesel around 50C
kerosene varies, but is generally variants that are less flammable (up to 70C)
  • lamp oil is often a mix with an intentionally fairly high flame point, like 60..100C
  • waxes have a high flame point
e.g. paraffin waxes, though a melting point around 40C, have a flame point around 200..250C
which is part of why it's easy to burn them slowly around a wick

Massage oils

Some oil terms

Linseed oil

Grease and lubricant




Some plastics

These are primarily notes
It won't be complete in any sense.
It exists to contain fragments of useful information.

The word plastic refers more to the ability to mold it.

In the set of things that occur naturally and we've managed to make, that turns out to most often describe polymers of high molecular mass, and often from hydrocarbons.

Note that various of these can be extruded into threads and used in woven form, so many of these can be made into everything from soft fabric to glass-like panels.

This means that while there are some cases where there are more obvious choices, and sometimes the ASTM code mentioning what it is, it's often not so easy, sometimes very hard, to tell what what type of plastic something is, sometimes even that it is plastic.

Some of the plastics most commonly used in everyday objects are labeled with chasing-arrow-triangle-with-a-number thing (), which is the ASTM resin coding system/[7] (which does not indicate that it is recyclable, but easy identification certainly helps separate the ones that are from those that aren't)

1 PET (a.k.a. PETE)
3 V
5 PP
6 PS
7 other

There's also the angled bracket things, which looks more like a convention(verify), which looks like >PP< or >PC+ABS-FR(40)< or >SAN< which seem to use the same sort of acronyms, though some additions, like that FR(40) seems to indicate the amount of fiber reinforcement.

(suggestions of where to find more about this coding is welcome)

A wider set of common plastics include:

Polyethylene (PE) (a.k.a. polythene, polyethene)

probably the most common plastic.
thermoplastic, so can be recycled decently

Seen in various forms[8], some of the common ones including:

  • low density polyethylene (LDPE) -
e.g. Plastic bags, dispensing bottles, tubing, more
4 in the coding system
  • linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)
In comparison to LDPE: can be thinner, somewhat harder to process (e.g. extrude)
e.g. plastic bags, plastic wraps, lids, tubing, more
  • high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
various (harder, stronger) bottles (alternative to PET), plastic bags, tubing,
2 in the coding system

Polyester is a fairly general term, though it is frequently used to refer specifically to PET [9]

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, or occasionally PETE), perhaps best known for its use in soda bottles [10]

recycled, though avoid constant reuse yourself - the surface is mildly porous so retains bacteria and flavour - there are better choices for containers you reuse a lot
1 in the ASTM coding system

Polyurethane (PUR, PU) is seen in various forms, including flexible and rigid foam, gel, and an mildly flexible plastic. [11]

Polypropylene (sometimes PP), [12]

5 in the ASTM coding system
seen e.g. in straws, bottle caps (regardless of the container plastic)
also used around kitchens (e.g. alternative to PVC pipes) and food (e.g. our juicer's collection bucket is PP), in part because it is one of the more inert plastics(verify), which is also roughly why this is harder to glue

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) under some specific uses (e.g. pleather), and also vinyl (even though PVC is technically one of various vinyls) [13]

3 in the ASTM coding system

Nylon (actually a grouping name) [14]

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

frequently combined with polycarbonate (PC+ABS), which is stronger just ABS alone and cheaper than just PC

Polylactic Acid (PLA) (a.k.a. polylactide) is a thermoplast

derived from renewable crops
one of the plastics used in 3D printing
mechanically similar to PETE, but not very temperature resistant

Polystyrene (PS?)

thermoplast (~100C)
not very biodegrable
6 in the ASTM coding system

High-Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)

Polycarbonate (PC) technically refers to a group of polymers, and practically often to sheets that look similar to acrylic sheeting. Such polycarbonate is stronger and less brittle under load (and costs perhaps 20-30% more).

Trade names include lexan, makrolon,

Harder to bend than acrylic/plexiglass, in part because it's more heat-resistant, and in part because it turns out that the softening and melting temperatures are closer together.

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), more commonly known under names like acrylic glass, and brand names like perspex, plexiglass/plexiglas, lucite and others[15]

There is some variation in quality and construction.

Somewhat hard to work on, as power tools (drilling sawing) will easily create local stress that lead to local cracks in ways you don't want it to (and which easily spread), and you may also heat the plastic to melt to the tool, or at least stink a bunch.

Some tools are handier than others - bandsaws apparently work well to avoid stress, but may still be a problem in terms of heat.

It seems to be easiest to (like glass) create a weak line edge by scoring, then break it off at the edge. It'll bend before it breaks, and it doesn't follow weakness quite as easily as glass does, so for longer breaks you need to do more scoring than you would with glass.

While the glass transition phase temperature varies with the exact copolymer that a speciic product, most lie around 105C (220F), so you can shape these using heat. Often done with a strip heater (better controlled, avoids overheating), a more custom made wire resistance heater, or even a paint stripper gun. You can get creative with shapes, but most bends are probably straight-line bends, or sometimes slower wavy bending - but you usually want to support the new shape somehow if you do that.

Try to heat evenly, gradually, and don't overheat. You also want to work on dry sheets.

Rubber, synthetic rubber, latex: Latex is the name of the sap, rubber a derived product.

...although various naming blurs that distinction - think moulding latex, liquid latex, latex sheeting. [16] [17] [18]

Nitrile rubber is a copolymer. It is also known as just nitrile, e.g. in 'nitrile gloves' [19]

Foams and other fillers

Things you might for example consider to stuff pillows with

Note that firmness and compression over time varies not only with material but also with process.

In the widest sense, foam means 'gas trapped in anything', from soap bubbles to the insulating walls of the International Space Station.

Most of the time it refers to some lightish springy stuff used for sitting on, and to things like padding and isolation.


Open cell structure foams

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

These breathe.

polyurethane foam

Polyester foam
Rebond foam
HR foam
Memory foam

Dryfast foam


Closed-cell foams

Neoprene Foam

Syntactic foam


Lessening sound reflection

Sound isolation

Dealing with moisture



Engineered wood

Refers to wood made for a specific use/strength, look, or such.

Regularly composite wood, regularly pressed wood, though not necessarily either of those.



Oriented Strand Board (OSB)

Laminated veneer lumber (LVL)


Particle board
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

Glued laminated timber


Stamina wood



Wood in saunas