We go through 6 different methods that work and rate them along the way.
There are tons of ways to glue PVC pipe and fittings together, but only a few are genuinely well-bonded solutions, pun intended. Therefore, we will outline six ways customers have used to connect PVC pipe with glues and rank them from the worst to the best.
You can learn other ways to join PVC pipes and fittings without cement or adhesives by downloading or viewing our FORMUFIT PVC Assembly Guide, freely available on formufit.com.
Cyanoacrylate (Super Glue)
Recommendation: Not Recommended
The first thought that comes to anyone that wants to build with plastics is to open the junk drawer at home and pull out the Super Glue. Super Glue has been used for years and trusted by many to fix broken items at home. Crazy Glue/Super Glue works great on porous things, like wood ceramics and some light plastics, but won't work on many smooth plastics. Like Gorilla Glue, it has a reputation that it will connect any two things together, but in reality, it doesn't work for PVC. Roughing up the surfaces of PVC may get you some bonding, but in the long run, it won't last.
Toluene & Xylene (Plastics Cements)
Recommendation: Best to Avoid It
Toluene & Xylene are typically used for polystyrene in model building, ABS, Acetate & Plexiglas but will not work for PVC. In some cases, they may work, but only temporarily. The bonds will quickly give up, and you will have disconnected pipes and joints that now have a chalky substance everywhere from the dried-up cement. Keep this in the model kit drawer.
Recommendation: Works, But Not Like You Think It Does.
Many customers insist that rubber cement does an ideal job of connecting PVC pipes and fittings. First, brush some rubber cement on the outside of the pipe. Next, brush some on the inside of the fitting, wait about 3 minutes, then press them together. While this glue will stick to plastics, and PVC being one of them, it's not actually the 'glue' part that keeps things in place; it's actually tension. With rubber cement, you fill gaps between the pipe and fitting and not actually bond anything together, just making an uber tight fit. So while it will work in case of necessity, it's a temporary solution that will not last long (which may have its benefits as a temporary hold). Also, the chemicals used to keep the rubber cement in a liquid state can damage PVC pipes, so it may not be the best idea.
Recommendation: Can Be Used In a Pinch.
Everyone sees Gorilla Glue as the quintessence of glues or cement, but it's hit or miss when it comes to PVC. Now, we're talking about the Original Gorilla Glue, not their other variants, which may fall under one of the other options above. Simply put, The surface of PVC is so smooth that Gorilla Glue doesn't have anything to grip or bind to. So it may work in a pinch but will come apart later down the road when you need it to work the best. Additionally, this type of glue has a very long setup time, so you may be waiting hours for it to cure.
Recommendation: Almost Perfect.
This is the best option for PVC pipe project builders and makers. While the one below is the 'ultimate' solution, this one is just as good. While PVC cement is best, it must be noted that it is permanent. This is because the cement actually melts the walls of the pipe/fitting and then, when pressed together, melts the two pieces. Another bad thing is that you have to work FAST. PVC cement evaporates quickly, and once it starts, you have to ensure your fittings are lined up, all the way in, and in the correct position. This is why we recommend a dry fit before building. Also, most PVC cement instructions recommend applying cement to both pipe and fittings before connecting. However, you can choose a less-strong bond by only using it inside the fittings and then pushing it over the tube. This may allow you to split things and try again, but not always. It is a fusion-welded connection, after all.
PVC Cement with Clear Primer
Recommendation: The Best Solution.
This is the ultimate, most permanent, and secure solution to glue PVC pipe to a fitting connection using PVC glue/cement with primer. It's the same solution above (PVC Cement) but with an added step of spreading primer to the pipe before applying your PVC cement. Primer is used to clean the pipe and expose the surface of the pipe, which the cement will chemically weld together. We typically don't recommend using primer, as most brands are only available in a purple color, which will stain the pipe (unless you are using purple pipe). There are clear versions, but they are not always easy to find. However, as mentioned, this is the best solution and will physically join the pipe and fitting, making them one permanent and strong PVC connection.
There are more ways than just cements to connect PVC pipe and fittings. For more information regarding assembly and the other methods of connecting PVC projects, please see our PVC Field Manuals, available in our PVC Guides section of our site.