• Spray adhesive is an aerosol adhesive, often used for mounting paper to a backing. It is available in permanent, temporarily repositionable, extra strength, and specialty varieties.


  • The ingredients in spray adhesive vary by product. It is generally composed of solvents and adhesive compounds, which are chemically produced and mainly derive from petroleum. Common ingredients are acetone, propane, hexane and butane. 1


  • The petroleum products in aerosol propellants contribute to climate change and air pollution. 1, 2 Empty aerosols can be recycled, but partially used spray adhesives are landfilled as hazardous waste. 1, 5 Substances used in manufacturing are often toxic to the environment, and Elmer’s and Montana brand spray adhesives are noted as toxic to aquatic life. 1, 3, 4

Human Health

  • All brands of spray adhesive cause temporary irritation and dizziness if inhaled. Repeated exposure can cause brain and central nervous system damage. Many spray adhesives are also carcinogenic, cause reproductive and developmental harm, and/or damage the cardiovascular system. 1


Safe Use and Exposure

  • Never use spray adhesive indoors without a functional fume hood or spray booth (located in Engineering, Steuben, Pratt Studios, and Higgins). Wear a respirator when spraying, and do not spray in the vicinity of other students without breathing protection. Repeated low exposure accumulates and damages the brain and nervous system! Direct inhalation can cause asphyxiation. Wash hands thoroughly after use. Do not smoke while using spray adhesive, as it is explosive. 1
  • If you are pregnant, refer to the specific MSDS of your product to determine whether it causes developmental damage. Before purchasing any spray adhesive product, check the MSDS to understand the health risks, and do not purchase carcinogenic spray adhesives.

Proper disposal

  • Aerosols containing spray adhesive solvents must be disposed as hazardous waste. Empty cans can be recycled by a steel or aluminum recycler. Use the product completely or place in hazardous waste bins in around campus. Donate all usable cans to the givetake.

Safe Alternatives

  • Avoid products that are marked with a CL caution label, and CA 65 warning, which indicate health hazards and carcinogenicity. Following are spray adhesive brand ranked from most to least dangerous to human health. Krylon (carcinogenic, organ damage, reproductive harm), Blair (carcinogenic, organ damage), 3M (cardiovascular damage, reproductive harm), Elmer’s (respiratory damage, extremely hazardous to aquatic life), Montana (extremely hazardous to aquatic life). 1
  • When given the choice, opt for water based adhesives such as PVA glue, or tape.



  1. Spray Adhesive MSDS,
  2. “Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)”, Tox Town,
  3. “Cyclohexane”, PubMed,
  4. “Heptane”, PubMed,
  5. “Aerosol Cans: Guide to Handling and Disposal for Businesses”, WI DNR,