Non-Toxic Glues and Caulks

Updated in summer 2019

Testing glues and silicones was the hardest part of building my tiny house since I did this when I was highly sensitive. But you're going to need glues, caulks and adhesives if you are building so it's a good idea to start testing them out. This post covers low VOC, non-toxic options that are suitable for the chemically sensitive or the health conscious.

This post contains affiliate links on products I recommend. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Non-Toxic Wood Glues

It's difficult to extrapolate a small jar of dry glue to a house filled with it. (In retrospect I would have tested a much larger dry sample.) I smelled them wet because I got a clearer sign of their relative effects on me. Since I have not figured out a better way to test materials, that's what I'm working with. It is often a better idea to sniff something dry as the rate of offgassing and curing can vary greatly between chemicals.

Here were my reactions to different glues.

Gorilla Glue - I found this to be difficult when wet, but not terrible. It seemed fine to me when dry. (Easy to find at hardware stores and on Amazon.)

Elmer's Wood Glue - Not good for me when wet, but many chemically sensitive prefer this brand (Carried at hardware stores and on Amazon)

safe healthy 0 VOC wood glues
Roo Glue was great for me
Roo Glue - White and wood glue - Not great when wet, but not terrible. Seemed totally benign when dry. The severely sensitive should try this brand even though it's special order. (Available in the US and it ships to Canada).

Titebond - This is a brand that is recommended for chemically sensitive folks. I had already picked Roo Glue before I got a chance to test it. I do know people that build for the chemically sensitive who use this brand. (Easy to find at hardware stores and on Amazon). I would start here since it's inexpensive and easy to order from Amazon and find in stores.

ECOS Wood glue - ECOS makes extremely tolerable products, and while I didn't get a chance to test this one, I would expect it to be quite good.

Hide Glue is the most natural glue option for wood. It is a strong glue with no VOCs but it is not waterproof. You can mix it yourself from beads or flakes for the most natural option, or you can buy it ready made which does contain additives.

Non-Toxic Caulks

Which Caulks are Mildewcide Free?

I would recommend getting a non-sensitive person to put them in jars and only testing them after they have dried. Note that caulks labeled for bathrooms or mildew resistant contain a mildewcide. Currently GE I is mildewcide free, GE II contains a mildewcide and DAP makes an aquarium caulk that is free of mildewcides. Any caulk labeled aquarium safe is free of mildewcides. AFM Safecoat and Chemlink Durasil are also mildewcide free.

Top Non-Toxic Caulk Brands

All caulks have a chemical odour when wet. I tested them at 24 hours, 48 hours and one week.

are aquarium caulks safe and non toxic, no offgassing
Aquarium caulks I did not do well with
AFM Safecoat Caulk - Not the best when wet, not the best at 24 hours, but the best at one week. I used this in my bathroom, you can use this around the shower and sink. It can be used around doors and windows.

It comes in white and is generally a replacement for silicone. It is polyether resin that does not contain solvents (it's not acrylic, latex, silicone or polyurethane). It is non-shrinking. 0-VOC. It does not contain a mildewcide. 35% elongation.

GE Silicone II Clear Caulk - This may be a better choice for the exterior. It was not as good at one week as AFM or Ecobond (Ecobond now out of business). We used this on the underbelly of my house and on my windows. It is low-VOC. I find that after a couple weeks it is fine for me. GE I is the one without mildewcide. 50% elongation.

ChemLink DuraSil - This type of silicone-replacement caulk (also polyether) is highly tolerable. This company makes great products that you can find at the Green Design Center. I have not tested this one myself but I would expect it to be up there with the most tolerable. No mildewcide. It comes in clear and white. 50% elongation.

Aquarium Caulks - I have read that aquarium caulk is the least toxic because fish are exposed to it and they can't handle chemicals. I tested two brands, Aquarium Silicone Caulker and one called Marina from a local pet food store, they were much more expensive than brands for home use (for no reason), and they were both the worst of the worst. So bad I would not recommend testing or using these brands. One super sensitive person preferred the Aquarium caulk Aqueon to GE and Ecobond.

Chemlink also makes an elastomeric caulk for sealing concrete and masonry called NovaLink35. I haven't tested this one, but again it's a great brand.

Caulking Materials - What Caulks are Made of:

Polyurethane caulks - usually contains isocyanate. Not as safe.

Acrylic Latex caulk - they have mildewcides in them. Painters caulk are usually acrylic latex and are sandable and paintable.

Silicone - While silicone itself is not toxic, chemicals are added to keep caulking in liquid form are. These chemicals offgas at different rates until the product is fully cured. For silicone caulk, look for 100% silicone, but each brand has different additives which affect people differently and offgass at different rates. 100% silicone is not really 100% silicone, but the chemical additives are not listed. Solvents used to keep silicone in liquid form are listed here.

Polyether - specialty silicone replacement materials are often polyether.

Non-Toxic Adhesives

safe healthy 0 VOC construction adhesive
Construction Adhesive

Construction adhesives are used for subfloors, to install doors (glue down threshold), exterior brickwork, under countertops etc.

The best adhesive I have ever tested is AFM Almighty Adhesive. I had absolutely no problem and no reaction to smelling it while it was wet. This was a pleasant surprise after all the other glues and silicones. It is a highly tolerable very low chemical multipurpose adhesive (make sure it's right for your application). Insider tip, this is the same formula as Build Secure by Chemlink. I used Almighty this to install my shower, on subfloors, countertops and really anywhere this can be used since it's the healthiest adhesive I have found. It has many applications, I always use this one if it works for the project.

Chemlink Wallsecure is a good adhesive for subfloors (they say less toxic than Liquid Nails).

Liquid Nails subfloor adhesive is also well tolerated by many.

Ecotite is another good brand liked by the chemically sensitive. Their ET 5500 is an adhesive that works on a number of surfaces. The 9500 is used for windows, doors and some kitchen applications. These links are to a Canadian store but you can find this product in the US as well.

Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 5 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.

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The Multiple Chemical Survivor said...

Holy Toledo you are a brave soul! Thank you for your sacrifice and for your information.

Corinne said...

ooooh god...yeah you know how it is! not a sacrifice though...I had to do it, the builders needed answers and NOW!

The Multiple Chemical Survivor said...

Hi Corinne...Did you by any chance test mastic sealant? I need to have my heating ducts inspected and sealed and they say it's required by law to use this stuff, but there must be a safer alternative. It is supposedly best because it's flexible, but it also offgases methanol, ethylene glycol, and ammonia. I fear I'd be homeless if they use it...You have so much experience with all your experimentation I thought you might know.

The Multiple Chemical Survivor said...

I think I found my answer in your blog...on another post you mention RCD #6 Mastic. This is less toxic than what they would normally use?

Thank you so much for all your expertise on safe construction!! You are a life saver!

Frank Lange said...

The safest toxic free adhesives and sealants are ECO-BOND
They make a toxic free alternative to every product for caulking, adhesives, and silicone

mark1spot said...

I agree with Frank, and I suffer mightily from MCS. I did a side-by-side simultaneous comparison between Almighty and another AFM Safecoat product vs. ECO-BOND Multi-Purpose and Kitchen-Bath-Plumbing. For me, ECO-BOND products were less offensive, both initially and after 24 and 48 hours and beyond. Both companies' products worked fine in terms of their intended use.

mark1spot said...

Corinne: Thank you so much for the specific product reviews and recommendations for MCS sufferers (like me) and builders!!!

Corinne said...

thanks for the info!

Meri Rohaman said...

If you are accomplishing wood on the concrete slab attempt to find a formaldyde-free plywood.

Kristen Killebrew said...

thanks so much! will try the safe coat adhesive too!

Unknown said...

You are a brave lady for doing all that testing. I have to have two window panes installed and it has to be caulked and I couldn't find any at all. I will be able to now have those windows fixed and keep out the cold air.

Antonio Chiarenza said...

where did you get eco-bond? I have tried to order it, repeatedly, through and it doesn't come. they and I have followed up with the manufacturer, who never answers the phone and doesn't return messages. very frustrating. looks like a good product but we can't keep waiting: you don't want to know how long it's been since I've had a shower! with summer coming baths just have no appeal. would like to try it but if we can't get it soon will probably go with one of the 100% silicone caulks.

wondering if anyone has tried gorilla adhesive and or gorilla 100% silicone sealant/caulk? they may be newer than this article. I thought of them because I was ok with the original gorilla glue. I actually found your excellent reviews here by searching for more information on the voc content of those gorilla products.

thank you for sharing your test results.

Paul said...

Antonio, I just ordered directly from eco-bond. All the other places I checked didn't have it for sale anymore.

Corinne said...

Ecobond is certainly having some problems right now with getting orders out and with their other suppliers. This has happened before, people frequently say or think they are going out of business. I'm not sure what's happening.

Corinne said...

You should not put Purbond or the bamboo ply on a slab.

Tina Marie said...

Did the EcoBond mold quickly? I've heard complaints it didn't last more than a few months.

Jt said...

I saw on the better business bureau that ecobond is commuting fraud... charging people for orders, printing/preparing shipping label but then not mailing product. They are also overcharging people by hundreds. Makes me so sad because we love their product!:(

Harry said...

The white adhesive caulking made by Eco Bond did not perform well for me in outdoor applications. It broke down and disintegrated after a few months! The clear adhesive sealant was amazing! The best product I have ever used. Unfortunately this company is out of business but is still taking orders but not sending out products. If you order from them they will charge your credit card but you will receive no product. You can verify this via the Better Business Bureau. I hope this helps someone.

Unknown said...

You sound brilliant! How about a non toxic sealant for a 120 sq ft butterfly house?

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