Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mod Podge Fraud?

So many of us have a love-hate relationship with mod podge. It can be messy and a bottle's not all that cheap, but man it can do some cool stuff! There have been pins floating around for homemade mod podge recipes. I hadn't looked at them yet, but after receiving this excellent Pinstrosity from Julie, I decided to take a closer look. 

The Original Pin
Julie says, "I was intrigued by this pin for homemade mod podge.  As I had amassed a handful of other pins that required mod podge, I figured rather than spend ten dollars on a jar of real mod podge I'd make my own out of a two dollar bottle of glue.  Hey, that's like an 80% savings, right?  Wrong.  I made the 50/50 mix of glue and water just as the pin instructed and proceeded to use it to try out the fabric covered switch plate (found here I had pinned earlier." 

The Pinstrosity
"The faux mod podge was WAY too runny and even when I had the fabric totally saturated it wouldn't adhere to the plastic switch plate like it did in the pin.  At this point I was unsure if the problem was the mod podge or just trying to adhere fabric to plastic in general.  Resolved to figure out what the real issue was, I bought a jar of real mod podge, went back to my switch plate project, where (surprise, surprise) the fabric finally adhered to the plastic."

"So, now I have a ten dollar bottle of mod podge and a seemingly useless jar of watered down school glue.  Perhaps this fake mod podge would be better suited for applications of paper on paper, but why not just use undiluted glue for that?  After my disaster, I'd rather not find out what happens to paper when this stuff is applied to it (I'll leave that for someone else)."

What Went Wrong:
Julie didn't have a photo of her Pinstrosity, and this all piqued my curiosity, so I decided to see what I could figure out. Pretty much all the mod podge recipes were the same, an equal ratio of glue to water. After reading all those I ask the same question as Julie...why not just use undiluted glue at that point? But I decided to try it out anyway. I found a plastic bottle I has stuck in my "Trash to Crafts" box, and then pulled out a fabric scrap and a paper scrap to test this on. Here's my experience:

  • First off, the concoction was definitely way too runny. It ran all over the bottle and didn't stay where I wanted it to, which made it difficult to apply a good coat. 
  • It wasn't hardly sticky enough. Neither the fabric nor the paper wanted to stick to the plastic bottle. They finally did, but not well. 
  • As it dried, pieces of the fabric and paper un-stuck to the bottle leaving bubbles and wrinkles, which might have a been combination of the goop just not being sticky enough and because... 
  • ...It took FOR-E-VER to dry. Way longer than Mod Podge does. 

I can't say FOR-E-VER without The Sandlot going through my head. 

  • When it was all dry, the corners had become unstuck. I was curious how strong the bond was now that the goop was dry. I very gently pulled at the corner (no joke, I asserted the same force as if I were picking up a piece of paper off the table), and it peeled off quick and easy. I've tried peeling off things stuck with mod podge before...what happens with mod podge, stays with mod podge. There's no peeling it off, unless you want pieces and shreds. 

This photo doesn't show it very well, but you can still see some of the bubbles in both the paper and the fabric that formed while drying in the left photo. You can also see the thread from the edge of the fabric that had come loose (which I made sure to goop down to the bottle). Then in the photo on the right...that fabric and paper is not stiff at's still very bendable, foldable, movable, and very not-stuck to the plastic bottle.

Why Doesn't This Work? 
An article entitled "Why you shouldn't make your own Mod Podge" by Mod Podge Rocks* states that "Mod Podge is a step above craft glue in terms of the sealing properties. Mod Podge is glue, but it's also a sealer - and there are varnishes, etc. in the formula that don't exist in craft glues." Mod Podge is just made with different stuff than craft or school glue, and most the time that other "stuff" is stronger and more superior (and higher quality means higher price). The article continues on, explaining why homemade Mod Podge just doesn't cut it:

"A lot of the homemade recipes take craft glue and dilute it with water, which is just about the worst thing you can do to make a decoupage medium of any sort. You're taking a glue that is inferior to decoupage medium and made it even thinner by adding water. This is why I receive pictures all the time of ruined furniture or home decor items that didn't last more than a few years before the paper started peeling off or yellowing BADLY. In the short term, the projects might seem okay, but over the years, the projects go down the toilet."

So...Long Story Short (or I should say long post short), just buy the real thing. It's worth it.

*Anderson, A. (2011, November 19). Why you shouldn't make your own Mod Podge. Retrieved 03 04, 2012, from Mod Podge Rocks:


  1. It didn't work for me either! I repinned it in my "Pinned stuff I tried" and explained it didn't work. Sticking with the real thing. : )

  2. hmm that would explain why the paper is peeling off the drawers I did - I thought it was because of the plastic

  3. I made this also and it was super runny. I have never used real mod podge, but I figured it wasnt supposed to be that runny. I ended up using a bottle and a half of glue and a bottle of water. It seems to work..... but I have only used it once, and it was on a binder not plastic. I may have to break it out again and test it.

  4. I've been using watered down school glue for paper collage projects for over ten years - these, however, are always paper on paper. Not sure how it would work for anything else. But at least you could use it for that! Great for doing paper boxes with tissue paper and the like.

  5. My friend that works in the craft dept told me to 50/50 modpodge and school glue, and that makes it go further. I haven't tried it, though.

  6. I've used school glue and water for mod podge before. It works great with paper our fabric, but not plastic. And I don't do 50/50. O use slightly more glue. The school glue mod podge idea isn't bad, actually.

  7. Until recently I've never heard of mod podge and have yet to try it because of the price tag. I've never tried working with fabrics and plastics normally papers and metals like scrapbook paper and an old veggie can and for that stuff I just use straight liquid starch like I used to as a kid to make home made masks and pinata's with balloons (so I guess that would be a polymer and paper). Other than it's messy on the fingers and takes a long time to dry it's my cheep way of doing things. I've heard of the 50/50 mix it always seemed that would be too runny though about a 70/30 mix between glue and water I would think about right though I never measure so just taking a guess here on ratio.

  8. I have tried the diy modge podge recipe, and for me it works great for paper decoupaging, I have done coasters and foam board photo mounting with it. It worked great.

  9. I made my own cookie tins this week out of Trader Joe's coffee cans and printed muslin. I used JoAnn's tacky glue diluted with water. Came out perfectly. Of course, the fabric is a bit stiff, but it's not like it's an heirloom piece, just something to mail cookies in. I suggest using JoAnn's as a cheap alternative. I tried using Tacky glue and it didn't work at all.

  10. We usually used a 2:1 glue to water ratio. Like someone else said, we have only ever used it on paper projects and the such.
    If I had something important (or heirloom worthy) to do, I'd probably spend the extra and get the real stuff.

  11. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm pretty sure that Mod Podge is a mix of white glue and acrylic, not white glue and water.


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