Electroluminescent wire, better known as El wire, is a type of light source that comes in a variety of sizes, colours and lengths.

It is a copper wire coated in phosphor that lights up when an alternating current is sent through it. 

It has many applications that range from Cosplay, Decoration, Safety lighting, toys etc.

But, El wire can be a bit cumbersome to work with. Keeping it in place to form a shape can prove quite difficult, which can raise stress levels (as I have experienced this firsthand).

Can you hot glue el wire to keep it in place? Yes, you can hot wire El wire. As the wire is covered in a clear plastic coating, using hot glue will not damage the El wire. 

Why it is ok to hot glue El wire

To better understand why it is ok to hot glue El wire, let us take a closer look at the different components that make up the construction of El wire. 

El wire is made up of 5 components which include (starting from inner core to outer core), Copper, Phosphor Coating, Clear Protective Sleeve, and Coloured PVC sleeve.

The El wire produces an electroluminescence light when an alternating current is applied between the copper wire and the fine wire that surrounds the copper core. 

So, the first two components of the el wire are the crucial parts of the producing light and since there are high voltages and frequencies involved, they are protected by two layers of plastic covering. 

These plastic coverings protect the el wire’s inner components from bending, external forces, liquids etc. 

Hot glue is used in many adhesive applications from its ease of use and strong hold.

It is primarily made of a thermoplastic material which is non-conductive. 

So, using hot glue to secure el wire is not a problem as the el wire is protected by two layers of plastic covering. 

Will hot glue damage El wire?

Hot glue is a great way to make secure connections in many different applications.

The main concern when using hot glue with el wire is whether it will damage the outer layers with the heat that is generated.

The process of applying hot glue involves a hot glue gun that uses a heating element that melts the glue stick.

The melted glue then oozes out through the nozzle of the gun. It is in this semi liquid state for under a minute or so before it solidifies.

However, when in the semi liquid state, it can be quite hot.

But, can it be hot enough to melt or damage the outer layers of the el wire? No, the hot glue in this semi liquid state will not melt or damage the outer layers of the wire as it does not reach temperatures high enough to do so. 

Hot glue is used with materials such as cardboard, paper, plastic etc, and does not damage their structural integrity.

So, using hot glue on el wire should be just fine and will not damage its structural integrity either. 

Beware however, that touching hot glue while hot can be quite nasty!

Why would you want to hot glue El wire?

Great! So you can hot glue el wire!

But, what’s the main reason for using hot glue on el wire?

The main reason for using hot glue on the el wire is to provide a permanent (but reversible) bond between the el wire and the surface you are trying to secure it to.

El wire, unlike standard Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s), come in varying lengths. 

As we know now, they are covered in PVC sheathing. 

While this is great at protecting the inner cores of the El wire, and being flexible, it can be quite annoying when it comes to forming shapes and keeping in place.

It tends to want to do its own thing which can raise stress levels!

So, using some sort of adhesive like hot glue to keep it secure and in place is required.  

What types of surfaces can you hot glue El wire to?

The great thing about hot glue is that it can be used on many different materials and surfaces without damaging them and still providing a secure bond.

The  general rule of thumb is that hot glue can be used on rough surfaces where it can fill in the crevices.

Surfaces such as fabrics, woven materials, plastics and rough surfaces like cardboard and wood.

The smoother the surface, the harder it will be for hot glue to create a bond with the el wire and that surface.

Smooth surfaces that could cause an issue include:

  • Vinyl
  • Metals
  • Silicone
  • Glass

What problems could arise from using hot glue on El wire?

Using hot glue to secure El wire has many advantages, however, it does have its disadvantages too. 

Disadvantage #1 using hot glue on El wire: Block Light

First on the list of disadvantages is that the hot glue could block or diffuse the light of El wire on parts where it is used.

When hot glue is in the semi-liquid state it is quite clear. However, when it solidifies it can turn opaque (not transparent). 

So, say you are trying to mount El Wire on your wall to create a design. If too much hot glue is applied and ends up covering some parts of the El wire, it could block the light from the specific spot of the El wire.

Disadvantage #2 using hot glue on El wire: Messy

Next on the list is that hot glue can get quite messy. You might know this personally from experience using hot glue, otherwise take my word for it.

Hot glue has a mind of its own! 

If you are using it for personal projects it’s not much of an issue, but if you need to use it in projects or applications that need a more professional look, it might be better to use other alternatives (which I will discuss below).

Disadvantage #3 using hot glue on El wire: Cheap glue sticks

The third disadvantage is that not all glue sticks and glue guns are the same. 

If you opt for getting the cheaper kind, you might pay the price in the long run. 

Cheaper glue guns do not not heat up the glue sticks properly, and cheaper glue sticks do not provide a strong enough bond (plus it’s even messier!)

So, spend that little bit more and save yourself from catastrophe!

Disadvantage #4 using hot glue on El wire: Smooth Surfaces

Finally, on the list of disadvantages of using hot glue with el wire is that hot glue doesn’t adhere well to smooth surfaces. 

As you saw earlier, it needs rough surfaces to be able to create a bond.

Is there a particular type of hot glue for El wire?

No, there isn’t a specific type of hot glue that you will need to use for El wire.

Any type of hot glue is just fine. 

However, with cheaper glue sticks, you will have problems with the strength of their bonds. I have purchased the cheap glue sticks and have seen many of my projects perish due to the lack of strength of the hot glue.

Do you need a glue gun to hot glue El wire?

Yes. You will need a hot glue gun.

The hot glue gun has the ability to melt the glue stick into a semi-liquid state which you can then apply onto the El wire. 

Other ways of securing El wire other than hot glue

Hot glue is a great way to secure EL wire. 

However, there are certain instances where hot glue isn’t appropriate and other means of securing the El wire might be required. 

Below are other ways you can secure El wire:

  • Cellotape 
  • Blu tack
  • Thumbtack
  • Super glue
  • Cable ties
  • Cable tie mounts
  • Cable clips

What kind of applications would you need to hot glue el wire

El wire opens up the door to many more applications that standard LEDs would not be able to provide the same effect.

The main selling point is  that El wire is a continuous path of evenly projected light. Due to this it can be used in multiple different applications.

Applications like:

  • Vehicle lighting
  • Structure decoration
  • Toys
  • Cosplay
  • Arts and Crafts

Using hot glue would be essential in securing the El wire in place in many of these applications. 

Basically, any application where you need to secure the El wire to a surface, or itself, would require the use of hot glue.