How to Make Envelope Glue in Four Ingredients

Psst! There’s a newer, improved version of this post that you really should read. Click here to check it out!

When I first started making handmade envelopes, I noticed a problem: I had to glue all my creations shut using regular Elmer’s glue. Which, you know, aesthetically isn’t a problem … but as far as utility, well, I’m sure my letter recipients had to destroy their envelopes, tearing with all their might, to get them open. Enter envelope glue … lick-to-seal envelope glue, nonetheless! Made with four ingredients that I always have on hand (well, minus the gelatin). Needless to say, my letter-writing world has been rocked.

Once you’ve made some handmade envelopes using my tutorial, you’ll want to assemble your envelope glue ingredients to make this recipe:

  • 3 TBSP white vinegar
  • 1 envelope gelatin (unflavored)
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract
  • 1 TSP sugar

Envelope Glue Ingredients

Once you have assembled the ingredients to make envelope glue, put the vinegar in a container with a lid, like the plastic one I am using here. The reason you will want to do this is once you have created your glue, you’ll have to keep it refrigerated because when it boils down to it, it’s a food product that will mold if left out.

Vinegar in a Container

Microwave the vinegar until it’s hot, about 30-45 seconds. If you’re like my mom and you don’t believe in microwaves, you’re welcome to boil it on the stovetop. The whole point is to dissolve the gelatin.

Add the gelatin to the vinegar and stir to dissolve. Once the gelatin has dissolved, add the sugar and vanilla extract. You should end up with a hot, watery mixture that has the exact color of honey.

Finished Envelope Glue

Now you’ve made envelope glue! Next, you’ll lay your envelopes on a smooth surface with the top flap flat and brush your envelope glue on the edges of the flap, like so:

Gluing

Gluing

Allow the glue to completely dry (I give it a good few hours), and now you’ve got a lick-to-seal handmade envelope! As for the leftover glue, put the lid on and refrigerate it. Remember that it will only last two weeks-ish, so try to make as many envelopes as possible in that timeframe to use it up. Every time you want to re-use it, you will need to restore its liquid state in the microwave (otherwise, it just looks like solid jello).

43 Comments

  1. says

    This is genious! Just a few weeks ago, I googled for such a glue without success, and now I stumble upon your recipe via Pinterest. Lucky me! Do you mind if I translate it into German for my site – with proper credits to you, of course?
    Greetings from Germany
    Anke

    • says

      Absolutely, Anke! Go for it … there’s no way I could translate it into German {my German stops at, randomly, being able to say “schmetterling”}, so I’m glad you can! :) I love the recipe because it’s sweet and vanilla-y, and if you paint it on in advance, it makes your envelopes hassle-free when you are ready to use them.

  2. Chris says

    Hi
    Great tutorial, one question, you mentioned that you needed to keep the glue in the fridge and it only lasting for 2weeks. Once youve painted it onto an envelope does the same apply- as in if you havent sealed it within 2 weeks will it no longer be good to use?

    Thanks

    • says

      Hi Chris!

      That’s a good question that made me think for a while. No, the glue on the envelope doesn’t go bad. I believe this is because there’s no moisture on the dried envelope glue for bacteria or mold to grow on. Once you paint the glue on, the liquid evaporates, leaving you with a sweet {dry} vanilla film that will become adhesive once exposed to moisture (just like any envelope). However, while it’s in the refrigerator, it is a moist concoction that mold and bacteria can grow on. The two week timeline is conservative; I have a jar in the refrigerator that has been fine for a month. :)

      Just like any envelope glue, it gets weaker over time, so I am uncertain as to whether handmade envelopes with this glue would still be effective after five years or a decade. However, the glue should be good for a couple of years, at least.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • says

        Thanks so much for getting back to me! We used this on some very special Xmas envelopes we were making, but added eggnog flavouring as well, and it worked great! I think we’ll be experimenting with some other flavours on some of our other envelopes too!We’d love it if you took a look and let us know what you think- http://www.cl-am.com/

        • says

          What a great idea to add a flavoring besides vanilla! Spearmint, maple, caramel, coffee … any of these things would be good as well. Really it could even add an extra layer of appeal to your product {not that your creations need more appeal — everything is *gorgeous*}.

          I love the minimalistic, chic feel of your website; and the stationery is beautiful and unique with strong attention to detail {the embossed seashell on the back of envelopes is lovely}. Keep up the wonderful work!

  3. Tori says

    Hi! This is a fabulous idea! Can we substitute the gelatin for anything else that can be found in a normal pantry? I would like to make this but unfortunately I don’t have the gelatin and I would like to use something simpler! Very awesome idea, must make for the upcoming holiday cards! :)

    • says

      Hi Tori!

      Yeah, gelatin is sort of an esoteric ingredient, to be sure. I bought a huge box of packets from Kroger in order to create envelope glue, and of course I didn’t use it fast enough; it expired a little under a month ago. I don’t think there would be any other substitute … perhaps agar agar, which also isn’t in an ordinary pantry!

      I’m sorry I don’t have any better solution for you. Gelatin seems to be the only thing you could use in this instance!

  4. Adeline says

    Thank you for this tutorial! I was just wondering if the gelatin is safe to eat or lick. Would it be dangerous if I licked to much of it? And I would also like to know which section the gelatin is located in Kroger! :) Thanks so much!

    • says

      Oh goodness no! Gelatin is used to make all sorts of strange culinary favorites … like, for example, pomegranate gelatin. Lick away without fear!

      I am trying to remember what section I found it in … I think it would probably be by the Jello {since that is, after all, just flavored gelatin with lots of sugar}. Your safest bet will be to ask an employee. Just tell them you need unflavored gelatin and they should be able to steer you in the right direction. :)

  5. Christi says

    This sounds like an easy and awesome recipe. Quick question, what did you use to put it on the envelope flaps? I make envelopes out of wallpaper sample books and rolls of wallpaper for a friend who does sweepstakes and was also wondering would this glue work on wallpaper?

  6. britt says

    I just tried this and my envelopes are not staying closed. I followed the directions but I did not put the vanilla or sugar in, does this affect the mixture?
    Should I try adding more gelatin? I added 2 1/2 teaspoons
    I let them dry for about 3 hours, was that not enough?
    Thin coat or thick coat when applying?

    • says

      Definitely don’t skip the sugar — I think that’s your problem! The vanilla shouldn’t make a difference.

      And when applying, I do a medium coat. I just dip my brush in and put one stroke on the envelope. It’s never failed me in the past! Let me know what happens when you try again. :)

  7. says

    I was just wondering about where on earth to get “envelope gelatin” I was wondering if I also could use the normal gelatin, because I’ve never seen that mysterious “envelope gelatin”….
    I got it now. 😉
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

    • says

      Hi Sibylle!

      “1 envelope gelatin” is actually how gelatin is sold and measured … here in the US, gelatin comes in little packets, called “envelopes”. It is just plain gelatin — and one envelope is equivalent to 1 tablespoon (or 1/4 oz.). :) So: you should be able to buy normal gelatin and measure it out.

      Enjoy!

  8. Moira says

    You have saved the day!! I went to seal & mail my wedding invitations, and realized (horror) that the envelopes the company sent had no glue on them!! I’m going to try this – fingers crossed!

    • Moira says

      We truly can’t thank you enough for this recipe!! It turned a disaster into something really cool :) Our thanks!!! I will recommend this to everyone – we can’t believe how well it worked!

      • says

        That is *so* weird that they would send you envelopes without glue already on them!! But I’m really glad to hear that the recipe saved the day! It tastes a little nicer than your average envelope glue, too. :)

  9. Lavette says

    Thx so much for this recipe! I just purchased an envelope board and didn’t think about sealing the envelopes until I was finished with a stack of envelopes to use. Found your recipe and am extremely grateful for it. Will make some tonight.

    • says

      I am not sure about using flavored gelatin … but I do know that you can skip the vanilla! I would guess that flavored would work, but if you used that, I wouldn’t add any sugar. I’d also be sure you’re adding 0.25 oz (appx. 2.5 tsp) of the flavored gelatin, which is how much a packet of plain gelatin is equivalent to. If you try the recipe with the flavored gelatin, please let me know the results! I’m curious. :)

  10. Meg says

    Can this be used to seal the other flaps of a diy envelope as well? I am talking about the body of the envelope as opposed to future use on the flap? Sure would be a more economical option than double-stick tape or glue stick (which I don’t trust!)

    • says

      Hi Meg!

      You could use it, but the seal wouldn’t be as strong. The reason I like using this glue for flaps is it’s easy for recipients to open the envelopes after they’ve been sealed, just like commercial envelope glue. I personally like to use white glue (e.g. Elmer’s) for the rest of the envelope … it’s nice and strong!

  11. Christine Donaldson says

    Thank you so much for the instructions on how to make home made envelope glue, I tried it this evening and it has worked just fine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>