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How to Use Glass Hotfix Rhinestones With or Without Heat

Updated on July 13, 2013

Glass hotfix rhinestones add bling to home décor, clothing, and other things people use or show off.

They are the small things that make a tutu sparkle at the ballet (alongside the tiara or diadem the lead dancer wears). They add glitz and high-end glamor to an evening dress or a gown for prom or homecoming. They even turn everyday outfits into something special.

If you haven't heard of hotfix rhinestones, picture this. Have you been to the notions section of a store and seen a package of iron-on crystals? Those in the pack are the types mentioned here. They are so named because they each have a heat-activated adhesive on the back. When a heat source is applied to the tops of them, the adhesive melts (it turns glossy) and absorbs into the surface.

"Rainbow" rhinestones, Chinese made.
"Rainbow" rhinestones, Chinese made.

Some Types of Hotfix Rhinestones

Hotfix rhinestones are made of glass, which can withstand heat pretty well than acrylic ones. The latter group can only be glued or sewn on to clothing.

But not all stones are created equal.

Myriad high-end designers use Swarovski Austrian crystal ones, which provides the dazzle their fashions need. While some normal crafters use them, most others are looking for the same dazzle at a more convenient price.

Second to cost but just as beautiful as them are the Czech ones, Preciosa included. They are a little bit less brilliant that the Swarovski types, but they still give items that "expensive" look.

Chinese-made stones offer bling for a low price and they are sold at most discount stores, craft or otherwise. But some users and sewing notion experts discover that they're better off hand gluing them without a heat source because the glue can sometimes be inferior. Also, there may be flaws in the cut of the stones.

Left - SS10 cobalt; Right - SS6 clear. All stones are Korean
Left - SS10 cobalt; Right - SS6 clear. All stones are Korean


You can use various brands of hotfix stones! When using stones of various lead contents, fire, and facets, you can create a more interesting look.

The best hotfix rhinestones that comfortably save you money and still give you that huge bling are the Korean high quality ones. They have some of the best quality inspections, giving you consistent dazzle for a convenient price. A few crystals have a few flaws, mostly unlike even the high caliber ones from China. but the glue is generally better.

DMC (diamante machine cut) rhinestones are other cost-saving types for great quality. Most high-quality ones are essentially updated Korean rhinestones. Though a bit more dear than the standard Korean ones, they are a bit more quality controlled, more precisely cut, and some are even more faceted.

China does make some DMC's, but it's better to hand-glue them since the glue may or may not be as strong.

Low-lead jewels are increasingly available for use if you are concerned about lead or if you are decorating children's clothing.They may be more or less brilliant than top-shelf ones, but they are some of the safest. When you use them, you probably wouldn't go back to gluing acrylic gems (the safest rhinestones due to no lead content) by hand.

Here, I embellished the pockets and the margin between them of my Disney cruise fish extender with hotfix stones.
Here, I embellished the pockets and the margin between them of my Disney cruise fish extender with hotfix stones.

Appying Heat

Hotfix rhinestones can be applied by means of a heat source, on many porous materials and fabrics. You can apply them by a (mainly holeless) household iron or press to some fabrics that can withstand heat well.

For delicates, an applicator with the smallest flat tip works well, providing that you are careful with it and not touch the fabric. (It's always a good idea to test it on a scrap piece of fabric before embarking on the projects to determine which heating method to use.)

A fanny pack from a garage sale or a dusty attic becomes a mall-worthy item for a fraction of the price thanks to quality Korean stones!
A fanny pack from a garage sale or a dusty attic becomes a mall-worthy item for a fraction of the price thanks to quality Korean stones!

Loose Stones and Iron

There are many ways to heat-set rhinestones by iron. Instructions can vary, but here's one of them.

First, place your rhinestones at their desired places. (For rather thin fabrics, place a piece of paper underneath or inside if it's sewn into a top.) You may want to iron-on a transfer of your desired pattern to see where they should be. Carefully cover the surface with a piece of thin cloth.

Then place your iron preheated at a low setting (I recommend holeless because you can apply even pressure on the rhinestones, thus heating them evenly. The ones rarely have a steam feature, which is a no-no when doing this.) on top of the stones and hold for several seconds. It may take 15-30 seconds for the adhesive to melt, depending on stone size. If it's large, do it section by section. (Make sure you keep the iron steady to ensure that the stones are still in place.)

After heating, wait until it's cool to the touch, then feel each stone. If it's loose, carefully reposition it, cover it, and iron again for several seconds until secure.

Using Premade Transfers and Iron

Though ironing loose stones gives you a sense of creativity, ready-made iron-on transfers almost instantly decorate your clothing or home décor without the hassle of repositioning them. They come in many designs. You can get them at discount and craft stores, but you can order custom-made ones (designs in school teams and all) online.

Carefully peel the transfer off its backing (some brands have tape that can be reused). Then place it on a desired area of your surface, with the paper between it if it's a thin material top or pants.

Then place the preheated iron on top of the design for 15-30 seconds, working in sections by lifting and placing to move the iron only, if needed. (Some manufacturers instruct you to turn the shirt or other material inside out and place the iron on it to secure the design.) This can also be done using a heat press, if you have the money or if you own an apparel store.

Here's one of my old hats from childhood, upgraded and upcycled with hotfix stones (and rhinestuds, which are metal pieces that look like rhinestones).
Here's one of my old hats from childhood, upgraded and upcycled with hotfix stones (and rhinestuds, which are metal pieces that look like rhinestones).

Using an Applicator

Though irons and presses are the most common heat sources for hotfix rhinestones, heat setting tools allow you to better control where you put them. They can either be cordless (great for on-the-go or for power outages) or corded.

If it has a tip for a particular stone size, screw it on. Let the tool heat up by turning it on and leaving it on if corded or by holding the on button if cordless. This can take anywhere between 3-5 minutes depending on brand.

The application methods vary by tool. Some have grooves that enable you to pick up the stone invert it to see if the glue melts, and place it on a desired area of a shirt. Others have a flat tip in which you place it directly on the stone and wait for 15-30 seconds until it has a little give to it. (It's useful for delicates, albeit safer to just hand-glue the stones.)

If you want to change tips, turn the tool off and either let that cool or use a potholder to take off the tip and place it on a heatproof surface.

Using Other Sources

Although hotfix stones have glue already on the backs, gluing them on manually is an alternative option for people who want to apply them on surfaces that tend to be ruined when heated (especially on delicates) or on non-porous surfaces. The latter group includes bottles, plastic frames, and many cell phone covers. It can also be used with two-part epoxy clay in place of acrylic ones because they can withstand heat well.

A Cheap Choice for Those who Want More than Acrylic Crystals to Dazzle Anything

One of the things I did with surplus hotfix stones - made this charming pendant.
One of the things I did with surplus hotfix stones - made this charming pendant.

Hotfix rhinestones are some of the best stones to use to liven up items. They can turn a dowdy secondhand store ensemble into something ready to be sold at the mall without the hefty price. Besides being ironed to attach to porous surfaces, it can also be glued by hand to those that aren't. So why not give those dazzling pieces a whirl and liven up the things you have or the projects you make?


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    • talfonso profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      @bridalletter You're very welcome! I hope you'll find good quality glass hotfix rhinestones at an affordable price!

    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 

      8 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you for sharing the important differences in quality and cost. Very useful hub.


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