How to Sand/Clean Up Your Pieces Post Bake

You’ve done it, you’ve created the perfect piece, and it looks gorgeous and is ALMOST ready to be assembled but now it’s time to clean them up! Where do you even start?

Let me start off by saying so many creators have their unique way of cleaning up their pieces whether that be using acetone, sandpaper or a Dremel.  I have been creating earrings for almost 4 years at this point and I will be sharing what has worked best for me! I have tried all options and I just fell in love with my process, and I stuck with it.

I also want to talk about acetone and alcohol and how they come into play! They can be an amazing tool and while I personally recommend using acetone specifically sparingly, they can be such useful products to use! Especially isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol is best used pre-bake, but it is so important, nonetheless.

First thing I like to do post bake is get right into sanding. I personally prefer to use wet/dry sandpaper overall! I enjoy the control I have versus using a sanding machine like a Dremel. That isn’t to say the Dremel tool isn’t extremely useful for quick sanding and many other functions, but I have always preferred good old sandpaper. I feel like it’s so easy to fold it up and get into small nooks and crannies and even roll it up to use it in areas that are round. You can wet it and use it to polish pieces as well and that makes it multifunctional, which I love. 

The sandpaper brand I use specifically isn’t too rough, which is necessary because polymer clay is durable but can get scratched up easily. It’s important to find the right grit to ensure that doesn’t happen! If it does happen, though, here’s where acetone comes in to be a great resource. Dab a Q-Tip into some acetone and rub it on the edges of your piece and that will clean it right up! Always remember to use acetone sparingly though and be aware that using it on dark colors can create a white cast on your pieces. So, while it is such an amazing product to use for cleaning up your pieces, use with caution! 

After you have dedicated time to sanding your pieces, whether that be with sandpaper or a Dremel, I recommend taking your pieces over to some soap and water. I have found that sanding leaves your pieces dusty, and it can be difficult just blowing off the dust and leaving your pieces looking perfect afterwards. Giving them a soapy bath and even using a toothbrush (not the one you use on your teeth!) also helps a lot with cleaning your pieces right up.

Another tool I highly recommend is an X-Acto knife! Use carefully as the blade is very sharp but if you have never used one to clean up pieces, it is a game changer! I work with Sculpey Opal Clay often and I am always being asked how I clean up my pieces because if you’ve worked with opal clay… you know how challenging it can be to get rid of the glitter flakes that stick out. Using an X-Acto knife is what has made the clean-up process so much easier. Using the knife to cut off any pieces of glitter helps so much and will make your sanding process so much quicker. I like to use it for pieces that have a round center as well! I just run the X-Acto gently around the center to remove any excess clay from baking.

Using sharp cutters is always a great way to minimize how much sanding needs to be done, but it’s always good to know what tools you can use if you must do some additional clean up. And certain clays will require clean up regardless of whether the cutters were sharp or not, again, one being Sculpey Opal Clay!

Now let’s go back and talk about isopropyl alcohol! As mentioned before, it is better to use alcohol pre-bake. It is amazing for cleaning up light colored clays like WHITE. If you’ve worked with white, you know how hard it is to keep dust or any little pieces of dust from landing on your clay and making it look dirty. That’s where alcohol comes in! Use a Q-Tip and dip it into alcohol and VERY gently tough up your pieces, it will instantly remove any dirt that landing on the surface of your pieces. It’s almost magical watching it work! Don’t use too much as it will melt away the clay if you use too much or create a dent in your clay, and you don’t want that!

The last tip I’ll leave you with when it comes to cleaning up your pieces is… be patient! You spent a lot of time creating your beautiful clay creations and the last thing you want is to leave them looking messy because enough time wasn’t dedicated to cleaning them up post bake!

Blog written by Ilia Hernandez Sculpey Design Squad 2024

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