10 surprising facts about polymer clay

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Since its creation, polymer clay has captured the hearts of many artists and crafters with its versatility and durability. This easy-to-use clay allows crafters to shape and create the objects of their imaginations. Because polymer clay is soft and bendable, it's also a great medium for children and beginner crafters. No matter your experience level, we have polymer clay that will be a good fit for you!

If you're new to the world of polymer clay or simply curious about polymer clay facts, we are excited to share our knowledge with you. As passionate lifelong crafters, we hope to inspire you to explore, craft and experience the joy of claying. Keep reading to learn the facts about oven-bake polymer clay — you might learn something new or something that challenges what you had previously assumed about this wonderful medium.

What Is Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is a popular medium for making jewelry, beads, charms, figurines, picture frames and other handmade creations. You can make just about anything you can dream up with polymer clay. It's also great for covering and decorating other objects made of glass, wood, metal or some plastics. You can easily turn any object into a one-of-a-kind gift with polymer clay!

There are several variations of polymer clay with different consistencies and finishes. You can play around with different types of polymer clay to achieve unique results. Here are some of the most common varieties: 

  • Original Sculpey® is soft and pliable, perfect for children and beginners.
  • Sculpey Soufflé™ is lightweight and flexible with a suede finish that is ideal for making jewelry.
  • Super Sculpey® is denser and bakes to a ceramic-like consistency that is perfect for creating sculptures with fine details.
  • Sculpey Premo™ comes in a wide range of traditional and specialty colors with a texture that is flexible yet firm for experienced artists.
  • Liquid Sculpey®is a liquid polymer clay that can be used to fill silicone molds for custom jewelry, home decor and even scrapbooking.

What Is Polymer Clay Made Of?

Polymer clay is a synthetic type of modeling clay. The primary ingredient is a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) base. Other ingredients like fillers, pigments and bendable plasticizers are added to create the finished product. 

These components work together to give polymer clay its flexibility, texture, softness and vibrant color. Polymer clay remains pliable until it's baked in the oven. Your polymer creations will cure at a much lower temperature than natural clay, so there is no need for a kiln. The finished product is rigid and firm. 

polymer clay is extremely versatile.

How Can I Use Polymer Clay? 

Polymer clay is extremely versatile and can be used for hundreds of different projects. From creating delicate earrings and ornaments to figurines and decorative vases, the options are endless. Polymer clay comes in various colors and consistencies to create large statement pieces or miniature sculptures with fine details. The challenging part is deciding what to make. Here are some clay tips for beginners to inspire your next creation: 

  • Mix and match: You can mix multiple polymer clays to achieve your desired color, weight or consistency. Try mixing a few colors thoroughly for a custom shade, or stop halfway to create a marbled effect. You can even stack different shapes and roll them together gently to create a colorful pattern. 
  • Add some paint: Painting polymer clay is a great way to add the finishing touches to your creation. You can add fine details or paint a bold design. Either way, water-based acrylic paint is ideal for coloring polymer clay. For the best results, wait until after your clay has been cured in the oven and completely cooled before you start painting. 
  • Carve in the details: Carving is another way to add texture and detail to your polymer clay creation. Instead of adding clay, you are scraping it away to add dimension. You can carve polymer clay while it's soft or wait until it's cured for more precision and control. Different tools can help you achieve unique patterns and designs. 

10 Surprising Facts About Polymer Clay 

If you're a seasoned crafter or just starting out, you might be surprised to learn these interesting facts about polymer clay: 

1. It's Non-Toxic

Have you dreamt of decorating a coffee mug with little polymer clay pugs? Do you wish to cover a spoon handle in clay vines and butterflies? Have no fear — you can go ahead and make a dog-lovers mug or springtime-spoon without worries. Polymer clay is non-toxic, so it is completely safe to use around children and pets. 

If your child bites into their handmade clay pizza, the only consequence is a yucky taste in their mouth. However, even though polymer clay is non-toxic, eating a bowl of clay spaghetti for dinner might cause a stomachache. We recommend polymer clay for children over 8 who are less tempted to chow down on their clay creations. 

polymer clay does not give off toxic fumes

Worried about baking clay in the oven? No need to worry — it's safe to use the same oven or toaster oven you use to cook food to cure your clay. However, avoid baking clay on surfaces you plan to use for food. Keep the following tips in mind, and you should have no health issues with polymer clay:

  • Follow the baking directions: Bake your clay at the appropriate temperature. Although polymer clay fumes are not dangerously toxic, fumes at high temperatures may cause eye, nose or mouth irritation if projects get too hot in the oven. Always follow recommended baking times and do not bake creations in the microwave. If clay burns, open windows for ventilation and treat the situation as if you had burned food.
  • Keep out of your mouth: Don't eat polymer clay.
  • Clean your hands: Wash your hands after handling clay or use baby wipes for cleanup.
  • Separate meal times and crafting: Avoid eating and crafting with clay at the same time.
  • Keep clay away from food: Avoid coating utensils or cooking tools in polymer clay.

All of our polymer clay products are tested to ensure safety and meet the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) standards. Our products are free of allergens like wheat, gluten, dairy, sulfur or latex.

2. It Dries Faster Than Air-Dry Clay

Are you excited to create a polymer clay gift for someone's birthday? Do you tend to wait until the last minute to get things done? As long as you use polymer clay, you should be alright, even if you only have a few hours to make the gift and get to the birthday party. If you used air-dry clay, you might have to stop at the store and pick up a last-minute gift instead.

Air-dry clay takes a lot longer than polymer clay to be ready because you have to let it sit for at least 24 to 48 hours to completely dry. With polymer clay, time is in your hands. Polymer clay cures in the oven at low temperatures. Depending on the clay you use and your project's dimensions, it could take between 15-30 minutes to cure. If you plan accordingly, you can complete a project from start to finish in only a few hours. 

3. It Stays the Same Shape and Size 

When you create something with polymer clay, you can expect it to stay the same size throughout the entire process. Polymer clay doesn't shrink or expand. Your fine details and intricate patterns will look the same coming out of the oven as they did going in. Your creations will stay true to scale so you can visualize the finished product before you cure the clay. 

With polymer clay, it's easy to design specifically-sized pieces. It's the perfect medium for measuring and covering glass, wood and metal. As long as you follow the packaging's baking instructions, what you create is what you'll get.

4. It Maintains a Vibrant Color

If polymer clay is baked correctly, it will stay the same color after it's cured. So if you just completed an adorable pastel macaron photo holder, you can pop it in the oven with peace of mind. Your macarons will look brilliantly scrumptious for years to come.

Keep in mind that oven-bake clays can fade over time if stored in direct sunlight. For this reason, we recommend storing your creations and clay away from windows to keep their colors vibrant.

5. It Will Not Dry Out

If you are new to polymer clay crafting, you will soon discover the joy of using a medium that doesn't dry out. You can take your time with polymer clay and enjoy relaxing self-expression. That means if you're in the middle of a project and get interrupted or need to take a break, it's perfectly fine to walk away and continue crafting at another time. This freedom opens a lot of doors when it comes to creativity. You can make as many changes to projects as you wish until you're satisfied. 

polymer clay does not dry out

When your creation is complete, all you need to do is bake your project for the finishing touch.

Polymer clay is ideal for children because it stays soft for as long as you need. If they forget to put their crafts away, their clay will have the same consistency the next day. Kids can craft for hours until an adult is ready to help them with the baking process.

Wondering if polymer clay can go bad? When oven-bake clays are stored in a cool, dry place under 90 degrees Fahrenheit and out of direct sunlight, they can last for a few years. You can also store clay in the refrigerator or freezer to extend its lifespan

6. It's Durable

You'd be surprised how tough this soft, bendable clay is once it has cured. How strong is polymer clay exactly? If baked correctly, it will not weaken or shatter over time, making it a perfect medium for keepsake handprints. Our most durable clays are Sculpey Soufflé™ and Sculpey Premo™. They maintain some of their flexibility, so they are less likely to break. 

Cracking might occur if creations are not baked adequately, which is why we emphasize the importance of proper baking. However, cracks are easy to repair if they do occur. Simply fill in cracks with plumber's putty, sand it down and paint the crack to match the clay. If a piece breaks off, all you need to do is glue it back on. We recommend super glue gel or flexible hot glue.

Did you know that polymer clay is waterproof? Just like any plastic, you can wash polymer clay creations with water. To clean pieces, gently hand-wash them with soap and water. Avoid the dishwasher, though, as the heat can damage your creations.

7. It's Simple to Store

While some types of clay require a complex storage system, polymer clay is simple and easy to store in almost any location. There are only a few rules for polymer clay storage so it will last for years to come. Do the following, and you'll enjoy your clay for a long time:

  • Use polypropylene containers: Store clay in containers or bags made out of polypropylene plastic. How can you tell if a container is made of polypropylene? Look for the number 5 on the bottom of the container. These types of plastic containers are also slightly cloudy.
  • Store in the right spot: Keep clay in a very dry, cool place in an environment that does not exceed 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Store clay in the fridge or freezer to play it safe.
  • Avoid the windows: Store clay away from direct sunlight.
  • Keep out of the car: Avoid storing clay in the car, especially during the summer months.

Do you have Ziploc sandwich bags in your kitchen cupboard? That'll work fine for storing leftover clay.

8. It Requires Careful Baking 

Although polymer clay is kid-friendly and durable, it's important to follow baking instructions carefully. It's just like cooking a batch of your favorite cookies. You want to get the temperature and timing just right. Underbaking will leave your clay soft, while overbaking could change the color of your creation. The last thing you want to do is burn your masterpiece. 

We want each of your clay creations to turn out great, so we highly recommend using an oven thermometer to make sure your oven's temperature is set right. Our home ovens are not always accurate, which may not matter much when reheating last night's casserole, but it makes a big difference in polymer clay.

use an oven thermometer when baking clay

Always preheat your oven and check the temperature with a thermometer before baking. You can bake most polymer clay pieces at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 30 minutes, but each product's times and temperatures can vary. Check package instructions or our FAQ page first.

9. It's Easy to Clean Up 

Unlike paint, paper-mache and other messier creative mediums, polymer clay makes cleanup easy and fast. While crafting, your fingers might get a little colorful with clay, but you can clean them easily with soap and water or baby wipes. We recommend keeping baby wipes handy while crafting to clean tools and prevent mixing colors.

You can also use hand sanitizer to remove polymer clay from your hands. Apply hand sanitizer to clay-covered hands, wipe with a paper towel and then wash your hands with soap and water. No one will know you've been claying for hours!

It only takes a moment to clean up a polymer clay work area. Tables made of glass, metal or marble are the easiest to wash. Cleanup is a breeze when you cover your workspace beforehand. Use parchment paper, aluminum foil or the Sculpey Tools™ Oven-Safe Work Mat. When you're done crafting for the day, simply toss the foil or parchment paper in the trash or store away your special work surface for future projects. Pack your clay in its designated storage container and savor the stress-relieving effect of crafting with clay.

10. It Goes a Long Way

You only need a small amount of clay to explore your imagination and create something you'll love. Small blocks of clay go a long way despite their size. You can make figurines, jewelry, beads, ornaments, charms, keychains, embellishments, mixed media pieces and many other creations with even small amounts of polymer clay.

Sampler packs are great for beginners because they can try out many different colors in their creations. You can also use white polymer clay and paint it any color you wish after baking. We recommend using water-based acrylic paints for painting your polymer clay crafts.

Shop Sculpey Products Today

Are you excited to start a clay-crafting adventure? Crafting with polymer clay is relaxing, inspiring and tons of fun. You get to create just about anything your imagination allows with polymer clay. Its softness and flexibility make it the perfect medium for the beginning crafter, while its versatility makes it ideal for experienced crafters. People are making so many amazing things with polymer clay every day, from lifelike dolls to jewelry that resembles real gems. Consider various techniques and applications — the possibilities are endless!

If you're looking for a go-to source for all your polymer clay needs, you've come to the right place. For over 50 years, we've been passionate about clay and delivering the highest-quality products to our customers. We have everything you need to get started, from various Sculpey clays to tons of creative inspiration. We are always adding new polymer clay resources and project ideas to show our fellow crafters the possibilities. We also have a community space so crafters can socialize and share their fun projects with each other.

If you want to start crafting with polymer clay today, browse and shop our online store for everything you need. 

Do you have more questions about polymer clay? Contact us today, and we'll be happy to assist you!