Does Polymer Clay Air Dry? A Misconception Uncovered

Does Polymer Clay Air Dry?

No! polymer clay does not air dry. Indeed, Poly clay is not clay. It is a type of plastic and so does not have the drying characteristics of clay.

Over time the polymer clay will just become still. It may take months or years to get it dry enough to make it crumble. But then it will be impossible to work with them.

Polymer clay cannot air dry; it just becomes stiff. And to even get it stiff, it will take a long time for it to dry (not hours or days; I’m talking about months and years). 

Some companies do offer air-dry polymer clays like Wizoplays, but the thing with these air-dry polymer clay is that you don’t get enough time to modify, i.e. not much working limit. So, the best way to harden polymer clay is by baking it in an oven.

How To Bake Polymer Clay in An Oven?

Follow the above instructions.

  1. Preheat your oven from 230℉ to 275℉.
  2. Put the poly clay inside the oven and wait.

Baking polymer clay is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. 

It will take about 15 to 30 minutes to bake. The time it takes to bake is also dependent on the thickness of the polymer clay. Most often, thicker clay takes about 30 minutes to bake, while thinner ones take 15 minutes. 

Things To Control While Baking Polymer Clay

When you’re baking the polymer clay, take care of three things.

  1. Baking surface
  2. Temperature
  3. Time

How To Control the Temperature While Baking Polymer Clay?

I’m just going to focus on this one factor as it controls basically the majority of the process, and the other factors are also heavily dependent on this.

Temperature Differs Among Different Brands

The temperature of different ovens differs between different brands. In some, you can get the job done in 245℉ while, in others, you can get the job done at 270℉. 

The Temperature and Time

Experts recommend baking every ¼ inch thick polymer clay for 15 to 30 minutes.  Too high a temperature can burn the clay and release some nasty toxic fumes.

Light-Colored Polymer Clay

If you are baking a light-colored polymer clay, you will have to keep a close eye on it while it is baking. Because even if you bake it for less than 30 minutes at a high temperature, even then, you will sometimes see some darkening. You can avoid this by covering the clay with aluminum foil. But let me warn you beforehand, it is not 100% successful.

If you’re baking dark-colored poly clay at a high temperature, then that won’t be a problem as the color of the clay is dark enough to cover the darkening caused by the oven.

Baking at a low temperature is preferred more as it ensures that the clay is cured overall. Baking at a low temperature will probably stop your clay from going dark, but this way, your clay won’t cure (harden) properly. It will be brittle and can break easily.

How Temperature Controls Flexibility

You’ll know that you did the right job in hardening polymer clay if it is flexible after taking it out of the oven. Poly clays are flexible when it comes out of the oven but become solid after cooling. But if you find that it is not flexible, it probably was because you did not bake it long enough or the temperature of the polymer clay was too low.

How To Harden Polymer Clay Without Oven?

If you do not have an oven nearby, you can always switch to alternatives such as hair dryers, heat guns, or a heat embossing tool. Have you heard of Chandler’s Tools? Their heat guns are pretty neat. 

Place the poly clay on a block of wood or a ceramic tile (any non-stick surface). Hold whichever heat instrument you are going to use at least 6 to 12 inches away. Don’t heat the clay too long. If heated too much, it can release toxic fumes.

What Is the Difference Between Air Dry Clay and Polymer Clay?

Polymer Clay Air Dry Clay
An oven is required to harden poly clay. There is no oven required. It’s self-hardening and starts drying when it gets in contact with air.
It is hard when unboxed and needs to be conditioned to use the clay. Air-dry clay is soft and stretchy. 
The finished product is sold and hard. When it is dried up, it becomes spongy and solid.
Poly clays are sold in the form of large slabs or small bars. They are sold in air-tight bags.
Can be modified to capture more detail due to its hardness. It can not capture as much detail as poly clay.
It is made with Polymer Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). It is made with glue, paper, and resin. 
Not to be given to kids below 8 years. Air-dry clay is suitable for kids of 3 years and up.
It will take about 10-15 minutes at 130°C in an oven. (Different brands may have different oven baking times) Air-dry clay takes 1 to 2 days to dry (thickness of the clay is a dependent factor)
Chalks, mica powder, oil-based paints, and pastels can be used to color dried polymer clay For best results, air dry clay should be colored with acrylic paint.
It is waterproof and hardens with the help of heat. It is not waterproof or heatproof and tends to dissolve.
Does not shrink during baking It shrinks a little while air drying

Final Verdict

So, this brings us to the end of the blog, and you probably would know that trying to air dry your polymer clay inventions may not be a good idea unless the company itself says that it can be air-dried. Otherwise, dried clay should not be treated as polymer clay. Cure or harden the poly clay in an oven, and if an oven is not available, you can hair dry or heat glue as well. If you plan on spending a lot of time experimenting with polymer clay, then an oven thermometer would be a great investment.