The most common question I see asked in the polymer clay crafting community, jewellery makers, model makes and parents with crafty kids alike, is always is polymer clay safe?
Polymer clay is safe to use and bake, as it is has been tested and certified as non-toxic by the ACMI (Art and Creative Materials Institute). Polymer Clay only becomes toxic when baked at extremely high temperatures, for prolonged periods of time.
Great news – it’s safe to use so don’t be afraid to work with this wonderful stuff, it’s not a risk to your health or children’s heath.
Have fun and read on for the ‘whys’ and some top tips for crafting…
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Is Polymer Clay Safe?
It’s perfectly safe, as it’s made from non-toxic materials.
Polymer Clay doesn’t produce toxic fumes when oven baked; it’s designed to be baked at home for ease of use, which makes it a wonderful and versatile crafting material. It’s safe to cook in the same oven you cook food in (microwave and toaster ovens too!), but please make sure you switch out your baking trays between food and clay, and don’t cook both at the same time.
Top tip: For best results seal your creations whilst you bake them – cover them with baking paper or tin foil, to seal in any smell and make sure the heat is properly trapped around them for an evenly baked result.
- Don’t use cooking utensils on the clay, as the clay may leave a residue that shouldn’t be consumed. Stick to the allocated clay tools and keep them separate from your cooking supplies.
- Don’t worry – it’s fine if you want to decorate food crockery and cutlery with polymer clay, for example the outside of a bowl or mug, or the handle of cutlery, but don’t put the clay on the parts of the utensils that actually go in the mouth.
- Don’t eat from dishes or mugs made entirely from polymer clay, as these aren’t suitable, plus the clay cannot be sufficiently cleaned after it’s come into contact with food.
- Don’t cook it for extensive periods at overly high temperatures (if it’s forgotten about for a few hours, or if the clay is right up against the oven element), as the fumes may become irritant to the nose, mouth and eyes as the clay will release hydrochloride gas – don’t worry this has no longer term chronic effects. As long as you are curing the clay properly according to packet instructs you should be absolutely fine – if you are a little worried or if the clay creates a smell (this shouldn’t happen), just ventilate your kitchen to be on the safe side.
- Don’t ingest polymer clay; it’s ok if your child puts a baked design in their mouth or gives it a lick, but make sure they don’t eat the design or any unbaked clay (don’t let them swallow any small parts – but you already know this!). Make sure you and your children wash their hands after working with clay.
Here’s an A-Z baking guide for individual brands according to their packaging instructions:
Cernit: 30 minutes between 110 and 130°C (230-266°F)
Fimo: Maximum of 30 minutes at 110°C (230°F)
Kato Polyclay: 10-30 minutes at 150°C (300°F)
Original Sculpey: 15 minutes per quarter inch (6mm) of thickness at 130°C (275°F)
Pardo Art Clay: Min 30 minutes at 120 decrees (248 F)
Pardo Translucent Jewellery clay: Min 30 minutes at 120°C (248°F)
Premo: 30 minutes per quarter inch (6mm) of thickness. If thicker, initially bake for 15 minutes and then add another 5 minutes, another 5, and so on until done.
PVClay: 15-20 minutes at 130°C (275°F)
Sculpey III: 15 minutes per quarter inch (6mm) of thickness at 130°C (275°F)
Sculpey Souffle: 30 minutes per quarter inch (6mm) of thickness at 130°C (275°F)
For more baking tips, check out: How Long to Bake Polymer Clay Earrings – Quick Guide
Polymer clay is made up of polymer, dyes, stabilizers and fibres and these fuse under temperature. Once baked it’s a vinyl plastic, the material you find all around your house and even as part of some children’s toys – action figures, toy animals, dolls etc.
This is totally safe, according to the Sculpey website:
“All of our polymer clay products are tested to ensure safety and to meet the standards of the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). Our products do not contain any allergens like wheat, gluten, dairy, sulfur or latex.”
Should I wear gloves when working with polymer clay?
Gloves aren’t necessary unless you experience a skin reaction to the clay, in which case contact your doctor and cease use. Please avoid touching your eyes and face when working with polymer clay.
If you hands become tinted after working with highly pigmented clays don’t worry this should wash off, but if you want to avoid this you can certainly use gloves.
Avoid touching fabrics as you may leave a stain.
It’s best to create a proper working space – here’s a quick guide:
Make sure your creative space is spotless, so no tiny fibres or dust particles floating on the air and table will stick to your clay – this is of paramount importance! If possible create yourself a permanent workstation in a room away from pets – (fur is the worst) and dust gatherings items – non-carpeted rooms are best, but not essential.
Organise your space with storage boxes or drawers, so there are places for your clay creations to live – baked and unbaked.
Make sure you have your method of carrying them to the oven ready – even a simple baking sheet on a plate is better than your hands and will save unwanted last-minute fingerprints marking your design.
Keep your tools in your ‘grab zone’ in an organised fashion – you never know when you’ll need the emergency tweezers! It’s best to have a little tool box or even better a tool rack attached to your workspace or wall that you can easily take tools from.
Keep cleaning supplies nearby for wiping down your cutters and tools in between colours. It’s nice to be able to grab your sprays and tissues without having to move away from your table. Make sure if you’re using tissues these are high quality so they don’t leave a ’tissue dust’ on your gear.
Is polymer clay paint toxic?
Acrylic paint is non-toxic, unless it is exposed to excessive heat, sanded and inhaled or if it’s applied with an airbrushing technique (a hand-held airbrushing sprayer is required for this, it’s a common practice with advanced miniature painting).
Make sure you ventilate if you are painting your polymer clay with acrylic paint – this is the best kind to use as it’s versatile, cheap, quick drying and non-toxic.
Acrylic paint is water based and can be easily cleaned up – so great for painting your jewellery pieces or polymer clay models.
For more advice on painting polymer clay, check out: Can You Paint Polymer Clay Earrings? A How-to Guide
Is polymer clay toxic to pets?
Polymer clay is safe to use around pets, and the fumes from oven baking are safe too; but if you’re concerned a properly ventilated kitchen should elimitate any worry. It shouldn’t be ingested by pets, if this happens please contact your vet.
I hope my ‘Is polymer clay safe?’ article was helpful for you and you now feel at ease to head to your craft table and bake your chosen brand of clay!
Polymer clay is so easy to use for beginners because it’s versatile when moulding, comes in loads of great colours, can be firmed up or softened depending on the project, doesn’t dry out, is water proof and can be stored for a long time unbaked because it doesn’t air dry! Wow!
This is why it’s so great for jewellery making around the home, as you can set up a small business (How to Sell Polymer Clay Earrings on Etsy) from a nook in your space, without the need for a professional set up, overly complicated storage solutions and a premium-grade industrial kiln or oven.
Make your jewellery from the comfort of your kitchen, and make some serious money selling it online – wonderful!
Good luck with your creations, with your new knowledge of which brand is best for your project.
My goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to understand the world of polymer clay earring making, so you can go into your new hobby or small business venture with estimates, tips and facts under your belt for a smooth and rewarding start in this craft.
I also provide articles on: a How-to Guide for beginners, a Sales Guide for selling polymer clay earrings on Etsy, a comprehensive Cost Guide, and a bumper list of earring Design Ideas, so you’re never stumped by clay-makers block!
For more information on getting started with polymer clay earrings, check out:
How Much does it Cost to Make Polymer Clay Earrings?
Can You Paint Polymer Clay Earrings? A How-to Guide
How Long to Bake Polymer Clay Earrings – Quick Guide
How to Sell Polymer Clay Earrings on Etsy
How to Make Polymer Clay Earrings: the Basics
Design Ideas for Polymer Clay Earrings
Top Tips for Making Polymer Clay Earrings
Why Polymer Clay Breaks and How to Fix it
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).