How to Bake Polymer Clay: Part 1 – Choosing a Polymer Clay Oven


It seems like it should be simple, and it is, but there is a bit more to it than just putting some clay in your oven to cure. In this series I’ll also discuss some tricks that I’ve found to make baking and curing polymer clay easier and more effective. I started to write this all in one post, but it’s getting a bit long. So I’ll break this up into several posts. In part one, I’ll talk about polymer clay ovens. Part two will be about temperature. Part three will give tips and tricks for baking your polymer clay. And part four will discuss how long to bake.

What polymer clay oven is best?

  • You can use any oven that will reach and maintain the correct temperature through the baking process.
  • It’s perfectly safe to use your home oven.
  • You don’t need to dedicate your oven to polymer clay.
  • Small ovens are fine, but tiny ovens can cause more burning.
  • Convection ovens are nice because the fan creates a more even temperature.
  • Digital readouts do not mean the oven is digitally controlled. They’re all done with mechanical guesswork.
  • Most ovens are wildly incorrect (they lie!) so you will need to adjust against a separate thermometer (Affiliate Link – learn more here) to get the right temperature.
  • No one brand is best…all brands have terrible records for some people. There is huge variability even with a single model.
  • You can’t use a microwave.
  • There are valid alternatives such as Nu-Wave (Affiliate Link – learn more here), Halogen ovens, or turkey roasters.
  • Make sure to read Part 2 (Temperature), Part 3 (Tips and Tricks), and Part 4 (Time) of this baking series.

Do I need a dedicated polymer clay oven?

For some reason this subject brings up some mighty strong opinions. Some people will only use a dedicated polymer clay oven to bake their creations. Others only use their home oven. There are legitimate reasons for doing it either way, but let me state this up front and center. You CAN safely and effectively cure your polymer clay creations in a home oven, toaster oven, tabletop convection oven, or roaster oven…assuming that you are using it correctly and following some recommendations that I’ll discuss below. You cannot properly and safely cure polymer clay in a microwave oven or by boiling in water. (Though, boiling does have its uses in some situations, it does not give a complete cure.)

Not convinced? Don’t take my word for it. Refer to this excellent list of health and safety questions and answers put out by Polyform, the maker of Sculpey and Premo. Read here for another article that goes into more detail about the testing regulations and what they mean. In short, though, it’s going to say the same thing I do. Polymer clay is safe when it’s used properly. (It’s not safe if you roll it and smoke it, for example!)

Need baking help?

Learn about the right temperature, times ovens, and baking setups to ensure optimal results. No more broken or scorched projects!

Polymer clay does not produce toxic fumes when baked at the recommended temperature. It can burn, however, when exposed to temperatures in excess of 350°F (177°C). And burning polymer clay does release irritating hydrogen chloride fumes (not chlorine gas as some sources have stated). If that happens, turn off the oven, open the windows, and leave the area until the fumes clear, just as you’d do if you burned your pork roast. Hydrogen chloride, by the way, is the same chemical as hydrochloric acid, the very same chemical that our bodies produce in stomach acid. It’s nasty to breathe it, but it’s not cancer causing or something that requires decontamination. Baking polymer clay at regular temperatures can occasionally create a smell that can irritate sensitive people. Much in the same way some perfumes give you a sore throat or headache if they’re too strong. For this reason, many people choose to bake their clay away from the main living area. Here’s a tip: covering clay during baking greatly reduces the odor!

Baking Polymer Clay: What is the best kind of oven? Article by The Blue Bottle Tree

Using your home oven to bake polymer clay

Yes, you can use the oven that’s in your kitchen. You don’t need a special clay oven. And yes, you can bake food in the same oven (though not at the same time.) The best advantage to using your home oven to bake your polymer clay creations is that you already have it. No purchase required! Typically most western homes have an oven with a dependable heating element that reaches the correct temperature and holds it without large fluctuations. If your oven isn’t dependable, you likely know it already and finding another oven would be great. Home ovens are also large, so you can put lots of trays of clay in your oven to cure at once. And you can bake larger and taller items.

There are, of course, disadvantages to using your home oven to cure polymer clay. A large oven is more expensive to run than a small toaster oven. Plus if you do a lot of food baking, you end up with traffic jams at your oven, trying to finish your clay bake cycle before it’s time to cook dinner. Some large ovens have hot or cold spots, too, and don’t heat evenly. If you have several cooks in your home who might disturb your clay during baking (by preheating for a pizza!), then using your home oven might not be the best tactic.

Using a dedicated polymer clay oven

Many people prefer to use a toaster or tabletop convection oven to bake polymer clay. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this. Certainly the convenience factor is high. Small ovens preheat quickly, they take less energy to run, and if the smell of baking clay bothers you, you can put a small oven outside on a patio or in the garage. They’re also portable. You also have to find a place to put them and that can be a real problem for the space challenged among us.

It can also be exceedingly difficult to regulate the temperature in a small oven. Some brands have a tiny dial without fine control and they have rather temperamental thermostats. Small toaster ovens have, by design, a small area to heat up with an element rather close to the rack. So the element can sometimes scorch the clay when it’s heating up and then the oven cools down to below curing temperature before the thermostat kicks back in to heat the oven up again. While that works for cooking pizzas, it doesn’t work so well for polymer clay, leaving underbaked and scorched projects. A lot of people overcome this by putting ceramic tiles in the bottom of their toaster ovens in an attempt to help it hold the heat. Toaster ovens also tend to be quite small and you’re really limited on the number and size of polymer clay items you can cure in one. If your project is large, it might end up being too close to the oven’s elements and could easily burn. So toaster ovens are really only good for small projects.

Tabletop convection ovens, however, heat by blowing hot air. This gives a much more even and reliable heat and many people love and swear by their convection ovens! These ovens also tend to be a bit larger and give more vertical room if you like to work with sculptures.

There are several brands of small inexpensive ovens marketed to polymer clay enthusiasts. Let me be perfectly clear here. You do not need a special oven to bake polymer clay! If you want one, great. Especially if you use a coupon they’re very inexpensive. But you do not need one. And remember that you can often find used toaster ovens at thrift stores for even less money.

A note about those who work professionally with polymer clay and who cure large amounts of clay frequently. As stated on the Polyform website, polymer clay is safe, even for those who work with professional volumes of material. They do recommend a professional oven, though they say it’s for temperature control reasons. Bottom line, you have to do what you’re comfortable with. For a lot of people that means getting a dedicated clay oven. For others that means using the home oven. Each person knows their own routine and know that works best for them.

Next up, I’ll go on to Part 2, where I talk about temperature and why it’s so important for curing and baking polymer clay.

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66 thoughts on “How to Bake Polymer Clay: Part 1 – Choosing a Polymer Clay Oven”

  1. Hello. I make rosary beads and have been using my regular oven. That was until my wall unit regular oven died and manufacturers are having a difficult time getting 27″ ovens in the stores. My last time estimate was…at least 4 months longer. I’ve already been without the oven since Thanksgiving.

    I’m thinking of purchasing an Oster extra large toaster/convection oven as an interim solution….maybe even permanent, but I’m unsure as to what to look for in features on the oven. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Looking at: Oster French Convection Countertop and Toaster Oven | Single Door Pull and Digital Controls | Stainless Steel, Extra Large, Oster Air Fryer Countertop Toaster Oven, French Door and Digital Controls, Stainless Steel, Extra Large, or Oster Extra Large Digital Countertop Convection Oven, Stainless Steel (TSSTTVDGXL-SHP).

    1. Any oven that will reach and maintain 275F of even heat will work just fine for polymer clay. Many individual ovens have poor temperature control, and sadly, there’s no way of knowing in advance if the unit you purchase will be problematic. You will also need to make sure that you can turn OFF the air fryer setting.

      1. Thank you for your response
        I ordered an oven. Will test the temperature to see if it holds the temperature well. Diana

  2. I’ve been using my roaster oven for the last 2 years to cook all my polymer clay projects from small beads to sculptures. It works perfectly! I’d tried eve thing else but even temperature & space were always an issue. That’s not the case with a roaster oven! I get all my pieces ready to load into it on a metal baking pan that fits my roaster while it preheats, lift the top & quickly lower the pan onto the roaster rack, cover with a parchment tent & set the timer for how long I need it to bake. The wonderful side to my roaster oven is it heats evenly, doesn’t spike to increase heat and I’ve not had a single project burn. Not once! I have no idea why baking polymer clay in a roaster oven isn’t promoted more. It truly should be!

    1. I actually agree with you! They’re not universally available, however, so they’re hard to recommend worldwide. But you’re right, they’re a great option IF you can reach and maintain the correct temperature.

  3. Thank you for the quick response. I am going to try the convection oven tomorrow as a few of the pieces I baked today (testing purposes) broke once cooled. I am still trying to figure out why my pieces do not stay somewhat flexible after baking and I bake for at least an hour.

  4. My kitchen oven is also a convection oven and was wondering if that it would be best to use that feature when baking pendants. I bought a small toaster/convection oven but it took forever to get up to temp and baking took forever as well so I figure it is just as cheap to use the main oven and I can bake more pieces at the time.

    1. I would try it both ways and see. Generally, it’s better to use the convection feature because it moves the air around and prevents hot spots. No need to change the baking time/temp, btw.

  5. Yahoo! You have banished my fears. For the past few days I’ve been sculpting a 4″ tall horse out of premo clay. I was worried about that he baking process and about baking it over time. Oven is not a problem as long as is i monitor it.
    It’s my first big piece. I did do a few beads and a tiny Christmas tree but just for practice.
    Thank You for a wonderfully article.
    Now, hakuna mattata!
    I just have to remember not to forget it in the oven! Fingers crossed!

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