Can you use Mod Podge on Polymer Clay?

You may have noticed this happening on social media. One person asks about sealing their polymer clay. Another person suggests Mod Podge. Yet another person says that Mod Podge is “incompatible with polymer clay” and will “ruin it”. Mod Podge has many fans, so arguments ensue. Feelings get hurt. And you’re left wondering what in the heck happened.

First, let me state this upfront. Polymer clay is vinyl plastic and doesn’t need to be sealed. There are two exceptions to this. One, when you need to seal surface treatments such as mica powder, and two, when you want to change the gloss level. You can learn more about this topic here in my article about polymer clay clearcoats.

What Is Mod Podge?

First, let’s get down to basics. What is Mod Podge (Affiliate Link – learn more here)? It was originally a specific type of decoupage medium that came out in 1965 and became super popular in the early 1970’s. But now, it’s a brand name that refers to a huge array of craft materials. To refer to all of them as “Mod Podge” leads to confusion and frustration.

The main Mod Podge products that are relevant to polymer clayers are (Affiliate Links – learn more here):

Here’s more about these products and why (or why not) they can be used with polymer clay.

Mod Podge Decoupage Medium

Mod Podge Gloss (the original)

As I said above, the original Mod Podge became a thing in the early 1970’s as part of the decoupage trend that was popular at that time. As a small child, I remember cutting out magazine pictures and applying them to wooden plaques and boxes using diluted white glue. We also used this mixture to stiffen fabric and do a variation on papier mache. We also used this to “seal” puzzles so they could be saved as photos. Oh, and we also glued macaroni onto soup cans with it (which promptly fell right off).

Mod Podge was great because it had the right consistency and the right type of glue, and could be sealed in the jar when done. It was just easier. But make no mistake. While the original Mod Podge is a specific formula and may have some additives, it mainly consists of PVA (poly-vinyl acetate), which you know as white glue. (Outside of the US, white glue is known as PVA glue.) There are now additional varieties of Mod Podge, including matte, dishwasher-safe, outdoor, and waterproof.

Mod Podge Medium on Polymer Clay

So, is Mod Podge incompatible with polymer clay? No, not really. That’s not the right question. Chemically, it doesn’t interact with polymer clay the way that varnishes can. But you have to understand that Mod Podge is meant for sealing and gluing paper. It’s meant for doing decoupage and similar papercrafts. It can be used for other craft materials, too, such as wood, glitter, sequins, fabric, or even dried flowers.

But it’s not meant to be a hard, durable, protective, waterproof coating on vinyl plastic or fine jewelry. That’s just not what Mod Podge is for. Using a product for the wrong thing and then maligning it is unfair. Stop using Mod Podge as a “sealer” for polymer clay (which doesn’t need to be sealed in the first place)! There are better products for this (see below).

Problems with Mod Podge Decoupage Medium

Because Mod Podge is just PVA (that we know as white glue), it doesn’t perform like a varnish. It turns white when water sits on it (making it unsuitable for jewelry). And it’s known for getting sticky or slightly tacky in humid environments. Coated items will stick together if they are touching while stored. (This has nothing to do with polymer clay, btw. Mod Podge is like this for anything it’s used on.)

For this reason, experts and the Mod Podge company itself recommend that you SEAL sticky Mod Podge medium with acrylic spray sealer.

Mod Podge Acrylic Sealer Spray

Mod Podge Gloss, clear acrylic sealer

This acrylic spray is recommended as a sealer for sticky Mod Podge and also for anything that needs a protective sealer. It works fine on most materials. It’s a perfectly fine acrylic sealer like many others at the craft store.

But. (Yeah, you knew there was a but.) Sprays don’t work well for polymer clay. Polymer clay contains a plasticizer that keeps it from being brittle. That same plasticizer also softens many plastics, especially the ones most commonly used in acrylic sprays. This chemical incompatibility means that most sprays used on polymer clay will turn terribly sticky and gooey, ruining the item they’re sprayed on.

So, if you use Mod Podge gloss acrylic spray on your polymer clay project, you WILL ruin it. It’s that simple. (Sorry.)

Mod Podge Dimensional Magic

Mod Podge Dimensional Magic

This thick, syrupy liquid is meant to be used to make a glossy patch on paper crafts or perhaps fill small bezels or bottle cap pendants. It takes a few days to dry, but it will dry mostly clear and have a thick, dimensional effect.

But like the original Mod Podge, this product is susceptible (along with other brands of the same material) to becoming cloudy, soft, and tacky. Again, while it’s not incompatible with polymer clay, it’s not the right material for creating a hard, durable, thick surface over the top of your polymer clay items.

I want to like this product, but dimensional glazes have never worked well to make a smooth, durable, glossy coating on polymer clay. It always turns soft, the pieces stick together, and it turns cloudy. Maybe it’s my climate, I don’t know. But if it’s happening to me, it’s happening to others, too. Especially take note of this if you sell your polymer clay jewelry.

Sadly, this product is often suggested as a resin alternative. You can see my article about this comparison here. Take special note of the video in that post where you can see how badly this stuff performs as a coating.

Is Mod Podge Bad?

I want to be clear. Mod Podge is not a bad company; none of these products are bad. But you have to choose the right product for what you’re trying to do. For sealing surface treatments on polymer clay or changing the gloss level on polymer clay, there are more suitable strategies and alternatives.

Alternatives to Mod Podge for Polymer Clay?

Okay, do you want to find a clearcoat for polymer clay? You can read more about the types of products we can use here.

If you want to protect mica powder, pastels, or paints used on the surface of polymer clay, please look into using a durable varnish such as Brite Tone, Varathane, DuraClear Gloss, or Sculpey Glaze. You can see how dozens compare here.

If you want a resin alternative, check out this article for some suggestions.

And, of course, if you’re using plain polymer clay and want a flawless, perfect shine, you can sand and buff. Here’s how.

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