Is Polymer Clay Safe?

If you spend any time online reading about polymer clay you will doubtless read the ominous warnings that other clayers tell you. “Don’t use polymer clay with food.” “Use dedicated tools with polymer clay.” There is much talk of “contamination”. The labels tell you to wash your hands and don’t eat while claying. And yet we read on the label that polymer clay is non-toxic. What is going on here? What is safe? What is not? I’ve looked into the issue and I’ll try to bring some clarity and eliminate some of the fear and confusion around the question, “Is polymer clay safe?”

Is Polymer Clay Safe with Food?

Is polymer clay safe? Find out in the article at The Blue Bottle TreeIf you’ve ever worked in food service, you know how there are regulations about sterilizing the utensils and surfaces. Cutlery, bowls, and plates need to be washed in suitably hot water and need to be dipped in a disinfecting bath if washed by hand. Or run though a hot dishwasher. Polymer clay can readily withstand a few trips through the dishwasher, but the heat and caustic soap of a dishwasher can cause polymer to change color or break down over time. The bleach of a sterilizing solution can cause polymer clay to change color and/or degrade. The manufacturers of polymer clay don’t make it for this purpose. It’s made to be a craft and molding material, not a food-utensil-creating material. So they haven’t invested in the testing necessary to certify it as being a food-safe material. And because they haven’t tested for it, they can’t recommend or endorse it.

Is Polymer Clay Safe?

  • Major brands of polymer clay have been tested and are certified to be non-toxic when used as directed.
  • Some plasticizers used in vinyl manufacture have been associated with health risks, but polymer clay has not included those chemicals for many years. Non-toxic plasticizers are now used.
  • It is perfectly safe to cure or bake polymer clay in your home oven.
  • If you burn polymer clay, small amounts of irritating vapor can be emitted, so ventilate the room if this happens. (Prevent this by learning to bake polymer clay properly.)
  • Manufacturers cannot certify their material for making food utensils, so polymer clay is not certified to be used for food contact. Here’s more about what “food safe” means.
  • It’s best if you don’t use your polymer clay tools with other crafts and in the kitchen.
  • Polymer clay is vinyl, and is therefore similar to the material used to make beach balls, vinyl tablecloths, aquarium tubing, and baby dolls.
  • All of this is discussed in more detail below….

Also, a polymer clay manufacturer can’t guarantee how a crafter will make a bowl, for instance. One person might make one that’s super smooth, but another person might use overlapping cane slices with lots of nooks and crannies. Such a bowl is impossible to be adequately cleaned and therefore unable to be considered “food safe”.  By the way, you’ve probably read people mention that “microscopic food particles get trapped and bacteria can grow”. Well, take it from the old microbiologist here (that’s me). Bacteria isn’t going to grow in your polymer clay. It doesn’t work that way. But it can certainly hide in the crevices, cracks, and surface pits. And the next thing that goes in the bowl could certainly be contaminated with it. Think Salmonella. Ew. You need to be able to fully clean and sanitize your item if you’re going to use it with food, and polymer clay just isn’t made for that. Period.

Could you use a sealer, such as Varathane, and would a bowl then be food safe? Well…Varathane isn’t designed to be used for food contact purposes either. And also, Varathane won’t hold up to a trip through the dishwasher.

Realistically, though, is polymer clay safe to make a decorative bowl to hold some nuts or bananas or wrapped candies on your table? Probably. It’s not toxic any more than many other plastics. It’s not like polymer clay will ruin your food. But in general, polymer clay is just not suited for making food-contact items.

polymer clay covered spoon and mug by Klio
Polymer clay covered mug and spoon by Klio Tsaliki.

Covering Cutlery and Glasses with Polymer Clay

But you see lots of times where polymer clay is used to cover the handles of cutlery or the outsides of glasses. Is polymer clay safe for that? Yes, it is absolutely safe to use polymer clay in this manner. As long as it’s not a food-contact region, you’re fine. So go ahead and decorate your wine glasses and coffee cups. Go ahead and make big chunky handles for children’s cutlery. But leave the polymer clay off of the food-contact region. Leave that area clear so that it can be adequately cleaned and sanitized. Remember that anything decorated with polymer clay needs to be hand washed, too. The dishwasher isn’t kind to any hand-decorated art kitchenware!

These are polymer clay covered cutlery by Flo Laplace of Talismans.
Polymer clay covered handles on this cutlery set by Flo Laplace of Talismans.

Use Clay Dedicated Tools

If you’ll check the label of a bar of polymer clay, the instructions will tell you to use clay-dedicated tools and to wash your hands before eating. That has led many people to fear that polymer clay creates some sort of toxic contamination. First off, let me assure you. Polymer clay has been tested and is certified to be non-toxic. It is not something that’s going to make you sick when used as directed. There’s the key right there. When used as directed.

You see, polymer clay is made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and a plasticizer (that makes it soft…many plastics have plasticizers). And because we use PVC pipes for our water supply, there are well-established tolerances for how much ingested PVC is considered to be toxic. It’s a lot, by the way, so don’t worry. But if a manufacturer didn’t discourage you from using your kitchen tools with clay…and then using them for food again…how could they know how much PVC and plasticizer a customer might ingest? I might be very careful and clean my knife well. But another person might pick up their clay knife, with particles of clay, and cut their kids’ sandwiches. The manufacturer can’t control that! And because polymer clay isn’t food, and toxic levels are possible if you ate enough of it, they must tell you to wash your hands and use clay dedicated tools. Does that make sense? If you happen to be claying and walk through the kitchen one time and your hands end up in the bag of chips, I would not be concerned in the slightest. You’re not going to die. But don’t make a habit of it. And you really should wash your hands before eating anyway, right? If you need to use a specific kitchen tool for a project, go right ahead. Just clean it thoroughly before it goes back to the kitchen. And I mean thoroughly. Polymer clay is not water soluble and won’t come off with a quick wash.

What about Plasticizers?

There is much fear around the term “plasticizers” when it comes to polymer clay. First off, a plasticizer is a chemical that is used to make a substance more “plastic” or soft and bendy. Many plastics have plasticizers. Vinyl hoses have them. Plastic bowls have them. Your shoes have them. Even gum has plasticizer…yes…there are edible plasticizers. And one of the chemical characteristics of a plasticizer is that it tends to migrate out of the plastic over time (some faster than others). That’s why old plastic becomes brittle. It’s because the plasticizer has evaporated out of the material, leaving it brittle. Years ago they used plasticizers with a small molecular weight (smaller molecules) that would easily migrate out. Modern plasticizers have much larger molecules and stay put inside the plastic better. That leads to longer life of the plastic. The most modern plasticizers used with polymer clay are locked up between the PVC molecules when they fuse during baking, assuming it’s baked adequately.

One class of plasticizers, called phthalate esters, came under fire back in late 90’s and early 2000’s as being an endocrine disruptor. (Many cancers are affected by endocrine tissue, so this is worrisome.) Because those plasticizers migrate, it was found that it was possible for phthalate esters to be ingested. Of particular concern were baby bottles and children’s toys (because kids chew on their toys). So there was a campaign to eliminate those suspect phthalates in such materials. In 2009, the US passed a law outlawing specific phthalates in children’s items. And because polymer clay is considered a toy, the formulation was changed and those suspect phthalate esters were no longer the plasticizer used. Several companies, such as FIMO, switched to other plasticizers well before this date.

Be aware that much of the scary information on the internet about the safety of polymer clay, such asa 2002 article written by a Vermont lobbyist organization, are outdated and refer to phthalates which are no longer used.

Many major brands of polymer clay now use a citrate based plasticizer. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe to use in children’s toys, medical products, and any sort of PVC.

Baking Polymer Clay Safely

Of course, discussions of the toxicity of polymer clay always bring up the question of using a clay-dedicated polymer clay oven for baking. This is absolutely and unequivocally unnecessary. Please take a moment to read this safety information provided by Polyform, the makers of Sculpey and Premo. You’ll see that polymer clay does not release toxic fumes and does not create a residue in your oven when baked as directed. Or even when baked a little hotter than directed. (In fact, it’s well-known among pros that baking 10-20 degrees hotter makes the clay stronger, as does baking longer.) When polymer clay burns, however, it does release hydrogen chloride gas, which is caustic and will burn your lungs (but is not exactly toxic). But polymer clay doesn’t burn until it reaches temperatures near 350°F (175°C). So if your oven is accurate, this will not be a concern for you.

For more information on baking polymer clay, including how to get the best results, how to minimize any smells, and how to prevent browning and color change, refer to the articles that I’ve written on Baking Polymer Clay.

Many people find that the smells from baking polymer clay are unpleasant and some sensitive people might get headaches. If this is a concern for you, then by all means put your clay oven in the garage or porch. And cover your project during baking, taking the pan outside to open it up. But be assured that baking polymer clay does not produce toxic fumes.

polymer clay decorated wine glasses by Melody Tallon
These wonderful wine glasses were decorated with polymer clay by Melody Tallon

Polymer Clay Safety Risks

Polymer clay is a plastic, and as such isn’t a whole lot different from any other plastic we use in our lives. It is PVC, the very same plastic that is used in our water pipes. But even though polymer clay is tested and certified to be non-toxic, there will always be the question, what if? What if “they” haven’t discovered yet that one of its components will cause problems years down the line? What if the plasticizers are more toxic than “they” know? Well, you can’t know. Not for sure. But that’s true for everything. You have to be rational and logical and not give into scary rumors and myths you might read. Find out the information that you can. Fear has no place here. And take reasonable precautions with your body’s safety, as you hopefully do every day in your life, whether you’re working with polymer clay or not. Regardless of your chosen hobby, you should be using good ventilation, appropriate protection (gloves or mask), and wash your hands afterward. It’s part of taking care of your body and being healthy. But you have to be logical about it. It’s just plain silly to freak out about “polymer clay contamination” and then ignore the many, many other plastics, industrial adhesives, carpets, and petroleum product outgassing that we encounter each day.

I suppose I could write a philosophical piece here about the risks we take in life. All plastic is nasty stuff, and it probably does cause issues for our bodies. But then so do food-borne illnesses and the dangers of improper food storage. Is it better to store milk in a plastic jug (plasticizers), a paper carton (dioxin), or a glass bottle which might not have been adequately sterilized? We are surrounded with dangers in life, both by chemicals and by things that happen to us. We do what we can to minimize the risks that we can control. We don’t smoke, we eat organic produce, and we avoid GMO’s. But we use cell phones and breathe exhaust and get into our cars which are filled with plastic. Some risk is unavoidable. But you have to evaluate the relative importance of these risks. And from what I can tell, working with polymer clay isn’t a very big monster on this list of risks. Now pardon me while I go get a snack. It’s a Diet Coke from a plastic bottle and some pesticide-laden grapes. (Gee…and we’re worried about a little polymer clay?)

77 thoughts on “Is Polymer Clay Safe?”

  1. Dorothy Downing

    Thank you for your article! It tells us to be prudent and cautious but is reasonable and doesn’t go overboard. My friend who introduced me to polymer clay has gone beyond what I would consider prudent and careful about the cooking of clay, clean up and the use of items for food. I totally agree with you perspective. Thanks for posting this article.

    1. I’ve always thought it ironic that some people are so afraid of polymer clay that they use toxic cleaners in a misguided attempt to protect themselves. I hope your friend isn’t putting herself in danger. Yes, perspective is the operative word here. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful dissertation. I address similar concerns every time i teach a class. There are typically a couple of people who are frightened by what they read, and I try to help dispel exaggerated fears. I also wonder why they are taking a class — it’s easy enough to avoid pc……Anyway, I totally enjoy your posts, and always find useful info.

  3. As a long time watercolorist and polymer clay-er, I agree with you about the safety of polymer clay. In painting, I use colors that contain arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead and cobalt, all of which are dangerous. And yet, I’ve had no ill effects because I procedures in the studio to keep from rinsing my brush in my coffee cup (not setting it close to my rinse water!!), among other things. Polymer clay contains NONE of these substances and is rated non-toxic, but as with any art materials, the use of common sense and hand washing should eliminate any issues. You can also use a heavy barrier cream (like Nivea) or nitril gloves to help shield your skin if you’re still concerned.

    1. Hi Beth, I’m glad that you brought up the risks of other art mediums. You’re very correct about the heavy metals in artist’s pigments. Many craft and hobby materials have toxic risks that are far worse than those we deal with in polymer clay. And the answer is the same for all of them. Learn the truth, use wise and adequate precautions, and use common sense. I’m not sure that Nivea would protect against toxins, but nitrile gloves are a wonder. I remember when they came out…I was working in labs at the time and they were a godsend. Unlike vinyl or latex gloves, they’re tough, flexible, and don’t really get in the way of using your hands.

  4. Hey Ginger, thank you for bringing up this subject. There is a lot of misinformation out there and its great to get some of that cleared up but I would debate a couple points. Exposure to toxins is not about any single exposure event or even repeated events. It is about something called body burden.
    Our bodies are amazing detoxifies but they have their limits. Every effort made to decrease exposure means your body can do a more efficient job keeping you well. Saying “oh well, I’m already being exposed to other chemicals and I’m fine” is a dangerous stance. I’ve been there and I’ve paid for it. I did extensive research on the subject after becoming seriously ill over what was eventually determined to be ‘Environmental Toxin poisoning’ directly linked to exposure to phthalates in the polymer clay (thank goodness that changed or I’d be one very sad artist still today) and hardeners in resin. I was a full time artist and so worked with the material far more than most people but my system couldn’t handle that on top of our daily unavoidable exposure to the many chemicals in our world.
    I was seriously debilitated from it for nearly two years with brain and metabolic issues and have several symptoms that have never gone away include reduced working memory functions, dyslexia and an over-reactive immune system.
    The bottom line is, if you can be safer, then do it. I always get asked about the nitrile gloves I wear when working. The skin can absorb chemicals as well so since we still don’t know all the long term effects of many chemicals used today, gloves are a really easy thing to do that also help reduce fingerprints and warming of the clay to boot. Gloves also keep you from going straight from the work table to that bag of chips. Its a good reminder. Its a small thing that you get used to very quickly and even learn to appreciate it for its many advantages.
    The other thing … about the oven. If polymer is baked as directed or a little higher, yep, no problem. The reason for suggesting a dedicated oven in a ventilated space has to do with the dangerous fumes released if the polymer is burned. This releases dioxins and hydrochloric acid. The hydrochloric acid can cause acute issues especially for those with respiratory problems. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and one of the most potent. It is neither fat nor water soluble so if it gets into your system, it’s not getting out easily if at all. The problem here is then more about repeated exposure–it builds up over time and greatly increases your risk of cancer. So again, better to be safe. If you have to use an oven in your living spaces (and even you don’t–No one wants to burn their hard work!) put ceramic tiles or stone in your ovens (they act as heat sinks) to ensure consistent temperatures by combating heat spiking, and cover or otherwise shield your polymer from direct radiant heating elements. Direct radiant heat is the most common reason to have polymer burn during curing.
    These things might seem like a bother but not being able to work for two years, battling cancer or just feeling ill is far more bothersome. Trust me. You don’t want to learn the importance of being cautious the hard way and the few precautions mentioned will not diminish your enjoyment or keep you from creating in the least.

    1. Hi Sage, thank you for a thoughtful reply. I absolutely agree about body burden (it’s the same for allergies and I deal with that one myself). And about using gloves if this is a concern. The bottom line, and I hope the point that came across in this article, is to find out the answers and make informed choices about the actual risks rather than to fret and worry needlessly about rumors you have heard. As I’m sure you’re aware there is tremendous fear and much misinformation and myth perpetuated by well-meaning people in our community. Many people are unsure who to trust or what precautions to take. I’m trying to take the unreasonable fear out of this. You make very good and valid points, and I appreciate you bringing them into the discussion. I didn’t go into detail about the ways to be safer with clay…I merely alluded to them. I only have so much space and time! But I hope that people will be reasonably cautious and not be worried about some of the more outlandish stories that are circulating out there. I have heard of people scrubbing their oven with oven cleaners after every bake. Now that is just unreasonable and that’s the fear I’m trying to address.

      Also, the point about body burden is a very good one. Someone who is a very occasional clayer might not be concerned with the kind of precautions and protections that a professional artist who is claying every day should consider. But hopefully anyone who is using any art of craft material treats them with respect and would use good ventilation, use protective clothing (gloves and masks) if necessary, and wash their hands when they leave the work area. That is just good practice for anyone in any hobby.

      As for preventing burning of polymer clay, if you read any of my writing and the articles I linked, you know how I consistently and constantly advocate the use of an oven thermometer, ceramic tiles, and covering your work to protect against the heat of the oven’s element. The fear of using a regular food oven for baking polymer clay (which is unfounded) leads many people to use a toaster oven which is notorious for burning clay, leading to far greater and more real health risks than what they were tying to avoid in the first place. I consider this a tragedy of misinformation and want to educate people so we have fewer ruined projects and less burned clay (and by extension toxic exposure). Polymer clay does have real dangers when used in some circumstances, but when there is so much misinformation and fear circulating the truth gets lost. So I’m shining the light into a few dark corners. Thanks for helping me in the process!

        1. You can use a foil pan, inverted. Or some cardstock folded into a tent shape. Or some aluminum foil. The only reason you need to line the pan is so that you don’t get a shiny spot on the bottom of the clay, where it touches the pan. I use plain paper for that. It works great.

  5. As always, a thoughtful, insightful and intelligent article. Please keep doing what you do! With all my best, Deanna

  6. Thank you for this clarification. I personally don’t have a problem but I know some non-clayers have questioned the toxicity. This artical puts everything in perspective. Thank you

  7. Melodie Parenti

    You have done a great job with this article. Every time some asks one of these questions these are the answers I always try to give them. Now all I need to do is share this, Thank you!!!

  8. Hi Ginger
    I too thought this was a great article and one that should be brought out……but it
    does all boil down to common sense practices. This is a fun hobby, but when there is fear there is no fun.
    Also want to thank you for the tip on using shoe polish as a cost conscious alternative to Renaissance cream. The shoe polish buffs my pieces up
    beautifully and it only cost me $3.79 at Target.

  9. Flo :::Talismans

    Hello Ginger,
    Thank you for this excellent article. We hear everything and the opposite on polymer clay and you did a great deal of research which gives us all the necessary explanations. Thank you to have used one of my creations to illustrate your subject and to contribute so to make me famous (private joke 😉 ! Warmly. Flo

  10. We’re gonna die! True statement. And yes, I think the issues are overly dramatic. One thing I would suggest is that pregnant women either wear gloves while working with clay or take a break from playing with it until after your baby is born. The plasticizers have been linked to birth defects.

    1. I’m not sure if the currently used plasticizers have been linked to birth defects, but yes, you are right about avoiding exposure during pregnancy. It’s been a while since I thought about pregnancy so I didn’t even bring it up. Thank you for the reminder. Pregnancy is a special category, in my opinion. I was never so clean-living in my life as when I carried babies! It is just not worth the risk, however small.

  11. Thanks for using one of my projects as an example. I liked your article very much. I totally agree. There are so many dangerous things in our lives, every single moment, I think polymer clay is at the bottom of the list. Of course, it is always good to reasonably protect ourselves. I use a separate little oven outside of the house (because I don’t like the smell when polymer clay is cured inside the house), but I also use my normal oven for my big projects. After curing, I leave the oven door open for a while, to be sure that any toxic gas or the smell has gone. Sometimes I use gloves, when my eczema is “active” but I always prefer to feel the clay. I also don’t cover the parts of cuttlery that may have contact with food. This is why I always leave enough space in the upper part of my mugs and cover only the egde of the spoons. I think that the creative minds, that all clayers have, can find many ways to create art and stay safe in the same time.

  12. Hello! Thank you so much for this article, I appreciate that you put such effort into the information you present and I’m happy that you’re debunking some myths about polymer clay. However, as a chemist, I get picky about details… not all plastics have plasticizers. PVC is a rigid polymer, so in order to make it softer, flexible or pliable, a plasticizer can be added. Polymer clay is always a polymer, however, before baking it’s a plastic polymer, and after baking it’s a rigid polymer. PVC in general is a rigid polymer.

    However, plasticizers aren’t’ the only way to make a rigid polymer more flexible. Less rigid polymer chains have “natural” (or as natural as it can get) flexibility, so they don’t need any additives… for example, the ziploc bags you mentioned are made from polyethylene, which is already a plastic, so they don’t contain plasticizers. They’re already flexible. Rubber contains a special kind of chemical bond that allows the polymer chains to move more freely, making it flexible without the use of any plasticizer.

    I hope that made some sense, it’s difficult to explain it in a second language XD

    1. Oh Talty, thank you SO much for clarifying this. I have some chemistry background, mostly biochem, but it’s just enough to get me into trouble. It does make sense and you explained it very well. It also explains to me why the plasticizer is driven out of the clay by baking, and why remaining plasticizer in underbaked clay can cause problems with weakness and perhaps even sticky sealers. It’s all becoming more clear now. I’ll make changes in the article to reflect what you said. It doesn’t change the points about safety, but I do value accuracy and want to be as clear and factual as possible. Thank you!!

      1. I’m glad it made sense! I appreciate that you took my comment into consideration. Yes, the plasticizers evaporate when you bake them, if the oven doesn’t bake the polymer clay long or hot enough, some plasticizers will remain in the clay, most likely in the center. Some people may nor notice it for a while because the surface looks baked, but the plasticizers will migrate and make the clay more and more brittle, until it crumbles in your hands (ask me how I know that, rookie mistake). Of course, it also means that the remaining plasticizers can affect some plastic sealers.

        1. Some great information Talty. I had no idea that placticisers in under-baked clay would ‘migrate’ throughout the piece, very interesting.

  13. Thank you Ginger 🙂
    I knew it was fine for what I was doing on the outside of my cups and bowls 🙂 and the such like 🙂
    Lol as for chips/crisps well don’t eat them but Dad always brings me a plate of sandwiches while I am working at my PC 🙂 I tend to forget about eating and the such when working bad habit of mine, but when he brings me something to eat I never have time to get up and wash my hands at a sink and so now I have a bottle of that sanitised hand cleaner at my work station so I use that 🙂 I found its great if you are trying to stop biting your nails too 🙂
    I also use the hand cleaner to clean my work area, it cleans my glass bench perfectly each time 🙂
    I have learned so much from your website 🙂 thank you so much for all the time and effort that you have put into your website and especial for all the time you have taken to learn so much more about the do’s and don’ts of polymer clay 🙂
    Have a great day 🙂 Angela

  14. This was a great…you answered so many questions I had….interesting about the plasticizers….I clean all my tools a equipment with 91% rubbing alcohol, even my hands before I wash them….what are your thoughts about using alcohol?

  15. Hmmm, seems every time I research an important topic on Polymer Clay, I bump into you 🙂 I’m glad tho. I read somewhere that the fumes are toxic to pets and after the first day of doing quite a bit of baking, my large dog was ill for no apparent reason. She was better by morning, but by evening the next day and after more baking, sluggish again, but not as bad (and I burnt something this time. Not saying it was the clay fumes, might have been the pet food or anything else, but can the fumes be toxic to pets? My little dog and cat were right there also and didn’t seem bothered by it. I got a mild headache. Did have windows and doors open.

    1. Like a bad penny, hmm? Always turning up. 😀 Polymer clay is merely PVC powder in a non-toxic plasticizer, some fillers and binders, and some color. There’s nothing toxic in it and it’s been certified to be safe when used as directed, for humans and for children. So there are no fumes and there isn’t anything harmful in polymer clay. I mean, don’t eat it or anything. But it’s not a toxic substance and you probably have more danger to yourself drinking a vodka tonic than baking clay. That being said, a lot of things can be irritating to people. And animals. My daughter’s cat can’t handle it when she cuts onions. Poor little guy’s eyes get all red and teary and be blinks and cries. And of course we all know there’s nothing toxic in an onion! I have four cats, myself, and I bake in my oven. My little Burmese (who has a chronic lung condition) likes to sit on the oven when I bake clay because it’s warm. The clay never causes him to have coughing fits and we never have to use his inhaler from baking clay. But that’s all anecdotal evidence. The scientists and the manufacturers tell us that clay’s safe. It sounds like your dog is reacting to something else and it’s entirely coincidental. I hope he’s feeling better. 🙂

  16. Thanks for another very informative article that helps explain some things about polymer clay in more detail. I hope you enjoyed your ‘pesticide-laden grapes’. Lol! Luckily we grow our own grapes in the greenhouse, so we can avoid pesticides in those. Nice grapes too! very sweet just now. Cheers!

  17. Laurie Spaschak

    I have found after making many beautiful glasses that when they were used with cold drinks in them or even ice water that the artwork would pop off the glasses… This only happened with cold liquids in the glass – they had no issues when washed in hot soapy water or with room temp liquids in them.. I ended up having to glue all the pieces back on. Any ideas? I’m using sculpty and similar brands clay and baking a little longer than needed but nothing seems to prevent the problem and what good is a wine glass if you can’t put cold drink in it? Thanks. Laurie

    1. I think this is normal. Polymer clay doesn’t actually glue to the glass, it’s a suction bond and often needs to be glued on again after baking. In general, you always need to design your clay so that it surrounds the glass, not leaving any “orphaned” areas that aren’t attached to other clay. This makes the cured clay hold the glass.

  18. Thank you for such informative articles. I have been looking for a material to make cookie molds and wondered why polymer clays advertised as nontoxic couldn’t be used.

    A press mold for cookies will obviously have no undercuts to trap the dough so the issue of crevices doesn’t exist. As far as washability, I think your article on washing buttons was very helpfully. Soapy scrub with a soft toothbrush and air drying in summer sun should clean a mold. These molds will be used once a year, dusted with flour, on a reasonably dry dough. The cookies made are small batch and not commercial.

    While I wouldn’t offer anyone else advice, after reading your food safety and button washing articles, I am now happy to use a white polymer clay for the purpose I described.

    1. Well, I have to be official and say that I don’t think it’s a good idea. But I can see where you’re coming from and can see that you’ve thought it through. Polymer clay is not a food-utensil-creating material. But can I suggest that you use polymer to create the design and then maybe use the polymer to create a silicone mold that IS food safe? There are so many options, and so many materials, and it’s beyond the scope of my experience to say a whole lot more. 🙂

      1. Unfortunately the mold needs to be rigid, which eliminates silicone. There are food safe two-part epoxies, but they tend to bubble without a vacuum chamber. That are also extremely expensive to ship to Australia :/. I guess I could always take up woodcarving.

  19. Has anyone found any recent information on possible hazards of polymer clay? I am newly pregnant and make clay jewellery for a living. It isn’t an option for me to stop for the duration. I never overcook or breathe in fumes and wash my hands thoroughly. Basically I’m looking for some information that isn’t related to the 2002 doom and gloom article on phthalates that aren’t even used in clay anymore

    1. Pregnancy is a special situation because you’re dealing with a developing person. As a mother myself, I know how important it is to be safe when it comes to your baby. But rest assured that the label absolutely does say that it is certified to be non-toxic. And there are no longer the same phthalates in polymer clay that were associated with problems. You could always contact the manufacturer for more information. But I can say that if it were me, I’d continue claying, taking the very same precautions that you list here. I would certainly wash my hands after claying or even wear gloves. And I’d move the claying oven to the garage or porch, or get an exhaust fan. But aside from that, I’d relax. People continue to get their hair colored and use nail polish during pregnancy all the time and those are toxic processes for sure. We’re not really sure where all the fear about polymer clay safety comes from, but it is mostly unwarranted. And congratulations on your pregnancy. What an exciting time!

      1. thanks so much!
        I was out of commission for 3 months with “morning” sickness but I’m ready to start working again taking the precautions you recommend.
        it’s hard to sort out the actual hazards from the internet paranoia these days.

  20. If I made an item out of Polymer Clay such as a flower, and baked it, could I make a silicone mold of that flower then use the mold to make chocolate designs for a cake?

    1. Yes, except that some brands of silicone mold material won’t cure properly when applied over polymer clay. I would use Premo to sculpt the flower and Easy Mold to make the molds. Avoid using Kato and Amazing Mold Putty for this particular project. They are great products, but don’t play nice together in this instance.

  21. I had a small concern regarding polymer clay (sculpey oven baked terracotta) and putting pure essential oils on it. Seeing how essential oils can eat away at plastic, do you think is safe?

    1. I don’t recommend adding pure essential oils to polymer clay. It’s far better to bake a small glass vial inside of the clay, then after baking put some cotton in the vial and some oil. That way it can be scented, but the oil won’t ooze anywhere or make anything sticky.

  22. Thank-you, Ginger! This really helped clear up my concerns over polymer clay. You definitely have a talent for explaining things. I was wondering what your thoughts were on baking polymer clay with alcohol inks and/or pigments? Are these safe to bake as well?

    1. I’m not aware of any hazards, that being said, I have no information about the safety of that. Considering that clay bakes at temps that are lower than the incineration point and there are no chemical reactions happening in the oven, I find it unlikely that a previously non-toxic art material would become toxic merely by heating it. Keep in mind that clay cures at temps far below that required to cook food.

  23. Hi, Ginger
    Rozz Hopkins here ! I’ve been working with PC for 30 plus years now. And I love it. At about 20 years into it, my friends asked “aren’t you a bit worried about the effects it may be having on your body”? Well, that did pose a reasonable question. I went to my Dr. Had her do blood work. Testing for polyvinyl chloride. None was found.
    With this testing , from a more than qualified *Independent Labratory* ( hehe) I believe that Now, this age old question may be put to rest. Of course I would not eat directly from a bowl made from the “Clays” place a doily or a sheet of waxed paper inside if you’d like to serve from it. Dry items only. That is my belief. Hope this clears some confusion.Take good care.

  24. Thank you so much! This finally put me at ease. But I was wondering, what would be the proper way to clean tools after using them on polymer clay? For instance, I’ve been itching to use dough cutting tools on clay but I was worried they wouldn’t be kitchen-safe afterwards, even if cleaned. So does common detergent manage to do the job at cleaning or is there some other cleaning agent more suitable?

    1. Polymer clay isn’t toxic, so you just need to make sure to remove the oily coating that clay can sometimes leave. I would clean the tools with rubbing alcohol, wiping all areas of the tool with a paper towel. Then wash in hot soapy water. Because this is a pain in the neck to do on a regular basis, it’s best to have a separate set of tools for working with clay. But not strictly necessary.

  25. Hello everyone. I’m here just to ask a few questions for self interest. if you could provide useful information that would be wonderful, if you can’t then that okay.well here’s my situation…I’m a 14 year old boy and I’m trying to do research for my (two) snakes. I’m wandering if it would be safe to use polymer clay to build a water bowl for them to drink out of. My main issue is: is it safe for snake and/or reptiles in general. I would really appreciate a quick response, seeing as I dont have much free time due to the fact that i am now a freshmen -_- Thank you in advance for reading this/ answering this. Have an amazing day. 😀

  26. Not only did I find your article regarding the safety of polymer clay enlightening, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments afterward. Thank you so much for your time and energy in providing our community with your expertise and experience.

  27. Thanks so much for this article. I must admit, I’m one if those scared cats. Good to know it’s not as bad as I thought! However, if I were to cover the snout (?) of a teapot, with hit streaming over the polymer clay, would that be considered too much?

  28. I had to laugh when I read this post and found out that you are a microbiologist. It explains the thoroughness of your research. Yesterday, I started to wonder if there really were problems with polymer clay touching food and whether the fumes emitted while baking the clay really were harmful. I thought to myself, “I’ll check the Blue Bottle Tree. Ginger always does thorough research.” Now I know why.

    Thank you for setting the record straight. BTW I am quite new to polymer clay and have found your blog to be really helpful.

    1. Ha! Yes, I got my degrees in biology/microbiology and then taught college for a while and then worked in molecular biology research. So I do have a compulsion for getting as close to the truth as I can. Welcome to the world of polymer clay. It’s great fun and you’re going to love it!

  29. Pingback: Wissenschaftliche Betrachtung: Was ist eigentlich Fimo und wie giftig ist es wirklich? | Lenyeds Kämmerchen

  30. Thank you for this info! I am doing preliminary research into the world of pc to find out if it’s a skill I want to get serious about for ball-jointed doll accessories, and I found this article incredibly well done and enlightening. Thanks for putting the time into this. 🙂

  31. When using the family oven to bake polymer clay, how long must you wait between baking the clay and baking food in the oven? Are there any cleaning steps that should be done between uses? I read cleaning the oven with baking soda thoroughly between uses is recommended. Thank you!

    1. You can read all kinds of things on the internet, and not all of it is true. 🙂 There is no scientific basis for cleaning the oven with baking soda between curing polymer clay and baking food. That’s just one of those things people say to try to be helpful. Polymer clay is not toxic and leaves no residue in the oven. You can bake your food right away. There might be a residual odor just as there’s an odor in the oven when you bake anything. So airing it out might be helpful, but not strictly necessary.

  32. I make Springerle cookies using replicated molds, most made of resin or wood.
    I would like to make ornaments using my molds and am wondering if the molds would still be safe to use for making cookies afterwards. Also, what do you suggest I use to clean the molds afterwards?
    Thank you so much for all the info.

  33. Thanks so much for this good article, I got a lot of information.but I have a question about baked polymer clay .is safe touching baked clay or not?for example if I make dolls with this clay and touch them after bake , should I wash my hands for eating food or not??

  34. Hi Ginger, thanks for this article.
    I see you mention that the citrate based plasticizers in Polymer Clay are biodegradable. Do you know if the other ingredients in Polymer Clay are also biodegradable?
    I’m hoping that the whole, baked, finished product is entirely biodegradable.
    Thanks, Emma

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