Learning curves can be steep. Beginners can certainly appreciate all kinds of tips and tricks so they do not have to learn the hard way what they need to know about a technique. Here are 5 top polymer clay questions and answers beginners might have about working with polymer clay especially those pertaining to health and safety.
How to Store Clay?
Polymer clay has to be correctly stored for it to last for years. Plus keep it dust free. This article from Polymer Clay Web covers the types of containers and wraps that are best for storing the clay so it doesn't react with the container itself. I like the idea of wrapping smaller pieces of clay in wax paper and placing those in a divided plastic storage box. Or lining the box with wax paper.
How to Bake Clay?
Polymerclayer's excellent article says there are just 3 things you need to control properly - temperature, time and baking surfaces - to ensure adequate baking without brittleness or scorching. Great chart on the different temperatures and times needed for different brands of polymer clay. Also useful tips on when you should adjust temperature for e.g. with lighter colored clay. And for high elevation baking.
Underbaked clay easily crumbles. Many polymer clay artists do bake longer to make the finished product stronger. Good to know if you cannot be bothered with timing!! Check out Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree's How Long to Bake Polymer Clay for more information.
Can I Use My Home Oven?
Sometimes conventional wisdom is not true. Many people say a home oven should not be used for baking polymer clay because they believe a residue forms which might then contaminate food cooked afterwards. Ginger has another excellent article where she dispels this belief. It is fine so long as you bake the clay at the recommended temperature. (Note : My old toaster oven is no longer needed so I do dedicate it for shrink plastic and polymer clay use! )
I like her tip for covering baking clay to reduce any odor that can irritate people who are sensitive to smells. And her practical tip if you accidentally set the oven at 350°F (177°C) or higher when the clay will indeed burn and emit fumes.
What is the Best Sealer for Polymer Clay?
It is not necessary to seal polymer clay but you do have to if you have surface embellishments like mica powder or paint which might be rubbed off. Water-based polyurethane seems to be a popular choice. No chemicals needed for clean-up, just soap and water.
Again, Ginger shares a good laboratory rule I know well. Never dip your project into the main container. Always pour a small amount in small container for use. This prevents your main stock from being accidentally contaminated with perhaps bits of mica powder etc.
Is Polymer Clay Safe?
Yes, it is safe to use. Ginger was once a scientist (microbiologist) so she covers this topic very well. Find out why polymer clay, if not toxic, is still not suited for making food contact items. Many people (as do I) dedicate tools for clay work and never use them for food preparation. It is good practice but as Ginger points out, it is not an absolute rule.
Polymer clay is a plastic. You can rest easy that today's polymer clay no longer contain the kind of plasticizers (needed to make plastic soft, flexible and durable) called phthalates which are known endocrine disruptors. She says, "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." Good to know polymer clay is considered a toy!!
There is a lot of outdated, unproven or even fraudulent health and medical claims on the internet so beware! Always check reputable sources before sharing.
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