Originally posted on 12/05/2012
Baking Soda Clay. Have you seen this one pop up on Pinterest? (Examples here, here, and here.) With a simple combination of baking soda, corn starch and water, you can mix up a beautifully white, smooth, and soft batch of modeling clay. You mold it or roll it, and then bake in the oven to completely dry it out. It makes gorgeous clay bowls or Christmas decorations, or fun little critters in the hands of your kiddos. Or does it? Does homemade baking soda clay really work?
- Better for you – no weird chemicals here – just three ingredients you already have in your kitchen
- Better for the earth – homemade means no packaging waste, no shipping trucks, etc
- Saves money – the ingredients are super cheap – you can whip up a batch of this for less than a dollar
- Easy – super duper easy to mix up and easy to work with too
- Pretty – there’s something just gorgeous about snow white dough
- Tends to crack and warp while drying
- Very fragile, breaks, chips and crumbles easily
- Dissolves when it contacts water
When I saw this recipe for homemade baking soda clay on Pinterest, I knew immediately that I wanted to try it. The ingredient list was short and easy, and the mixing directions straightforward. It was something I could do with the kiddos too, which is always a bonus for me. I thought it would make great Christmas ornaments (and gifts) if we rolled it out and used cookie cutters to make Christmas-y shapes.
The recipe went together easily, just like the other bloggers promised it would (kind of like instant mashed potatoes). We waited until it cooled and then rolled it out and cut it just like sugar cookie dough. I dried the ornaments out in the oven, as instructed, and left them on a plate for about a week before we got around to painting them. (Because as pretty as snow white ornaments are, when you’re a kid, painting them up is even better).
When I pulled the unpainted ornaments out of their hiding place, I noticed immediately that a number of them had cracked or broken into pieces. It seems that many had warped or curled as they dried, and just the weight of another ornament on top was enough to break the bottom layer. So we lost about a quarter of the ornaments right off the bat.
As the kids were painting them, I realized how fragile these things really were. We lost another quarter just by the kids handling them. My little guys are 4 and 2, so they’re still working on perfecting gentle, but by no means were they crazy rough with them either. I also noticed that any paintbrush water that got onto the ornaments started dissolving the clay after a few minutes. I guess that oven drying time was only to dry, and not to cure, as I had hoped.
We got about half of them painted intact, optimistically set a few aside for gifts and hung the rest on the fresh Christmas tree. A week later there are only two left on the tree (out of probably 25 that were originally rolled out). It turns out that any drop onto the hardwood floor = broken ornament. Even from a height of just a foot or two. Also, a certain big brother jealous of his little sister’s gingerbread man ornament that inadvertently ended up looking like Spider Man may have found it a bit too easy to snap off said man’s arms and legs. (Nothing like this ever happens at your house, right? 😉 )
Overall, this homemade baking soda clay was a Green Idea Fail. It was easy to make and fun to work with, but did not dry well, or handle well when dry. I would recommend it as a cheap easy recipe for children’s play clay, but not for any serious arts and crafts work. I’m not sure if I mixed it up incorrectly, or rolled it too thick, or dried it too much, but this did not work for me.
Have you ever tried out homemade baking soda clay? Did it work for you? Or do you have a better recommendation for Christmas ornament clay?
We made clay ornaments a few years ago, and they have held up great. My mom still has the one we made for her hanging on her tree this year. The recipe I used called for salt, warm water, and flour.
Thanks for the heads up. I made a salt dough with my 2.5 yo following a recipe that I found on Pinterest. Worked great but took a long time (4 hrs) in the oven. Would do it again though!
I made some of these ornaments 50 years ago. I do not remember using the oven for them to dry, I let them air dry, turning them over every so often until dry. They lasted for years, but you do have to treat them like glass ball ornaments, as they will break. Sorry you had such bad luck with them. Happy Holidays to you and yours.
Me too,,mine were made in the 70s,and we still put them on the tree every year..I didn’t oven dry mine..I put them on newspaper covered with paper towel to dry…they are beautiful.
I had the same experience with them breaking. I tried drying them in the oven and in a dehydrator. I’ve noticed that I’m making them way too thick and the thinner ones seem to hold up better. They still will crack and fall apart just from being picked up though. I’m wondering if adding some white glue would help.? I really want this to work! Every time I’ve made salt dough ornaments, they never dry flat and pretty the way the cornstarch ones do. I’m just glad I’m not the only one that had this issue. Pinterest is making me think that I’m the only one that can’t get it right! 🙂
I have made these for years, and I have about a decade of them still hanging around. I always air dry, oven drying seems to make them curl, puff, and crack the surface. I use a emery board to smooth the edges, and seal with white glue after painting. Thickness seems to matter a lot, and it does take practice to get the right. Too think seems to crack as it dries, and too thin means it will crumble. I use a fondant roller with the thickest band for rolling and it seems to give the perfect thickness($11-$15 at Walmart).