Can You Bake Air Dry Clay?

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Air dry clay is a fantastic tool for creating fun, unique pieces for any room. It’s fairly easy to sculpt and can then be left in a safe place to fully dry and harden into its intended shape. The downside is that the air drying process takes much longer than a quick bake, so if you are under a time crunch, could you bake air-dry clay? 

You can bake air-dry clay. While not typically recommended, it is possible to bake air-dry clay if you follow the correct process and a few simple safety measures. 

The rest of this article will explain the correct process for baking air dry clay and will dig into the differences between typical baking clay and air dry clay. Read on, and you’ll be ready for your next creative clay project! 

How Do You Bake Air Dry Clay?

To bake air-dry clay, you will need:

  • A baking sheet
  • Parchment paper 
  • Your clay project
  • A conventional oven

Starting with a cold oven, complete the following steps:

  1. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place your clay project on top of the paper.
  3. Place the baking sheet with your project in the oven.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C) 
  5. Immediately set a timer for 20 minutes (do not wait for the oven to preheat before setting the timer).
  6. Turn off the oven.
  7. Leave the project in the oven until both the oven and project have fully cooled. 

A Few Important Notes About Baking Air Dry Clay

Before baking your first air-dry clay project, take a minute to review these important notes!

  • Never put your project into a hot oven. It is very important to make sure the oven is turned off and completely cold before putting your project inside. Going from room temperature to 200°F (93°C) too quickly can result in cracked clay, so be sure to allow the project to slowly heat up with the oven. 
  • Do not wait for the oven to preheat before starting the timer. The timer should be set as soon as your project goes into the cold oven. The preheating time is included in the 20-minute timer. Leaving your project in the oven for 20 minutes after the preheating process is complete could result in severe cracking, brittleness, or burning. 
  • Allow the project and the oven to completely cool before removing. Once the timer is up, turn the oven off, but do not remove your project. Going from 200°F (93°C) to room temperature too quickly can have the same effect as the reverse (cracking, brittleness, breakage), so take care to allow your project to fully cool before removing.
  • Review the manufacturer’s label before baking. Some air-dry clays will have baking instructions included in their packaging, while others will explicitly warn you against baking the air-dry clay. 
  • Always line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Your clay should never touch the same surfaces you use to prepare food, so be sure to line your baking sheet or tray with parchment paper and thoroughly clean them when finished. 

What Is the Difference Between Air Dry and Baking Clay?

When creating with clay, there are many different mediums to choose from. One of the most common oven-baked clays is polymer clay. When comparing the composition of air-dry and oven-baked polymer clay, there are several notable differences. 

What Is Air Dry Clay?

Air-dry clay is an easy-to-use clay developed by Crayola. It is incredibly convenient due to its ability to be sculpted, fully formed, and dried without the use of a kiln. Kilns are quite large and fairly expensive, making them unrealistic for some hobby crafters. 

Because of its natural moisture content, air-dry clay will harden when exposed to air for long periods (often 2 to 3 days). When storing air-dry clay, you’ll want to keep it completely sealed in order to prevent it from drying out unintentionally. 

As it dries, air-dry clay tends to slightly shrink in size, so don’t be surprised if your project turns out a little smaller than the original mold. This clay is ideal for beginners and children because of its pliability and inexpensive price tag. 

Air-dry clay is made up of clay and glue. Even after thoroughly drying, it is important to note that this type of clay is not waterproof and can be softened if it comes into contact with water. Be mindful when choosing the clay medium for your project to only choose air-dry clay if you know your project will not be regularly exposed to water like a flower pot or an outdoor statue. 

For a charming and simple air-dry-clay-friendly project, check out my other post on this DIY Mini Wall Shelf! This sweet, no-nails-required shelf is perfect for beginners.

What Is Oven-Baked Polymer Clay?

Polymer clay is becoming increasingly common in the world of crafting, often used for jewelry, beads, buttons, and decorative home pieces. This clay is not a traditional, natural clay. It is a man-made material composed of plastic and polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC. 

This clay medium is excellent because it can be baked in your home oven with ease and will not lose its shape or size as it dries. Depending on the brand of clay, your project typically needs to bake for about 15 minutes per ¼ inch (6 mm) of thickness. When compared to air-dry clay, this is clearly a more time-efficient option. 

Once baked, polymer clay becomes hard and reasonably durable, not nearly as fragile as its air-dry clay counterpart.

Oven-baked polymer clay conveniently stays pliable, even when exposed to air. Because of this, you have plenty of time to get your sculpture just right without worrying about it beginning to harden or change its texture. 

Just getting started with using air dry clay? I share my most effective air clay techniques for beginners in my ultimate how-to guide.

Conclusion

Technically, you can bake air-dry clay, but it is not always recommended. When you oven-bake air-dry clay, you put your project at risk of cracking, breakage, and even burning. 

However, if you follow the outlined process for baking air-dry clay, you can successfully speed up the drying process using your home oven!

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