If you’re a crafter or simply a DIY enthusiast, you probably know the importance of polymer clay. Whether it’s for a project or a clay art, polymer clay is an essential item to consider. Not only for art but also for multiple purposes, polymer clay is necessary.
But sometimes, polymer clay might lose its texture and get hard and crumbly. It requires immediate measures to soften the overall texture. So, to make your task easier, we’ve come up with easy techniques on how to soften polymer clay perfectly.
With these simple and effective methods, you’ll be able to transform your clay into art by softening it.
Why Polymer Clay Gets Hard?
The most common reason why polymer clay tends to go hard is that it’s grown old and not used for a long time. Keeping the clay away for a long time ultimately makes the texture dry. For this reason, you cannot work with it easily until you’ve softened it enough.
Other reasons might be that the polymer clay isn’t fresh. This may cause the clay to remain dry and crumbly. Besides, the clay which has been exposed to too much heat also grows to be hard over time.
To verify the reason behind the hardness of your clay, try squeezing the clay first. If they’re fresh, you will be able to squish them to a minimum extent. The reason for the hardness might be because of too much heat build-up or being left alone for a long time.
But if you can’t squish the clay even a little, it probably means the clay was originally not fresh.
How to Soften Polymer Clay Perfectly
When you’ve figured out the reason why your clay is too hard and dry, you will need to soften it. Although there are many processes to soften hard clay, not all methods work for all clay. So, we’ve categorized some easy and effective methods that will help soften all kinds of polymer clay–
- Clay Warm-Up
Sometimes, the clay gets dry, but it’s not so hard for us. This kind of clay can get soft with a little warm-up in no time. A good kneading will do the job after adequate warming up.
So, firmly hold the clay in your hands and apply pressure to provide proper warmth. You can also use a warm container or a hot bottle of water to place over the clay for 10-15 minutes. And you can also warm the clay by putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds.
When it is warmed up, cut it into small fragments, and use a rolling pin to roll the clay. This will make the clay pliable in texture.
The final step is to knead the clay properly for 5-6 minutes. Kneading the clay on a flat surface will give the clay a moldable quality. So, you can give it any desired shape you want.
This method is only applicable to slightly dry and hard clay. It will not work for clay that has been left unused for a very long time or partially cured at some point. For softening clay from other categories, you can check out the other methods.
- Chopping the Clay
This method is one of the easiest methods out there to transform your hard clay into a smoother version. You can use a food processor for a much easier job, but a knife works fine too.
Use a sharp knife and chop the clay into tiny bits and then use a food processor to grind the clay. Adding a good diluent makes it easy on the hard clay to finally break down. Grind the clay for 2-3 minutes at the highest setting to achieve the smooth and soft texture.
Take the clay scraps out properly from the entire processor and knead them well for 4-5 minutes. The clay will be easy to mold, cut, and assemble for use.
- Adding Plasticizers
Making hard clay to a more pliable version can be achieved easily with plasticizers. A few drops of translucent liquid polymer clay into the hard clay will do the job perfectly well. The texture of liquid clay will add softness and also make it easy to knead.
And the best thing about using liquid clay is that it does not interfere with the original quality of the clay. Use 2-3 drops at a time instead of going overboard. The advantage of using translucent clay is that it will not affect the color status of the original polymer clay.
Although high-quality liquid clay can be a bit on the pricier side, you can still work with the cheaper alternatives and obtain a similar result.
If your clay is only a little firm, you can use baby oil or mineral oil to soften it up. Professional clay artists also use the Sculpey Clay Softener to achieve a slushy clay texture.
It is advised to use 2-3 drops only to prevent the clay from getting gooey in the process. When the clay has softened up, knead the clay for 4-5 minutes to warm it up for use.
- Using Tools
There have been various tools designed for sculptors who work with clay frequently. These tools can easily soften any old, dry clay and transform it perfectly for use.
When it comes to clay softening tools, mallets are the best options available. Mallets are used to beat the clay until it is pliable.
They are compact, inexpensive, and are simple tools. Wrap the polymer clay in a plastic bag and beat the clay with the mallet for a good 7-10 minutes.
Knead the clay afterward to maintain the consistency. The dry, hard clay ultimately transforms into doughy clay with this method. But this tool is very difficult to use by individuals suffering from arthritis and joint issues.
Another tool that is quite famous in softening hard clay is the NeverKnead machine. This is an expensive tool that will not only soften the clay but also condition it to last long. It is the best option for clay that has been cured partially and even clay that has sat idle for a long time.
Moreover, another benefit of this tool is that it requires minimum effort. So, people suffering from joint problems can use this tool easily.
This tool kneads small and large blocks of clay with 1/2 ton of pressure, so the job gets done in no time. You don’t need to knead the clay with hands again. So, the whole method is very simple and quite effective.
Summing it up, it can be said that hard polymer clay can be easily softened if the appropriate methods are known.
For any sculptor or DIY enthusiast, using polymer clay requires proper softening and conditioning. Our simple and practical techniques will guide you on how to soften polymer clay perfectly.