Can You Microwave Clay?

Q: I am a novice DIY crafter and sculptor just getting into working with clay. There are a variety of ways to soften clay using an oven and other means, but I have limited time. When I’m in the kitchen struggling to soften my clay, I keep asking myself the same question: Could I be doing this with my microwave? The thing is, I work mostly with polymer clay, and it says “do not microwave” right on the package. But I’m thinking maybe this disclaimer is because somebody somewhere put polymer clay in a microwave for twenty minutes and blew up half of their neighborhood. I am looking for a definitive answer. Can you microwave clay?

Can you microwave clay?

Can you microwave clay?

A: The answer is yes and no. Unfortunately, when it comes to polymer clay the answer is no. This substance contains chemicals that are not designed to be heated with microwaves. Because microwaves heat items from the inside out, and do not heat evenly, you’re likely to end up with a bubbly mess coming from one end of your clay piece, and a hard as stone disaster on the other end.

If you’re not careful, you will have a charred, black mass of smoking goo and you could end up breathing in toxic chemicals.

While some artists do microwave polymer clay by immersing it in water in a microwave safe bowl, generally speaking, you should avoid this practice altogether and keep your kitchen and lungs safe.

On a more positive note, you can absolutely use a microwave to make your own DIY clay! With a few simple ingredients and your trusty microwave, you’ll be sculpting a masterpiece in no time at all.

You’ll need a cup of cornstarch or flour, a cup of white glue, two tablespoons of lemon juice, and two tablespoons of baby oil as ingredients. Supplies include wax or parchment paper, plastic wrap, a microwave safe container, and a spoon or spatula.

In your container, mix the cornstarch or flour with the glue. Stir in the lemon juice and the baby oil. Place the container in the microwave and heat for 15 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir. If all goes well, the mixture will begin to thicken and clump together. Repeat this process of microwaving for 15 seconds and stirring until the mixture gets really clumpy.

Pour the mixture onto the wax or parchment paper. As soon as it is cool enough to handle, use your hands to work and knead the mixture. Your goal is to make it feel nice and smooth. You might want to put some lotion on your hands first to keep the clay from sticking to your fingers.

Once your clay is smooth, use your hands to roll it into an oblong shape for curing. Wrap the clay in plastic wrap and store it in a dry place at a cool temperature for 24 hours.

The clay you’ve just made is considered an “air-dry” clay, and it’s important to note this clay, once made, doesn’t do well in a microwave oven either. If you try to microwave it to soften it, it is likely to crack and break apart. The best way to soften your homemade clay is to add more baby oil or mineral oil. Microwaving it in water won’t work.

Sadly, though some sculptors do use microwaves to soften their store-bought polymer clay or homemade DIY clay, it just isn’t worth the potential hazards and other pitfalls you’ll run into. In the end, the simple answer to the question “can you microwave clay” is a solid no. Sometimes, patience is a key ingredient when it comes to creating great art. Simply put, when in doubt, don’t microwave clay. Happy sculpting!

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