Whether you want to add some beautiful details to your old wine glasses or you’re thinking about sprucing up your garden with some handmade clay sculptures, polymer clay is an excellent material to work with. It’s easy to use, comes in a wide variety of colors, and is versatile.
But before you direct your effort and cash into crafting with polymer clay, you might have some questions about the material, such as “Can polymer clay get wet or dry out?” or “Does it go bad over time?”. After all, you don’t want to make beautiful animal figurines only to have them melt in the rain a few days later or dry out and crumble apart.
In this article, we’ll try to cover all your questions regarding the durability of polymer clay and everything that pertains to its exposure to the outdoor environment, so read on to find out more.
Can Polymer Clay Get Wet?
No, polymer clay doesn’t get wet like regular clay. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite – polymer clay is waterproof, thanks to its composition of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) resin and plasticizers. So, you can use polymer clay to make things that will be exposed to water without worrying that they’ll get ruined.
As a crafter, you want to get the assurance that the outdoor sculptures you make will withstand all sorts of weather conditions, whether it be light showers, heavy downpour, or summer sum. That’s essential, as no one ever wants to have their hours or even days of effort counseled out a few days by Mother nature.
And for the water part, it’s fortunate for the polymer clay enthusiasts out there, since this material won’t disappoint when used for outdoor projects. You see, polymer clay is waterproof! Hence, even if you leave your sculpture outside and it gets caught in a rainstorm, the water will just bead up and roll right off the surface of the clay.
So, you can be confident that your latest polymer clay inventions will stay as they are even when it rains. That’s unlike other types of clay, which will just dissolve and crumble when exposed to water.
What Happens If You Get Polymer Clay Wet?
Since polymer clay doesn’t hold water or get bothered by it in the first place, any effort to get it wet won’t result in anything. The clay’s oil-based properties allow it to resist water, so it won’t swell up, soften, or dissolve when it comes in contact with water.
Before we proceed, it’s worth mentioning one thing. As much as we refer to it as “clay”, polymer clay isn’t actually clay – the only reason for referring to it as clay is how it feels and its pliability.
But getting deep into the science of it, polymer clay is made from PVC resin (polyvinyl chloride), plasticizers, and colorants. Now, all these ingredients are oil-based. And as we all know, water and oil don’t mix, which gives polymer clay its waterproofing quality.
So, even if you’re working with polymer clay near water or in a humid environment, there’s no need to worry that the clay will get ruined. It just doesn’t work that way.
Can Polymer Clay Dry Out?
No, polymer clay won’t dry out at typical room temperature and humidity levels. The only way to dry polymer clay is to bake it and allow it to cure. Otherwise, leaving it in the open hoping it will eventually dry out won’t do anything.
There’s one unique thing about polymer clay – you have to bake it for it to dry out. Yes, you have to expose it to the ideal heat range (usually between 210 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit) for some time before it reaches a point where it can dry out.
And even after removing it from the oven, it still won’t be completely dry. Instead, the clay will feel soft but hardened into its final form as it cools down. That’s the only way you can dry polymer clay. So, leaving it to air-dry at room temperature won’t bear anything.
But again, it’s worth noting that it would be different if you exposed polymer clay to direct sunlight or any other source of heat that can go beyond the recommended temperature range. If that happens, then you might end up ruining your clay.
You see, polymer clay is “delicate” in one way. You must heat it within the recommended temperature range. Any attempts to use any amount of heat outside that range will only damage the clay.
When you expose your clay to temperatures higher than room temperature for extended periods, the conditions may mimic those of an oven, triggering the clay to bake on its own. And as we all know, outdoor conditions just can’t even the lowest amount of heat required to cure polymer clay. Not even on the hottest day of the summer.
Hence, what the clay will do is become under-baked. That results in it becoming hard and crumbly. So, to evade all that, avoid leaving your polymer clay in direct sunlight for extended periods. Always keep your polymer clay sealed in a cool place when not in use.
Can Polymer Clay Dry Out?
Polymer clay can dry out, but only when baked. That’s unlike natural clay, which will dry out when left in the open. Polymer clay has to go through a process of heating at some particular temperature for it to dry out.
One thing you might have heard people say about polymer gray is that it’s durable. Well, that’s true, and it’s because it behaves differently from natural clay and some other types. For instance, polymer clay doesn’t dry out. That’s one thing that makes it stand out from the rest.
While it’s possible to make polymer clay dry out, it would require some level of heat that might not be something you can achieve without an oven. Otherwise, your polymer clay will remain soft and pliable.
Can Polymer Clay Be Used Outdoors?
Yes, you can undoubtedly use polymer clay outdoors. Polymer clay has superb waterproofing and is, well for the most part, fade-resistant. As such, many people prefer using it for sculptures and other outdoor projects without worrying about the elements damaging it.
Sure, the polymer clay may sometimes fade, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. But again, that won’t create any significant difference in appearance. The color might change slightly, but that would be unnoticeable in most cases.
The point is, you can use polymer clay outdoors without necessarily having to worry about it getting ruined by the elements.
How Waterproof Is Polymer Clay?
Polymer clay is waterproof to the extent that some crafters use it to make decorations for their aquariums! Yes, that’s how waterproof it is, and that should tell you that it can withstand any amount of exposure to water.
Perhaps you think your place experiences more extreme weather conditions, and you’re worried that the polymer clay might not withstand those. Well, don’t worry because it can still hold up just fine. It even stands for spending its lifetime inside aquariums. Well, I guess your case can’t be as extreme as that, can it?
Is Polymer Clay Toxic?
No, polymer clay is not toxic. In fact, it’s pretty safe to use even around kids. Only ensure that you don’t place the baked clay from the oven where they can reach because it might cause burns. Other than that, you’re good to go.
Safety is one thing you don’t want to leave behind when evaluating whether or not polymer clay is the best material for your projects. And fortunately, this clay is neither toxic.
When burned, polymer clay may produce hydrogen chloride fumes, a not-so-sweet-smelling gas. But as long as you follow the safety precautions, among which baking it in a well-ventilated area, you’ll be just fine.
Other safety precautions include;
- Avoid using polymer clay for surfaces that will come into direct contact with food.
- Washing your hands thoroughly after handling the clay.
- Avoid higher temperatures than is recommended.
- Not baking the clay when using the same oven for cooking.
Is Polymer Clay Waterproof After Baking?
Polymer clay is waterproof, whether baked or unbaked. The oil-based properties of the clay make it resistant to water, something you’ll appreciate, especially when working on projects that need to withstand severe conditions.
Polymer clay doesn’t gain its waterproofing abilities during the baking process. Instead, it’s a property that it already has, which is why you can use it on surfaces that will be in constant contact with water.
Does Polymer Clay Need To Be Sealed?
No, polymer clay doesn’t need to be sealed. Polymer clay is highly resilient and even has better water protection than what most sealers can provide. But if you want to give your projects a glossier look, feel free to use a sealer. Just note that it’s not necessary.
You see, most sealers are water-resistant. So, they can protect your projects from water damage, but they can’t make them waterproof. But polymer clay is waterproof already, and that’s where it has an advantage over sealers.
Actually, using sealers for your projects can do more harm than good in the long term. That’s because most of these products will peel off with time, often leaving your artwork in a mess. So, don’t use a sealer unless your projects so much call for a shinier look.
Does Polymer Clay Go Bad?
No, polymer clay doesn’t go bad. It can, however, become hard and brittle with time. But that’s only when it’s not stored correctly. And even so, you can still salvage it by adding a few drops of mineral oil or other products to it.
Polymer clay isn’t the kind of material that you’ll just throw away after using it a few times. With proper care, polymer clay can last for years, and you can even pass it down to future generations. But note the use of “proper care” in our previous sentence.
When not stored properly, anything can go bad, including polymer clay. So, ensure that you keep your clay in an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place. These will help prolong its shelf life.
But again, if the liquid in the clay leaches out and the clay becomes hard, don’t throw it away just yet. You can still add a few drops of mineral oil or other products and knead it until the clay becomes pliable again.
Just avoid exposing it to sunlight or high heat. That’s because when the clay dries out from the heat, there’s nothing you can do to salvage it.
Polymer clay is a durable, resilient, and waterproof material that can withstand extreme outdoor conditions. The waterproofing abilities are from the oil-based polymers used to make the clay. Also, it does not require sealing, but a sealer can give it a shinier look.
One thing, though – when kept in places like an attic where temperatures are high, polymer clay can bake unevenly, dry out, and there’s nothing you can do to salvage it. So, pack it in an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place. That way, it remains useable for decades.