One of the best things about air-dry clay is that it doesn’t require an oven or kiln to harden. On the other hand, one of the worst things about air-dry clay is that it can take days to dry fully!
If you’re feeling a little impatient, you might be wondering whether you can put it in the oven to speed up the process.
Putting air-dry clay in the oven can lead to cracking and curling, but it can speed up the drying process when done correctly. Place the clay on a baking sheet in the oven before preheating it to 170 to 200°F. Heat the clay for 15 to 30 minutes, allow it to cool completely, and repeat the process if needed.
Read on to learn about the specifics of drying air-dry clay in the oven. We’ll also share tips on the best ways to dry clay to prevent cracking.
What Happens If You Put Air-Dry Clay In The Oven?
The effect of putting air-dry clay in the oven varies depending on a few factors. For example, the brand of clay, the oven’s temperature, and the amount of time the clay is left in the oven can produce different results.
In some cases, putting air-dry clay in the oven can be an effective way of drying it. In other cases, it can lead to unwanted outcomes. These can include cracked, curled, or burnt clay, a ruined baking surface, and an unpleasant smell in the area.
How Long To Put Air-Dry Clay In The Oven
Air-dry clay does not need to go through any special processes to dry. It just needs to be exposed to air over a specific amount of time, typically 24 to 72 hours total. However, many people want their air-dry clay to dry more quickly, and putting it in the oven is one way to do so.
General Drying Recommendations
Recommendations for the temperature and amount of time to put air-dry clay in the oven vary quite a bit.
Below, you’ll find the most common instructions. We recommend starting at the lowest temperature and shortest amount of time to minimize the chances of ruining your clay.
- Start by placing your clay on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Put the tray in the oven before you preheat it. Do not place the clay in an oven that is already hot.
- Next, preheat your oven to 170 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the clay for about 15 to 30 minutes. This short span of time will draw out moisture from the clay, helping it dry faster.
- After the clay has baked, turn off the oven, but leave the tray inside. Once the oven has cooled off completely, remove the clay. Repeat the process if needed.
How Do You Harden Air-Dry Clay?
The best way to harden air-dry clay is simply to be patient. Air-dry clay tends to turn out best when you leave it to dry naturally. Rotating the clay occasionally can help things along, but taking more drastic measures can result in cracked, curled clay.
Here are a few methods of hardening air-dry clay. Please note that these methods can be used but are typically not recommended.
Putting air-dry clay outside in direct sunlight will help it dry more quickly, but it’s likely to crack. This is because the sun only heats one side of the clay. The outer layer of this side will dry faster than the rest of the clay, rather than heating it evenly.
Similar to the sunlight method, using a hairdryer also increases your chances of cracking the clay. The hair dryer creates a strong airflow that causes the clay’s outer layer to dry faster and shrink in certain areas.
Even if you continuously move the hairdryer in an attempt to dry the clay evenly, you’re likely to end up with breakage and cracks.
The microwave is yet another non-recommended method of hardening air-dry clay. The problem with microwaves is that they heat the clay far too quickly.
Air-dry clay isn’t meant to hold much heat. Putting it in the microwave makes it prone to breaking apart altogether.
While not always recommended, putting clay in the oven is the safest option of the ones discussed here. See the general guidelines section above for a full explanation of how to harden your air-dry clay in the oven.
Can I Microwave Air-Dry Clay?
While you technically can put air-dry clay in the microwave, it’s likely to ruin your project. Microwaves heat up too quickly, causing air-dry clay to break and fall apart completely. Instead, we recommend allowing the clay to dry naturally or hardening it in the oven.
How To Dry Air-Dry Clay Without Cracking
Many crafters have experienced the frustration of completing a beautiful clay sculpture, only for it to crack as it dries. Here is a simple step-by-step process to follow that should help prevent cracking, curling, and other forms of damage.
1. Use A Mister While Sculpting
To keep the drying process from starting too soon, use a mister bottle to gently mist the clay as you work with it. Failing to keep the clay moist can lead to crumbling and cracking.
2. Smooth Cracks Early
If you notice cracks forming while you’re still sculpting, dip your fingers in water and smooth out the cracks as needed.
3. Store WIPs Correctly
Many clay projects take more than one session to complete. Between sessions, cover your work in progress with plastic wrap and store it in an airtight container. Mist the clay every 24 hours until you’re ready to work on your project again.
4. Expose The Clay To Air On All Sides
When you’re ready to dry your project, place it on a cooling rack or screen. If you’re not able to do this, be sure to regularly rotate the clay so that all sides dry evenly. Most clay takes 24 to 72 hours to dry fully.
While putting air-dry clay in the oven isn’t necessarily recommended, it’s still an effective method of making the drying process go more quickly.
First, you’ll need to place the clay on a baking sheet and put it in the oven before preheating it to 170 to 200°F. Leave the clay in the oven for 15 to 30 minutes before turning it off and allowing the clay to cool. If needed, repeat the process until the clay has dried and hardened.