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I'm terrible at using my supplies in a timely manner (maybe a couple years late... sometimes more, sometimes less), so my polymer clay (generally Sculpey III or Super Sculpey) get a bit dried out, even though it's sealed in original packaging.

Is there a way to get it back to being workable? I tried mineral oil once, but couldn't find a ratio that was effective. I ended up with very sticky clay, or clay that was virtually unchanged. I've used both hands and pasta rollers to try and do this, but no luck.

I don't know if there's something else I could use as an additive, or a certain way I should try mixing it in? Is there a good ratio of additive (such as oil) to clay?

  • Have you tried just massaging it for a while? – Erica Jun 10 '16 at 1:00
  • @Erica And putting it through a pasta roller. – user24 Jun 10 '16 at 1:32
  • Darn. Mine still gets pliable from that, so I guess it isn't quite as old :) – Erica Jun 10 '16 at 1:32
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The generally accepted practice, as I've read on numerous websites and through books, is to break up the dried up clay into small pieces, add a little mineral oil (or baby oil), and massage/work the oil in. (If you're not wearing gloves, this will 'stain' your hands but it will wash off with a little effort). After the smaller pieces are softened, merge them back together and continue to work the larger lump to spread out the oil evenly, as you normally would to soften the clay.

Sculpey also markets a clay softener that helps with this process, however if too much is used it can affect the color of the clay, or make it slightly translucent.

When adding oil it is possible to add too much, and this will be evident in the clay. To remove excess oil, wrap the clay in several layers of an absorbent material, such as paper towels, and put it in a ziplock bag. Leave to rest for a day or two, checking the consistency occasionally and replacing the absorbent material, until you have the consistency you desire. This process will tend to wick the oil out of the outer portion of the lump of clay more than the inner portion, so after removing the absorbent materials and massaging the clay again, it will be slightly softer than indicated before massaging (how much will depend on the size of the lump prior to wrapping it.)

Adding mineral oil to soften clay also makes it easier to blend different colors to make a custom color, and then remove the excess oil using the process described above.

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  • This tutorial thebluebottletree.com/can-soften-hard-polymer-clay on The Blue Bottle Tree blog follows exactly the process that @rayanth mentions, but also suggests that after you add mineral oil, you let the clay and oil sit together in a sealed ziplock bag for a few days before even trying to work it again. This seems to parallel the suggestion below about using the pressure cooker to "push" moisture into the clay. – magerber Apr 13 '17 at 17:23
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Hi I have faced issues like this too...And I actually found a way to fix the issue.

All I did was to cook the clay...

Yeah you read it right, I literally cooked the clay.

On heating the clay it gets back its softness, just make sure you don't use too much heat.

I am not sure of the level of heat to use either.

And don't add anything like oil or things similar, that actually changes the property and nature of the clay later.

The reason the clay became hard on time is coz the moisture in it is evaporated in time and if you see oil doesn't evaporate like any other normal liquid that easily.

So All I do is use my pressure cooker and pour a glass of water into it and take the clay and place on a small metal plate and cook it for a min or so, in pressure along with the water the clay absorbs the water required. Just take the clay and wait for it to cool, and voila the clay is back to form ;)

NOTE: Just make sure while you cook the clay is kept on a small metal plate or something coz its gonna melt and get struck to that. If you don't use it, you might end up cleaning the cooker :P

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  • Without knowing the right temperature to use, these seems a bit risky. Any idea on how to figure out the right temp? Have you heard/seen others use this technique before? – user24 Jun 17 '16 at 19:32
  • @Tapeshvar, when you are using the pressure cooker, are you cooking it long enough to build up steam in the pot? I wonder if steaming the clay outside of a pressure cooker would also work--although it would probably take longer than using a pressure cooker. I use steaming in a lot of situations where I want to add moisture back into a craft material (fiber that I will be spinning, etc.). It may be risky, but if the choice is between this and tossing the old clay, I think it is well worth the risk. – magerber Apr 13 '17 at 17:12
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I have used a heating pad to warm the clay and make it more pliable.

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  • But once it's not warm, the old clay would still crack pretty easily all the same, right? – user24 Apr 13 '17 at 3:51
  • Yeah, the heating pad works well for clay that has the correct amount of moisture in it, and just needs some softening before you begin conditioning it, but without adding moisture back into the clay, I think you would still see the cracking. – magerber Apr 13 '17 at 17:18

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