Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to Condition Old Polymer Clay

Sooner or later most clayers are faced with a problem of polymer clay revival.

Most of us like to buy clay on sales, stocking for future projects that may never materialize.  Stored for a long time, polymer clay eventually looses some of its plasticizers and becomes really difficult to condition.

Here is some of my old Kato polymer clay.  As you can see, there is no way I could feed these crumbs into a pasta machine.

Besides just throwing the clay away, a common approach to this situation is to add either some clay softener or liquid polymer clay (TLS).  By the way, it turns out that old TLS becomes very thick and clumpy if it is stored long enough.  It makes a nice companion for the old polymer clay and works well as a replacement for clay softener.

However, mixing polymer clay with TLS is a messy process: TLS ends up everywhere, especially in hard-to-reach places in a pasta machine.  Here is my solution for this challenge: a big Ziploc bag and a hammer.

(Pardon my cat running in the background.  He is just doing his job: being curious and annoying.)

Anyway, back to my clay.  After a few minutes of beating the clay and TLS mixture with a hammer, it was soft enough to go through my pasta machine.  I cut off the plastic strips along the edge of the Ziploc bag and ran the whole thing through my pasta machine, folding the clay inside the bag every so often.  Result: my pasta machine is clean, my hands are clean, and my clay is well-conditioned and ready for my project.  The whole process took me no more than 15 minutes.

Oh, and in case anyone wonders why my clay is photographed on the floor: this is simply because hammering the clay on my workbench causes all those little things in my studio to rattle.  Working on the floor is quieter...


  1. great tip, thanks for sharing

  2. I hope it works for me.The cost of clay keeps going up.

  3. very timely tip thanks, this should save me some cash too

  4. I do exactly the same thing! I sometimes grab a rubber mallet.

  5. Question I purchased some polymer clay and while I was trying to condition it, my fingers turned purple. The directions stated that the clay would become softer, but I don't think it really got as soft as it was suppose to. I put it down and never tried it again, after I saw my fingers. Could I use the bag and hammer idea just for conditioning not mixing in the TLS?

  6. Wow, thanks! Old clay is the bane of my existence - now finally a way to handle it neatly.

  7. I have softened old clay in a dedicated food processor. Try it. By the way, what is TLS?


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