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How to Harden Play Doh (5 Easy Steps)

How to Harden Play DohMost of us grew up playing with Play-Doh and quickly realized it was never intended for permanent creations. In fact, when our Play-Doh began to dry out and harden it was not something to be happy about.

As our talent increased though, we sometimes wanted to create things that were a little more permanent. When working with Play-Doh this means hardening works of art. Unfortunately, Play-Doh tends to crack and crumble when simply left to dry on its own.

If you have wondered how to harden Play-Doh without it turning to dust, keep reading. In this article, we will talk about how to properly harden Play-Doh so you can enjoy your or your kid’s creations for years to come.

How to Harden Play-Doh

playing kid trying to flatten play doh

Here we present a step-by-step guide to hardening Play-Doh. Note that if you are just wanting to firm up your Play-Doh and not actually harden it, these methods will also work. You will, however, need to adjust the timing to get the consistency your looking for.

Oven Method

This is a simple, straightforward method of drying Play-Doh that you can also use to dry other types of air-dry clay.

You will need:

Step 1: Preheat Your Oven

Preheat your oven on bake to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. For the sake of safety do not set your oven above this temperature. Play-Doh can be flammable if heated beyond this point.

Step 2: Prepare Your Pan

Place a piece of parchment paper on a clean dry baking sheet. Try to make the piece close to the same size as your artwork plus just a small safety margin. Depending on the condition of your Play-Doh it may sag slightly before it begins to harden.

Step 3: Place Your Work

Place your piece or pieces on your parchment-covered baking sheet and slid it into the oven. It is best to put the pan on the top rack as far from the heat source as possible.

Step 4: Bake Your Play-Doh

pottery kiln oven timer knob

Bake your Plah-Doh for 10 to 15 minutes. The timing will depend on the shape and thickness of your work. The thicker your sculpture the longer it will need to bake.

Step 5: Cool Your Artwork

When your work is dry, turn off the oven but don’t open the door. It is best to allow your Play-Doh pieces to cool slowly as the oven cools. This can several hours, but resist the urge to open the oven prematurely.

Pro-Tip

After your artwork has dried you can further ensure its longevity by sealing it with a coating of clear acrylic or polyurethane. These are available in matt, semi-gloss, and gloss finishes and be found brushable or in spray form.

Air Dry Method

play doh with glitters on table

This is the simplest of all methods to use when drying Play-Doh. You just practice patients and allow the Play-Doh to dry naturally. We do have one slight twist to this method though that helps reduce the cracking that Play-Doh is notorious for. This method may sound counterintuitive but it does work.

You will need:

  • Play-Dough Work
  • Large container with lid

Step 1: Place Your Piece(s) in the Container

Place your work or works inside a large container. We use plastic totes. They allow a large enough air volume to promote drying but restrict airflow enough to slow it down. You don’t want an airtight seal.

Step 2: Put the Lid on the Container

Close the container with the Play-Doh inside. You can just place the lid loosely on top or snap it shut. Remember you want some air exchange in and out of the box, but not too much.

Step 3: Check your Artwork

looking at a clay model

About once a day check on your work and see how it is drying. If you observe any cracks forming they can be smoothed with a damp finger or sponge. Cracks are a sign your Play-Doh is drying too fast. You need to further restrict the air exchange or move the box to a cooler area.

Step 4: Check Your Works

When you feel your Play-Doh Sculptures are sufficiently cured remove and seal or decorate as you like.

Microwave Method

There are some who suggest putting Play-Doh in a microwave oven in order to harden it. We are not a proponent of this. The minimum that can occur is that the Play-Doh will release sulfur fumes and other noxious gases.

pottery kiln opened smoking microwave oven

The worst that can happen is that a pocket of moister inside your artwork will expand and cause a minor explosion in your microwave. This can result in property damage and possibly even personal injury.

We strongly suggest you do not try this method.

FAQ

Will Play-Doh harden in the freezer?

Yes, Play-Doh can be hardened in the freezer. One of its main ingredients is water which will naturally freeze. Be aware though, that just like frozen berries it will soften again after thawing. In fact, it may be even softer than before it was frozen.

Can you paint Play-Doh?

You can paint Play-Doh once it has dried sufficiently. Be aware that watercolors or oil paints are not an ideal option although they will work in a pinch. The best paints to use on Play-Doh are Acrylic paints. They come in a huge variety of colors, are quick-drying, and are easy to work with.

How to soften Play-Doh?

There are several methods that can be used to soften Play-Doh. They all involve various ways of rehydrating it after it has been exposed to the air for too long a period of time. For detailed instructions, you can read our article How to Soften Play-Doh.