Are you wondering what the best way to dry air-dry clay is? You might have heard that air-dry clay can be dried in an oven, but is that true? Can you speed up the drying process of air-dry clay with the help of an oven? Well, the straight answer is you should avoid using an oven to dry air-dry clay. But, why is it so? And is there any way to speed up the drying process of air-dry clay using an oven? In this blog, we will decode if it is at all possible to dry air-dry clay in an oven. So, let us dig in!
What Happens To Air-Dry Clay In An Oven?
Air-dry clay is among the easiest mediums to create your artwork with. All that is needed is for you to knead the clay to ensure that it is soft and smooth. Now, build your model and allow it to completely dry for a minimum of 24 to 48 hours. However, the benefit of using air-dry clay is the fact that it doesn’t need kiln-firing or oven-baking. It dries away and achieves hardness once exposed to air within the aforementioned time frame.
However, air-dry clay is notoriously popular for being flammable when heated at high temperatures. So, if you plan on drying the air-dry clay in an oven, it is advised not to do so. But, why is it so? What happens to air-dry clay inside an oven?
If you place your air-dry clay sculpture inside an oven, the result can vary depending on the temperature and clay brand used. For example, Crayola Air-Dry Clay recommends that artists refrain from placing the clay inside an oven as it is highly flammable and tends to crack due to high heat. For other air-dry clay brands, it might be possible to dry air-dry clay in an oven depending on the process.
In case your oven is set to a temperature lower than 200 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a low risk of the air-dry clay burning or catching fire. Depending on the duration for which the clay is kept inside the oven, the drying process can be accelerated. However, timing is critical. You need to set the timing in such a way that over-drying is prevented and there is no brittleness or cracking.
Issues That Can Happen When Drying Air-Dry Clay In Oven
When you have no idea or experience regarding air-dry clay being dried in an oven, it is better not to attempt the same. If you do wish to try it out, do that with spare or test samples. In case you do wish to dry air-dry clay in an oven, here are some issues that you need to keep in mind before experimenting:
- Cracking & Warping:
When too much heat is applied to air-dry clay, it can cause the clay to dry too evenly and quickly. This results in warping, cracking, as well as other deformities in the structure.
- Changes In Color:
If your clay has paint or some color added to the clay during the kneading process, there is a chance that the color of the piece might change when fired in an oven. This could potentially alter the air-dry clay sculpture’s appearance.
- Toxic Fumes:
Depending on the brand of air-dry clay you use, there is also a chance that being exposed to high temperatures might cause the clay to release toxic fumes. So, if you are attempting to dry air-dry clay in an oven make sure you read the manufacturer’s guideline to understand if it is possible.
- Possible Fire Hazard:
When exposed to high temperatures, the air-dry clay might also be a reason for a possible fire hazard. Make sure you always exercise caution and refrain from heating your air-dry clay at excessively high temperatures.
Is It Possible To Dry Air-Dry Clay In An Oven?
While it is recommended that you don’t use an oven to dry air-dry clay, there is surely a catch here! You can make use of the oven but not when it is running. So, how is this possible? The trick is preheating!
While you are preparing your air-dry clay sculpture, simply pre-heat your oven to a low-temperature setting. This range should be lower than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven is hot enough, switch it off and place your sculpture inside. The air-dry clay will slowly dry due to the ambient heat inside the clay without actually burning, cracking, or melting.
This is a great technique to dry air-dry clay, just remember to switch off your oven or you might end up with a warped piece or might have to tackle a fire hazard at your home.
With these tips in mind, if you do wish to dry air-dry clay in your oven, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Always read the instructions on the packaging of your chosen air-dry clay brand. If the packaging specifically mentions that the air-dry clay shouldn’t go into an oven, please refrain from doing so!
- Place your air-dry clay on an oven-safe surface like parchment paper, a baking sheet, or a silicone baking mat. This ensures that the clay doesn’t stick to the oven’s surface while ensuring that it is easy to handle when placing or removing. If you are looking for a great option, the Zulay Silicone Baking Sheet should be your go-to option. These sheets can easily withstand temperatures as high as 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ensure the room you are working in, is adequately ventilated in case there is a fire hazard or the clay releases toxic fumes in the drying process.
- Make sure you periodically flip and rotate the pieces to ensure they are drying evenly and there is no warping issue.
When working with air-dry clay, patience is the key to achieving exceptional results. While you can try and expedite the process with a pre-heated oven and let the ambient temperature take charge, it is better to let nature take over and dry it slowly. With a slow-drying process, the result is better with fewer chances of warping, flaking, or cracking.