How to Soften Pottery Clay?

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Working with pottery clays is fun. But there are some problems associated with pottery clays that can make your work hectic and tiresome, such as the hardening of your pottery clay. Though pottery clays remain unchanged for a long time, still sometimes, they can act differently by becoming rock-hard. But, throwing away your rock-hard clay is not at all a good idea, as you can always revive it by following some easy steps. It takes some effort to soften your hardened pottery clay and bring it back to life so that you can reuse it for further crafting.

Leaving the pottery clay bare into the air or under the sun, allows the moisture to get evaporated, which makes it a hard one. So, it is important how you store your pottery clay. You must keep it in a place where enough moisture is present in the atmosphere, and avoid leaving it in a sun-soaked area. Try to keep it covered with a wet towel or old clothing to avoid such situations.  Here, in this article, we are going to tell you how you can soften your pottery clay to bring it back to life.

But before proceeding, you should know that pottery clays are different from air-drying clay. Applying the same method for softening the pottery clay as done for the air-drying clay may not help you. So, be careful about it.

Why you can’t use the same method of softening the air-dry clay for pottery clays?

Well, the answer is simple. The properties of air-dry clay and pottery clay are different. Air-dry clay gets hardened as soon as it comes in contact with natural air, but this is not the case with pottery clay; it won’t hard quickly. Apart from this, softening the air-dry clay is quite easy and doesn’t require much time, reviving pottery clay is a time-consuming procedure as it takes much longer time to get dried.

Let’s have a look at the comparative softening nature of both clays.

Clay type Air drying clay Pottery clay
Process of softeningYou need to spray a little bit of water and knead it until it becomes pliable. Also, you can put it into an air-tight plastic bag sprinkle some water inside it, and let it sit for some time to soften.You need to put your pottery clay into a large container and soak it in the water by submerging the clay totally into the water.
The time required for softeningThe air-drying clay doesn’t need more than 30 minutes to get back to its pliable condition.The soaking time required for pottery clay is 2-3 days. After that, you need to remove the excess water to get the pliable consistency back.

So, it’s better not to use the same method of softening air-dry clay for your pottery clay, as you’re not going to get the expected results. Instead, it would be a waste of time. Now, let’s proceed to how to soften pottery clay.

Methods for softening the pottery clay

No matter what type of clay you use for your pottery work, either natural clay or polymer clay, both can face the problem of getting dried up to a rock-hard form. The way of storage, the properties of the clay, or the lack of moisture may be the possible reasons for the hardening of your clay. Below mentioned processes are going to help you revive your clay again and use it for marvelous crafting.

  • Natural clay: There are two simple techniques that you can use for reviving natural clay.

1. By soaking: For the type of natural clays that are not yet rock hard, but pretty hard to work with, you need to knead it into a large flat loaf forcefully. Then, make as many holes as you can on the top of the clay piece and let the bottom remain watertight. Fill these holes with water, and then put the water-loaded clay piece into a sealed plastic bag and leave it for two days. It will be malleable again within these two days.

2. By grinding and soaking: Now, if you find out that the natural clay has turned into a rock-hard piece and can’t be revived only by soaking, you need to break the clay first. Use a hammer or grinder to break it into small chips, and mix water into it until it becomes slurry. Then, leave it to soak. Occasional kneading is recommended to give it a dough-like consistency.

  • Polymer clay: To revive polymer clay to make it reusable, you can use the following three simple methods.

3. Kneading with warmth: For the slightly hard polymer clays, you don’t need to put much effort. You can revive it just by giving it the warmth of your hands by kneading it properly to make it moist again. Otherwise, you may even heat the clay with a heating source. After that, continuous kneading, rolling it with rolling pins, or hitting the clay with some heavy tool can easily make your polymer clay pliable again.

4. By adding specialized softening liquids: Adding some softening agents to your hard polymer clay can help you revive the clay and use it for creating some marvelous pottery artwork. There are specific softening agents like liquid diluents, mineral oil, clay softener bars, petroleum jelly, etc., which are readily available in the market that you can opt for. You need to add a few drops of these softening agents to your hardened polymer clay and go on kneading until it becomes workable again.

5. Grinding: For a faster method of softening your rock-hard polymer clay, you can use your home grinder. Make small pieces of the clay, and place them inside a food grinder along with some clay softening agent. After that, grind it for 10 minutes and then check the consistency. Remove the clay if it’s done, and knead it again to give the doughy consistency.

Things you need to keep in mind while working with pottery clay

Working with pottery clay may seem easy, but it is not that easy. You need to understand a lot of things before going to choose a particular type of clay. Select the type of clay that has enough moisture in it, as it cannot get dried out quickly. Your clay should be pliable enough and easily workable. Shop the best quality natural clay, like Pottery Clay – 5 lb Terracotta Low Fire Cone 06 Red- Rocky Mountain Clay’s Red Rock Red clay. Also, while choosing the best quality polymer clay, make sure it is not too old, as it gets harder with time. Polyform Sculpy Original Polymer Clay is one such fine-quality polymer clay that you can buy to get the best sculpting work experience.

Also, how you’re storing your clay is important. You should not leave your clay barely open after working with it. Try to keep it in a covered place where enough moisture is there in the air. Storing your pottery clay container in a bathroom or kitchen might help retain the moisture of the clay.

Wrapping up:

To keep your clay workable for a long time, all you need to do is be careful enough with your pottery clay. Try not to leave it for an extended period. Try to reuse your clay as much as you can without throwing it off. We hope that this article will help you to make your pottery clay reusable and reworkable again. Happy sculpting!

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