(Safety & Health)
Fumes-smells, burning
Plasticizers, oil, phthalates
...phthalates in "toys" (including clay), etc.
....baking & oven walls... food utensils, etc.
....keeping oven walls clean
Animals & clay exposure
Rashes & Allergic reactions
....barrier creams
....gloves & fingertips (latex, etc.)
Food & drink with baked clay
Sealers & glues (safety of)
Powders, dusts (airborne)
...hands ...oven walls...carpets-fabric
Airport security & carry-on baggage


(see info on avoiding pain and repetitive stress syndrome in hands/arms, and other info on disabilities, assistive devices, etc., in Disabilities)



( 1996?) Excerpt from The POLYinforMER, from Eberhard Faber (makers of Fimo):

Hi, I'd like to add this bit of info. to this discussion. I only recently became aware ot it."We are holding the POLYinforMER Vol.1,No.3 in hand and are pleased to read so much useful information on the "how to" with FIMO. However, when reading the interview with Pier Voulkos we were thunderstruck to learn that she is wearing a respirator when she is baking polymers in her oven.
We'd like to fulfill her request for information about the hazards of inhaling fumes of FIMO if OVERcooked. Only if FIMO is exposed to temperatures of more than 392 degrees F can hydrochloride gas be developed. This gas is detectable by one's nose in very small amounts as even very small amounts cause an extremely stinging smell.
The normal human reaction to this stinging smell is a route out of the room. The reaction is comparable to shrinking back violently from an opened bottle of ammonia. The inhalation of potentially harmful amounts is absolutely not likely as a man (sic) would have to be chained up in a room with hydrochloride gas; if not, he would be taking to his heels because of the smell.
A man being chained in a room with hydrochloride gas developed from polymers could suffer an irritation of his mucous membranes.
However, FIMO is intended to be baked in ordinary kitchen ovens at 265 degrees F. At that temperature no "fumes" are developed. The smell which is noticeable during regular baking at the temperatures indicated is the genuine FIMO aroma and is absolutely harmless.
We also want to point out that:
---FIMO is tested by the Art and Craft Materials Institute in Boston
--- FIMO is authorized to carry the AP-Seal "Non-toxic"
---no Health Labelling is required for FIMO
---FIMO conforms to ASTM D-4236
Concluding from that we can assure Ms. Voulkos that wearing a respirator is simply an unnecessary precaution during the baking of FIMO. Should she ever actually overcook FIMO it would do to switch off the oven, ventilatethe oven and room, and leave until the stinging smell is no longer perceptible.
We would like to offer our help to the Polymer Clay Guild in case of all forthcoming safety questions concerning FIMO.
V.H.Gerber, Export Manager
A.B. Vaertl, Export-Department
BERHARD FABER GMBH, Neumarkt" (Germany)

I keep my toaster oven in the garage and I often use the enclosed baking method.
..Even before discovering the enclosed method though, I didn't have a problem with fumes because the actual times I smelled the fumes were seldom and brief, and occurred only when I went out to the garage to turn off the oven and remove the clay
.....so, you might want to simply turn off your oven and not open the door until the clay is cooled... or even better get a toaster or convection oven with a timer to avoid any close contact at all. Diane B.

If you turn out to be especially sensitive to the fumes emitted during baking (and you can't bake outdoors or in another room), try using one of the "enclosed" baking methods (see Baking > "Enclosed Baking") ...they should help a lot:

..(with the enclosed baking method) if I open the foil immediately, then yes, it emits a strong smell. It even causes me a mild nausea.
.....so what I do now, and I've learnt to be patient, I leave the pan covered for some hours or overnight in the oven itself. Somehow the smell dissipates.
.......or else I open the foil (outside), and move away. Barbara J.

What I do is place my oven under the stove vent, and turn on the vent fan while baking. My husband has the more sensitive nose between the 2 of us, and usually smells everything first. He smells nothing when I bake this way, even when I bake elasticlay. Patricia
...Another thing you could do is place the oven on a table in front of a screened window. I have done buffing on my bench grinder in front of a cracked open screened sliding door...a bit cold but 'twas temporary, and the most of the dust went outside (still wore a mask of course!)
...Lots of the woodcarving and woodworking catalogs have dust removers of all shapes and sizes (and prices). Lots of them are online so you can start there. These dust removers might solve both the dilemmas of fumes and dusts, as the oven could maybe be used in front a dust remover and might get the fumes out.. Jean

I have a ton of allergies and sensitivities, but have done ok around the clay as long as I don't bake more than one batch in the same day, and do make sure the place is ventilated. Laurie

I also found that baking soda absorbs the odor of clay during baking (when I was baking my clay piece in a pile of it). Helayne

There are dangerous fumes that come out of PTFE (non-stick) coated skillets, etc. when heated to more than "medium" heat too.... if I were to suggest that you throw out your nonstick cookware, or hair dryer or space heater, to avoid the risk of overheating it and scarring your lungs, you'd probably laugh at me. ;-) Zig

(see also below for avoiding airborne powders, dusts, etc.)

... oven walls and/or ingesting
using again for food utensils, etc.....allergies

polymer clay classified as a Toy (effects)

Tthe brand name Fimo is officially classed as a toy... the rules are: once a toy, always a toy.
...(there are stricter rules for the materials toys can be made from than materials for adults since it's assumed any toy could be chewed or sucked on, and children may also have critical periods when a particular material could affect them)
...As we had guessed, Eberhard Faber had not understood how the clay is used by (others) professionals and artists.... (and they) were tremendously impressed by the samples we had brought...but there is little chance of Eberhard Faber (manufacturer of the Fimos) developing a new line of polymer clay specially for adults and artists, etc....they cannot put that sort of investment into a new product... also a new adult clay would have to have a new name, and Faber is not willing to lose their well known branding.
...Philippa had put together some brilliant display boards illustrating the problems (in the new FimoClassic) relating to stretch, caning and modelling, and comparing results from the new formula with the older Fimo Classic.
....The result of our meeting was that Eberhard Faber realised that we have big problems with the new FIMO classic which they take very seriously... They will look at how to improve it and expect to be able to come back to us by January next year. Faber marketing director Nils Henssen said: "We will try and work it out and hopefully come to a satisfactory solution. It is a difficult problem".
...so Nils wants to hear from Fimo users about any problems they're having, especially since the last reformulation in 2007)
......please get in touch with him -and pass his email address on to anyone you know (in the UK, US, or anywhere) who has had experience of the new formula:

Pat, Philippa, Angie

more on plasticizers, phthalates, etc.

Phthalates are one of the types of plasticizer.

Certain phthalates are of concern to human health, particularly when eaten (in large amounts), but other phthalates don't seem to be --even in the latest studies. There has been a lot of stuff about them in the news though (some right, lots wrong), as well as new studies into the various types.

Phthalates are currently used in many ways:
....decorating and building products (vinyl flooring, etc.), electrical cables, certain plastic wraps and packaging, household items like shower curtains and garden hoses, protective clothing, toothbrushes, medical devices and containers (such as bags which store blood, etc), and more
....also as solvents and other additives in a wide range of consumer products, including cosmetics, nail polishes, personal care products (perfumes, soaps, lotions, shampoos), wood finishes/sealers, insecticides/mosquite repellant, etc..
...(btw, there aren’t any phthalate plasticizers in regular plastic water bottles ...this from a plastics chemist... though are in plastic baby bottles?)

Many of the precautions you occasionally hear come from the very early days of polymer clay when clay was still being discovered... long-term effects were unknown then, and results on food, people, pets weren't in yet. ....today we know we can be more lax, but it's still a good way for newbies to learn that they do have to take at least a few precautions with this clay. Sunni

statement by medical consultant for the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI), Dr.Woodhall Stopford, MD, MSPH:
...Polymer clays are hardened by heating in an oven at a temperature of 275° F. At this temperature, there is no evidence of breakdown of these clays.
...With over-heating to temperatures as high as 375° F, fewer than 0.1% of the phthalate esters were released, and no breakdown of the polyvinyl chloride occurs.
..At temperatures, above 390° F, the clay blackens, releasing hydrogen gas.
..These laboratory results were compared with a heavy-use situation by wiping the interior walls of the oven, then analyzing the wipes for phthalate esters. Overheating had occurred at least once.
......Less than 0.01% of the phthalate esters present were released. This level of exposure would add little to the base exposure presumption for these clays, even assuming concurrent use of the oven to bake foods (a practice that is not recommended).
In summary, phthalate esters found in these polymer clays offer little or no acute toxicity concerns, and are not a chronic hazard concern even assuming a large (100 mg) daily ingestion of these clays (eating them).
...The manipulation of these clays will not increase the likelihood of absorbing phthalate esters.
...Analyses of these clays for residual vinyl chloride find non-detectable levels (<1 ppm).
...The clay matrix does not break down to release hydrogen chloride gas until temperatures of greater than 350° F. are reached. Curing at temperatues low enough to prevent destruction (burning) of the clay body will prevent appreciable hydrogen gas or phthalate ester release.

What has been said is that since there is a remote possibility that some plasticizer may not have been baked completely away (if not baked well enough), a tiny bit of it could maybe leach into a food item if it were to stay in contact with it for a long time. . . . Even then, it has been certified to be non-toxic and safe around children. Diane B.
...I did my research as well. Polyform (Sculpey and Premo) has the results of a study on the safety of PC. They went so far as to bake the clay in an oven WITH FOOD. The food did not contain any toxins. Sally
....In my opinion, it's boils down to a lot of CYA .... the (manufacturers) legally say ("not to use clay around food") to ward off any way-out lawsuits that may pop up in this overly litigious society.

2007... the European Union has passed a law limiting the types of plasticizers which can be sold in the EU (along with many other bans)... there are many types.
...The European parliament in July 2007 banned 6 phthalate softeners in PVC toys and childcare articles that can be find their way into children's mouths, expected to come into force sometime next year.
...In the eyes of many (scientists included) this seems to be overkill in the case of the plasticizers used for polymer clay since the science doesn't really support the danger of those plasticizers, and was perhaps also done to reassure the public.
...The rigorous EU risk assessments... "include a high degree of conservatism and built-in safety factors..."

2008... "In response to changes in California’s Prop 65 listing of phthalate plasticizers, most polymer clay manufacturers have reformulated their products."
...As a result, most new formulas are significantly softer than they used to be (and sometimes less strong). As noted above, many manufacturers see their polymer clay lines as primarily "toys," for children, so this has created problems for clayers who want some firmness while raw, strength after baking, and handling characteristics which allow for greater detail and more crispness in line.
... The 2008 reformulation of Kato Polyclay formula has maintained all the more demanding attributes seen in its previous formulas, although the conditioning has gotten easier while providing improved (easier) conditioning characteristics.
...(Kato Polyclay) "While phthalate plasticizers were cost effective and provided excellent working properties, the alternative plasticizer that satisfies the demands of the new regulations, adult crafter, and artist are 50% more expensive..." Donna Kato

Most formulations of polymer clays have been changed to contain different plasticizers (or phthalates?) at various times, in order to avoid disruption in the future if any plasticizers now found safe should ever be found unsafe.... none have the 6 phthalates now banned by the EU though.
The most recent reformulation of the Fimos appears to be related only to complaints about crumbliness though, not phthalates.
Feb. 2008..... Cernit gClay ...new line and forumation of Cernit using no phthalates ---don't know characteristics yet though

(..some excerpts by Andrea)
.......In regards to the European REACH enactment, a publication dated May 2006 indicated an extensive European Commission scientific study has found that the phthalate plasticizers used most widely to soften PVC pose no human health and environmental risks, and their use requires NO NEW REGULATION. The decision is the latest in an extended debate in Europe over the safety of phthalates.
......"According to the information supplied to the British Polymer Clay Guild by the manufacturer of Fimo, (even) the old Fimo formula did not contain any of the 6 banned phthalates. The existing formula apparently complied with the new laws. They just removed all of them to play safe - presumably, they believe that at some stage the law will change again and they want to be ready.


The risk assessments on 3 of the 5 phthalates have already been completed
...and two of them--diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP)-- show no risks to human health or the environment for any current use.
.......Following the recent adoption of EU legislation with the regard to the marketing and use of phthalates in toys and childcare articles, the risk assessment conclusions clearly state that there is no need for any further measures to regulate the use of DINP and DIDP (ee press release)
(The European Commission published its findings in the EU Official Journal on April 13 2006, confirming the outcome of a risk assessment involving more than 10 years of extensive scientific evaluation by EU regulators)

"The European Commission decisions on phthalates when used in toys and childcare items:
.........DINP, DIDP and DNOP would be banned from use in toys or childcare articles (those intended for children to facilitate sleep, relaxation, hygiene, feeding, or sucking) for children under 3 years of age and which could be placed in their mouths."
........DEHP, DBP and BBP which are used to soften certain plastics which would otherwise be rigid and brittle, have been classified as (possibly) "toxic for reproduction" and would be banned in all "toys and childcare articles."

diethyl phthlate (DEP) can enter the body when you breathe air, drink water, or eat food containing it. It can also enter your body through your skin. It is possible that exposure could occur near hazardous waste sites, at manufacturing facilities, or through the use of consumer products containing the substance. ...If you get it on your skin, your body will probably absorb only a small amount of it.
(In a test of skin penetration, where a phthalate solution was painted onto the skin of a laboratory rat, 86 percent of the chemical stayed on the skin and was not absorbed, even after seven days. Other tests suggest that human skin is even less permeable to phthalates. Assuming a person were to wear gloves with a 30 percent PVC content for two hours per day, the worst-case exposure would be 0.027 mg/kg-b.w./dy.)
...Diethyl phthalate is not known to cause cancer in humans or animals. Unlike other phthalates such as di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, diethyl phthalate does not appear to affect the ability of male animals to father babies ...However, a decrease did occur in the number of live babies born to female animals that were exposed to diethyl phthalate throughout their lives. ...Some birth defects occurred in newborn rats whose mothers received high doses (approximately 3 g/kg) of diethyl phthalate by injection during pregnancy.
However, humans are not exposed to diethyl phthalate this way, and no information is available on whether this chemical can cause birth defects when given by mouth.

using an object for food after using it with clay
...whether you should depends entirely on the porosity of the item, and how well it can be cleaned

...I have no problem with the idea of using a thoroughly-washed item made of metal or glass for food that has once been used for polymer clay because it is so smooth that it can be thoroughly cleaned.... as long as it doesn't have nooks and crannies for traces of clay to hide in like a pasta machine does. Helen
(for using baked clay with food, see below in Food & Drink with Baked Clay)

not yet sorted
During the 1990s, the European Union (EU) evaluated a number of phthalates that were being used, or were requested for use as additives in plastics. These included the extensively investigated substances BBP, DBP, DEHP, DINP and DIDP, as well as a large number of phthalates for which there was little or no toxicity information.
Phthalates are a class of compounds used most commonly as a softener for products made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
In the food industry phthalate compounds are most commonly used for plastic packaging materials In 1994, faced with these uncertainties, the EU decided to set a tolerable daily intake (TDI) for many phthalic esters, based on a study.
As per the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), scientists generally agree that the studies should not be used for human risk assessment as rodents are highly sensitive to peroxisome.
Based on recent evaluation of the five commonly used Phtahate plasticizers, the EU food safety regulator has either lowered, maintained or in some cases enhanced acceptable daily intake limits. The changes could eventually allow more or less use of the individual phthalate compounds in plastic packaging, depending on whether the recommendations are approved by the EU's parliament.
Food contamination occurs because of the use of PCV in wrapping materials. Phthalates have been found in meat, fish, milk products, and other foods with a high fat content.
http://plastemart.com/upload/Literature/eu_may_change_tdi_of_pthalates.asp http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/04/225&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
Sculpey.com discusses DINP in their clay (though not recent).


June 99.... Until recently, there was a fear among many of us about the toxins within the clay, so it was recommended that you wipe down the oven after every use, etc.
...However, recently Consumer Reports did some testing on Polymer clay. They discovered not One Single case of poisoning due to the clay. They reported cases of dogs and even babies who ingested the stuff --- with no adverse affect. Byrd

June 2000: After all the discussion about the buildup of residue making the oven "unsafe for human use," I decided to ask Polyform ...Hope Phillips
... Dear Polyform, I have heard differing opinions and would like a clarification from you. When I bake Premo or any of your products, does anything "build up" on the walls of my oven. Should I have an oven dedicated to clay items only or is it safe to also use the kitchen oven for food. (Sally)
(RESPONSE from Polyform) . . . Each time you bake polymer clay, a very small amount of residue is given off in the baking process. As with the uncured clay, the residue is not harmful --it is simply the plasticizer in vapor form, which is a by-product of baking. It is like Sculpey Diluent (Softener). The cautionary part is that, after many repeated bakings, a film of this residue forms on the interior oven walls. It can scorch if allowed to build up. This causes smoke, the same as if you burned the clay (so if you have no smoke, it's not scorching?).. . . For this reason, we suggest that if you are baking clay on a regular basis, you should wipe off the interior oven surfaces lightly with oven cleaner at the end of each day that you bake any moderate to large quantities.
...(but oven cleaner isn't very good for one's lungs, so best to use something else if you want to --see below for suggestions)

Vermont Public Interest Research Group (not scientists...a "public interest group")
.... put out a report warning of health risks from phthalates in clay back in 2001 which pops up in the news every few years... it's statements have been refuted by many real scientific groups
("Hidden Hazards:Health Impacts of Toxins in Polymer Clays," by Susanne Miller, environmental health advocate (not scientist)
....they also state: "Phthalates are petroleum derivatives used to soften plastics, and also found in cosmetics, shampoo, hair spray, and (many) other products . . .The report points out the broader problem that . . .thousands of industrial chemicals were not tested before going on the market. . . "
....(an e-mail about this scare) pops up every so often... I can understand people's concerns though if they're hearing it for the first time (and haven't heard any other information about it). Lori
STATEMENTS by scientists, & safety certification groups, & medical groups, etc., which disagree with the findings or validity of this study are listed below:
...Polymer clays in the ACMI non-toxic certification program were re-evaluated in October 2000 (after the VPIRG article was published) and continue to receive ACMI’s non-toxic designation, said Deborah Fanning, Executive Vice President of The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI).
.......This re-evaluation took place at the request of the polymer clay manufacturers because of questions raised at that time about phthalates in toys.
.......ACMI members do use phthalates in polymer clays but these phthalate esters do not present acute or chronic toxicity concerns ...ACMI’s consulting toxicological team at Duke University Medical Center has evaluated these polymer clays for both acute and chronic hazards by all potential routes of exposure and have found none. Woodhall Stopford, M.D., principal toxicologist.. (July 30, 2002) (from PolymerClayCentral)
..link to the Journal of the American Medical Association's stand on the phthalates report:
http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/v286n12/ffull/jlt0926-3.html Desiree
... There have been many studies, some ongoing and to date there is no scientifically proven evidence of any immediate physical harm or proof of reproductive damage. The only harm ever seen has been in lab animals at extraordinary doses. People exposed to phthalates over a lifetime get a dose that is 7 times less than these animals
. . . Phthalates are used in beauty products, perfumes and medical supplies we all buy or use. They are approved for use by the FDA.
. . . Phthalates are biodegradable, and break down quickly in the body (my data shows that phthalates are excreted within 24 hours). . . .so far, in my research . . .one article claimed that talcum or baby powder is more harmful than phthalates. Kim K.
.... I have no doubt that pthalates are contained in clay, and I know that pthalates are toxic in certain doses. However, the ultimate question, of course, is if the amounts present in clay...and the amounts absorbed into your system, are sufficient to cause harm. And that question is not addressed in that report. . . .I also remember a few years ago also there was some hoopla about using plastic baby bottles and that the pthalates would leach into the milk. Because of the fragility of small babies...and the marketing push of glass bottle manufacturers, many people switched to glass bottles. After a while the fuss died down and you didn't hear anything more about it . . Ginger
...Here's my point of view on this VPIRG thing (and other PIRG's) that rears its head periodically... It's all a bunch of hooey. ;-) IMO, you can continue to clay away and share it with children without fear.
1. Polymer clay wouldn't have the CP seal of approval for children if it were toxic under normal use or even abnormal use conditions. The testing that this stuff has undergone is incredible.
2. Consumer Reports has also done extensive testing of the material and found it to be safe, with a few cautions about possible skin sensitivities (allergies, in some people), not burning the clay, not eating it, etc.
3. The issue of the safety of polymer clay (along with that of everything else under the sun! has been raised numerous times over the years by these groups. Why? I think you have to take a look at the money trail. These groups have a function --if they're not raising alarms, they're not generating interest and therefore, not generating funds ...Eliz.

If you find gunk in ovens which were NOT used for clay, obviously the gunks must be from something else
.... However, ovens used ONLY for clay get a thick coating of brown oily film after a time ( toaster, regular, and convection ovens). ....Someone, I think maybe it was Marie Segal, had some of it tested as I recall, and the chemists said it was primarily oil, the fourth component in polymer clay (along with the PVC resins, pigments, and plasticizers.) Plasticizers more or less evaoprate, I believe. (this is from my feeble memory, but I think it's pretty accurate...) Sherry

Tommie's discussion of the safety of polymer clay

As for washing my hands before eating, after i've been handling clay, if you saw what i did with my hands while claying, you would too!! LOL
...i use floor polish, varnish, inclusions, wild bird feathers, dirt, powders, plants, vaseline, and on and on. some of that stuff needs washing off!!! so - teaching the clayer to wash hands is not just for clay residue, it's also for all the other stuff we get into while claying.

(see also Gloves below) . . . Vinyl chloride is also a potential allergen for some. Infrequent use of PVC gloves to protect the hands is probably innocuous

allergeries or sensitivities
...Polymer clay is relatively inert. If you cook it at too high a temprature, over 350 degrees F, then you destroy the chemical compsition of it's long Polyvinyl molecular chains.
....If you expose the clay surfaces to some acids, they could destroy and interact with the materials that make the long molecular chains. There are always a few people that have or develop allergeries or sensitivities to just about anything, and polymer clay is no exception.
...Do not burn Polymer clay over about 350 degrees or more .. burning releases chlorine gas. Chlorine is commonly found in PVC water pipes, bleaches, and table salt, so it is not an uncommon item in the average home.
.... Do not expose Polymerclay to any foods that contain acids (foods like tomatoes and pineaplles).
As a rule Polymer clay users just avoid the food topic altogether because we do not know the full chemical reactions between polymer clays and foods. FDA says it is safe, but sometimes it is better to play it on the safer side.
... If you start noticing a redness or itching of your hands, then stop using the polymer clay for a while and see if the redness and/or itching stops. If it does then maybe you need to wear latex or ruber gloves. (Some of our clayers have a sensitivity to latex but are not bothered by polymer clay) .Lysle
(see more on allergies to pc below, in Allergies)

acid free and lignin free . . .the Sculpey website says that "our testing indicates that cured (baked) Premo....polymer clay has a neutral PH (Acid FREE). . . . and it’s Lignin FREE!" so it should be fine to use in fine scrapbooking, etc.

keeping oven walls clean

You can keep the plasticizer from getting onto the walls of an oven in the first place by using certain barriers:

... just draping your clay before baking with a tissue or a piece of cotton cloth will keep most or all of the released oils in

....tenting the clay partially or completely with something moldable like aluminum foil will work too

...enclosed baking ...completely enclose your baking object
.....with an upturned box
.....or in a paper, aluminum, or glass pan or roaster which you can seal with aluminum foil
.... I just tried the "Look" baking bags for turkeys ... fold the ends and clip shut, no fuss no muss, and best of all no smell and you can make sure nothing has tipped over . I use a glass baking sheet inside the large bag and then place on another baking sheet as it says the bag should not come in direct contact with grill or sides of oven, I fold ends and clip shut with metal clips. The bag rests on items as you put it in the oven and then slowly puffs up to the size of bag filled with air, I haven't tried laying any thing directly on it to bake. CherylAmie
(see more on ways to do enclosed baking, in Baking > Enclosed Baking
. . .( with the enclosed baking method) if I open the foil immediately yes, it emits a strong smell. It even causes a mild nausea. So what I do now, and I've learnt to be patient, I leave the pan covered for some hours or overnight in the oven itself. Somehow the smell dissipates. Else I open the foil (outside) and move away. Barbara J.

for all suggestions on what to use if you want to clean your oven walls, see below in Cleaning > Oven Walls

ANIMALS & clay exposure


The most important thing with animals is not to burn the clay... breathing in the terrible-smelling black smoke from burning clay isn't good... just like for other animals (people).
....people are told not to burn plastic bags, plastic containers, etc. in their fireplaces either... Patty B.
..you might want to avoid putting an animal (or child or adult, for that matter) in a small and enclosed space with baking clay
...Pay close attention to your oven so you won't burn the clay.... make sure it is not on self-cleaning, use a separate oven thermometer, and always pre-heat.... Patty B.

Well, I've now confessed to putting Rusty (my bird) at risk while baking clay-- he is still alive and happily singing up a storm! ....since they use canaries as test birds for toxic fumes -- I figure we are all pretty safe! In fact, Rusty has had a long life for a canary -- 7 1/2 years of happy kitchen living!
...Elizabeth Campbell has a house full of birds: parrots, parakeets, love birds, etc. and she has been baking polymer clay for years in her home around her birds with no ill effects. So, although not a scientific, the evidence from experience is reassuring. Patty B.
...Since I never notice the fumes unless I stand up, and especially when I start upstairs right after baking, I put my birdcage on the floor--or at least lower than the oven.

I bake my PC items in a toaster oven on the kitchen counter. ....We have both a goldfish and a parakeet (budgie) within 15 to 20 feet from the oven. We are happy to report that both pets are still healthy and I assume happy! ....The other day, I forgot to turn off the oven when I went to work....I had it at the correct temperature and those pens baked all day while I was gone. The pearl color had a slightly brownish tint due to the length of time in the oven, but still no ill effects to any of the animals at home --we have a dog too. Jan V


Many animals may love to eat polymer clay. . . . There have been reports of dogs and rats/mice who couldn't keep their paws and jaws off the stuff (sometimes baked or raw, sometimes only baked... maybe even more with Premo or Fimo?).
..... I think my 70 lb. Golden Retriever ate a pkg. of white Sculpey III. I had it in the living room & had to leave for a moment. One of the other dogs came in with the wrapper but the clay is nowhere to be found! ...I saw on the Sculpey website that it is certified non-toxic. Think this means for dogs too??? Jane
......If you are unsure, you can dose the dog with mineral oil to help pass it thru quickly. A couple of tablespoons will flush it on thru. Jeanette
(see also above in Plasticizers for June 99 report from Consumer Reports)

It's probably not a good idea to put polymer items in a small aquarium with small fish.
....What I did long ago when I wanted to put coral in my tank (a no-no since coral is only for saltwater aquariums) was to create a whole scene with the corals, etc., behind the tank. Behind that, I put a photo of seaweed and other underwater scenery; once I just used a large sheet of blue paper. Diane B.
...my own solution to the problem was to put the mermaid behind the tank, out of the water, nestled in crinkled up colored aquarium foil, taped all the way around the edges of the rear glass panel. The effect is really quite natural and provides an illusion of depth. The foil looks like rocks or the inside of a cave since the light comes only from the inside of the tank and the mermaid can be positioned so it looks as though she is swimming. It did confuse the fish a bit though! .. Lorieo
...Garie Sim has put clay in a (large) pond and not had it affect presumably larger fish though..

...Some types of fish are more sensitive than others though, I believe...
(see more on using clay underwater in ponds, snowglobes, etc., in Outdoor-Snowglobes)


A few people do seem to have a skin reaction to something in solid polymer clay or in liquid clays (probably the plasticizer) sort of like a contact dermatitis, but it doesn't seem to happen to most of us.
....still, be aware of any strange rashes you might get after working with clay or liquid clays (and don't use your fingers to apply it)
....Those people who do have reactions will usually wear gloves, barrier creams, etc., to prevent it. DB

A any time while you've been working with liquid clay, have you ever had an unusual rash come up anywhere on your body? I've been fighting this nasty rash, which my doc can't figure out. I'm not allergic to anything I know of. Anyway...it's really odd as I can trace each onset of the rash to coincide with me working with the TLS. (could be solvents or oil paints bothering me too...so its not necessarily TLS)
....The rash starts out looking and feeling like one of those huge pimples you sometimes get...but it ITCHES like the DEVIL
....big red angry looking welts radiating from the center of it...after about 2 days it gets a white center and itches WORSE until it pops..at which time it starts going away. It also is VERY tender and sore around the entire area.
...I have learned..if you scratch it and scratch it...it spreads.
I had it ALL over the back of one of my thighs and on the front of the thigh. Don't know HOW it got there and not say .. on my hands/arms.
...Doc gave me a steroid cream to rub on it to decrease the itching...and it helped a great deal
... I stopped scratching and they eventually went away
... I have had two separate occurrences of the rash...each time the onset was about 24 hours after I started working with TLS. (customer of Sparkle's)

Hi Laura, you may have solved my problem. I have had a similar rash on my chest. Both times I got the rash was when I had been working with TLS. ...I used the TLS to seal the transfer. On Monday the rash broke out! I was wondering where that came from! And No I don't wipe my hands on my shirt! Marilyn

I always get dry, itchy eyes when I work with Sculpey III clay - as soon as it is out of the packet it starts, not really bad just a noticable pattern. Oddly enough I never get that with Premo or Fimo. ... I have never even seen a bottle of liquid clay. Emma
Whenever my friend Linda works with Fimo or Premo she tries very hard not to touch her face ...if she pushes her hair out of the way or touches her face in any slight way.....she gets an itch and a rash within minutes.....it doesn't seem to bother her palms, but the backs of her hands also itch and get a rash...maybe it is the more sensitive skin?.... Cella in SD

Thank G-d I don't react that way to regular polymer clay, but I itch terribly if I try to use Elasticlay (a flexible clay for making molds, etc.) with bare hands. Nuchi

i've worked off and on with polymer clay for 13 years and just this past month have developed a rash-like area on the heel of my hands (where i roll my clay). i took a break from claying for about a week, the areas looked & felt better, clayed away this weekend...this morning itchy, irritated hands again. yuck. i never really paid attention to the messages out there before about how to deal with the allergies, seems someone mentioned a barrier type cream....my hand lotions aren't working - what name brands work? cdouville

There is controversy over whether to use plug earrings made from polymer clay in stretched earlobes
....most agree that it's not okay to use even baked clay anytime before the skin is completely healed, just in case there's any ingredient in the clay which has not been completely cured and made inert so that it could leach out, especially over time
....many agree that it's probably not okay to leave baked clay in earlobes for too long at a time(espeically since sleeping can stress the lobes)
....some feel that it's okay to use polymer clay for ear plugs (earrings in stretched lobes) as long as any clay part is not in directly contact with the skin (see possibilities for avoiding that such as "ear skins" and PTFE tape in Jewelry > Earrings > plugs)
....some feel that it's never okay to use polymer clay in any way in stretched earlobes

abosorption of phthalates into skin (skin allergies):
In a test of skin penetration, where a phthalate solution was painted onto the skin of a laboratory rat, 86 percent of the chemical stayed on the skin and was not absorbed, even after seven days. ...Other tests suggest that human skin is even less permeable to phthalates (than rats). Assuming a person were to wear gloves with a 30 percent PVC content for two hours per day, the worst-case exposure would be 0.027 mg/kg-b.w./dy.
...The absorption of undiluted phthalate diesters [dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diethylphthalate (DEP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP)] has been measured in vitro through human and rat epidermal membranes.. . . Rat skin was consistently more permeable to phthalate esters than the human skin.
As the esters became more lipophilic and less hydrophilic, the rate of absorption was reduced. ....Contact with the esters caused little change in the barrier properties of human skin, but caused marked increases in the permeability to water of rat skin. .


allergeries or sensitivities
...Polymer clay is relatively inert. (If you cook it at too high a temperature, over 350 degrees F, then you destroy the chemical compsition of it's long Polyvinyl molecular chains.)
....If you expose the clay surfaces to some acids, they could destroy and interact with the materials that make the long molecular chains. There are always a few people that have or develop allergeries or sensitivities to just about anything, and polymer clay is no exception.
...Do not burn Polymer clay over about 350 degrees or more .. burning releases chlorine gas. Chlorine is commonly found in PVC water pipes, bleaches, and table salt, so it is not an uncommon item in the average home.
.... Do not expose Polymerclay to any foods that contain acids (foods like tomatoes and pineaplles).
As a rule Polymer clay users just avoid the food topic altogether because we do not know the full chemical reactions between polymer clays and foods. FDA says it is safe, but sometimes it is better to play it on the safer side.
... If you start noticing a redness or itching of your hands, then stop using the polymer clay for a while and see if the redness and/or itching stops. If it does then maybe you need to wear latex or ruber gloves. (Some of our clayers have a sensitivity to latex but are not bothered by polymer clay) .Lysle

It's possible to develop an allergy the clay, but check a few things out first:
... Is it one certain brand or a certain color?
...I cannot use FimoSoft with glitter added or I will itch like crazy.... My friend seems to have problems with reds. Pat

There are two main types of skin reactions.
The first is Cutaneous (skin) Irritation. It is the most common type of reaction and is characterized by various degrees of skin inflammation. It is caused when a substance reacts with the mast cells of the skin, which then releases Histamine and other inflammatory substances. Reactions are classified into four stages which may or may not be progressive:
1) a local weal (redness & swelling) at the site of contact - like you'd expect from contact with stinging nettle,
2) generalized urticaria with angio-edema --which means swelling, inflammation and pain - like from a bee sting (itching, burning, stinging?),
3) same as 2 above with asthma or breathing difficulties, and
4) same as 2 above with anaphylaxis (systemic shock - like when someone is allergic to bee stings or peanuts).
The second type of skin reaction is Contact Allergy or Sensitivity Reaction. This type of reaction involves the immune system and is classified as a 'cell-type of delayed hypersensivity involving T. lymphocytes and macrophages'. To get it, the substance must enter the skin, bind with lymphatic tissues and then cause the T. lymphocytes to become sensitized. Which means: after contact with something the skin doesn't like, at any time in the future that the same substances comes in contact with the skin, the immune system reacts to the substance like it were a 'foreign invader' and then causes similar reactions as with Cutaneous Irritation. The main difference is that the reaction is often much quicker and more severe. The other difference is that Contact Allergy is something that develops over time. You might use that substance for 100 times and then suddenly develop the Sensitivity Reaction.
The main reason I am throwing out these definitions is so, if you are talking to your doctor, you have an idea of what the different types of reactions are, and also so you will know when 'it is getting worse' .... and when to see the doctor again! For some protecttion, I would advise all of us, with or without reactions to clay, TLS or diluents, to avoid handling the clay if you have broken skin on your hands, or if your body is already under stress with rashes --- because as I said, with Contact Allergy it is something that can build up in your immune system, so it makes sense to avoid exposing broken skin. Maybe wearing gloves at those times would be possible? Also be more cautious if you are already allergic or sensitive to lots of other things. For those with reactions, I would advise watching your rashes and welts carefully and if they seem to be progressing beyond level one, definitely see a Doctor -- AND if it gets up to level #3 --- ASAP. Please take these rashes seriously. Deborah

If you are worried about plastics/vinyls, it may be due to recent findings on Pthalates (found in many vinyl products like shower curtains and pacifiers, plastic bottles, etc) which are not good for the liver. There are simple blood tests that check on your liver function.
...Again, pthalates are NOT a problem with polymer clay, according to current studies----but some people lump all "plastic" into the same big group. This is as silly as saying all solids are the same, all gasses are the same....not good science. Sarajane
...see above in Plasticizers-Phthalates for more on phthalates

niobium (coated?) wire is a great metal for (those who have metal) allergies too. Emma

(see also below in Latex & Gloves for latex allergies)
(see also below in Powders (airborne) for avoiding them)

Barrier Creams

(which specific cream referred to?)
You put a *dab* on your palm...(size of a nickle/quarter)and rub it in well to coat your hands...get under the nails .... covers lightly...and dries to the touch. (don't slather it on!!--you want an even, thin coat)... then go on with your clay work. . . . .this stuff washes off with soap and water so be sure to re-apply if you take a break... and then go back.
... I also like using it if I'm rubbing paint on an object. Then ALL the paint comes off my hands when I'm done, easily ... **without** using turpenoid/turpentine! Jody Tice

The reason that I use the barrier every time I touch the clay is, back about 6 years ago I got a dermititis break out so bad on my hands. I'm talking weepy blisters. My dermotoligist could not tell my what was causing this. I have an idea that it may have been the clay.
......After spending over $500 and he still couildn't get rid of it but only kept me on steroids, I chose another path and turned to vitamins....now the only time I get a break out now is when I forget to take my vitamins. This is why I also use the barrier since I found it. Meredith

What ingredients does your brand have? Diane B.
.... Oxyfresh .... the same barrier cream Diana Crick was talking about...
........ the ingredients are: deionized purified water, mineral oil, glycerin, cetyl alcohol, petrolatum, propylene glycol, stearic acid, ....a bunch of really long words and a bunch of extracts and vitamins B C E. Meredith
The best stuff I have found for pc is called Oxyfresh skin barrier - dentists use it that have latex glove allergies..... It is non-greasy and really works while also having antibacterial properties.... It is made and sold in Spokane, WA. by Oxyfresh Worldwide, Inc. (509) 924-4999. I have been using it for years and it's a lifesaver! Meredith

At Clay Alley, I carry a barrier cream that is perfect for working with clay called Invisible Care -- invisible barrier to help protect against paints, grease, ink, and harmful products (such as poison ivy).. also contains skn conditioning emollients. Karen

Innvisible Glove (found in an automotive parts store...like Kragen/Grand Auto/NAPA Auto Parts)....and **this stuff works**. Jody T.
...I use Travabon manufactured by Stockhausen.inc. and buy it in automotive supplies. It is a special skin-protective cream...... After finishing with the clay, I also cream my hands with a hand cream then wash off.

Windsor-Newton's Artguard (art supply store or Michaels, in the "oil Paint" section)... a bit more pricey for "lots" less cream. . Jody T.

Gloves in a Bottle ... http://www.glovesinabottle.com/index.html

I found this at my local garden center. It's called Yard Glove ....forms a protective barrier on skin. Protects against irritation and discoloration. Makes cleanup effortless.... contains a formula of natural ingredients that prevents skin from absorbing dirt and harmful compounds used in the garden and around the yard. http://www.yardglove.com. Helen P.

My favorite hand cream until they changed the scent was Hoofmaker, by the same people who make Mane and Tail. It seems to make a good barrier cream without being sticky. I just wish they'd either ditch the new scent or come out with an unscented version. Halla

The woman who owns this website, http://www.luxurylane.com/FantasiasGarden/index.htm sells a solid lotion that comes in a roll up dispenser that works well for me. (I've gotten some special order fragrances, but I know that all her fragrances are essential oils and natural ingredients.) For anyone who is allergic to synthetics, this is the place to get something that works. Risa

I also use a product to protect my skin from my cement based pottery called Clear Shield from Market America... It is the only thing I buy from them because almost all of their products are way more expensive than they should be…But it does work great
... I use it mainly so I can work around poison ivy without getting any irritation.... it must be applied thickly and left to dry for about 5 minutes... I think it stinks, but I put up with it when I need it the most... it also makes paint easier to wash off of your skin... You must apply it throughout the day though as it does wear off...Dave

The only ingredient in the Cote barrier cream though was lanolin.... I wasn't sure if that was the same thing as what people were calling "barrier" creams. DB

I use hand lotion frequently (alone?... without a special barrier cream?) and seem to keep out of trouble. Shirley

Gloves & Fingertips.... latex & other materials

Lycra (a brand name for spandex) ...new gloves called ProCraft have been available since late 2004 (made from Lycra)
.......they are great for being able to feel details when working. Elliott
.......I absolutely LOVE these... they feel good, and I can do detail work with my polymer clay VERY well. I'm truly impressed with them. Mary Clare
.......they're so sensitive that you can even feel the edges of a coin with them on, as well as tiny details in clay --hard to believe but it's true
....no latex ....no powders inside, but do have a "skin conditioner/protectant" inside?
... they're also hypo allergenic and leave no chemicals on what you're working on....and hands don't sweat
...buy them online at http://www.procraftgloves.com ...or check one of these places for best price, bulk, etc. http://tinyurl.com/5a4z9
.......or they're also available at Hobby Lobby under the same name (ProCraft) but called a 'hobby glove' (and have the Tamiya logo and name which is a major name in the plastic model/hobby industry).
....can wash and launder ProCraft gloves using soaps or solvents without the product breaking or cracking
....... these can even be washed in the washing machine, then tossed in the dryer (although I'd never go that far myself)... Elliott
........I just used these gloves for oil painting ...to clean them off afterwards all I did was pour some mineral spirits on the gloves (while still wearing them)- then ran my hands (gloves still on) under soapy water, THEN took them off. .....They're good to go for the next project, now. Elliott?
...I like them a great deal... but, even in 'small' (which is the correct size for the width of my hands) the fingers are a little too long, and tend to get caught in the pasta machine at times! Otherwise, it's been very nice to NOT have to clean clay off my hands and out from under fingernails Macy
Wilshire Technologies (the exclusive manufacturer) first promoted similar lycra-based gloves in the high tech, medical, and food processing industries, and for personal protection (military, postal, law enforcement)... now Dee Gruenig is promoting them for the crafts industry.
...more info on the characteristics of spandex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycra

I used to wear latex gloves when working with clay so, given the opportunity at Arrowmont, I quizzed Nan Roche (who is a scientist) about the hazards of skin absorption, plasticizers, etc. Trust me, I'm not a technical or scientific person but if I remember correctly, she advised me that the polymers were too small in their molecular structure to readily enter the skin and that she was far more concerned about the fact that I wore latex gloves! Evidently, latex allergies are far more common and problematic than the (remotely possible) hazards working with the clay. I no longer wear the gloves as a result. Linda in W TX

If allergic, don't use latex gloves since latex allergy is similar to plasticizer...

Because latex degrades in the presence of oils (hence all the warnings about not using petroleum jelly with other latex products) I would avoid using it with the clay. It might not hurt the clay, but degraded latex might be even more likely to trigger allergic reactions than plain latex. Halla

About a year ago I developed a VERY severe (not to mention expensive) rash on my hands, palms, up to my wrist. It was so bad it kept me awake at night. Eventually several layers of skin peeled off, leaving a very smooth and very sensitive pair of hands which are finally back to normal "toughness." We never did find out the cause. This article, which I found just today, may explain it - I had used a pair of latex gloves ONLY ONCE to avoid fingerprints.
"You're at increased risk for latex allergy if:
....you're a health-care worker.... you work in the latex industry, if you've undergone multiple surgeries, or if you have a neural tube defect
... if you're already allergic to certain fruits, including kiwi, (strawberries?) and bananas
There are two types of reactions to latex. The most common includes irritant or contact dermatitis, a severe skin rash that mimics a reaction to poison ivy. This type of reaction does not involve allergic antibodies or release of histamine and does not put you at risk for IgE-mediated latex allergy. The other, more severe type is called "IgE-mediated" and affects people who are already sensitive to latex. Symptoms can include itching, redness, swelling of the skin, hives, sneezing and wheezing."

(if you're allergic to latex, also see http://www.loe.org/archives/010615.htm#feature3 for info on also reacting to medicines/injectibles which were kept in bottles with rubber stoppers)

The incidence of latex alergy is growing enormously, and its a very dangerous sensitivity to have. Its more likely to happen (sensitivity) when the latex is breathed in--and it becomes airborn when the powder (in latex gloves) comes in contact with the latex and picks up those molecules, then the powder flies on application and removal of the gloves. If you must use gloves, use unpowdered latex, or better yet, nitrile--they only cost a few pennies more and are much safer. Bradley's Bags and other such companies carry them in bulk. http://www.bradleybag.com (View Products>Next screen>Gloves) Sarajane
I've got the catalog, and they have nitrile gloves listed--#28NL and #28NM ( in large and medium) also gloves in cowhide, cotton, jersey knit, suede, vinyl, nylon, poly-film, PVC, neoprene and latex....all kinds of stuff! So call for the catalog, sounds like they have more in there than they do on the website! 1-800-621-7864. Sarajane

A good alternative to latex gloves is the nitrile gloves. They run about $25/box of 100 and can be ordered thru any of the safety stores (look in yellow pages under safety - make sure you ask for the disposable ones). They've worked great with the stained glass and would probably work really well with the clay. The gloves are pretty strong and can be re-used many times. Yo u could use one pair for red clay and another pair for white to prevent tinting the white. I find that the small ones fit me the best, really snug and no loss of tactile sensation which helps a lot. I do sweat after awhile but not as much as with the latex ones. .
Have you tried Nitrile gloves? We use them at work because the solvent we use Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO in short) can be absorbed thru latex…They aren't as stretchy as latex and they dont have powder in them.They do have an odd odor that you can get used to...Pauline
Nitrile gloves--check the Smart and Final (restaurant supply) Sarajane
You can also order them from most safety supply retailers. I like Direct Safety, and have started using their least expensive disposable nitrile gloves. Unpowdered 4-mil, item # 07-316, box of 100 gloves costs $11.95 plus shipping. 800-528-7405. You probably will wear size M, as nitrile gloves run smaller than latex.... Recently too someone told me the secret to wearing gloves in comfort: wearing cotton inspection gloves as liners. These make unpowdered gloves slip on and off easily, and also absorb sweat so my hands stay comfortable. They're washable but I'd advise washing by hand rather than machine. From Direct Safety they're item #07-801, for a dozen pairs, $3.50. Actually the cotton inspection gloves I got from Lab Safety were a little nicer, but it's not worth making a separate order just for that. Cathy
....nitrile gloves ARE better for non-aqueous (as in non-water containing; or solvent-based substances), since latex rubber, besides the well know sensitivites folks have suffered, will also break down eventually in the presence of solvents. Nitrile gloves are also stiffer, BUT there is a glove out there that I used to use called "Nitrile-lite" that is a thinner thype, and, as I remember, far more flexible than regular nitrile gloves. Maybe the drug or medical supply stores have them? Patti

I now use vinyl surgical gloves ....The one concern that I have is that you may be allergic to the plasticizer. Although my skin does now dry out, I do have an allergic reaction to polymer clay.. . . I also wear long sleeves and use a face mask when I am sanding and buffing. These precautions are well worth it as I am able to continue working with my favorite media. Dianne C.
.....just went to wal-mart for supplies... I was looking for some wallpaper blades and found a box of 100 gloves for around 8 bux.. which I thought was a great price, so I picked them up and read the box and as an added bonus, they said they were great for allergies to latex cause they were made of vinyl instead... Dave

Those with allergic reactions might also be able to use protection for the finger tips only:
...there are little thin "finger cots" sold at the drug store for rolling down over the tips of fingers to protect them (made from latex or what?)
.. rubbery fingertips (those are thicker and often have holes or knobs on them) .. sold in office supply stores for giving a grip when dealing with papers and paper currency (made from what?)
...Or... what about creating your own custom fingertip protectors with a bit of 2-part silicone putty ? (like the stuff we use for making molds for clay... see Molds >Silicone >2 pt.putties >brands )
.......by making your own, you could make them fit tightly, be smooth, and be as long or short, or thick or thin, as you wanted (... for example, you could make the finger part thin, but have a thicker area on the end for wherever you want --or usually get burned when using a glue gun)
...they might be good to use especially when doing gross motor things with the clay like color mixes, blends, conditioning, etc.). Diane B.
....Also, I found a place that makes finger and thumb guards of knitted kevlar.. .which are abrasion and high heat resistant.....looks like 75 cents each and you have to order 20 ...(or must buy 100?)...... http://www.probuy.net/products/KFC.html .....Pat
...if the (fingertips you saw) are abrasion resistant.... we might also try them for sanding? (to avoid fingertip abrasion). Patty B
...for more ideas on things to use on fingertips to protect them, see Sanding > Sanding > Preparation, Tips, Protection

(see also PVC in clay above)
PVC = poly vinyl chloride, which contains traces of vinyl chloride (used in PVC's manufacture). Vinyl chloride (also known as chloroethene) has been linked to a rare cancer of the liver (angiocarcinoma); therefore, the FDA has banned the use of PVC in packages for food. Vinyl chloride is also suspect as an allergen. Infrequent use of PVC gloves to protect the hands is probably innocuous. However, I, personally, would not recommend routine use of PVC gloves for long periods of time.
--Also, consider that the "allergy" may also be caused, not by the material a protective glove is made of, but also by moisture trapped on the skin of the hands (from sweat) while the gloves are being worn. Several people I used to work with over the years in the lab had this problem, which looks just like standard dermatitis (itching, red bumps, cracking, bleeding, weeping). Sometimes, wearing a cotton glove liner can help absorb some of this trapped moisture; owever, for those people who are most sensitive, even a liner doesn't help.
--Then, of course, there's also the matter of powders used in many of the gloves. Many people are allergic to these powders.
Best advice: Use powderless nitrile gloves with cotton glove liners, and take frequent breaks, removing gloves and liners to let trapped moisture evaporate. Wash hands after work is completed, and use a hypoallergenic hand lotion to recondition skin (e.g., Carmol 10 = non-prescription, but you usually have to ask pharmacist to order it for you). Diane M.

I wanted to add to my original comments regarding vinyl chloride. Please, keep this in perspective: Polymer clay = PVC compounded with colorants, inert fillers, antioxidant(s), plasticizers. Great pains are taken to remove vinyl chloride from the PVC prior to compounding the polymer clay we use. Remember, polymer clay is certified AP NONTOXIC by the Art & Craft Materials Institute. However, plasticizers, that oily stuff that leaches out of the polymer clay when it rests on a porous surface, are present at significant levels (about 15%) in un-cured polymer clay (and there is likely residual plasticizer in cured polymer clay, too). These plasticizers can be potent allergens also, and are considered hazardous. Therefore, don't eat while working with polymer clay, and don't create polymer clay items for use with/to contain food. --Also, don't reuse items used to work with polymer clay for food preparation. P.S. -- I'm not a plumber, but maybe there is a special grade of PVC pipe used for plumbing, which is guarranteed not to contain significant levels of residual vinyl chloride? Diane Mayer

I am definitely not a plumber, but I *believe* PVC pipes are used primarily for outgoing, not incoming flows. Copper is the favorite for handling incoming flows such as water flowing into kitchen and bath areas. Desiree

FOOD & DRINK with Baked Clay

baked clay, around food. . . yup, it's safe
.... it won't leach into your tea, etc. unless you leave it there a looooo-o-ong time
....... as for ordinary contact, no problem (the precautions that some clayers use) are, in my experience, overkill...
...polymer clay is not toxic, especially after baking.... false teeth use a form of PC for the gums, people have them in their mouths daily for years.
...if the clay is not thoroughly baked however, there is a chance that some plasticizer could leach into the food if in contact with it a long time (and especially if acidic)
..actually, the biggest reason not to use it for food is that regular bacteria can grow in any little scratches and grooves that might be in the baked clay (its very pliable when hot, and soft enough to scratch, even when cool). Sarajane

Just think about the other plastic all around you... Polymer clay is just plastic after all.
....your water pipes are made of PVC a lot of times, yet you most likely drink the tap water that is flowing through them
...you are getting more (PVC) from the plastic you store your food in, the jugs your milk comes in, and truthfully in the groundwater that feeds the crops you eat, than you will get from common sense usage of polymer clay. Elise
Polymer clay is plastic -- it's not "food-grade" plastic though, so you just need to apply the same precautions as you would with any other non "food grade" plastic. Sue

Although polymer clay is rated as non-toxic by the governing body for craft manufacturing (even for children), no one in this whole wide world really knows the effects of getting plasticizer in one's body over time and in quantity, or the effects of many of the chemicals we encouter all day in everyday life, for that matter... so some feel the prudent thing to do may be to just kind of over-react and never use it near food at all.

So if you're wanting to use clay on eating or drinking items:
....the best idea is to leave the area which would touch lips, etc., without clay (i.e., the rim of glasses or cups, the center of a plate--clay only on the edges, etc.) ... see some examples of this with wine glasses, etc, in Covering > Glass

You can also put a barrier over the clay, or between the clay and the food:
... cover the undersides of glass plates, etc., so the clay can still be seen but no food touches it
... place a clear glass bowl or plate inside of, or on top of, the clay-covered one to actually put the food in....that way the food won't touch the clay, but the clay pattern can still be seen reasonably well
....the clear finishes we use on baked clay are acrylic-based too, so don't know if coating with that helps to completely prevent any bad effects, ever.

You could put some adhesive sheeting over the clay while the food is being used on it (don't know if it would cause any problems if used long-term though:
....clear-adhesive sheets that can be purchased at office supply stores would fit okay if the item were flat, or if it were applied only to the flat areas, but wouldn't work as well for curved surfaces
....shelf liner is usually kind of frosty rather than perfectly clear

Another interesting possibility might be some kind of "shrink wrap" ...I think it comes in rolls as well as as "tubes" and "bags." There are a lot of industrial uses, but hobby shops probably sell some type of it (the DH says at least for airplane wings). It comes in clear as well as colors, and I think it's actually mylar?
....I do think it needs to have a mechanical hold on the item after shrinking to stay on, so if you were using a sheet, that would have to go over the edges of the plate/bowl at least. (...the shrinking should get rid of any wrinkles, but don't know how tightly a sheet might need to be connected over the edges or tacked down, etc.).
....Don't know if a rubberstamping heat gun would get hot enough, but a regular heat gun certainly would ...the DH thinks it only takes a few hundred degrees for a few seconds though to shrink the plastic so both should work.
....He also thinks that ordinary plastic wrap might work the same way, but you'd have to experiment with brands and thicknesses for sure. Diane B.

SEALERS & GLUES (safety of)

Both Varathane and Future can be put back into the oven for a few minutes after they dry. This "melts" the finish some and often gets rid of brush marks. Heather
....I re-bake my dried items for about 10 minutes at 250° to "harden" the look and feel of the finish...

Material Safety Data sheet: Flecto Varathane is non-flammable. When evaporated in an oven --the whole can-- it may release some ammonia fumes, but it will not catch fire. ...the lowest flame point for any of its ingredients is 410 degrees F. That's VERY very different from (some other finishes and paints which are not safe in the oven, but totally fine for our temperatures). Sarajane
12-2001: Flecto was bought last month by RPM Company, which also owns Rustoleum. ...being owned by the same conglomerate does NOT mean the products are the same, or even made by the same people...contact companies directly about their own products, and you will get better information. (...but the old Flecto Varathane is the same as the new "Rustoleum Varathane" I've been assured by them). . .
.... Also --and these are important-- we ONLY use the waterbase Varathane on our clays... we do NOT bake it at higer than 300 degrees (250 is where I rebake with Flecto)... and this has been done for many years by many people with no bad results to the finish itself --it does not melt, it does not show decomposition after 8 years.
. . . The original Flecto Varathane (now produced by Rustoleum, and called Rustoleum's Varathane) is considered nonflammable. (The original finish that was produced by Rustoleum, however, was highly flammable).
....If you read the MSDS, it may look scary to those who don't know chemistry at all, but our Varathane is really very safe by comparison to other finishes --even markers are very toxic by comparison. Sarajane

~Golden says to be sure to use plenty of ventilation while applying Golden UVLS polymer varnishes and letting it dry. It's not nontoxic. The label on mine warns not to get it on your skin, specifies to wear gloves while using, and that it can cause allergic reactions. Cathy

A few years ago I established a policy of requesting the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on all the materials and supplies I use. The law requires whomever you buy materials and supplies from, to also give you a copy of the MSDS when you request it. But you do have to ask for it. When I first started doing this, I got some real eye openers. Some things I thought were quite safe were not. Others I'd have expected to be fairly toxic were quite safe. And lots of times the MSDS sheets helped me choose which brand or item to continue using. Cathy

A recent government report, Report on Carcinogens, has identified mineral oil as a potential household carcinogen; it is found in nearly every cosmetic, oil and skin cream, as well as being added to polymer clay occasionally, in small amounts. Again here is something that's useful to know, but unless used in large quantities isn't a big worry for us (mineral oil may be similar to the plasticizers found in polymer clays, or to Diluent or Liquid Sculpey?? --see above). DB
...also petroleum jelly (Vaseline), which is a more solid form of mineral oil . . . http://cbshealthwatch.compuserve.com/cx/viewarticle/401600_1 --Celeste

...Recently I had occasion to order something from Fire Moutain and they sent me a 'Glue Products Safety Data Sheet'.
.......Of the five types of glues it listed, the worst by far was E6000 (different formulation from the Goops??) for health hazards. This is part of it: Inhalation Health risks and Symptoms of Exposure --Possible central nervous system damage from overexposure. Inhalation can cause irritation of the respiratory tract, dissiness, nausea, loss of coordination, unconsciousness and even asphyxiation in confined poorly ventilated areas. Health Sazards(Acute and Chronic)--Can cause headache, mentla confusion, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, cough, loss of sense of balance and visual disturbances. .... Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis. ....Prolonged exposure above OSHA permissable limits may result in liver and kidney damage

POWDERS, DUSTS (airborne)

Any powder can be dangerous to the lungs *if* you inhale enough of it! If the powder itself is somewhat toxic, that can add to the problem.

In general though the things we run into with polymer clay aren't dangerous for occasional use. However, as with all things, it's better to know in advance about even tiny steps one can take to help prevent the cumulative damage ofliving in a polluted and somewhat unknown chemical soup. Also, bear in mind that many art materials can have deleterious effects if used a great deal or without thought (pigments, turpentines/etc. for painting or silk screening, earthclay dust, etc.). So if you're doing production work, the following things will become much more important.

The biggest airborne problem found around polymer clay (besides lungsful of burning polymer smoke!) would probably be the aluminum powders which are made to give a metallic cover to the clay. These are primarily made by Fimo and are actually tiny corkscrews of aluminum colored gold, copper, silver, and red, etc. (These are different from the Pearl Ex and other pearly metallic colors since those are made from small flakes of mica.) When you use Fimo "pulvers," try to make sure that you're not in a draft and brush it on gently so the powder will be less likely to become airborne; it also helps to work on a piece of paper so that all tiny bits of remaining powder can be wrapped up and taken to the trash, and to wash you hands after use (use with children is okay if they are able to obey the above rules, though I tend to avoid it unless it's needed for a particular application). DB

Is anything safe, really? I was told that mold and fungus grows in damp cornstarch. Linda

...I use VERY small amounts and my talcum powder is perfumed. If I can smell it, then it's airborn. If you use it without flinging it around, it isn't being breathed in clouds. I go slow, I use a small soft paint brush or a ponce bag. Since its all come out of the same little canister, I know I've used less than 1 oz. in ten years (less, really--there's some in the ponce bag), so I feel pretty safe...as safe as I can in a world of chemical interactions! Sarajane H.

However, how much talcum powder have we all inhaled from being babies or having them?

Wood dust has been determined to be a carcinogen (if inhaling a lot of it); it would be prudent to use a dust mask if doing a lot of carving (or buffing?) resulting in lots of airborne polymer dust also, even though I haven't heard that it is an actual carcinogen...more things to be aware of *if you do a lot of them*...

No, nothing seems to be safe! Since we moved two years ago to this area, I have had such severe sinus infections and allergies that I had to have major sinus surgery. (not fun) Something in this area or this house (molds, or we joke about the mummy buried under the house) still bothers me after the surgery. (did you know there are molds in tea?) With that in mind, I have tried to be more careful about pc, etc. But I still believe that SOME exposure to the irritating mold, bacteria, chemical, whatever, could help the body create anti-bodies to protect itself. For example, we overuse antibacterial products such as soaps, cleansers, sprays, and gels so much that the bacteria become stronger and stronger, until when we face a strong bacteria, we can't fight it.. But while I'm on the subject... then you have the chickens being fed growth hormones for bigger breasts (if they are so vain why don't they get implants?) My thinking is that is the reason for the increase in breast cancer. Good reason to buy organic chickens. And the beef, which is being fed massive antibiotics to prevent infections. We eat the beef, and viola, have to take stronger antibiotics ourselves. (which cause yeast infections..) So I plant my organic garden, which is right next to a corn field that the farmer sprays with who-knows-what. The soil is probably saturated. So I take vitamins to counteract the negative affects of the environment. I find out the vitamins are coated with petroleum based products which explains why they upset my stomach. I could go on and on and on.....but I won't. Whew! Thanks for letting me vent..... DeB

avoiding dusts, if you're especially sensitive to them

As for drilling, why don't you try drilling by hand, either before or after baking. For after baking, check here for tools to make/use for that: http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/drilling-boiling.htm ("Holes After Baking"). The dust/crumbs removed by hand should be much larger and not be airborne.

Wear a dust mask...
...once when I was at the end of a sickness but really wanted to go to a clay day, I wore a dust mask on which I had glued a baked clay nose and mouth . . . LOL
...Garie's embellished dust masks (intended for avoiding the SARS virus in his Singapore area); baked clay critters to eat virus, arms with butcher knives to kill virus, tank to roll over virus, etc., glued to top or sides of mask "Perhap my masks will help, but mostly to cheer everyone up, especially the nurses and doctors fighting on the front line.".... might make wearing them more fun for kids too?
....Using a heavier dust mask if you're not already could help too ... look over what's available at the hardware store, or maybe at paint or industrial stores. Some of them are almost comparable to gas masks! Diane B.
...you can buy masks that filter allergens and chemical fumes through mail order or at Home Depot type places cause people working with paint, wood or drywall have to wear them sometimes, the darker ones are usually for fumes. Laurie

For drilling or buffing it might be noisy but try placing the hose end of a vacuum cleaner near the place where the stuff comes off the object the most (and maybe use earplugs as well ).
...Or maybe you could use a small fan with its *back side* toward the work area, and its front side pointed into a towel-laden large box, to catch a lot of the airborne stuff. . . even using one of those tiny computer-guts fans, you should be able to remove some of it. If you had an air cleaner (allergy type), that would work too.
...(Or, wild idea, you could buy a vent hood cheap, or maybe used ...I guess it might need to be attached to a hose you stick out the window to be most effective, though it might collect enough of the extra dust to be useful even if you didn't...bulky though.)

Lots of the woodcarving and woodworking catalogs have dust removers of all shapes and sizes (and prices). Lots of them are online so you can start there. These dust removers might solve both the dilemmas of fumes and dusts, as the oven could maybe be used in front a dust remover and might get the fumes out.. Jean

Another thing you can do is buy one or more stand-alone air cleaners (the kind that get rid of allergens --they're also good if cooking fumes or smoke from cooking bothers my eyes). There are some which have carbon filters that filter fumes. (I think you can also get carbon filters for the whole forced-air heating system in your house if you have that and are concerned with the fumes being distributed throughout the house.) Laurie

The egg artists use dust boxes (to contain dust) because of the fine dust created when carving & cutting eggs. (If you have some sort of handy person around, these can be made for around $40-45. There are also those who have plans for making them, and thise who can make them for you.) Susan
...I carve eggs & use this dust box plus a shop vac: http://members.tripod.com/~LuJS/DustBox.html. . . . Also placing surgical rubber in the openings will keep the dust down. khalua

Cut holes in a (plastic) storage container. If you place a sheet of clear acylic on top where the lid should be, you could sit on the couch and wet sand or drill, see what your are doing, and not sniff it up! Patricia

Try using one of those dusters with plastic or nylon ("feathers"?). Rub it on a plastic grocery bag, which allows it to pick up a static charge --the dust just jumps up on it then. Also hold it to the vacuum hose to get it in the vacuum. Dust the inside of the dust box with it too the same way. Stan (from website above, LuJS)

Also, check out this section on making the polymer as smooth as possible *before* baking so that you won't have to do so much sanding/buffing . . . or you could always switch to a liquid finish (matte or gloss), at least for awhile; just cutting down on the amount of things you have problems with will reduce your exposure level: http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/sanding_tumbling.htm ("Smoothing Before")


. . . (this is) not really an off-topic issue. Luckily there aren't a lot of tools that are left or right-handed oriented, but there are a number of that are "handed" and they cause problems for lefties.
As a designer I've always been sensitive to issues of access and as a left-hander, I've been thwarted many times during my life in trying to use instruments that are clearly oriented to the right-handed world. Pens unscrew during use, my money falls out of my wallet because I always open it upside down, manual pencil sharpeners work backwords for me - can openers too, working with a screw driver is a real "pain in the wrist," and don't get me started on the pasta machine (the motor helps). How many computer mice are shaped backwards (I hope you lefties with Windows know you can switch the mouse buttons)?
As a craftsperson I've had to adapt and be extra careful of any machinery because the torque is always going the wrong way. Even "True" left-handed sissors aren't - if you look at the blades, they are still right-handed in their placement. All that has been changed is the handle.
Most of the time when I bring the topic up people say, "Oh, I don't notice it," or "I just adapt to it," but that's not the issue. People who don't notice it can get hurt.
...On a serious side, I _have_ been injured because of right-handed equipment. When I was a potter, I learned to use the wheel right-handed, but you might have been amazed at the pretzel I had to bend myself in so I could actually throw or trim a pot. I don't believe I should be subjected to this kind of discrimination.
No, no one is consciously out to get us, but the ommission of consideration is, in the scheme of things, just as injurious as a deliberate effort. It's important for people who are left-handed to stop blaming themselves for things that that are not their fault (and to stop assuming they are in the first place). It's also important for lefties to become aware that they _are_ adapting and to think twice about that. We are a small, but not insignificant percent of the population, but in areas that are lateral-thinking oriented (like art) the percentage is much higher.
Misc fact: Is it true that left-handers have a signifcantly shorter life expectancy than right handers? No, it's not true. This was one of those things that got big headlines when some researchers did a study that they claimed showed this. But later, when the mistakes in the study were revealed, the big headlines didn't happen, because of course the correction is never as sensational as the original wild claim. So all most people remember is the original claim, not the retraction. Stepping down from soapbox. Jacqueline



(for keeping hands, etc. extremely clean when working with white or light-colored clays, see Sculpting-Gen > White or Light Clays)

There are a number of ways to clean polymer clay off your hands.

Just plain soap and *warm* water is one way.

Baby wipes are another favorite... some have alcohol, some don't...

If there's anyone out there who's regularly using just alcohol to clean their hands of polyclay residue and plasticizer... *Please don't!* This is a risky practice. ... alcohol alone is too harsh to be regularly used on the skin. It actually facilitates absorption of the plasticizer into your skin because it so readily trashes the natural oils in your skin that help to protect it.
...Better to use an emulsifier - any skin product that is designed to emulsify grease and oils.
.......Grease hand cleaners are fine. There are types that don't have abrasives (pumice) in them. Check your local automotive supply stores.
.......I found a really nice, nonabrasive hand cleaner that has lanolin in it. Vaseline or anything that has lanolin or glycerine such as hand lotion works great and doesn't abuse the skin.
.......My personal preference while working with polyclay is to apply generous amounts of cheap hand lotion, wipe it off with paper towels, repeat once or twice.
......When I'm finished with polymer clay or preparing to handle food, I use a good grease hand cleaner, then wash with soap and water.
....Those hand sanitizers that have alcohol AND glycerine in them should work adequately
. Desiree

waterless hand cleaner...(to clean my hands, brushes and anything else) I use "Fast Orange" (their pumice formula -- they also make one without, but that doesn't work like the pumice formula does).
....WalMart carries it; automotive supply stores have it; I've even seen it in grocery stores. There are similar brands, but this is the only one I'm familiar with. I love this stuff!...
.....For brushes, just work a bit into the bristles of the brush, then rinse the brush well with tap water. Comes out looking like new! Bonnie
...Orange GOOP without pumice is recommended by Linda Peterson for removing oil and dirt from hands

What I have been doing for washing my hands that seems to work VERY well in keeping my hands from getting dry is this:
.... After I am finished claying, I squirt (a couple of squirts actually) some liquid soap (I use a generic brand) onto my hands (no water) and rub that around, then WITHOUT rinsing, I squirt (again a couple of squirts) some hand lotion onto my hands and rub that around really well until I can see no more residue from the clay on my hands. If there are stubborn spots, I take a nail brush to them (also to get under my nails).
...Then I rinse in warm water and dry my hands. Sometimes I will rub in more hand lotion into my hands, but usually I don't. My hands don't dry out anymore like they used to before I started doing this, and I get ALL the clay off my hands. I don't feel any clay residue on my hands anymore and they are nice and soft and not dried out. Judy

i never use soap, water or towellettes. the air here is so dry, my hands would crack and bleed.
.... while working with the clay, i use mineral oil and cloth rags to wash my hands. when i've gone visiting, i use whatever cooking oil is in the cupboard. hand lotion also works, so does vaseline.
...i then clean my tools and work surface with rubbing/denatured alcohol. Sunni

oven walls

The consensus of most clayers seems to be that cleaning the walls of a home oven which is not dedicated to clay before cooking food in it, is not necessary unless you're doing a fair amount of clay over time.

If you do begin to use your home oven for baking clay frequently, or you bake lots of clay total-volumewise, then it would be a good idea to do one of the following:
...clean the walls periodically (see just below)
...use an "enclosed," or at least a "partly enclosed," baking method (see above)
...buy a toaster or convection oven, and dedicate it to clay use (see Ovens above

June 2000: After all the discussion about the buildup of residue making the oven "unsafe for human use," I decided to ask Polyform ...Hope Phillips
....."Dear Polyform, I have heard differing opinions and would like a clarification from you. When I bake Premo or any of your products, does anything "build up" on the walls of my oven? Should I have an oven dedicated to clay items only, or is it safe to also use the kitchen oven for food. (Sally)
....(RESPONSE from Polyform)
Each time you bake polymer clay, a very small amount of residue is given off in the baking process. As with the uncured clay, the residue is not harmful --it is simply the plasticizer in vapor form, which is a by-product of baking (It is like Sculpey Diluent -Softener).
The cautionary part is that, after many repeated bakings, a film of this residue forms on the interior oven walls. It can scorch if it's allowed to build up. This causes smoke, the same as if you burned the clay (so if you have no smoke, it's not scorching??). . . For this reason, we suggest that if you are baking clay on a frequent basis, you should wipe off the interior oven surfaces lightly with oven cleaner at the end of each day that you've bake any moderate to large quantities.

Purchased chemical oven cleaners are their own source of unhealthy fumes and chemical interaction though. Sarajane
...I agree, I think chemical oven cleaners are probably more harmful than polymer clay. Irene
...I also have asthma, and I just can't breath with the fumes of regular oven cleaner. cat dancing

'Tis I who recommend cleaning oven walls with baking soda in my book (plain water, or even soap and water don't seem to do anything to remove the oily residue left from baking polymer clay)
.......but baking soda is enough of an abrasive that it has worked well for me. Irene
...(if you use baking soda) I'd still wipe down the inside of the oven with plain water on a cloth at the end. Sarajane

I'm a full-time polymer clay artist who does and always has used my kitchen oven for baking (since 1974)
...I wipe the oven down with a non-abrasive degreaser such as Simple Green or Orange Clean and I rinse afterwards. Both are very effective .. It takes less than 15 minutes and is easy if you remove the door. ...for anyone who bakes very large items or bakes a lot of items, this is a viable option... I usually wipe down only after several hours of baking items in succession. Katherine Dewey
...Katherine's suggestion of an orange-based cleaner is a good one --my experience is that they are excellent degreasers (unfortunately my experience with them is also a rash on my hands :(. ) Irene

I bought the new Dawn Power Dissolver and I did use it to clean a very dirty oven (burnt on grease and all ). It is some super stuff and worked very well. ....some areas I had to reapply and use a steel wool pad, but the stuff came right off --and without the nasty fumes of an oven cleaner.

A self-cleaning (cycle) just means that an oven heats to over 600 degrees and burns stuff off to "clean" the oven....so if you are concerned about there being a plasticizer residue that might be toxic when overheated, burning that off may not be a good idea!

carpets & fabric

I've heard of cooking the clay using a blow dryer, which makes it crumbly enough to brush or vacuum out. It's worth a try. Won't hurt the carpet. Carol
Actually, what it does is partly cook the clay, so it works on soft mashed-in gobs too! spread the fibres of the carpet (pretend i'ts hair) as you blow dry, then it kinda gets crumbly and can be "brushed out" and vacuumed up. I've had to do this in several spots last time we moved-- Sarajane

! I guess I'd try putting a bag of ice on it to make it brittle. Then it might chip off of the carpet strands. Anything that would dissolve it would probably just spread it around. Jody

This is what I try and in the order I try them. Some colors and the different clay (brands) are slightly different to remove.
1. Alcohol
2. Lighter fluid (because this is fairly gentle, both on hands, lungs and carpet. And it has worked for me, but I have never left a spot on the carpet for a long time. (It also removes old price tags from paper, books, LP's, misc. and will not tear the paper or ruin any finish so far. And it was the first cleaner that I used to really clean clay from my clay gun, my marble slab, work top and even my pasta machine until I found out how to use old clay to do that job).
3. De Solv-it (Different names for this---but it usually has a citrus smell or base to it.)
4. Energine Spot Remover-- Can be found at a good grocery store
5. Lacquer thinner (I know that most people would never use this, but I have had tremendous success with it and it will not harm most carpets unless they have a rubber backing--but it will work about 99% of the time. Words of caution---Do not pour into the carpet. Use a clean white washcloth or white t-shirt scrap. Pour a little on the cloth and blot into the carpet. You will see the stain being picked up into the cloth. Change sections to a clean piece of cloth so you are not putting stain back in as you blot. Lacquer thinner has some solvents in it that are not good for a foam carpet pad. And if poured into the pad, it could start to dissolve the pad if not ventilated and dried quickly. After removing the stain, use a gentle carpet cleaner to remove any left-over residue. This will also prevent dirt from accumulating on the spot and making a different type of stain.)
After using any of these, just blot with warm water until you feel that the cleaner has been removed or evaporated..
Special note---If you have an oriental rug, do not use any of the above methods unless you have a place to test. Jeanne

. . .first, scrape out as much as you can with a butter knife, then try getting some rubbing alcohol on a toothbrush and scrubbing the spot, then sopping up the alcohol with a clean towel. Repeat even though it looks like it's making things worse... Might take eight or ten cycles of loosening/scrubbing & sopping, depending on how much there is. One of those citrus-based cleaners might do well, too. Be sure to try everything in an inconspicuous spot, first, so that you know it won't bleach out your carpet. Elizabeth
I spilt some Flecto Varathane (a finishing varnish) on my carpet.. . . I placed paper towels on top the spill on the carpet and sopped it up as much as possible. Then took rubbing alcohol and saturated a terry washcloth and with a patting motion diluted the varnish. I did this until it didn't feel sticky. After it dried you couldn't even see the spot. But if you walked barefoot ahhhh you could feel it, just stiff and bristly.
So I repeated the alcohol bath and gently brushed the carpet with a scrubbing brush. WOW no spot no residue not stiff.
I then tried this on some polymer clay that had stuck in the carpet. It worked!!! . . .
...If you decide to try this your self please do a patch test to see if alcohol will discolor your rug. Sharon

Be careful when using some of the stronger solvents to clean clay from your carpet. If the carpet has synthetic fibers cleaners like laquer thinner might damage the carpet. I have found that the citrus based cleaners like "DeSolvit" and "CitraSolv" clean practically everything including clay and are very gentle on hands and the object you are cleaning. Great for removing price stickers and labels too. Haven't tried them on carpets but don't see why they wouldn't work. Robert
...I wanted to comment on Citri-Solv as a cleaner. It works very well to get polymer clay off and is gentle on hands, but you need to use caution when using it on carpets because it will dissolve some carpet backing. Sandy

These (citrus cleaners) do work on carpets very well, also. But they must be rinsed out or they attract dust and you end up with a dirty spot. . . . Jeanne

I tried various things suggested by members of this group (heating with a hair dryer, then scraping or brushing out) and nothing got all the clay out completely, especially the stain left by red clay…. but surprisingly the commercial carpet cleaner I hired to clean the whole unit had no trouble with the clay area. I don't know what solvents they used -- maybe it was the steam that did the trick. MLBee

Goo Gone isn't just for transferring photocopies onto clay! It's excellent for removing gooey messes from fabric (including carpeting). It dissolves plasticizers and other sticky stuff from places you don't want it . . . Lynda
I pick up anything I can using my fingernails to scrape it up out of the pile, I use Goo Gone and rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth or paper towel to clean any staining, and if the problem is seriously embedded, I use embroidery scissors to snip out (minimally) individual yarns. Sometimes an old toothbrush can be used to help loosen it. I don't recommend baking the clay with a heat gun, you could damage the carpet, and getting raw clay out isn't THAT hard. Sherry

My first thought would be to try something oil based, (like the clay) to break it up first. Maybe vegetable oil or Armor All. Then wash that out with a grease breaker, like Dawn dish soap. Kind of depends upon the carpet,rather it's long shag or short pile. You'd have to be careful because the last thing you'd want is to spread it around. Jody
...peanut butter also works well.. just rub it on and wait a while... rub off with a paper towel, the wash any oil residue off with a little soap and water

I can suggest one other product. You need to go to a carpet store or supply warehouse and ask them for a pint of Safety Solvent #9. I don't know exactly what it is, but my hubby, the carpet installer, swears by it. He's gotten red felt pen ink, motor oil, bubble gum, and various other thing out of carpet with this stuff. I haven't tried it on clay, but if it will remove all the above mentioned messes I can't see why it wouldn't work on clay. Tonja

I take my exacto knife and carefully cut out the area. This sounds drastic, but I usually only lose a few fibers at a time, and I don't do it that often. …If you have pristine, beautiful carpet, this may be a less desirable solution, but I'd be surprised if anybody does their work over pristine, beautiful carpet! Lisa

may I recommend the sheets of vinyl "floor runner" stuff on a roll they have a the hardware store--for a couple of dollars you get a protective clear "rug" for your work area, which is LOTS easier to clean. (its meant for high traffic areas--like my worktable!) Sarajane

Until then, Kelly, how about using an old (or even new) shower curtain liner. They're only about $5 to $7 new and the make cleanup *real* easy. My brother and sister-in-law used to bring a (half) curtain along when they visited to put the kiddie's high chairs on…Judy

**the biggest concern is putting *raw* clay onto any ABSORBENT surface for more than a few minutes. . . the plasticizer will leach into the absorbent surface (even *eventually* through waxed paper when the wp is touching an absorbent surface) and it eats into some kinds of plastic too. Using alum. foil, plastic wrap & baggies, metal or glass are fine. DB

Zap a Gap go to Michael's or (a hobby store) to the aisle where they sell the cyanoacrylate glues and look for the CA glue remover. It's a kind of gel that will disolve the glue. Might take a few applications, but it does work. Dotty

As for the TLS, soak off as much as you can by laying the TLS side down on a towel, and then pressing with another towel on the back side. Don't press from front to back, as this will only press the TLS deeper into the material. (I worked at Sears in the ladies dress department once and this is what they taught us to do when something needed to be removed from a dress, and it worked.)
Then add a little Sculpey Diluent and do the same thing several more times.
....Then gently wipe the surface with a soft piece of material soaked in some Diluent.
Then wash the top in COLD water (don't heat the water or any residue of TLS will harden and won't let go).
Can't hurt to use some Shout also. Dotty


My clay table was getting really gunky.I had bits of clay stuck to tiles, the bottoms of tiles, and in between my acrylic sheet & the actual table top. I usually use Wet Ones and/or alcohol pads...but this time I used Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, in the yellow container...They're the best and fastest thing I've ever tried to clean off stuck-on bits of clay! . ..No more sore shoulders from scrubbing up clay bits for me. Laurel
...these have bleach in them though, and some people like to limit the amount of bleach they breathe ... maybe I'll hold my breath to keep those lungs pristine...

For LOADS of great info on cleaning practically anything (with at-home products), check out Linda Cobb's info!!


(see above for smells associated with "fumes" during baking, as opposed to "smells" after the clay is cool)

Some brands of clay have more smell than others.
....After baking normally, Fimo, I think, is reported to have the most lingering odor?
...Liquid Sculpey has a very strong smell during baking,
...and Kato Polyclay clays have more of an odor than the others when raw (see above).

Fimo (esp. black) smells (more than other clays). . . If it doesn't air off in a couple of weeks, I think I'd pop it into the oven for fiftten minutes or so and see if it helps.

For a lingering odor, try airing the baked clay well, maybe even in front of a fan. If it's enclosed in something, the odor may not be able to dissipate or may be more concentrated when the container is opened.

(cigarette) smoke can get "into" clay and stay there for a long time. . . someone reported that every time she received polymer work from a certain person, it stunk to high heaven and she had to air it out for quite a while to get rid of the smell.

(smoke or other smells) . . . Believe it or not, ammonia is better at removing odors than even chlorine bleach... I wash things with an ammonia solution all the time, and it hasn't seemed to hurt them, any, but if you don't want to risk that, put your (polymer or other) items in a sealed container with a shallow container of ammonia in the same container. Shouldn't take more than a day to get rid of the ammonia.. . .
(If you've got washable fabrics that need to be deodorized, put a quarter or half cup of ammonia in the washer along with the detergent - BUT NO BLEACH - the fumes from that combo can be dangerous.) zig

Some one mentioned at Delphi that she freezes her sneakers to (kill the germs and) get rid of their smell . . . I tried it and it seemed to work! (for how long though?) . . .anyway maybe we could do something similar with other smelly polymer?? DB

Another technique that may help reduce "airing time" in getting rid of smells of any sort is to bury the item in (fresh) kitty litter. I've had good experience getting rid of all sorts of odors in papers/books that are smelly by burying items for 2-3 days or longer. Seems to work best with absorbent materials. . .

...dry cat litter or aquarium charcoal on a shelf to absorb odors. For really strong odors in the refrigerator, place a small bowl of fresh dried coffee grounds on a shelf. Linda Cobb

Another thing to try might be masking or substituting another smell for any baked clay odor. . . so for example, you could leave your baked items in an enclosed or semi-enclosed area with some cinnamon, potpourri, etc., or perhaps an essential oil or extract on a cotton ball .... watch out though that the oil doesn't actually contact the clay or it might make it sticky. Diane B.

protecting the ENVIRONMENT

"Environmentally friendl" can mean several things... one is whether it biodegrades, and the other is what it may do to the air, water, etc., during procurement, manufacture, use, storage, disposal, etc.
...There's also the issue of just how much is actually involved (small amounts of polymer clay items or raw clay, vs huge amounts of plastic bags, excessive plastic packaging, synthetic carpeting, toys, pens, barrettes, containers, and all the millions of things made from plastic nowadays) --and that's only for plastics.
Since it is a plastic, polymer clay doesn't biodegrade back to "dirt," but it does break down into tiny pieces like any plastic would when exposed to UV light and stress over time ...actually not many things do degrade to dir when you think about it (metal, glass, etc.). ...And from what I hear, when landfills are actually dug up many years later, what's mostly found un-decomposed is newspaper (!), so there are problems all over the place.
....Other whole considerations apply for manufacturing, global warming, etc., but again polymer clay is a fairly tiny bit of the problems we need to deal with re almost everything we make, eat, use, etc.

I, too, have questions about the environment.
....However, it was pointed out to me that polymer clay is made from oil by-products which otherwise is relatively unused.... In other words, by using the clay, we are keeping those by-products OUT of the land-fill. -byrd

There's almost no waste in using polymer clay, something you can't say about working with gemstones, sculptural stone, wire, wood, fabric, paint, paper, etc.
....The petroleum used to make PC might otherwise just be burned, squandering a non-renewable natural resource and contributing to global warming.
... Making art objects out of a petroleum-based product is a way to emphasize the value of oil beyond fuel. If we apply our creativity and craftsmanship to making items that are both beautiful and durable, their value will remain or even increase after we're gone and they'll never end up in a landfill.
....If you'd like to reduce your contribution to global warming, why not use a solar oven to bake your PC items? Tzunun (for solar ovens, see Baking > Other Ways to Cure)

> that buyer said that they don't like to carry polymer clay because it is environmentally unfriendly. . . <
Then tell her that she will also need to get rid of:
...pottery because firing requires a great deal of energy consumption and often uses toxic compounds in the glazes
...oil paint and water color paintings should go because the colors are made with pigments that you shouldn't eat (etc.)
...weavings and wearables add salt down the drains to our water supplies --not to mention those dyes!!!
...photos are HIGHLY toxic to develop
...printed materials like cards and calenders use inks and dyes are toxic to eat
...gemstones and earth clays have been ripped from the earth
...pencil drawings mean a tree died somewhere --so does the receipt and the paper bag at their store. Sarajane

What most people who work with so called natural "earth" clays don't seem to realize is that everything on earth is natural, but most everything we use has been enhanced by humans to fit their needs.
.... Earth clays nowadays don't actually come straight from the earth (except for very weak clays). ... the right mix of silica etc. is put together in a production plant. This is no different than taking the oil we find in the earth, and enhancing it in a lab to make polymer clay from it. Dotty in CA

AIRPORT security & carry-on BAGGAGE

I have heard of people, even before Sep. 11, who had problems with just the clay during baggage check, but not with armatures inside sculptures. (The wire wouldn't be a problem since it's structure would be easily visible on x-ray, but possibly wads of foil used as armatures would be?)
I think what they did was to leave as much clay as possible in the packages; I can't remember if there were other precautions they took (aside from leaving blades and tools in checked bags!).
.......I'm sure anything else you could do (like taking a copy of the workshop brochure or a letter from the workshop group--preferably on some kind of letterhead-- or possibly photos of your work at a workshop, or books about foil armatures) would be a good idea! Diane B.
....plastic bomb stuff does come in rectangular poundish bricks that look remarkably like a pound brick of black polymer clay ...while I don''t think we need to check and make sure we were sent polymer clay from our sources, its VERY likely that the terror official at any airport MAY be all twitterpated by the sight of it in baggage..... so either ship clay ahead when traveling, or turn it into sheets between deli paper or something. Sarajane

. . . local news had tips on what to carry on and what not to take on board:
Anything resembling a weapon (blade, needle tool, etc.) should not be carried on.
Anything with metal in it is best left in your luggage and stowed. If this is not possible, be prepared to spend time at the airport showing what you have. You will have to remove the items and explain. (In the event you have armatures, you may need to have pictures of the building process to prove you aren't packing explosives in your giraffe.)
The time spent in the airport when you are loading is going to be long. Rethink what you take on board. It may save time at both ends of your flight if you stow it and have pictures with you at the boarding gate to show anything possibly suspicious that is in your luggage.
If at all possible, mail your items ahead of time to your destination and then remail them back to yourself. I have a friend with diabetes who had a heckuva time in a small airport when he couldn't get the (stoopid) guard to understand about his test kit and syringes. Kim K.

Having done screening for a little while:
Expect to get checked, thoroughly. Take it as a blessing if you don't.
The x-ray (or your clay?) may come through suspicious, but it doesn't have the same density. The cloth they use afterwards will check for explosives, so they shouldn't detain you any longer than necessary.
(Some instructional/pamphlet help would be useful, more against a detailed customs/DPS dog check than explosives.)
The wire would be more of a concern than the clay, since it would be a "sharp object" etc.
Also, no wire cutters, blades, shapers, etc. that may even seem pointy or you forgot and left together with it, as they will most likely be taken. (Even some of the plastic ones.) You may ask if they can put the red sticker INSPECTED on it (they will not do that for everyone) so that you hopefully won't have additional trouble when you get to your gate and possibly screened again by someone else.
It's up to the individual screener's discretion, etc. as to how picky (or insert any applicable word here) they get any given day.
--And seriously, be nice about it. Cynthia

If you travel by airplane... take your motor ON the plane w/ you... you can explain what it is, but the airlines (after they agreed to replace mine) said anything with this kind of electrical stuff does not do well with all the throwing & banging around they do w/ luggage. Patsy