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Box of ClayI've already shared some ideas for things you can re-use and recycle with polymer clay — things like tin can lids and cardboard. But today I'd like to talk about "recycling" the clay itself.

One of the nice things about clay is its built-in reusability. Nothing's permanent til it's baked. So if you decide halfway through your project that there's no hope, you can just wad up your clay up and start again. (Or if you're like me, carefully pick apart the separate colors first. Course, I was also the kid who didn't let different foods touch each other on my dinner plate. Maybe this is the grown-up version of that?) Not every medium is forgiving enough to let you start over mid-way without any waste... Aren't we lucky?

Here's a few more ways you can reuse & recycle your polymer clay:

  • Recondition Old ClayDon't throw away old packages of clay. If you have clay that's several years old, it may seem too hard & crumbly to use. But unless the clay is partially cured from being stored in a too-warm place, it's pretty easy to re-condition. Just add a drop or two of mineral oil or baby oil to the clay. If you have a clay-dedicated food processor, mixing the clay in it will make your job easier. But mixing by hand works just fine.
  • Use that scrap clay. Scrap clay is the uncured stuff you have left over from your previous projects. Some of it's perfectly usable as is. But sometimes you mix your cane ends together & end up with an ugly color, or you drop your clay on the floor too many times & it ends up covered with dirt and cat fur. This less-usable stuff is still good for plenty of things — whether it's serving as the middle of a bead (hidden by a decorative top layer) or being used to clean your pasta machine. Check out Polymer Clay Web's Uses for Scrap Clay for more scrap clay ideas.
  • When in doubt, don't throw it out! Even the baked stuff — the stuff that got air bubbles, or broke, or just didn't turn out like you'd hoped — can be creatively repurposed.
    • Shoebox of Polymer Clay PiecesUse that unfinished bucket as a source of creative challenges. Try randomly pulling things out & finding ways to use them creatively in a completely different way. Have a couple of extra beads left over from a jewelry project? Try making a Bottle of Hope that features them as embellishments — or maybe as a lid. Making Artist Trading Cards is another low-stress way to use something you liked well enough to save. It can be really fun & uplifting to take a messed-up project and turn it into something creative and new.
    • Broken Pieces, Before & AfterBroken pieces are great to use as mosaic tiles. Cut or break them down even more, then apply them to a strong clay base. This works for even weak & brittle brands of baked clay, since the mosaic's base provides the piece's strength.

Looking for more recycling tips? Check out these ideas from other polymer clay artists:

I hope you have fun finding ways to reuse and recycle polymer clay. Happy Earth Day!


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» 6 Ways to Use Mineral Oil with Polymer Clay from CraftyGoat's Notes
Mineral oil is inexpensive AND it's amazingly useful. Here's 6 ways to use it with polymer clay. [Read More]


I just went through my Box of Unfinished Objects (the box of doom) last week and finished up a lot of the things that needed a little sanding, buffing, varnishing and drilling. Not only did it mean I got more stock but it meant not all that time and materials were in waste.


I've got a box or two myself of unfinished pieces and scrap clay to do something productive with. Thanks for the inspiration Angela!

If you find that the clay is partially baked, dont throw it away either. Carefully cut it in blocks (the size you want - for beads), bake it completely, drill a hole and carve it with fun lines randomly, rub some paint over it and glaze it.

Thanks for the comments! Elaine & Cindy, I have to agree that finishing an old project can be really inspiring. And Wandy, what an interesting idea! Might be a little extra work, but it's better than throwing the stuff away. Thanks for the tip!

Now just to decide what to do with some of my scorched clay.... some browned, some bubbled...!

Jenny, I had a sculpture recently with a section that bubbled (too tall, apparently, & got in the oven's hot zone). I sanded the bubbles down (best I could anyway -- those are tough suckers!) and added another layer of clay to it. My main concern with this was strength -- would the burned part be brittle & more likely to break? But it seemed pretty durable right up until I gave it away. :-)

Might be something to try...

It's probably not a grown-up version of "different foods shouldn't touch." I never minded if my foods touched, and I usually try to reclaim clay!

There is usually some "stickage" (technical term!) that keeps me from peeling the sheets apart after I've cut into a stack of clay. I'll sometimes use my clay blade to slice off as much of one color from the other.

Not exactly "waste not, want not;" just that much less that I have to buy when Michaels has a clay sale!

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CraftyGoat's Notes is all about sharing polymer clay tips & tricks that have worked for me. (And even a few that haven't!)

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