Embedding lint, hair, and dust into a fresh piece of polymer clay is the bane of most clay crafters. These contaminants seem to work their way into pieces mysteriously, even when you think that you’re being completely clean and methodical.
You can avoid contaminating your polymer clay with lint by working in a clean environment. Wash your hands thoroughly before starting to work, wipe down your work surface well, turn off the air conditioner, and keep pets out of the room. Your clothing is a big source of lint, dust, and hair, so make sure you are wearing an light-colored cotton shirt that doesn’t attract these things as easily.
How do you keep white polymer clay white?
There are multiple things that you can do to assure that your polymer clay keeps its white color clear and bright. First and most importantly, invest in high-quality clay. Some of the cheaper brands turn darker or even a yellowish color when baked. Using a brand like that will completely ruin all your additional efforts to preserve the whiteness.
Once you choose a material that won’t cause discoloration, it’s time to make sure you won’t do it either. For that, you should make your workspace (including yourself) as clean as possible. Keeping the clay clean from the start will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Before starting to sculpt get some rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel or a wet wipe. You will use these to carefully clean your working surface and all the tools you’ll be using. This will successfully get rid of all remnants of old clay, dust, or other contaminants that might pollute your white.
Then, ensure that there is no hair around in your work area. Keep pets away from the area that you will be working in, and wear an old cotton shirt that doesn’t attract lint or hair easily. If necessary, tie your hair up so that it doesn’t fall over your shoulder. You can put a shower cap or a scarf over if needed.
Even if your environment looks as sterile as a hospital, it’s probably not. After you’ve done everything in your power to eliminate common sources of contamination, you can guarantee that there will still be odds and ends that nevertheless manage to get onto the clay.
If you have a particularly hard time keeping lint out of your polymer clay creations, try wearing light-colored clothes to prevent bright or black specs from sticking onto your piece. Avoid fabrics that shed, especially fluffy and furry ones.
The last thing you need to do before starting to work is to wash your hands thoroughly. Once you’ve done that, avoid touching your clothes and hair because you will pick up dust and lint again this way.
Once you’re ready, always start sculpting the white first, no matter how many other colors you’ll be using. This way the white will get the cleanest surface possible. Put the white piece(s) away somewhere covered when you’re finished so they don’t get dirty by the time you get back to them.
Is it easier to keep dark polymer clay colors clean?
All clay gets dirty equally easily. However, the lighter the color is, the more the dirtiness is visible.
For example, a black piece of clay can have just as much dust and lint as a white piece of clay, but the white will always look worse because all shades of specs would be noticeable. On the other hand, you would only see the lighter contaminants on the black piece of clay, which wouldn’t be a lot given the fact that most dust specs are dark anyway.
Should you clean the lint off of polymer clay before or after baking?
You should make sure that your clay is as clean of lint as possible before baking it. The high temperatures of the oven will cause the lint to integrate into the clay. If you bake your piece with lint stuck onto it, you will exert more effort trying to get it out when it’s hardened.
To make sure there isn’t any lint or hair on your clay, check it out under the brightest light possible. A desk lamp will suffice.
How do you clean unbaked dirty polymer clay?
If your clay has gotten dirty you should get rid of the larger pieces first if there are any. Do this by gently peeling or taking tiny bits of the clay off with a blade of choice. Crafting scalpels, a kitchen knife that has been dedicated to clay work, or an X-Acto knife works well for this.
Once you’re finished removing the large contaminants, use a baby or pet wipe to clean the surface of your piece, starting from the center and working your way out.
If this doesn’t clean the clay up completely, then use some isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab to wipe away the remaining embedded dirt (higher concentrations, like 70%, work better). Avoid pressing hard with the cotton bud, and work cautiously because the isopropyl alcohol can ruin the details of your piece. Don’t use isopropyl alcohol on multicolored pieces that have patterns.
Can you remove dust, lint, and hair from baked polymer clay?
Once a piece has been baked, the only way to remove dust, lint, and hair from it is to remove the affected parts of the clay. You can do this by sanding the clay, or by using a cotton swab dipped in acetone to essentially melt the dirty parts of the clay away. To sand the clay, you will need successive grits of sandpaper (from 400 grit to 2,000 grit).
Sanding to remove dirt is best done on pieces that don’t have a lot of nooks and crannies, and on pieces that are multicolored. If you use acetone on a multicolored piece, then you will just smear the colors into each other.
If you choose to use acetone, then keep in mind that it is a toxic chemical that must be used at your own risk. Always work in a well-ventilated area, keep it away from your eyes and off of your skin, and make sure that you store it securely away from children and pets.
Tape may be able to be used if you see that the dirt is not deeply embedded into the clay. Cut off a small piece of tape and use it to lift off whatever is sitting on the surface of your piece. As long as the clay is baked the tape won’t leave any marks. You can also use a lint roller instead.
How do you remove hairs from polymer clay before baking?
Hairs are tricky to get rid of and often put your patience to the test. But there are a couple of easy ways you can remove hair from clay before it’s baked.
Try using your fingernail or a needle tool to scrape the hair off the surface. Be careful not to damage your piece. Use your fingers or a pair of tweezers to remove thicker hairs.
You can also try making a “hair picking” tool with a piece of wire by forming a loop at the end (it looks like an eyepin).
Can you hide dirt on baked polymer clay if it can’t be removed?
If you can’t remove dirt that somehow managed to get onto your piece and you have already baked it, don’t worry. You can usually hide it by painting on it.
Get some acrylic paint and try to match its color to the color of your clay. Using a small and soft brush carefully paint over the dirty area. Let it dry well before touching it. This method is especially good for small but stubborn specs.
Do some polymer clay brands get dirty more easily?
Different polymer clay brands have different properties. Usually, the softer brands are stickier than the firmer ones. This tackiness causes them to get dirty more easily.
You should experiment with different clays to find the one that best suits your personal working style. Softer brands get more dirt but are way better for detailed pieces.
For example, Fimo Professional is stickier than Kato Polyclay, but Kato is harder to condition and has a distinctive smell that can repel a lot of people. Premo is clay that you can find in almost every color possible, and while it doesn’t have a strong smell at all, it does get really sticky and hard to use in warmer temperatures.
Each brand of clay has it’s uses, and it really just comes down to your personal preferences. If you learn to successfully keep the dirt and lint away from your clay in the first place then you’ll be able to benefit from the positive aspects of an otherwise sticky clay. You may find that some brands that have a sticky texture are worth the headache for the type of work that you do.