Our test results for the best salt dough recipe for DIY ornaments, crafts, gifts & Christmas decorations, with great tips on baking & drying.
Everyone loves salt dough crafts. It’s inexpensive, fun and non-toxic to work with for kids and family, especially around holiday time. So, what is the best easy salt dough recipe? Why does my salt dough puff up when baked? Is it better to bake or air dry salt dough? What’s best to seal salt dough?
These were the questions many of us had when creating our first salt dough projects. So I decided to test 4 most popular recipes, different baking temperatures and techniques to find the best salt dough recipe that is most durable and easy to work with.
Today I am going to share all my findings with you, plus some beautiful salt dough Christmas crafts and decoration ideas to make!
* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .
How to make salt dough
The ingredients for salt dough are very simple: just flour, salt and water. The most popular salt dough recipes call for the ratio of 1 cup of flour, 1/2 to 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water. ( See our tests in next step to find the best salt dough recipe!)
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, knead a little bit until smooth, that’s it! You can make salt dough ahead of time and store them in airtight plastic bag or container for about 5 days or even longer.
Testing the best salt dough recipe ratios
I tested the following ingredients ratios using all purpose flour and regular table salt.
*NOTE: add 1-2 tablespoon more water if the dough is too stiff
- Recipe 1: 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of water*
- Recipe 2: 1 cup of flour, 2/3 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of water*
- Recipe 3: 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of water*
- Recipe 4: 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of salt, 1 cup of water
Final results: recipe 2 and 3 are my favorites! Now let’s go into details of why.
IMPORTANT: keep our furry friends safe! Many things safe to humans such as salt dough, play dough, and even chocolate, can be harmful if eaten by dogs or other pets. So please take necessary precautions, and remind others too!
Which salt dough recipe is the easiest to work with?
We tested each dough by making some stamped salt dough ornaments using rolling pin and cookie cutters. Recipe 1 has the most salt and the texture felt gritty to work with. Recipe 4 was nice but a little soft and sticky, and it took longer to bake than the others. I would add a little more flour to this recipe to make it better in future.
Recipe 2 and 3 are both nice and smooth to work with.
Which salt dough recipe dries the fastest and strongest?
They were all very durable without any cracking. I was able to break a test piece made from recipe 1 when I tried very hard, but I could not break any pieces made with the other recipes.
Which recipe is the best for making impressions such as salt dough handprints?
As you can see, they are all good enough to catch the fine details in these leaf impressions. However recipe 3 and 4 retains the most details. They should all be great for salt dough handprint ornaments ad keepsakes.
If you want to make a project like these stamped vintage salt dough Christmas ornaments below with small details, choose recipe 3 or 4!
Is it better to bake or air dry salt dough ornaments?
The short answer is: it is better to bake your salt dough at 190 to 200 Fahrenheit oven temperature on a baking sheet. The salt dough ornaments will come out with nice color and retain their shape much better than those baked at hotter temperatures. My favorite is actually a “hybrid” method of baking and air drying salt dough, which I will share below!
If you have some kind of heat vent that create hot and dry air, you can definitely put your salt dough creations near the vent to air dry. Otherwise, air drying in normal to cool temperature takes a very long time, and the salt dough can discolor over the course of a few days.
How long does it take for salt dough to bake until dry?
The thicker and wetter the dough, the longer the amount of time it takes to dry. For 1/8” to 1/4” thick dough, it can take 3 to 6+ hours.
However, you don’t have to leave you oven on the entire time. My favorite way to bake salt dough is to put them in the oven, let the oven heat to 200, leave it on for about 20-30 minutes, then turn the oven off so the dough keeps drying in the residual heat for the 1-2 hours, or overnight if it’s bed time.
Repeat this process for 3-5 times, your salt dough ornaments will be ready for decorating!
Why do my salt dough Christmas ornaments puff up?
Salt dough can get puffy like a pita bread, or curl in all directions if we bake them too hot.
It is totally understandable we want to bake them hotter so they dry faster. If you don’t mind them getting a little puffy or darker in color, go for it!
However, if you want them relatively flat, bake them at 200 Fahrenheit, or use a flat weighted sheet pan on top to keep them flat if you bake them at 225 F to 325 F. Keep in mind the dough turn a darker color if baked at these temperatures.
Is there a no-bake salt dough recipe?
Yes! Here’s our homemade air dry clay recipe with baking soda / cornstarch and glue! It is also more white than salt dough. I have to say I like both salt dough and the air dry clay for different reasons!
What’s the best sealer to seal homemade salt dough crafts?
Mod Podge is great for sealing homemade salt dough ornaments and crafts, such as these DIY salt dough photo ornaments we just made here! Some people use varnish, polyurethane spray or resin for even more durability, especially when they intend to sell their salt dough creations.
If you paint the salt dough with acrylic paints, that can act as a sealer as well.
That’s it for today! If you have any questions or tips to share, feel free to leave us a comment and we will make sure to reply!
Stay tuned for more slat dough projects! See you soon!