2 Best DIY Air Dry Clay Recipes {Better Than Salt Dough!}

We tested popular DIY air dry clay recipes to find the best homemade clay for craft projects! Comparisons of baking soda clay vs glue and cornstarch clay, with tips and tricks on how to make strong and durable air dry clay!

I am currently addicted to homemade air dry clay! It is such a fun crafting material (even better than salt dough!) for kids and adults. It takes only a few minutes to make, using easy to find non-toxic ingredients most of us already have! 

After testing a bunch of recipes, we selected two of our favorite air dry clay recipes (the second recipe is the most fail proof! ) to share with you today! We will start with the recipes, followed by comparisons and additional tips and tricks.

DIY air dry clay christmas ornaments

* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .

This is Part 1 of our DIY air dry clay series. Here are Part 2 and 3:

Part 2: how to make air dry clay and salt dough ornaments.

Part 3: how to decorate beautiful air dry clay and salt dough Christmas ornaments. You will love them! πŸ™‚

Which recipe is the #1 winner?

beautiful air dry clay Christmas ornaments

For a 100% fail-proof crack-proof clay, definitely the second recipe: glue and corn starch clay wins. It is also very strong and durable when it air dries thoroughly.

The best things about the baking soda clay is that it dries to a beautiful opaque white, shrinks less while drying, and looks amazing decorated with watercolors or brush markers. However, it is prone to cracking. Read the helpful tips in the FAQ section at the end on how to minimize cracks.

Check out the video tutorial or skip to written tutorial below!

Baking soda and cornstarch air dry clay recipe

DIY cornstarch and baking soda clay ingredients
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1.5 cup water . ( You can also add food coloring to both recipes to make colored air dry clay.)

Stir all 3 ingredients together in a non stick pot, put the pot on medium or low heat, cook for a few minutes.

stir baking soda and cornstarch to make homemade clay

The mixture will change from a soft paste to a consistency of mashed potatoes.

IMPORTANT tip:

If you under-cook the baking soda clay dough or use too much water, the dough will be sticky and prone to cracking! Make sure to cook it till it pulls away from the pan. Turn off the heat.

diy baking soda clay

Transfer the dough to a container and keep covered while it cools. Now your baking soda air dry clay is ready to use! Read the helpful tips in the FAQ section at the end on how to minimize cracks.

Glue and cornstarch air dry porcelain clay recipe

make air drying paly dough clay with glue and cornstarch

Mix everything together in a non stick pan and cook the same way as described in the baking soda clay recipe above. The only difference is that the mixture will start to look like cottage cheese with little lumps. That’s when you would remove it from the heat.

Don’t over-cook this dough. It is almost fail proof, but over cooking will turn your dough hard and leathery!

making air dry clay with glue and cornstarch

I have seen instructions to cook the mixture in the microwave, but I prefer stove top because everything cooks more evenly and it is easier to see when the mixture is ready.

make air dry porcelain clay which is like play dough

this dough is more sticky than baking soda dough. You can use plenty ofcorn starch for dusting and rolling.

How to use homemade air dry clay 

Here’s our detailed tutorial on how to make the ornaments and the star garland. I used cookie cutters: mini cookie cutters like these are great for adding interesting details and making mini stars, round cutters ( I used this set) and Christmas cookie cutters are great for ornaments. And LED fairy lights for the star garland

Beautiful DIY air dry clay and salt dough Christmas ornaments using nature finds & watercolor art on homemade clay! Easy and unique holiday crafts, gifts & decorations!

These two homemade air dry clay have very different characteristics which we will compare in the next section below.

homemade white air dry clay recipe

You can use homemade clay just like play dough. Always Keep the extra portion well wrapped when not using. You can store the clay in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. 

I will share more details and tips on how to roll the clay and make different ornaments in an upcoming tutorial, so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

So which air dry clay recipe should you choose? Let’s look at some comparisons of these two popular recipes.

Baking soda clay pros and cons

Pros: I love the simplicity of the 3-ingredient Baking soda clay! It dries beautifully to a white clay texture and looks gorgeous painted with watercolor or other paints and markers. (Tutorial coming soon!)

wrap baking soda and cornstarch clay

Cons: it is more fragile and not as suitable for detailed designs as the glue and cornstarch clay. The clay can crack if drying too fast. It is best to dry it slowly away from sun and heat for the first 24 hours. 

Other things to consider: As an air drying clay, it is not as durable as the glue clay. However, it becomes quite strong if you bake it at 170 to 200 degree Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, after it dries in room temperature for 1-2 days (to prevent cracking ).

You may also love: how to make “bleached” pine cones without using bleach, perfect for farmhouse and holiday easy decor!

DIY beautiful "bleached pinecones" in 5 minutes without using bleach
How to make “bleached” pine cones without using bleach!

Glue and cornstarch clay pros and cons

Pros: This homemade clay is fail-proof! It feels like play dough and silky porcelain clay. Because it is more pliable and stretchy, you can roll the clay dough thinner, and create more intricate details like mini house ornaments with tiny windows.

How to make salt dough or air dry clay ornaments & lighted star Christmas garland

It does not crack, and is quite strong and durable after it air dries for about 5 days. Baking does not improve the strength of this clay.

Cons: Requires more ingredients to make. As it dries, it shrinks a bit especially on the edges and becomes more translucent ivory white vs pure white.

Other things to consider: The image below shows the difference between the two types of clay after they are dried. You can see the baking soda clay pieces on the left are more opaque white.

DIY air dry clay ornaments

If you like the pure white look of baking soda clay, you can add a tablespoon of white acrylic or craft paint after this clay cooks and knead it into the dough.

Wouldn’t these homemade clay ornaments look gorgeous on your DIY gift wrapping? Tutorial here!

conifer cuttings to make Christmas tree designs on brown paper DIY Christmas gift wrapping
DIY free gift wrapping ideas! Tutorial here.

FAQ about DIY air dry clay

How to prevent baking soda clay ornaments from cracking?

Baking soda air dry clay (recipe here) is beautiful and so fun to make, but sometimes it can crack while drying. 

To prevent cracking, the short answer is to cook it thoroughly, and dry it slowly.

rolling homemade clay dough for crafts

Make sure you measure the ingredients accurately, cook it thoroughly, roll it to  thickness of 1/4″ to 1/8″, and let it dry slowly during the first 1-2 days. Flip the pieces gently every few hours to ensure even drying.

If your dough is sticky, it is likely to be undercooked or have too much water, which can lead to cracking. 

Baking soda clay can be finicky, but The glue and cornstarch clay is almost fail proof! It never cracks, and does not need baking to become quite strong and durable. so that can be a good alternative.

Is homemade air dry clay strong and durable?

The glue and cornstarch clay becomes very hard and durable after air drying for about 5-7 days. The baking soda clay air dries to the hardness of a cracker or cookie. If you bake it at 200 degree for about 30 minutes, it becomes quite strong.

Can I bake DIY air dry clay in the oven?

You don’t need to bake the glue and cornstarch clay. It may puff up or bubble a bit if you do.

Baking soda clay can benefit from baking. see question above.

white cornstarch clay Christmas stars: a great air dry clay craft idea

Does homemade air dry clay crack?

The great thing about the glue and cornstarch clay is that it almost never cracks! Baking soda clay can crack a little while drying.

To prevent cracking, make sure you measure the ingredients precisely, let the clay cook thoroughly, and let the pieces dry slowly away from sun and heat for the first 2-3 days, unless you are baking it.

See more in this tutorial: how to make Christmas ornaments and lighted star garland using homemade clay !

 lighted star Christmas garland decorations and crafts using DIY air dry clay

What can I use instead of cornstarch?

Some people are allergic to cornstarch. You can substitute with tapioca starch, or rice flour. Sticky glutenous rice flour (easy to find at asian markets) works great too.

How long does air dry clay keep?

If you wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, they can last for 2 weeks or even longer in the fridge.

Love Creative DIYs?

Happy creating! See you next week!

65 Comments

  1. Hi. I’m trying to make shapes out of salt dough or similar that can later be easily broken apart by hand. They will have little pieces of paper with printed messages on them (kinda like a fortune cookie, but not hollow) so they need to be something that can be broken apart without too much difficulty. I tried with a basic salt dough but as expected, it was far too hard to break apart easily. Will the baking soda recipe potentially work for this, as long as it is not baked? Or will it still be hard enough that it won’t be easy to break apart after drying completely? Do you have any ideas? Thanks so much!

  2. I made the glue clay and it seems to be melting …??? it isn’t hot but it is flattening out while drying…what did I do wrong?

    • h tina! it sounds like you might need a little more starch vs glue, so the “clay” is less soft. i would let the ones you made dry, and those can still be very durable once dried! πŸ™‚

  3. Hello! I feel like this is a bit of a silly question, but i’ve never used air dry clay before let alone made my own! this sounds super interesting and i’m excited to see where this goes! ..i was wondering if you could throw this on a wheel? i didn’t think so because there’s usually water included, but i was wondering. πŸ™‚ thank you!

  4. Love the glue/cornstarch recipe, this is my 2nd batch. I had old wood glue and used that. My wood glue was a bit dry so I added more vinegar, so I could get the mixture smooth before cooking. 1st batch, I made Thomas the Train’s face which went on grandsons toy I made. This batch I going to use for his hand and foot print, wall hanging. Shrinks some but is so, so durable. Thanks for this great recipe

      • Hi Amanda,
        Which clay would you advice for detailed flower Gummi or silicone molds, I want to do some to stick on a wooden commode? I have to glue it the commode and then let it dry there.
        If you have advices for me please do write them down.
        Thank you providing so much information and illustrated details.
        Best wishes

        • hi Maha, definitely the glue dough! i would test a few small pieces on a scrap wood to make sure the glue you use to attach the clay pieces to the wood works well! πŸ™‚

    • if it’s an indoor planter, then yes πŸ™‚ make sure it’s completely dry, and the plastic pot does not have drain holes or leak water!

  5. Hi…. So ii want to make some gifts for my friends with this clay. I was wondering how long would the completely air dried finished product last? Like would the gift last a long time or turn bad after some time?

  6. Is the glue recipe is good for Sculpture making? Will it withstand minute details? What if it shrinks more.. is there anything we can do to reduce shrinking?

    • hi! you can create lots of details with the glue clay. i would test a small batch to decide if it’s good for your project due to small shrinkage πŸ™‚

  7. Can I bake the glue dough ones to speed up the dry time? I see instructions for baking the plain baking soda clay, but not for the glue clay… Obviously, I’ve procrastinated terribly on making Christmas hand prints for the grandparents, and 5 days dry time is a bit too long for us! πŸ˜‰

  8. Hi Amanda!

    I did the baking soda recipe. I let them air dry for two days. Can I now put in the oven for 30 minutes so they can finish the dry process and hard more?

    Thanks!

  9. hi i don’t have baking soda at home so i was wondering if there’s a substitute that i can you and if there is will it dry the same

  10. Hi Ananda, which recipe would you say is stronger out of the two? I tried the one without the glue today and made some hanging Christmas decs. It’s been a couple of hours and I went to test to see how strong they were and one crumbled in my hands! They have hardened slightly but I thought they’d be stronger than this. Will they harden if I leave them to dry for longer or would you say it’s best to use the one with glue? Thanks!

    • hi lizzie! yes the glue one is much stronger without baking. the baking soda one gets much stronger after drying for a few days, and even stronger if you bake them at low temp like 170 farenheit for an hour. πŸ™‚

  11. Hi Ananda, thanks so much for the recipe, I used it and the ornaments came out beautifully and were air drying with a few cracks. After day 2, I decided to bake them but they ended up turning brown but I think I know why. Is the 200 degrees in Fahrenheit or Celsius cos I set the oven too 200’C

    • hi Rujeko! oh i am so sorry it is Fahrenheit! i always try to remember to add Fahrenheit but must have forgotten this time. just added. i sincerely apologize and will do a better job specifying in future! πŸ™‚

  12. I have been running crafternoons at our church and really enjoyed your tutorial. thank you, so much, I have linked to your article. from my blogpost. Looking forward to trying some of your other crafts as well.

  13. hi ,l want to make the starch one , I need to know should we spray it with preservative to prevent mold formation?

  14. I use a cooked cornstarch/water/baking soda recipe that uses 2 T of glue beaten in after cooking. I make dollhouse miniatures; this is particularly good for baked goods like bread–dusted with brown pastels to looked baked/toasted, mashed potatoes, and potatoes! It can be painted after being dried, too!

  15. Hi Amanda. I wanted to make a keepsake with my baby’s handprint. Can I use either of these methods? Will the dough be able to preserve a clear imprint?

  16. Hi!

    I would just like to make sure, do you mean 200 degrees in Fahrenheit or Celsius?
    I’m European, so we use the Celsius system. πŸ™‚ I just thought 200 Celsius sounds really high…
    Thanks for the recipe, I will try these soon!

  17. I would like to make a coin Bank using a jar as the base. I would like to use the glue recipe but afraid since it shrinks as it dries so it may not work. Also, do you have to seal these after they are painted? Thank you so much.

    • hi gigi! i used acrylic paint and they held up great without sealing. are you making a 3D piece? it does not shrink too much, maybe 5% to 10% at most. have fun! πŸ™‚

  18. I made the cornstarch and soda clay and it is very crumbly, can I re-cook it and add more ingredients to make it more like dough? I made it yesterday and didn’t end up using it so I put it in a sealed container and I don’t want to throw it away..

  19. I’m so happy that I’ve found your post. I want to make some Easter decorations with homemade clay and I was looking for the corn starch and baking soda clay recipe (I’ve tried a couple of years ago but I forgot how to make it). But now I think the glue and starch dough is a better fit for my project. I can’t wait to test it out today!

  20. Hi. I was wanting to make some batches of the glue and cornstarch clay as presents for the children in my class for the end of the year presents.. We are in Australia, so it is quite warm here and we break for our summer break at the end of the week.. I was hoping to make it and then store it in the fridge until I give it to them. How long will it last in the fridge and have you had any experience in using wax wraps to keep it fresh as we are also trying to be as waste free as possible. Thank you.

    • hi maxine, it can keep in the fridge for at least a week. if you wrap it as tight as possible , a wax cloth or wax paper should be fine. happy holidays! πŸ™‚

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