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Storing Polymer Clay

Storing polymer clay in plastic box

Why you should be storing polymer clay:
Polymer clay does not contain water that evaporate, and it does not dry up if left uncovered. However, it does get dusty, and start curing at only 90'F / 32'C, so leaving it on the workbench in a room with lots of sunlight is not the best thing to do. Nor is leaving it in a hot car, something to consider when you buy clay. Put it in your purse and take it with you, if you have more errands to run.

So, storing polymer clay away from direct sunlight and heat, and to keep it from getting dusty, makes sense. But in what shall you store it? I will try to cover the most common ways polymer clay artists protect their clay, so you have the opportunity to find out what will work best for you.

Plastic containers:
There are many types of plastic containers that can be used when storing polymer clay. Fishing- and other tackle boxes are popular, as they contain many compartments, and often also trays. It makes storing polymer clay by color and brand easy.

Food storage containers, like tupperware, are also usable, and they are easy to stack. You can also use plastic bead organizers with adjustable compartments, and boxes with snap lids. Some of these are big, and very suitable for storing canes.

Since polymer clay contains plasticizers, not all plastic containers are suitable for storing clay. Hard plastic containers may contain Styrene plastic, which will react with the plasticizers in the clay, reducing it all to a sticky mess. Normally this goes for translucent hard plastic. Therefore you should always check the recycling number on the container. You will find it on the bottom of the container as a triangle formed by arrows. The number is in the middle of this triangle. If the number is 5 it is suitable for storing polymer clay. 2, 3, and 4 are also said not to react with the clay.
Some online polymer clay suppliers offer containers that are suitable for storing polymer clay, like snap containers and storage cups.

Glass and metal containers:
Storing polymer clay in tin boxes eliminates the possible reaction with plastic. Tin boxes are easy to store, and you can get them in different sizes. Some polymer clay suppliers sell tin boxes with glass lids, which makes it easy to see what is in the box. If the lid is tin, that is impossible. But, some wonderful people have found a solution to this problem. Simply make a small color sample or cut a slice of the cane, and glue it onto the lid, and voila, there is no longer any doubt about what's in the box.

Glass makes it very easy to see what's inside, but since glass is transparent, the exposure to sun light might be a problem. Glass is also heavy and may be difficult to store. But of course, it depends on the size of the glass container, and if you can store it dark and cool, this will hardly be a problem for you.

Wax- and freezer paper:
Wax paper is one of the most common things used when storing polymer clay. You can use it to wrap your canes, which will keep them from sticking together. You can then store them in a plastic container, regardless of the recycling number. Since the clay is wrapped it will not get in contact with the plastic. You can also use it to line a plastic container, and then store your clay in it.

Unfortunately wax paper will cause leaching over time. Leaching means that the plasticizers leak out of the clay, making it dry and crumbly. So do not keep clay wrapped in wax paper indefinitely.

An alternative to wax paper may be freezer paper, used with the plastic side facing the clay. This will prevent the leaching.

Baking parchment paper:
Baking parchment paper will not absorb plasticizers from the clay and is therefor ideal to wrap raw clay in.
It is also suitable to bake clay on, to prevent shiny spots. Avoid the ones with silicone coating though. If you bake clay on that, it may cause the clay to react, making it difficult to get tings glued on to it when baked. It may also interfere with other surface treatments, like paints and varnishes.

Plastic wraps and bags:
Storing polymer clay wrapped in plastic wrap works very well. But again, as said above, some plastic may react with the clay, so test it out before you wrap all your clay in it. Wrap a piece of clay and leave it for a few weeks. If it stick to the clay, it is unusable.

Sandwich bags and zippered plastic bags are also very useful for storing polymer clay. I keep mine in zippered bags, and store the bags in a plastic container.

Fridge or freezer:
Storing clay in a fridge or freezer is tempting, in order to keep it cool and in the dark. It is however not the best way to store your clay, as it causes the clay to sweat the plasticizers. This will over time ruin your clay, and may cause bubbling and discoloration underneath the surface when baked.

To put the clay or canes in the fridge or freezer for an hour or so, in order to get it more firm, is no problem. I do that when the clay gets to soft or sticky, and it has not caused any changes in the clay. It is longtime storing that doesn't works so well.

The bottom line:
I am sure there are many more inventive ways to store clay. What is important though, is that you protect you clay from these four things:

- Direct sunlight
- Higher temperatures
- Dust
- Plastic that reacts badly with polymer clay

Storing polymer clay so that it is protected from these four, will leave you with workable clay and canes for years and years. I have heard of polymer clay artists that have stored clay for up to 6-7 years, and says that it is just as workable as a brand new pack of clay.

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