Using Oil to Condition Hard Polymer Clay – Tip #2

Conditioning Hard Polymer Clay Tip2Video #477: How to turn a crumbly block of Fimo-Not-So-Soft, into something that is useable again.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Hard, old and dry polymer clay that you might think is completely unusable, can be conditioned by adding oils.
  • Oils that can be added to soften many different brands of polymer clay, are Sculpey Clay Softener, Mineral Oil or Unscented Baby Oil.
  • Mix crumbled clay in a Ziploc bag with 1 drop of oil until your clay is fully mixed, softened and workable. It will become very pliable in your fingers.
  • Don’t add in too much oil, or your polymer clay will become sticky.
  • Clean hands (if necessary) with Kitchen Wipes or Baby Wipes.

Do you have any suggestions for videos on tips, techniques or products you would like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section below!

My goal is to help you to learn quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Hermine R, 30 January, 2014

    Some french girls use hand cream or vaseline
    I haven’t tried but they have for a long time and swear by it.
    have you tried.
    I use a coffee grinder and mineral oil for big quantities and I find it less messy.

  2. Cindy Lietz, 31 January, 2014

    I am sure that would work Hermine but I do like the idea of using a simple oil more… just because you never know what other ingredients may be in a hand cream that could cause a reaction over time. It probably would be fine with Vaseline though, since it is pretty much just a jelly form of oil anyway. As far as the coffee grinder, I actually already shot the next video in this series and used a coffee grinder in that. So others will get the chance to see what you’re talking about first hand next week! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Cindyann T, 02 February, 2014

    Hi Cindy, I have been working with some really crumbly sculpy clay that was given to me. I watch your video’s, they were very helpful. I found that olive oil works

  4. Jocelyn, 30 January, 2014

    Fabulous instructive video for us die-hard poly clay recyclers, LOL!

  5. Cindy Lietz, 31 January, 2014

    You’re oh so welcome Jocelyn!

  6. Cherie V, 31 January, 2014

    Would glycerin be a good alternative to oil to be used in this fashion?

  7. Cindy Lietz, 31 January, 2014

    I don’t know if Glycerin would work or not Cherie. Is it oil based?

  8. Cherie V, 31 January, 2014

    It isn’t. The internet had this to say about it: “No. Glycrin is classified by the FDA among the sugar alcohols as a caloric macronutrient. More info: it’s a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid.” But then I also found this: “Glycerin is an organic compound known more formally as glycerol. Its common sources are animal fat and vegetable oil.”

    So perhaps err on the side of caution and not use it? Thoughts?

    Is there any downside to using scented baby oil other than just getting a slight scent?

  9. Olga P, 31 January, 2014

    Have you tried to make something from this oil-softened clay, and how durable were you creations?
    I tried once (added unscented baby oil) and my small flower petals broke after baking. (temp and backing time were as usual). Now I use only Sculpey or Fimo softener.
    So that is why I’m asking.

  10. Cindy Lietz, 02 February, 2014

    Hi Olga, I have made items with oil softened clay and haven’t seen any problems with durability, but I haven’t actually done a side by side comparison. That would make a great PcT Test Lab video. I will put it on the list!

  11. Cherie V, 31 January, 2014

    Sorry, another post. I just re-watched your video about reviving old canes. Would the techniques involved there be applicable? I could see using the warming method especially on your crumbles and trying to blend before adding anything.

  12. Anna Sabina, 31 January, 2014

    Okay, I have a somewhat unrelated question. Do you have any suggestions for getting liquid polymer clay out of a paint brush? Some times my liquid Sculpy is thick and globby so I thin it down a bit and use a bush to apply on large surfaces such as a journal cover. Liquid Sculpy is not easy to remove from hands or brushes with just soap and water. I tried cleaning my brushes by soaking them in rubbing alcohol and a couple drops for dishwashing detergent. Any other suggestions?

  13. elaine faulks, 02 February, 2014

    Hi Anna,
    I think you had better give up and buy yourself some cheap brushes to use with liquid clay only, as it is near impossible to get brushes clean.

    After I have used the liquid clay I wrap each brush in cling film (Glad Wrap). The brushes do not go hard and are re-usable. It also saves all that wasted time, unless anyone else comes up with a super easy cleaning tip just admit defeat gracefully and go buy yourself a set of cheap brushes. Good place is in the kiddies section….cheers..xx…..

  14. Tante Sherry, 02 February, 2014

    dang Anna – I was thinking rubbing alcohol would have worked too:/

    have you got any of that orange based cleaner- it’s the creamy kind?

    oh btw I picked up some 90% rubbing alcohol by mistake but that might work a bit better that our normal 70%

  15. Cindy Lietz, 02 February, 2014

    Hi Anna, I have had no problem getting TLS out of my brushes with Rubbing Alcohol and then soap and water to rice the alcohol out… but I do use the 99% stuff. Maybe that’s the difference? I have never had a brush I couldn’t clean with the rubbing Alcohol. Even old dried up acrylic brushes will come clean… a little frazzled… but clean. Better than throwing out the brush.

    Or maybe, since the clay breaks down with oil, maybe the liquid clay would too? You could try cleaning your brush with oil first then, rubbing alcohol, then soap and water.

    Oh, in case you didn’t know, use a synthetic brush rather than a natural bristle brush for anything except oil paints. Water and other mixed media type materials are hard on the natural bristle brushes.

    Let us know if you end up getting them clean!

  16. Jocelyn C, 03 February, 2014

    Try spraying them with WD-40, then wrap over nite in foil or clear wrap. Use a very fine comb or a metal hair pic to pull the big stuff out, then give it another drenching and use paper towels. The brushes look OK to me post, but I am not a fine artist.

  17. Jane V W, 01 February, 2014

    Cindy, this video is much appreciated!! I keep notes on all of the tips that pertain to my particular needs. The economy has affected my sales but I’m still making and selling jewelry and see a reasonable return for my work. Thanks for keeping me on the email list. I view it with interest every week. Best wishes!

  18. Cindy Lietz, 02 February, 2014

    That is great to hear that you are making sales Jane! I am happy to hear that you have figured out a way to get a reasonable return for your work. It might not be what it was but, sometimes a shift in the economy just means that you must make a shift in what or how you sell your jewelry. People love to buy… they always will, but they sometimes they have to change how much they are spending or the types of things they are spending it on. As a jewelry designer, you just have to figure that out. Sounds like you are getting a handle on what will sell. Keep going. You’ll get where you want to go!

  19. Jocelyn C, 01 February, 2014

    From experience, mineral oil works, as does baby oil and Vaseline. The clay will pick up the baby smell, though by the baking it goes away. I use a large Black and Decker food processor (I swear I could grind rocks in it), put in inch sized clay, and start pulsing. After see some breakage, add oil with eye dropper, until you see cottage cheese and the side of the bowl is warm.

    I always save baggies and recyle by dumping processor contents into one, then starting the pressure roll with a rod while all enclosed. Before you know it, it’s all together and ready for the pasta machine. You can even leave it in the baggie to rip through the pasta machine at the widest setting, and/or work the bag around the ziplock top. I hate crumblies on the floor. Use a tagsale carpenters bench brush, and several old paint brushes to wipe all surfaces from dust, but, in a pinch blasting some canned air around where you work can be a life saver.

    I put the “cottage cheese mix” in sealed Mason Jars and store from light at this stage. I get my special mixes predone so it is faster to get up to speed when I am ready. And when I open the door, they are a rainbow of premix waiting to go because I store the containers in the wire rack mounted on the inside. It’s old, tag saled it when full of old Mason Jars, and love the look.

    Or leave it in a safe baggie and store you bulk colors in safe disposable baby wipe containers. Of course, the best alternative is to use fresh Premo, but……..

  20. Marion Rayner, 28 February, 2014

    Hi Jocelyn

    Reading your notes on using a food processor, I’ve tried this with great success but I cannot get the clay colour off the processor. I’ve tried everything, rubbing alcohol, baby wipes, soap, even sacrificed a piece of white clay. Is there a simple trick to getting the clay off so you can start with another different colour without it being tainted?
    Thanks – Marion

  21. Alabala Bijoux, 02 February, 2014

    Hi Cindy, this is a great tip, thank you very much; we have had many problems with Fimo clay lately, I think many people will find your tip very useful, I’ll put a link to your website and video on my site for my French polymer clay mates.

  22. Cindy Lietz, 02 February, 2014

    Thanks Alabala! I really appreciate the share!

  23. Shirley G, 02 February, 2014

    Hi Cindy, the softening clay with oil video was very helpful. I love it that you don’t have to run out to the store again to purchase an oil that surely we have in our household stash. Thanks for that!
    I have noticed at times that a certain craft store, when you buy ‘on sale’ clay, it is usually hard, so again, the video was very helpful.

  24. Dixie Ann S, 02 February, 2014

    Thanks for the video Cindy, a couple of days after watching I found an old package of fimo I had bought many moons ago and it was crumbly just like the one in your video. I took a small glass condiment dish and broke it up with one of my clay tools, the one that has the 6 or 8 fins on the end of it. Since I only needed a small amount it worked out perfect after adding 2 drops of baby oil.

    I also want to remind everyone that if you don’t have a JoolTool, don’t forget about the plastic triangular media and polishing beads for the tumbler, especially if you have a lot of beads to do at one time. I just did a large batch and followed through with each grit and the beads are so buttery smooth, I had no sanding to do at all and I had my doubts when I first started with them. I personally think this is the greatest idea Cindy has introduced us to and with the small investment to get all of the grits, it is well worth the cost since they will probably last forever. The nicest part about this technique is you can just toss them in the tumbler and then forget about them until the next day.

  25. Cindy Lietz, 05 February, 2014

    Thanks Dixie Ann for reminding everyone about the tumbler substrate! You are right about it being an excellent solution to spending hours sanding and finishing your beads by hand, and it can be done fairly economically. There are many ways to get the job done. it is great for everyone to remember that.

  26. susmitha veera, 15 April, 2015

    Hi Cindy,

    i’m susmitha i am new to polymer clay crafts i started my first creation using premo sculpey and i was feeling that its too hard to mold i have tried some softening tricks that i watched in your tutorials but nothing worked please help me from this.

    i have tried this oil conditioning and hammers tips but nothing works on my polymer clay what to do know.

  27. Cindy Lietz, 17 April, 2015

    Hi Susmitha, Hopefully you have watched all the videos because there are several different ways to soften clay. But if you have and nothing has worked than it is most likely that your clay is partially baked by being stored in a hot place. There isn’t much you can do about that except chop or grate it up and add it to fresh clay to make faux stones or something similar. Good luck!

  28. susmitha veera, 17 April, 2015

    thank you cindy
    i bought that clay from itsybitsy, an indian online site,
    this happened because of their unproper packing.

  29. Doug Lietz, 18 April, 2015

    Susmitha… if the climate is hot where you live in Indian, you need to be careful when purchasing clay online. Unless the package is insulated and kept cool with gel-packs (which no one does), there is a good chance that your clay will become partially baked in transit.

    Tyoe “Summer Shipping” into the search box for more info.

  30. nits d, 20 August, 2015

    Hi cindy

    I want to know that can we add scented baby oil
    Into polymer clay ? As iam not able to find unscented

  31. Cindy Lietz, 23 August, 2015

    Hi nits, you should be able to use scented baby oil in your polymer clay, but as always with something that is new… it is always best to test! Try it out on some clay you want to use for yourself and see how it turns out over time. If it is fine after a few months than you are good to go. Let us know how it turns out!

  32. Tamarra R, 10 April, 2017

    Just a big thank you for your videos!
    Extra thanks for this one on how to soften polymer clay.

  33. Julie Viau, 13 February, 2018

    Hi, I read that (not on your site) you add baby oil to your polymer clay to soften it up if old. I did that and put too much, now it’s all sticky. Can this be fixed or is this garbage now?

  34. Vanessa O, 14 February, 2018

    I’m not an authority, but the first thing I would try is smooshing it flat, sandwiching it between some scrap paper (no dyes or inks, they could colour the clay) and putting something heavy on top. This should leech some of the oil from the clay. I would say try it for a few hours first and see if it needs to be left overnight, or even a few days. The paper would likely need to be changed periodically if it’s a significant length of time. And make sure that if you’re putting something like books on top, you have a non-porous barrier (a piece of plastic or metal foil, for example) between the paper and the books to avoid the oil seeping through.

  35. Cindy Lietz, 27 February, 2018

    Perfect answer for Julie, Vanessa!!! Thank you so much for helping out! :)

  36. Lisa Ann, 19 June, 2018

    Hi, I use coconut oil on my skin a lot do you think the poly clay would be okay with it? lol I think it probably would but asking. ^_^ <3

  37. Cindy Lietz, 20 June, 2018

    Hi Lisa, as long as you rub the coconut oil into your hands, the minor residue left behind won’t affect your clay. It won’t harm it anyway… just might soften it and make the color stick to your hands if you have too much of the oil on your hands.

  38. Lisa Ann, 20 June, 2018

    thanks ^_^ <3

  39. Marietta Dubnoff, 28 December, 2018

    In a moment of desperation I used sesame seed oil. It WORKED! No cracking or flaking. I let it soften with a few drops overnight.

  40. Cindy Lietz, 29 December, 2018

    That is great news Marietta!

  41. Agnes Yeo, 13 June, 2021

    Hi Cindy,

    Thank you so much all these years you have been sending me emails regarding your Newsletter.

    I am Agnes Yeo from Singapore (a small red dot on the map well known as City of Paradise).
    I would like to share with you my experience with softening hard old Fimo or Premo polymer clay using vaseline jel as seen some ladies doing it.

    I added little to hard clay and kneaded it till soft and workable and rolled out to the smoothest touch.

    After baking and let my project sit over night, i noticed my baked project was oily and very shiny that i wiped away the oiliness with kitchen towel. Have you tried using vaseline jel to soften before?

    I wiped few times and let it sits for few days and wiped again until it looks ok to me. By the way, i am not professional but doing it as a hobby. I have turned to baby oil or Sculpey softener to mix now.

    I appreciate it if you could try using vaseline jel and comment on the result piece.

    Stay safe, stay healthy,

  42. Cindy Lietz, 13 June, 2021

    Hello Agnes, nice to meet you. Although I have heard of people using Vaseline to smooth or soften clay, I haven’t actually gotten around to trying it yet. So, I am afraid I don’t have any valuable advice for you.

    Definitely see if you can get ahold of some clay softener. I recommend buying Cosclay Softening Agent. I have tried it with 13 different brands of polymer clay, and it worked wonderfully. You can get it in several Asian Countries so perhaps shipping would be reasonable for you. Here is the link to the international distributors.

    If you can’t get that, try the softener from Sculpey or Cernit before just using oil… they have added plasticizers in them. If those aren’t available either, then use mineral oil or baby oil. Only use a few drops because it can make the clay sticky to work with. But after the clay is baked, you won’t get that weird oily thing that is happening with the Vaseline.

    Hope that helps! ~ Cindy

  43. Lyz F, 29 October, 2023

    How about organic virgin coconut oil for conditioning?

  44. Cindy Lietz, 31 October, 2023

    Hi Lyz, although organic virgin coconut oil would probably work to soften your polymer clay, I would prefer not to use anything that is food based because it may go rancid in your clay. Using an oil like baby oil or mineral oil would be better, but using a clay softener is best.

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