How to Harden Play Doh

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How to Harden Play Doh with Messy Learning Kids

Play-Doh is a favorite among children for its endless possibilities of creativity. From sculpting animals to creating miniature cities, children can spend hours playing with Play-Doh using their tools

However, after spending so much time and effort on their creations, it can be disappointing when they become squished or smudged over time. That’s where the importance of hardening Play-Doh comes in. 

Hardening playdough can preserve children’s creations and allow them to keep their masterpieces for longer periods. In this article, we will discuss the methods on how to harden Play Doh and provide tips to ensure that your child’s Play-Doh creations are long-lasting.

Reasons for Hardening Play-Doh

Besides preservation, there are other reasons for hardening your playdough. Play dough can be quite soft and pliable, which means that it can easily get damaged or deformed. Hardening Play-Doh can make it more durable and less likely to break or crumble.

Sculpting flaingo with Play Doh

If you are creating Play-Doh decorations, such as ornaments or figurines, hardening them can help them retain their shape and hold up to handling and storage. Hardened Play-Doh can be painted with acrylic or other types of paint, making it more versatile for artistic purposes.

If your kids are making playdough creations as gifts for friends, teachers, or family, hardening them can make them sturdy and longer-lasting, ensuring that they will be enjoyed for years to come.

Hardened Play Doh Easter ornament

Overall, hardening Play-Doh can be a useful technique for anyone who wants to create long-lasting, durable, and beautiful Play-Doh creations. 

Playdough Types and Expiration

There are several different types of play dough available, including classic Play-Doh, scented, glitter playdough, and playdough with special effects such as neon. All of these types of Play-Doh can be hardened using the appropriate method.

Classic Play-Doh is the most common type and is available in a variety of colors. It can be air-dried, oven-baked, or microwaved to harden as scented and glitter Play-Doh can too.

How to Harden Play Doh

Play-Doh with special effects may require special hardening instructions. Be sure to check the packaging for specific instructions.

As for Play-Doh expiration, it is recommended to replace your Play-Doh every 6 to 12 months. Over time, Play-Doh can dry out and become more difficult to work with.

Homemade play dough is fine for 2 weeks if you keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.

If your Play-Doh is dried out, it may not harden properly, even with the appropriate hardening method. You can try to soften it, there are several methods for that. If this did not help, it may be time to replace your Play-Doh.

It’s important to properly store your Play-Doh to extend its shelf life. Store it in an airtight container or plastic bag to prevent it from drying out. Keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Playdough Hardening Methods


Air-drying is one of the simplest and most straightforward methods for hardening Play-Doh.

Here are the steps for air-drying Play-Doh:

  1. After creating the masterpiece make sure to smooth out any rough edges or imperfections.
  2. Now set it aside to air-dry for a few hours. Make sure to place it on a flat surface and avoid touching it during this time.
  3. After 24-48 hours, check to see if your play dough creation has fully air-dried. You can do this by gently pressing on it with your finger. If it feels hard and no longer yields to the touch, it is fully dry.
  4. Once your Play-Doh creation has fully air-dried, you can paint or seal it if desired. You can use acrylic paint, clear nail polish, or Mod Podge to protect it and give it a finished look.
playdough harden

Baking Play Doh in Oven

Oven-baking is another popular method for hardening Play-Doh.

  1. Preheat your oven to 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit (or 95-120 degrees Celsius). 
  2. Place your kid’s masterpiece on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat in the preheated oven.
  3. Put the baking tray in the oven and bake Play Doh creation for 10-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn or overheat.
  4. After 10-15 minutes, check to see if your Play-Doh creation has fully baked and hardened by gently pressing on it with your finger. If it feels firm and no longer gives way to pressure, it has hardened completely.
  5. Allow your Play-Doh creation to cool down completely before handling it or painting it. This can take up to an hour, depending on the size and thickness of your creation.
Baking in oven

When oven baking Playdough, it’s essential to follow safety measures. Always use oven mitts when handling the hot tray or baking dish to avoid burns. 

Ensure that the oven is preheated to the recommended temperature and that the Play-Doh is baked for the recommended duration. Overbaking can cause the Play-Doh to burn, resulting in a foul smell and potential damage to the oven.

Burned edges of oven baked Play Doh

Homemade playdough, like salt dough, is basically safe for oven or microwave baking.

It’s important to note that not all types of Play-Doh can be oven-baked. Some types may melt, burn or emit unpleasant odors. It’s best to check the packaging or manufacturer’s instructions to see if the Play-Doh can be baked in the oven.

How to Harden Play-Doh in the Microwave?

Microwaving is a fast and easy method for hardening Play-Doh.

Place the finished playdough creation on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave your Play-Doh creation on high for 10-20 seconds, depending on its size and thickness. It’s important to monitor it closely to prevent overheating or burning.

When using the microwave to harden playdough, it’s important to follow safety guidelines. Always use a microwave-safe container and avoid overheating the Play-Doh. Overheating can cause Play-Doh to burn, emit unpleasant odors, and even damage the microwave.

Microwaving play doh

After microwaving, test its hardness by applying gentle pressure with your finger. If it feels solid and doesn’t yield to pressure, then it has hardened completely.

It’s crucial to let your Play-Doh creation cool down completely before painting or sealing it. This process may take up to an hour, depending on the size and thickness of the item.

Play-Doh can be hardened in the microwave, but it’s important to note that not all types of Play-Doh are suitable for this method. Some types may melt, bubble, or lose their shape.

Additionally, the amount of time needed to harden playdough in the microwave can vary depending on the size and thickness of the creation. It’s recommended to start with short intervals, such as 5-10 seconds, and check the Play-Doh after each interval to ensure it’s hardening correctly.

Hardening Play Doh in Microwave

Tips for Successful Hardening

By properly preparing the Play-Doh, you can ensure that it will harden smoothly and without cracking or other imperfections. Taking the time to knead it well, remove air bubbles, and smooth rough edges will help you achieve a successful result when hardening the Play-Doh.

Choose the appropriate method for hardening your Play-Doh creation based on its size and thickness. For example, air-drying may be suitable for smaller, thinner Play-Doh crafts, while oven-baking may be better for larger or thicker creations.

Whether you are air-drying, oven-baking, or microwaving your Play-Doh creation, be sure to keep an eye on it to ensure it does not overheat, burn or crack.

Allow your Play-Doh creation to cool down completely before handling or painting it. This can take up to an hour, depending on the size and thickness of your creation.

Once your Play-Doh creation is fully hardened, you can seal or paint it to protect it and give it a finished look.

Applying mod podge on hardened play doh

By following these tips, you can ensure that your Play-Doh creation is successfully hardened and preserved for future enjoyment. 

Common Issues that Can Happen while Preserving Play-Doh

While hardening Play-Doh can be a fun and rewarding activity, it’s not always foolproof. Here are some common issues that may arise during the hardening process and troubleshooting tips to address them:


If your hardened Play-Doh is cracking, it may be a sign that it was overworked or dried out before hardening. Try adding a small amount of water to the Play-Doh and kneading it again before attempting to harden it.

Soft spots

If certain areas of your Play-Doh creation are still soft or squishy after hardening, it may be a sign that they were too thick or not fully baked.

Try baking the Play-Doh for a few additional minutes or using a lower temperature to ensure even hardening.

Color fading

If your Play-Doh creation has lost its vibrancy after hardening, it may be a sign that the color was not fully mixed in before hardening.

Try kneading the Play-Doh more thoroughly before hardening or using a higher quality Play-Doh that maintains it is color better.

While some sources suggest that Play-Doh can be hardened in the freezer, this is not recommended as it can cause the Play-Doh to become brittle and difficult to work with.

It’s best to use the air-drying, oven-baking, or microwave methods for hardening Play-Doh.

Creating their Masterpieces


What type of Play-Doh works best for hardening?

Generally, the classic playdough brands work well for hardening using various methods.

However, some types of Play-Doh, such as those with glitter or other additives, may not harden as well or may have a different texture after hardening. It’s always best to test a small piece before attempting to harden a larger creation.

Can you add color to playdough before hardening it?

Yes, you can add color to the playdough before hardening it using any of the methods discussed in this article.

Simply add the desired amount of food coloring or paint to the dough before shaping it, and then proceed with the hardening method of your choice.

Just keep in mind that the color may darken slightly during the hardening process, so it’s a good idea to use a slightly lighter shade than you want the final product to be.

How can you prevent Play-Doh from cracking during the hardening process?

Prevent Play-Doh from cracking by kneading it well and removing air bubbles. Avoid over-baking in the oven and allow it to cool completely before handling or painting.

To fix cracks, add a small amount of water and knead it again before hardening.

Can you freeze Play-Doh to harden it?

Freezing Play-Doh to harden it is possible but not recommended as it can make the Play-Doh brittle and prone to cracking. To avoid freezer burn, tightly wrap the Play-Doh in plastic wrap or a resealable plastic bag.

However, the air-drying and oven-baking methods are more effective and reliable for hardening Play-Doh without causing it to crack. Allow the Play-Doh to thaw completely before handling it, as it may break if handled roughly while still frozen.

Conclusion on How to Make Playdough Hard

In conclusion, hardening Play-Doh has many benefits, such as preserving your creations and making them more durable. There are several methods to harden Play-Doh, including air-drying, oven-baking, and microwaving.

To ensure successful hardening, it’s important to prepare the Play-Doh properly, choose the appropriate hardening method, and follow the tips provided.

By hardening Play-Doh, you can create long-lasting playdough sculpture and decorations that can be used for various purposes. You can also experiment with different types of Play-Doh and hardening methods to achieve unique effects and textures.

So, why not give it a try? With these methods and tips, you can have fun and practical experiences with your playdoh crafts. Remember to have fun, be creative, and enjoy the process!

Photo of author


Aniko is a teacher, nurse, baker, mum, virtual assistant, and now a blogger. She enjoys spending time with her kids, making arts and crafts, active hobbies that make learning fun, gardening, and delicious meals you may and your kids can cook together. All you can find here at MessyLearningKids.

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