Keeping dirt, dust and fingerprints away from your polymer clay
We all hate it!, having worked on a piece for so long.. and there! right there! tiny specks of dust or discoloration! or a fingerprint, ruining the look of an otherwise smooth surface... Even though it's almost impossible to avoid having that happen to your clay, it's not impossible to remove.
These are my ways of dealing with it, but feel free to share if you have some different methods :)-->
Work surface & clean hands:
These are the first 2 things to consider. A work surface that's dirty or attracts dust too easily + dirty hands will result in a dirty clay creation. I work on sheets of glass - those glass 'trays' made for holding candles. It's simple but effective :) I have a couple of different ones, so that I'm able to work on lots of projects at once,. Or maybe I just got another because I'm very messy when it comes to crafting. Glass is easy to clean whether you've been playing with glue, paint or other sticky mediums. Clean hands are important as well - You can wash your hands with soap and water, but I honestly never do that, as soon as you touch something; a chair, your table etc. your hand will pick up dust again. Baby wipes are very useful to clean both your hands and work surface - especially if you've been using pastels or dark colored polymer clay, and they're easy to keep near you instead of having to go to the bathroom/kitchen multiple times to wash your hands.
My favorite item for cleaning both my hands and work surface though, is polymer clay. A white or light colored piece of clay is excellent for removing all bits of dust - roll it between your hands and on your wor surface. I usually mix about 50% Fimo soft (white or flesh) with 50% Fimo mix quick to make it extra sticky.
Keeping my hands and work surface clean (and cleaning it multiple times while working) almost takes care of any dust problems for me. But often when I sculpt dolls or use my pasta machine without cleaning it (which I never really do), the clay can pick up a bit of dust or small bits from other clay colors.
Removing dust and discoloration from unbaked clay:
- If I see just a few dust grains I'll use the tip of my exacto knife to pick it up. If you do this carefully it won't even leave any marks, but if you make a small nick into the clay it shouldn't be too hard to smooth out.
- If I've rolled out a thin piece of clay on the pasta machine and it shows specks of dust or discoloration, I'll use my clay blade; Holding it in a slight angle and scraping it across the piece, will allow it to pick up everything. You might need to repeat this a couple of times, but it's effective.
Removing dust and discoloration from baked clay:
- As for unbaked clay I often just use the tip of my exacto knife to remove dust on baked clay. Unless the grains of dust have been pushed further down into the clay, this should get rid of it easily.
- Sandpaper/Files For things like dolls (arms, legs, torso) or larger jewelry pieces and so forth, sandpaper and files are probably one of the best ways to remove dust from baked clay. Don't use a very rough grid though, as this will make the clay surface look scratched and uneven. You can buy a set of files from ebay, often used for doll making in larger scales to file between fingers or define nostrils, a set comes with 8 or 10 (I think) metal files in a few different shapes and they're worth the money if you ask me.
- In one of my first polymer clay videos on youtube (Where I showed how to make a chocolate dipped strawberry for use with deco den) I used a piece from a plastic bag and pressed it on top of the clay to create a nice smooth surface.
- Using your fingers.. This is what I do the most when making jewelry and miniatures, and you always have your hands.. well, on hand, so why not use them? :) Far most of the time I'll simply use my finger to smooth out any prints left on the clay.
- If working with very tiny pieces that I HAVE to hold to work on them (eg. miniature apples), I'll apply some potato starch to my fingers. This really helps, though it's still possible to leave prints in the clay.
- Gloves. You can always use a pair of latex gloves. This will keep prints from your fingers away for good, but a lot of latex gloves still have a very fine texture that might be seen on your creations, + latex gloves take away part of your sence of touch, and can make some things harder to do, so they might not be suitable for all projects.