Feb 10, 2009

Polymer Clay Baking...Do you bake indoors or out?

It has been very interesting lately to watch a lot of people redo or remodel their polymer clay studios.
What I have noticed is that a lot of polymer clay artists have their ovens right in the studio where they work and am wondering if they have ever given it much thought.

Some clayers may enjoy that smell when baking those projects, and I can't believe those that say they think it smells 'good', ugh!....but if you smell it, my friend, you are ingesting it. Some clayers may say "oh shut up already, I know all about it!"

For years now I've been keeping my oven where it belongs....outside. My polymer chemist husband is the one that made me do it, lol. He said: "It may be alright to open a window while you are baking, but that's no different than smoking a cigarette indoors and trying to blow the smoke outside." Yeah, true (except I quit smoking, lol). By now we all have heard that second hand smoke is bad, right? So, just wondering...is inhaling polymer clay fumes on a daily, or even weekly basis, any better...? Did you know that 3rd hand smoke is just as toxic as 2nd hand smoke? Smoke that is on clothing, drapes, furniture.....dumda dum, you touch it, you ingest it. Yep, those polymer clay fumes are covering all your furniture and drapes etc. if you bake indoors....I didn't even think about that, did you? I guess we could say ALL our indoor stuff is now polymer clay 'dedicated'!

So... a question....do you bake indoors or outdoors and why or why not?


emicraft said...

That's a nice idea to bake outdoors, but if I have right now -10 C or more outdoors?:)
Of course, I think that if you could avoid fumes inhalation, you have to do that... Even if you know (or the manufacturer says) that it is not dangerous.
This comment is also a chance for me to say hello and thanks for your blog.

Doreen said...

I bake indoors. My oven is in my studio (the spare bedroom). I never stay in there when the oven is on. I always turn on a fan when I bake. The reason I bake indoors is because I really don't have a place outdoors to put my oven. I use a huge antiquated Farberware convection oven which I love because it really hold the temperature. I really don't like those fumes going all over the house. After reading your post, I think I'll try to find a place for it in the garage!

Gera Scott Chandler said...

Hi Tian- my stove is a second hand one that's in a closed and direct vented room in the basement.


Tina Holden said...

A small enclosed and vented room, other than the studio is a great idea. The garage is another, if you have one. I know some of us are very constricted with space and feel there is no other option, or that weather outside is a factor. Just because it isn't 'dangerous' doesn't mean that it is good for you. I keep mine on the covered porch which definitely protects it from frost and severe cold. Luckily it keeps a steady temp too.

shiborigirl said...

Hi Tina,

I am thinking of starting to work with polymer clay, so this is an interesting and timely subject. From everything I've heard, those fumes are NOT something I'd want in my house. I would definitely put the oven outside.

BTW, I love your bangles! They are simply gorgeous.

Kate (Shibori Girl from OWOH)

Pörrö said...

Topic of polymerclay toxity is interesting. From what I have gathered from realible sources polymer clay is non-toxic and does not change toxic just because it smells. Actually many foods do smell much stronger but as they are meant to be eaten we tend to think them more healthy. That is not necessarily the case when you think of allergies. Thousands of people, for instance, are so allergig to fish and marine animals that they simply can not be in the same house when there is fish in oven. With polymerclay the irritation to smells is very rare.

Glassattic has quite nice collection of links to several reliable sources, can be found here

I have long wondered about some oddities in clayers. Some people are very worried about baking which, measured with laboratory equipment, is proven safe. In the same time these people will for instance make candle lanterns from small jars (very hazardous for so many reasons) or use talcum powders as releasing agent without any face mask (talcum powders are proven wrong thing to inhale). Sanding polyclay without face mask is another topic - inhaling any plastic particles to your lungs is not good, no matter how safe the material is proven to be.

Everyone should study the safety aspects of their art. I am all for that. And there is nothing wrong with baking clay in separate oven outside - by all means if you dont like the smell of polymer clay do that or if you want to be extra cautious just in case science today does not know enough - but with the knowledge available from ACMI and Journal of the Medical association America I am not concerned about the baking fumes. What I am considered are the ones that already have scientifical background for one needing to take care behind (sanding, some release agents and metallic powders, for instance).

Tina Holden said...

There is scientific proof that plastics act as estrogen. There is scientific proof that it affects male sperm count and that males are slowly disappearing. Google a recent CBC news report about 'the disappearing male'. Inhaling those fumes enters the endocrine system and affects hormones in a direct way. Putting complete trust in an Association isn't the wisest advice, just as with any corporation...labels can be bought, scientists can be bought or threatened with being fired. We trust the foods we eat are safe until we find out that they've been poisoned with melamine, or salmonella....trust in God, yes, but trust in a Corporation...?

Pörrö said...

I dont know how to be much clearer with this, but let me try. Yes, there are concerns about some phatalates and some plastics. The everyday man uses plastic wrap with their food without even blinking their eye, direct contact to food that is, when there are lots of reports telling that some phatalates in plastic wraps may - that is with certain conditions and with certain foods MAY - cause harm. There are phatalates in shampoos and conditioning liquids that people use daily. Most of the clothes have some form of plastics and plastizisers in them. There are tons of plastics that have been tested even for used as food containers, starting from microwawable ready meals, some of the containers having plenty of more phatalates in the plastic than there are in polymer clays.

BUT, and this is the main key on here, the phatalates, the actual components used on the material, are the issue here. Not all wood is equal, not all stones are equal, not all plastics are equal. So far the information I have found about this issue has not had any evidence that polymer clays have are harmful if not over heated to way over the regular curing temperatures. The materials just dont turn into gas before certain temperature.

Thinking about risks and trust is always a hard issue. How ever with claims like "polymer clay fumes are like second hand smoking" I feel the need to ask wich parts of polymerclay are harmful that way and where do you base this fear? I have seen several reports where polymerclays have been tested in the laboratory evinroom. In europe we have several other sources that are unfortunately not readable in english, how ever their findings from laboratories about polymer clays and their plastizisers are similar than in ACMI and JAMA - reports.

I am all for safe claying and safe art. Dont get me wrong. But I dont think the clays itself are the most harmful thing here based on science. At least they have been tested. That we can not say, for instance, about many other items we put in the oven with polymerclays starting from paints, inks and things we cover. For instance people cover CD:s with polymerclay but the safty of that has not been tested anywhere (at least to my knowledge).

Tina Holden said...

...For instance people cover CD:s with polymerclay but the safty of that has not been tested anywhere (at least to my knowledge)....

Hi Porro, Another good reason to bake outside, isn't it?

"...at least they have been tested..."

ok...drugs get tested, get approved, only to be taken off the market because they are found to be unsafe. BPA in the hard plastic water bottles was tested, approved, but now is deemed unsafe.
I agree that clays itself are not the MOST harmful thing based on science, but Children are ultimately at the receiving end of our toxic nation and are the reason for many bans.

Which part of the polymer clay is harmful when baking? It is the plasticizer that evaporates during the baking process. This is what one inhales! By now, all polymer clay artists should be aware that phthalates, the plasticizer is what is 'toxic', if not to you, then how about your children. Did you know that toys with phthalates have been banned in the US, but that they will continue to be sold??

Phthalates are not the same type of molecule as watersoluable food molecules that we bake, they are what is known as non polar and hard to eliminate from the body...

The question of baking....
Common sense is to not to inhale, just like washing our hands after clay use, common sense, just like not using baked products as food vessels. A little less contamination...thats all.

Pat said...

Hi Teenie,
Yes, I have the luxury of baking outdoors during the months of January through March. I also clay there...actually it is in a workshed, but the light is natural (incredible) and the doors are always open to the many passersby.
Glad to be able to react...finally feel like part of the living again.
Gotta get back to work now.

Pörrö said...

I dont dissagree with the idea of being precautions or baking outside. But I do dissacree with claims like polymer clay vapours are like second hand smoking.

Being cautious and thinking what to do is ok. It was more the wording on your original post that I reacted to.

I think people should study the issue, but in the same time I feel that plasticizers are nasty stuff you need to remember basic science. With clays and the heats we are using with them they have not found vaporation of plastizisers on laboratory conditions. Even when they have really tried to do that.

And yes, if you bake cd:s and other untested stuff in the oven naturally you probably should not do it inside. Common sense there. Usually the instructions, how ever, never mention this in the description.

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