How do you make playdough soft again?
Most kids love playing with playdough, which is why it’s such a popular activity in so many homes around the world.
It’s great watching little ones get creative by exploring all the different things they can do with their playdough, and let’s face it – it’s a lot of fun for adults too!
That’s why it can be so frustrating when your precious supply of playdough lets you down.
One of the most common problems you’ll face if your kids enjoy playdough is that it can very quickly harden and become dried out.
Before we take a look at what options you have when this happens, let’s quickly run through how and why playdough dries out in the first place.
Why does Play-Doh get hard and crumbly if you leave it out?
Most kinds of playdough are made of three core ingredients: flour, salt (yep – that’s why your kids may have noticed it tastes salty!) and water.
Even the manufacturers of Play Doh have stated that those are the three most important ingredients in their famous dough.
Of these, water plays are really important role. It keeps the dough moist and sticky enough for it to be mouldable without being too messy.
When you leave playdough out in the open air, it will gradually lose moisture as the water content evaporates.
This process happens even faster in a warm room or if you have warm hands.
You’ll also notice that it dries out quicker in a flat, thin shape than if you leave it in a ball. That’s because the bigger surface area allows more water to evaporate at the same time.
How to keep playdough soft and fresh
The bad news is, there’s no real way to prevent your playdough from losing any of its water content. It’s just science!
Thankfully, there are several simple steps you can take to make your playdough last as long as possible:
1. Keep it in an airtight container
This is the most important one. If your playdough came in a plastic container, it’s usually best to keep it in that.
However, if it came wrapped in disposable packaging, you’ll want to make sure you have an airtight container to hand so you can store it away as soon as playtime is over.
Another option is to use a high-quality food storage bag. This can work well if you made your own playdough or if your kids have mixed new colours and they want to keep them apart.
If you want to be extra careful, you can also cover your playdough in plastic wrap before you store it away, just to prevent even minor water loss.
2. Keep it in a large lump
Since playdough will dehydrate much more quickly if it is rolled flat and thin, roll it into a ball whenever it’s not being used.
If your kids like to play with their dough for a long period of time, try to teach them to roll each colour back up when they have finished with it (or even better, put it away!).
3. Choose your play location carefully
Be mindful of the best places to play with playdough.
For example, it’s not a good idea to leave it somewhere warm like a sunny windowsill, near a radiator or outside on a hot day.
A cool, clean surface in the shade is the best place to set up a playdough station for your kids.
So how do you make playdough soft again?
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of preserving your playdough supply for as long as possible, let’s take a look at what to do when it dries out.
The solution is thankfully pretty simple! Since water loss is what has caused it to become dehydrated, all you need to do is add some water back in again.
You may be surprised at how quickly you can rehydrate Play Doh and restore it to (almost) brand new condition just by adding water.
There are several different ways to moisten playdough, so check out your options and take your pick!
How to fix dry playdough in a bowl
A fast but messy method for rehydrating Play Doh is to place the dried-up playdough in a bowl.
Add a very small amount of water and gradually work into the dough. This may be difficult at first, but it will gradually become easier as the playdough rehydrates.
Remember to start with only a splash of water and add more as needed, since you don’t want the dough to get too sticky.
Don’t worry if it does get sticky on the outside. Once the water is worked through the dough, this excess stickiness will quickly disappear.
If you’re keen on keeping your hands clean, consider setting this up as an activity for your kids! They might really enjoy ‘rescuing’ their playdough and watching it soften up again.
How to revive Play Doh in a bag
This method is very similar to the first, with one major advantage.
Keeping the dough inside a sealed bag at all times allows you to keep your hands completely clean until you’re confident all the water has been worked into the dough.
Simply place the dried play dough into a watertight plastic bag. Add a splash of water and squeeze out extra air so you can easily work the dough from the outside.
Again, start with only a splash of water and add more as needed.
Revive playdough with a paper towel
This is a good strategy to use if you are short on time or simply don’t want to spend a lot of time kneading water into the dough.
Soak a strong paper towel in water and wrap the hard playdough inside. Then place it inside an airtight container. This will stop the paper towel from drying out.
Leave it overnight to work its magic! The water from the towel should begin to gently soften the playdough without you having to lift a finger.
When you remove the playdough, carefully pull away the wet paper towel to avoid any tears or pieces of towel sticking to the dough.
You may still need to add a little more water and work it into the dough using one of the other strategies, but the overnight paper towel trick should still help a great deal.
Other top tips for rejuvenating playdough at home
The three strategies we’ve shared here are the most popular and likely the most effective ways to make your playdough softer and last longer.
However, we have a few more tricks up our sleeve when it comes to fixing hard Play Doh!
Check them out below.
1. Make play dough soft with warm water
Using warm water rather than cold will help to loosen up the playdough faster.
It will also make the experience slightly less unpleasant for you too, especially if you’re using the bowl method!
2. Break it up to save time
If you have a lot of playdough that needs rehydrating, break it into smaller pieces as they will soften more quickly than one large lump.
This is an especially useful strategy if the play dough is very hard and difficult to knead.
Tearing it into small pieces and leaving it in a watertight bag with a splash of water will help too. Just give it a shake to ensure the water covers all the pieces equally.
3. Combine strategies
If your Play Doh is almost completely solid, don’t give up hope! It may just need a little more work.
Likewise if you find the strategy you use doesn’t work straight away.
Make sure you try at least one other strategy before you throw that hardened playdough away.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat
This is a simple but important one. Remember to repeat the method you are using several times before you move on to another one.
Your playdough might just be being a little bit stubborn!
5. Too sticky? Don’t panic!
What should you do if your playdough gets too wet? Simply let it dry out a little again!
This time, be sure to supervise it and knead it regularly to ensure it dries evenly and not too much.
6. The sooner, the better
Your playdough has a much better chance of survival if you don’t wait too long!
As soon as you notice it drying and dehydrating a little, refresh it with a spritz of water.
If your kids play with their playdough regularly, you might want to keep a small spray water bottle to hand so that you or they can spray the playdough a little after each use.
This will help it to rehydrate inside its container, keeping it fresh for next time.
Just make sure you only add a very little bit of water and fold it into the dough – you don’t want a smelly, watery mess next time you get your playdough supply out.
7. Be careful of colour loss
Adding water to the playdough may cause the dye to spread onto your hands and other surfaces.
This may be particularly true for homemade dough.
Whilst it will come off your hands (at least, eventually!), surfaces in your home could be stained.
To avoid this, make sure you protect surfaces as necessary and wear gloves if you are especially concerned.
Can I soften playdough in the microwave?
You can’t usually use a microwave to soften playdough. However, you might be able to use it as a helpful tool if you accidentally add too much water,
A lot of people use a microwave to make playdough or to harden it when they want to keep their creations forever.
Putting playdough in the microwave essentially cooks it, which will make your dried-out playdough even more dehydrated.
However, if you find your playdough gets too sticky when you are trying to soften it, putting it in the microwave for a short time can help to speed up the process of drying it up a little again.
Just place the playdough in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 10 second bursts, checking regularly. It will most likely only need a very short time in the microwave, especially if you have a high-power one.
Remember that it will be very hot, so be very careful when removing or checking it, and don’t touch it with your bare hands until you are sure it is cool enough.
Some people also swear by using a pressure cooker, but as we haven’t tried this ourselves we wouldn’t recommend it – so give it a go at your own risk!
Summary: How to make Play Doh softer
We hope this quick guide to rejuvenating your dried-out playdough helps!
To summarise, the best ways to fix hard playdough are by using the bowl, bag or paper towel method.
Whichever method you use, the basic principle is the same.
Add water in small amounts to the dough and knead it in or allow it to soak in until you are happy with the consistency of your playdough.
If you liked this guide to reviving your playdough supply, we think you’ll like How to make slime with chia seeds.
Make sure you check out this playdough and popsicle sticks activity idea too.