How to make salt dough

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A quick and easy guide to how to make salt dough! We have made many salt dough crafts over the years.. and of course each of those articles shares how to make salt dough. But sometimes that information gets lost in the salt dough project details. So I thought, it would be useful just to highlight our favourite salt dough recipe again.

tips for salt dough

As mentioned, making salt dough is really easy. And we have our tried and tested easy salt dough recipe that we have used for making salt dough crafts for MANY years! It even features in my very first kids’ craft books “Red Ted Art, Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids”!

Today we will discuss my winning tips for making salt dough, how to make colored salt dough and drying out salt dough – for best results!

We love making salt dough because it is so environmentally friendly too. All ingredients are natural – flour, salt and water – so this can be composted if you wish to do so! Kids can use it as play dough too if they wish.

How to use homemade salt dough

Salt dough is wonderful sensory craft to do. It is beautifully malleable – so can be shaped into anything. But can also be rolled out and used with cookie cutter shapes. You can also easily print textures into it. Once hardened it is very durable. Salt dough is particularly popular for making a salt dough handprint ornament or DIY Christmas decorations!

1. Basic salt dough recipe

easy salt dough ingredients

Basic store cupboard ingredients

  • 2 cups of plain flour (all purpose flour do NOT use self-rising flour)
  • 1 cup of salt (I buy regular table salt in bulk)
  • Up to 1 cup of water (I like using warm water as it discolves the salt a little, but cold is fine too)

You will also need:

  • A large bowl for mixing
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • A tray/ cookie sheet for drying

Now the cup size doesn’t matter! You can use a small cup if making a small batch! Or a “cooking” measure cup if making lots of salt dough. For small projects, I literally just make a small batch using the smallest cup I can find (in my case an expresso cup!).

Salt Dough Recipe Variations

Want to mixed up a little? You can have fun by adding things like

“Tools” for making your salt dough creations

  • A rolling pin can
  • A toothpick, straw or chopsticks can be great for adding holes for hanging ribbons
  • Stamps can be fun experimenting with print making
  • Twine and ribbons for hanging etc

2. How do you make salt dough

We have DIY salt dough how to video tutorial on auto play.. or….

…Follow our simple step by step salt dough making instructions!

basic salt dough diy
This salt dough is a little dry and I would add a little water!

Take your flour and put it in a mixing bowl.

Add the salt and mix.

Add half the water and stir.

Gradually add the remaining water and keep mixing and stirring until you have a smooth dough.

smooth salt dough
Here is a much smooth batch! But don’t be tempted to add too much water! This is from our sea glass Christmas Tree project

If too dry: add more water.

If too wet: add more flour.

Start making your salt dough creations!

3. How to dry out or bake your salt dough

One summer we dried all our salt dough in the hot sun! Here we made sea shell salt dough pendants!

We pop our salt dough straight onto a cookie baking sheet, but you can also place it onto parchment paper first. Or even put it on a cookie rack for even drying.. but you may get some rack lines doing this.

Bake in the oven for 2-3hours at low oven temperature – around 100-120C or 200 – 250F. I like to turn my salt dough a few times at the beginning to help both sides dry nicely. The heat needs to be low to avoid puffing up of your salt dough craft. If your salt is puffing, it usually means it has been dried too quickly. A lower temperature is always best!

The same can be achieved on a hot summers day outdoors (my favourite way to dry salt dough).

Or you can let it dry near a radiator in the winter months – but this can take a few days!

If you live in a humid climate – the salt dough will take longer to dry as there is a lot of moisture in the air already and you may wish to use the oven method!

DONE. That is it.

Now on to some popular questions.

How long does uncooked salt dough last? How far ahead of time can you make salt dough?

A few days!

Once you have made the salt dough, you can easily keep it for a few days. I tend to use it up within a week. But it has lasted longer before. The key is:

Keep it in air tight container!

Once you are ready to use it, you may need to knead it a little or add a little water, if any of the salt crystals have separated and travelled to the surface. But it should be good to use for a good week or so.

4. How to make coloured salt dough?

coloured salt dough
You can easily colour salt dough! This is from our sea shell salt dough pendants a few years ago

So… can you color salt dough before baking?

Yes you can color salt dough before baking!! I like to think that we “invented” coloured salt dough.. we first made coloured salt dough back in 2011 (yes that is how long I have been writing about salt dough, if not longer!). And I went through a few experiments of how to best color salt dough……… you CAN use paints.. but I found a GOOD QUALITY food coloring is the best.

In fact, we use food colouring gels by Sugarflair (I think it the US it is the Wilton brand). They are high pigment and not wet at all. So perfect for the salt dough, without making it too wet.

It also keeps it colour really well and doesn’t get that “dried out look”.

Having said that, if your colour does fade on drying, varnishing your salt dough craft often “brings it back”. This also applies to cinnamon salt dough – it often needs a varnish afterwards for that brown color to pop.

Do you paint salt dough before baking?

No. Or at least that is my answer. I have never heard of anyone painting their salt dough BEFORE baking. I suspect the paints may do something “funny” in the oven (e.g. crack) or they may be “too wet” and interfere with the salt dough and run? I haven’t tried though. But I am not sure why you would! But if you experiment.. do let me know it works out!

5. How to paint salt dough

painting salt dough beads
Here we are painting salt dough bead necklaces – though using pre colored salt dough is great too

I like to use acyrlic paints for painting salt dough, as they are vibrant and act as a sealer too. But you can use any paints. Just be mindful that you don’t make the dried salt dough “too wet” whilst painting as it can soften it again. And if not carefully dired out can go mouldy (especially in humid climates).

Poster paints work well too!

Mainy crafters also like to add glitter to their salt dough once the air drying is complete!

6. How to you seal salt dough

How do you preserve salt dough?

I hope I am not repeating myself anywhere, but I would rather “say it more often” than forget or for you to miss it.. the best way to seal salt dough (if you wish to do so), is to paint it with a craft varnish or a sealant. I am pretty certain we have even used clear nail polish before.. but a varnish for clay is best! It can help make colours pop too!

Alternatively, if you are painting the whole of your salt dough ornament or craft (i.e. both sides), acrylic paints can act as as seal too. Many like using a mod podge sealer too!

Well dried, well varnished and well stored salt dough will last a long time!

7. How to store salt dough ornaments & crafts

Sea Glass Ornaments
Here the varnish doesn’t only seal the salt dough, but also makes the sea glass Christmas Tree SHINE!

As mentioned previously here on Red Ted Art.. in order to store your salt dough well, it is best to wrap the salt dough crafts in tissue paper or newspapers and store them in a cool, dry place. The most common way for salt dough Christmas ornaments not to last – is them getting mouldy, due to storing them incorrectly! You can also add varnishes as finishing touches, which will also help preserve your Salt Dough Ornaments. Varnishes are also great for really making any colours pop!

I would use any varnish you can use for clay projects. I think we may have even used nail varnish once!

How long does salt dough last?

Dried properly and stored correctly, salt dough will literally last you “for ever”…. the two most common reason for salt dough not lasting are:

  1. the salt dough ornament or salt dough craft breaking (it can get brittle)
  2. the salt dough getting damp or wet and going mouldy

I would avoid “delicate” salt dough crafts – as they are more likely to break and storing in a dry place (e.g. not a damp shed or basement).

8. Salt dough crafts, gifts and keepsakes

What can I make out of salt dough? What can salt dough be used for?

Need a salt dough craft idea or two? Here is the FUN BIT!!! Many people use salt dough just to make salt dough ornaments at Christmas. But of course salt dough can be used for SO MANY crafts, gifts and keepsakes. You really need to browse my different salt dough collections:

Salt dough is SUPER popular for keepsakes – making handprint and footprint crafts. For example these heart footprints in salt dough are just toooooo sweet! There are lots of handprint ornaments for all occassions for you to check out too – take peak here. Salt dough handprints make wonderful keepsake Christmas Tree ornaments.

Can you model with salt dough? Can you make a bowl out of salt dough? How do you make food out of salt dough?

Yes yes and yes! Personally, I wouldn’t go into too detailed salt dough models – as sometimes salt dough spreads a little, especially if baked in the oven, but you can certainly have lots of fun with it!

In the image gallery above, we have examples of how to use salt dough in different ways:

You can use salt dough for making bowls too – but remember not to make them too thin, as the salt dough can break.

I hope you agree that this is indeed the best salt dough recipe.. and that this article has helped you answer all your salt dough questions and provided you with lots of tips.

Happy salt dough crafting!!!!