Bubbles... oh-so-good in a bath, but not in your clay! There’s nothing worse than working hard on your clay masterpiece only to find bubbles on it once it’s baked. So today I want to talk about removing bubbles from your pieces after baking. This method is my go-to hack when I’m creating my jewellery so I had to share it with you.
Avoiding Bubbles Before Baking
Bubbles occur when air gets trapped in polymer clay during the mixing/conditioning process. It goes without saying that taking steps to avoid them before you bake is a must. Here’s some quick tips on how to do that:
- During the mixing and conditioning process, if you spot any bubbles in your clay, pop them with an Exacto knife or sharp tool and then push the air out and smooth over with your finger.
- If you’re mixing by hand, the lovely Caro of jewellery brand WARAO, has an awesome Reel on how to mix your colours as quickly as possible. I love this method because it reduces the amount of air that’ll get trapped in the clay. When I first started out, I used to stretch the clay out and fold it into itself repeatedly. Don’t do this unless you want an unsightly bubbly mess! Caro's Reel is linked at the end of this post, you'll want to watch it if you mix by hand, it's a game changer!
- Mixing and conditioning with a pasta machine is like a whole new world if you've done this by hand previously (If you have one, I know you're with me on this!). The process is far quicker and you get a lot less dust particles in your polymer clay. When mixing, set the machine to one of the thicker settings and enter the clay through the rollers folded side first so that any air gets pushed out of the opening. Be careful not to over fold it before you pass it through the machine as this will encourage air to get trapped.
- Glass or ceramic tiles work incredibly well in reducing bubbles, as the weight of the tiles stops the air from rising in the clay. I usually lay Vellum paper over my clay pieces (I prefer this to parchment or tracing paper as it’s slightly thicker) and then I’ll place a tile on top and pop it in the oven. TIP: Baking your pieces in a cardboard box/pizza box helps the clay to bake more evenly!
Of course, there are lots of other things you can do to avoid bubbles before baking. In my beginner days, I learnt almost everything from the lovely Cindy Lietz, or as I like to call her... The Queen of Clay! She has an awesome channel on YouTube called Polymer Clay Tutor and some great videos on avoiding bubbles which I'll link at the end of this post.
Avoiding Bubbles After Baking
So, you've prepared your clay and taken the necessary steps to avoid bubbles but one or two bubbles still pop up after you've baked it (ugh!). Just how do you remove them?! Acetone! You want to make sure it’s 100% pure, here’s the brand I use. Again, there are other ways to do this (I’ll link another must-watch video at the end of this blog post), but this is my absolute favourite because it solves four problems at once; getting rid of dust particles and fingerprints, mattifying the clay, 'sanding', and of course minimizing/removing bubbles.
First things first, if you use this method, you must test it on a piece of scrap baked clay first. When I first tried it, I ended up with white marks on my clay. It took me a few tries to get it right.
To remove bubbles, rub very gently and lightly (this will help you to avoid white streaks) across the bubble with the cotton bud (Q-tip), alternating the directions you're rubbing in. If you rub in the same direction for too long, the acetone will dissolve the clay and you’ll be left with a groove. Some bubbles (usually the larger ones) will have a large air pocket inside it. In this case, it’s better to minimise it with acetone rather than try to get rid of it completely as if you rub it too much and reach the air pocket you’ll be left with an unsightly hole.
As you rub the clay with acetone, it will begin to melt and may leave behind a white residue. If this happens to you, just use a clean cotton bud with acetone applied and go over the area again. Here’s a before and after image of how well this method works, it was a game-changer for me when I discovered it.
'Sanding' With Acetone
This method also works in a similar way to sanding! When I first started, sandpaper didn’t work well for me and I didn’t have a Dremel at the time either, so I used to smooth out the edges of my pieces using acetone (still do sometimes!). It can be especially helpful for neatening up those hard to reach places too!
Acetone Mattifies Clay
Take note that acetone mattifies clay. If you use it on small areas of your pieces, the matte areas are not always immediately noticeable, however, in certain lights and in photos with flash it can show quite obviously, so if you’re using this method, you might want to go over your whole piece with acetone to avoid this.
TIP: If you love mattifying your baked clay like I do, once you’ve removed the bubbles with a cotton bud/Q-tip, use a cotton pad or ball with some acetone to lightly glide over the whole area of the piece. The larger surface area of the cotton pad will ensure your clay gets covered evenly and will avoid the ‘stroke marks’ that occur when using a cotton bud on it’s own.
Removing Dust Particles With Acetone
One of my favourite uses for acetone is getting rid of those pesky dust particles. As with the bubbles, you want to lightly and slowly rub in alternate directions to remove the dust. If the dust is very deep, it’s best to leave it rather than risking a groove, but if it’s not too far from the surface, using acetone is an amazing way to remove it and it works the same way for removing fingerprints too! Check out the results below!