Salt-Dough Play Dough Recipe


  • 1 c. salt
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 c. flour

Note: use only plain all-purpose flour � don't use bread flour or self-rising flour


Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Slowly add � the water while stirring with a fork. Slowly add more water, spoonful at a time and continuing to mix with fork, until it creates a ball of dough that is firm and just soft enough to knead. (The exact amount of water will depend on the moisture content of the flour as well as the general humidity in your home as you prepare the recipe.) Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.

If used for play, dough will keep indefinitely if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, if you want to create hard-baked designs, remember that the dough will begin to lose its ability to hold fine detail after about an hour. Detailed designs, such as ornaments made for sale, are best modeled right after the dough has been kneaded.

Note: Although all the ingredients are edible, this dough is not food. The salt content is very high, and young children should be strongly discouraged from eating it. Also, keep out of reach of pets: I've read online that dogs that ate the stuff have gotten sick, even died, due to the high salt content of home-made play dough. .


Colored Dough

Typically, salt-dough designs are painted after they are baked. However, if you color your dough, you can create colored designs that do not require painting. Here are three ways to add color to your salt-dough while it's still moist. Two of the methods create a single batch of dough that is all one color. The last one can be used to create smaller amounts of several different colors.

Add 1/2 cup dry tempera paint to the flour mixture before adding the water.


Add two packages of unsweetened Cool-Aid to the flour and mix gently to distribute before adding the water.


Once the dough has been kneaded to the proper consistency, separate dough into as many sections as you will have colors. Flatten each section of dough into a pancake shape, and place several drops of food coloring in the center. Fold dough over the food coloring, and press dough together. Flatten again. Continue to fold and flatten until the food coloring is pretty well distributed, then knead until it is completely distributed. Repeat this process until the desired shade is achieved.

Scented Dough

Adding 2 pkgs. unsweetened Kool-Aid will give your dough both a pleasing scent and color. See previous section for method. I've only ever seen it used in dough meant to be used like Play-Doh, so I don't know how it works when you use this option and then bake your designs. (If you've tried it, please let me know how it turned out, and I'll update the page.)


Some recipes I've seen add small amounts of flavoring extracts such as peppermint or vanilla, after mixing, but before adding food coloring, if you're using it. I've never tried this, so I don't know if the scent survives baking. (Again, if you've tried it, please let me know how it turned out, and I'll update the page.)

Modeling Ideas

Sculpting Tools

  • Toothpicks, forks, knives and spoons all make excellent modeling tools.

  • A garlic press can be used to squish out hair, grass, spaghetti.

  • Roll your dough out to a � inch thickness to cut out shapes. Cookie cutters work great and come in all shapes and sizes suitable to any season. You can also use the dull end of a butter knife to cut around a paper template, or just cut freehand shapes.

  • If you want a large sculpture layer your dough over a frame of crumpled aluminum foil. That way the dough won't be too thick to back all the way through. You should either completely enclose the foil scaffolding with dough, or leave the bottom open, and remove the foil very carefully after is has completely hardened.

  • Drinking glasses, small cups, such as come with medicines like cough syrup, and straws can be used to create holes or circles. A straw is excellent for creating a small hole through which to thread a ribbon for hanging.

  • Rubber stamps, used for papercrafts, can also be used to add wonderful detailed designs that can be painted after they've baked.

Other Sculpting Tips

  • A paperclip, stuck part-way into the back of your item before baking, creates a sturdy loop to tie a ribbon through.

  • Small flat designs can be made into brooches by gluing a pin-back jewelry finding on after it's finished.

  • Roll out snakes of different colors of dough, twist them together, and roll flat to create a variegated color.

  • Bamboo skewers, traditionally used for shish-kabob, can be used to make your item into a decorative ornament for potted plant.

  • Join bits of dough together by smoothing one side with a bit of water. Dipping a knife into some water and then shaking it gently should provide just enough moisture to ensure a solid join.

  • Use a wet knife to smooth rough edges before baking.


Air Dry

If you live in a dry climate, your designs can be air dried. Allow at least two days drying time before painting. However, for best results, you should bake your designs. That way they will be harder and less fragile.


Place your designs on a cookie sheet, allowing at least 1 inch between items. You can line the cookie sheet with a silicon liner (best), lightly grease the sheet (may leave stains), or leave the sheet un-greased (designs may stick).

Bake at 250 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 1/2 to 3 hours. The lower the temperature the longer, but with the higher temperature you run the risk of browning. Of course, there's no harm in browning them if you don't mind the color, or if you are going to cover them completely with paint.

Finishing Options

Egg Wash

If you want your finished item shiny and dough colored, you can brush it with egg-white before baking. Once the item cooled after baking, you'd be done. Note, however, as paint doesn't adhere well to baked egg white. You need to take care not to get any egg on places where you want to paint.

Preschool Option - Shiny Paint

A one-step painting and finishing option, best for younger children, is to use 'Shiny Paint' made from white 'school glue' and liquid tempera paint. Create by mixing one part glue to one part paint. Use immediately, or store in air-tight containers. Be sure to wash all brushes and any mistakenly painted surfaces in warm soapy water before the glue dries.

Other Paint Options

Other choices of paint are colored markers, tempera paints, acrylic paints, even model-airplane paints, such as those produced by Testor. You can even paint unbaked designs with undiluted food coloring! Typically, with each of these options, once the paint dried, you would apply a clear protective coating.

For best long-term results, allow paint to dry one to two days before applying a finishing coat. Otherwise you run the risk of sealing in moisture, which might create a problem down the line.

Add Shine

To apply a protective coating, brush or spray on a thin coat of your choice of shellac, varnish, polyurethane or other clear surface finish, and allow it to dry. Repeat as necessary to achieve the level of gloss or shine you like. Be sure to follow the product's label directions about ventilation and cleanup � many of these products can produce dangerous fumes and are not water soluble.

For a wax coating, melt a block of paraffin in a double boiler, or in a bowl which you have placed in a pan half-filled with boiling water. Dip each salt-dough item into the melted wax using a slotted spatula or spoon, turning each object, as necessary, to cover. Let the items dry on a wire rack or newspaper.

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