There aren’t many toys that are as easy to make and as fun to use as playdough. Often known by the brand name of premade playdough, Play-Doh, it’s a part of nearly every child’s growing up and even some adults continue to play and enjoy its squishy properties for art projects. But should we be laughing around with playdough or is it a fire hazard that might be putting our children at risk?
Playdough is not flammable in most cases and should not catch fire. This is mainly because of the high water content. However, if it dries out, it can become a dust/powder that can ignite in some situations.
Let’s take a closer look at playdough, so that we can be sure to understand how it behaves in regards to fire. Check it out.
If you are interested in authentic, firefighter-made backpacks, go-bags, and wallets, check them out here.
Also read: What Makes Something Flammable?
Table of Contents
What Is Play-Doh?
Playdough is a modeling compound that is used, mainly, by young children for their first sculpturing projects at home as well as for other types of artsy fun.
Oddly, while it is a nearly universal toy now, it wasn’t invented as a toy or even for artistic use.
Play-Doh which is the brand name of the premade product (it’s easy to make your own as we shall soon see) was invented to be used as a wallpaper cleaner!
It wasn’t very popular as a wallpaper cleaner and at some point, in the 1950s, the Kutol company decided to turn it into a toy instead. They began to market it to local schools and when sales began to take off – they opted for a national advertising campaign which made Play-Doh a staple part of American life.
Play-Doh is very popular with parents and teachers alike, as it is completely non-toxic and very safe for children to play with.
It is made primarily from water, flour, and salt.
As these ingredients are all edible, they say you can eat Play-Doh safely – though it will taste pretty horrible, and we can’t vouch for the cleanliness of the production area if you bought some factory-made Play-Doh.
And as these ingredients are commonly used around the house and kept in the kitchen, it’s also pretty easy to manufacture your own playdough at home, you can add food colorings to give it that distinctive color that the premade stuff has.
Play-Doh itself has a few more ingredients that make it a bit easier to work with than homemade playdough and some borax that prevents it from growing mold in the can while it sits on the shelf.
It’s worth noting that the flour does contain gluten and it’s possible for it to irritate people with gluten allergies.
However, what is not possible is that Play-Doh is flammable.
The high water content guarantees that it isn’t. If you remove all the water by drying it out, then flour is combustible but it’s only flammable if rendered down to a fine powder and then blown into the air.
So, even dry Play Doh is not a major fire risk and you don’t need to throw out your kid’s art projects when they start looking a little worse for wear.
What Happens When You Light It on Fire?
Play Doh won’t light on fire when it’s wet and even when it’s dry it will be pretty hard to burn.
Assuming you did get it to burn, it’s flour – you’ll get some smoke (mainly containing unburned carbon as well as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water) until it burns away.
In short, it burns like flour burns which is, in turn, the same way that most products that are made mainly from hydrogen and carbon burn.
You can see here, that it will brown/char, but it never really ignites:
Will It Ever Explosive?
No, Play-Doh is not explosive.
You could, technically speaking, if you blew powdered flour out into the air and exposed it to a naked flame, get an explosion, but we’re not sure how this would ever come about?
Any dry powders that contain carbohydrates, like flour, sugar, cornstarch, etc., can ignite easily. This is due to the higher surface area and higher oxygen exposure of powders when dispersed in air. However, they still need very specific conditions to explode.
Playdough could, in theory, be dried and crushed into a powder, and then it could, maybe cause some type of rapid ignition. But we are getting pretty out there with what could happen. I can’t imagine this happening often.
Also read: Is Baby Powder Flammable? It Depends…
Is It Heat Resistant?
Play Doh is heat resistant to some extent.
However, you will (over time) see the water evaporate from Play-Doh and this will dry it out and leave behind a mix of flour and salt. This is likely to be hard and biscuit-like as opposed to grains of flour and salt.
We don’t think we’d choose Play Doh as a thermal insulator, however, or try to extinguish a blaze with it.
Can You Bake Play Doh Safely?
Yes, you can bake Play Doh safely. If your objective is to create dry biscuit like shapes – you could bake Play Doh on a low heat.
If you put it into a kiln, however, you would quickly evaporate all the water and then the high temperature would burn off the flour. Leaving a trace amount of salt and not much else.
Can You Melt It?
No, you cannot melt Play Doh.
You can’t melt flour and while you can melt salt, you can only do so at extremely high temperatures, and by this time all the other components would have evaporated or burned away.
Can You Take Play Doh On A Plane?
The TSA says that Play-Doh is fine to take on a plane.
However, as it might be thought by some TSA agents as to resemble a plastic explosive, it is up to the agent to decide whether it is permitted or not.
Here is a story where it was taken away for that reason.