How to Make Silly Putty at Home

Updated on August 25, 2018
kate stroud profile image

Kate is a mother of two boys and also manages a nanny business in the Sacramento area of California.

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Silly Putty is the childhood toy we all loved to stretch, mold, and copy newspaper print with. But it wasn't always a sensory-friendly pastime. Silly Putty was originally invented during World War II when the government funded research into creating synthetic rubber compounds that could make up for the worldwide rubber shortage caused by the war.

One silicone polymer was invented that made a poor rubber substitute but a thoroughly entertaining toy. Soon enough, the original Silly Putty was marketed to children in the characteristic egg-shaped container, and many other brands created by imitators soon after.

You too can make your own version using one of these fun recipes.

The Basics of Making Homemade Silly Putty

Different recipes will yield different types of results, so you might want to experiment to find the type of putty you most enjoy playing with. Simply making a few batches is a fun activity for the kids and can be educational as well.

The common ingredient in most putty recipes is glue and choosing the right glue is important to creating the right texture that we've all come to associate with that sticky, stretchy stocking stuffer staple. The glue you want to have handy is a polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue which is just Elmer's white school glue or something like it.

This is a type of thermoplastic synthetic polymer that, when combined with the right ingredients, will behave like Silly Putty.

Basic Silly Putty Recipe

What You Need
How to Make It
4 ounces white school glue
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then slowly begin to stir.
1 tablespoon saline
If you find that your putty is not thickening up to the consistency you want it to, add a few extra drops of saline or an extra sprinkle of baking soda and stir some more. Continue this process until you reach the consistency you were hoping for.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Remember - you can always add more ingredients, but you can't take any out so be sparing and patient.

What Saline-Based Putty Should Look Like

Once all of your ingredients are mixed, add optional food coloring, essential oil or other cool mix-ins like glitter!
Once all of your ingredients are mixed, add optional food coloring, essential oil or other cool mix-ins like glitter! | Source
Stir!
Stir! | Source
Your putty should have a soupy consistency at first and become thicker as it sets.
Your putty should have a soupy consistency at first and become thicker as it sets. | Source
Once your putty is no longer watery in texture it's time to play! Store your putty in a sealed container or sealed plastic bag when you're not playing.
Once your putty is no longer watery in texture it's time to play! Store your putty in a sealed container or sealed plastic bag when you're not playing. | Source

Alternative Silly Putty Recipes

We love the simple saline recipe, but if for some reason you're unable to use saline, these recipes are great alternatives. You may not get the classic silly putty consistency, but you'll still get a fun, malleable dough that will hold mix-ins and keep well in a sealed container, just like the original recipe!

Simple Two-Ingredient Putty

What You Need
How to Make It
1 cup white school glue
Combine glue and liquid starch in bowl
1 cup concentrated liquid starch
Stir thuroughly then let mixture rest for 5 minutes
 
Remove mixture and knead by hand for another 5 minutes on a clean countertop. What a workout!
This recipe yields the closest consistency to the good ol' classic silly putty hanging on every grocery store endcap. If you want to get super old-school, grab a few plastic Easter eggs and store your finished product in those

Borax and Glue Putty

What You Need
How to Make It
1 cup white school glue
Squeeze the glue into the bowl
2 cups warm water
Add 1 cup of water and mix
2 teaspoons borax
In another bowl, disolve borax into the rest of the warm water (1 cup)
2 bowls and 1 spoon
Pour completely dissolved borax and water mixture into your glue and water mix until you get a gel-like consistency
If you can't find liquid starch, you can make putty using borax. Powdered borax is frequently sold as detergent and is cheap and useful for all sorts of household applications. You may already have a box of borax sitting on your shelf. If not, check

Borax-Free Putty

What You Need
How to Make It
1 part cornstarch
Measure the cornstarch into your mixing bowl.
1/2 to 1 part gel liquid soap
Begin adding soap to the cornstarch. Start with half as much soap as starch, then gradually add soap as necessary to mix it.
Bowl and spoon to mix
Once the mixture resembles crumbles, use your hands to continue mixing and kneading.
If you don't want to use Borax for your Silly Putty recipe try this simple two-ingredient method which calls for neither borax nor glue. This isn't going to feel like true Silly Putty, it's not going to snap or bounce but it's still a fun sensory pla

Customizing Your Putty

The putty from your childhood was a distinct eraser pink that took on a questionable gray shade after a few days of picking up ink, link and dust from all of the places you crammed that rubbery ball of magic. Whatever color brings you joy, you can create it by mixing a few drops of liquid food coloring to the glue or corn starch until you've hit the right shade. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix as directed in the recipe you're using.

Get extra fancy by adding some glitter to your putty. Sprinkle a teaspoon of your favorite glitter to the glue instead of or in addition to food coloring. Personally, I love the Martha Stewart glitter collection because everything it touches looks like it belongs to a fairy afterward. You could also experiment with glitter glue products as long as you're using school glue. Elmer's has a bunch of awesome glittered school glue products.

Fun Mix-In Ideas for Your Putty

  • Glitter (try different sizes and shapes like confetti, fine glitter or even tinsel glitter!)
  • Essential Oils (if you're creating with kids, try a scent that's specifically blended for kid-safety, like the "Kidsafe" brand.
  • Food coloring or non-toxic, washable kids paint

How to Store Your Homemade Putty

Silly Putty left out too long is going to dry out and get flaky. It's also very sticky and picks up dust, lint, hair and other particles from its environment. For the best use, be sure to play with your putty in a clean area and put it away after each use. If your putty becomes especially dirty, you may want to dispose of it and make a fresh batch. Be sure to throw away your putty; it will clog the sink if you attempt to dispose of it down the drain.

The best way to store homemade putty is in an air-tight container. Try a plastic bag or small, plastic container with a locking lid. Cornstarch-based putty will dry out faster than putties made with glue. You can revitalize it by adding a few more drops of soap and kneading it back to its regular consistency.

Dye color may also bleed depending on the materials used; play with your putty for a while to see whether it stains your hands before playing with it near clothes or countertops you don't want stained. When mixed properly, these recipes should be color-fast.

Because borax is toxic when eaten, borax-based putty is not a good choice for very young children. The cornstarch and soap recipe should be non-toxic, but no putty is safe to eat. Always be sure to supervise children and provide a safe, clean place to play and experiment.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kate Stroud

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