How to make the best fail-safe playdough – in 12 different ways

Here's how to make your own soft, squishy and long-lasting playdough in just 10 minutes - plus microwave, no-cook, no-salt and other versions

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Ready-bought playdough is great but, after a while (or if you leave the lid off), it goes all flaky and hard. Hurray then for this amazingly simple 10-minute recipe for homemade playdough – using store-cupboard ingredients – that will stay soft and pliable for about 6 months!

The recipe will make enough for 1 huge ball of playdough or up to 12 smaller balls that you can dye all sorts of different colours.

You can use any type of white flour for this – we used some strong bread flour that was going spare.

Here’s how to make long-lasting playdough that works every time

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You Will Need

  • 1 cup white flour (128g)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup salt (64g)
  • 1 cup water (240ml)
  • food colouring (optional)

Total time:

Step 1

Place all the ingredients except the food colouring in a non-stick saucepan – unless you want your playdough to be all one colour, in which case you can add the colouring to the pan, too. Put on the hob over a low heat.

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Step 2

Stir continuously as the mixture begins to thicken.

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Step 3

Keep stirring until the mixture has the firm texture of soft dough. Turn out of the pan onto a plate or other hard surface.

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Step 4

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then knead a little until you have a big ball of dough. If you want to colour your dough different colours, divide it into smaller, separate balls – as many as the colours you have.

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Step 5

Add a few drops of colouring to each ball and knead until the colour is well spread. It’s easier if you make a little hollow in the ball, let a few drops fall in into the middle of it, and then work the colour through. Repeat with your other dough balls until they are all coloured as you’d like. Store in airtight bag or container in fridge.

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How to make this playdough recipe in a microwave

  • Place all the ingredients in a plastic container and cook for 1 ½ minutes.
  • Stir, then microwave for 1 more minute.
  • Now follow the recipe above from Step 4.

How to make this playdough recipe without cooking

  • Place flour, oil, cream of tartar and salt in bowl.
  • Boil the water. Add food colouring to the water.
  • Then gradually add the coloured water to the dry ingredients, stirring as you go, until it thickens to a sticky, firm dough. Go slowly – you may not need all the water.
  • Now follow the recipe above from Step 4, making sure you knead well until all the stickiness is gone.
  • NOTE: this version of our playdough recipe

No cream of tartar? How to make playdough without cream of tartar

Instead of the cream of tartar, you’ll need 3 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar.

All the other ingredients are the same, except you’ll need ¼ cup (22g) salt (instead of 1/1) and only ¾ cup (180ml) water (instead of 1).

Add the liquid ingredients to a pan and heat, then slowly add the salt and flour, mixing continuously until it starts to form a ball. Remove from the pan and (after it’s cooled a little) knead really well – it will feel sticky at first.

NOTE: It’s the preservative quality of cream of tartar that means our playdough recipe (above) lasts for so long. So, if you make playdough without cream of tartar, it won’t stay ‘fresh’ for more than a couple of weeks.

No salt? How to make playdough without salt

  • 2 cups (255g) flour
  • ½ cup (200ml) vegetable oil
  • food colouring
  • water

Put the flour in a large basin, add the oil and mix well. Fill a small glass with water and add a drop or 2 of food colouring. Pour the coloured water into the basin a little at a time. Keep stirring, and stop adding water when you have a soft dough.

NOTE: It’s the preservative quality of cream of tartar that means our playdough recipe (above) lasts for so long. So, if you make this salt-free (and cream-of-tartar-free) playdough, it won’t stay ‘fresh’ for more than a couple of weeks.

No food colouring? How to make coloured playdough without food colouring

We’re not going to pretend it won’t be faffy and messy but you can juice veg to make homemade food colouring if you can’t find any food colouring in the shops. Beetroot juice makes a lovely pink, and carrot juice a nice, strong orange

How to make your playdough even more special

  • Shiny dough: add a few drops of glycerine to the mixture.
  • Aromatherapy dough: add a 2 to 3 drops of lavender (relaxing) or peppermint (invigorating) essential oil
  • Textured, sensory dough: knead in rice or split peas
  • Fruity sensory dough: divide your dough into several balls and add different fruit juices and zests; smell and compare
  • ‘Mud’ playdough: instead of food colouring, add brown paint or 2tbsp coffee grounds
  • Glitter dough: add glitter (obvs)

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