Watching your shrinky dinks evolve into their shrunken forms is one of the most rewarding parts of this craft. What you may notice as you get close to your oven to watch the process is a smell emanating from your oven, which might initially cause you to panic. Do shrinky dinks smell, or is any kind of smell a bad sign?
Shrinky dinks do smell, especially when they’re baking. Considering that shrinky dink paper is made of plastic and it’s exposed to heat, the smell can be fairly strong. The smell is nothing to be concerned about so long as you are baking your shrinky dinks according to the instructions you’re provided.
One of the best ways to reduce lingering shrinky dink odor is to make sure you utilize any nearby fans and ventilation systems, and to have a window open when your shrinky dinks are in the oven.
The Science Of Shrinky Dinks
Shrinky dink paper is made with a type of polymer known as polystyrene, which is a form of plastic that reacts in interesting ways when heated. When the polystyrene gets hot it shrinks down to about thirty percent of its original size. It also becomes a lot thicker to maintain its shape while also locking in any of the color you used in your design.
To make polystyrene into shrinky dink paper, it goes through an intense heating and cooling process that requires several steps. The heating helps make the polystyrene become more pliable so it can be formed into thin paper sheets. The cooling makes it so the sheet maintains its shape until you put it back in the oven.
Most shrinky dink paper bakes efficiently at between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature range is dependent on your particular oven and how hot it gets. The time it takes to bake your shrinky dinks will also depend on how big your design is. It’s important that you keep your eyes on the process, which is part of the fun.
Why Do Shrinky Dinks Smell?
Shrinky dinks smell when you expose the plastic sheets to heat. When the compounds that make up shrinky dink paper get hot, they emit quite an unpleasant odor. Plastic in and of itself doesn’t smell great, and heat can exacerbate that. Whatever you use to color in your shrinky dinks could potentially make the smell a little more pungent.
Even though the smell isn’t necessarily bad for you when it occurs, you want to make sure you air out the room. It’s important to have a fan of some kind on and a window open so the smell is able to dissipate. Consistent exposure to the smell of hot plastic can potentially cause you some respiratory discomfort.
If your kitchen is a small space without good ventilation, you have some options to thoroughly heat your shrinky dinks without using an oven. Some crafters will bring a convection oven or other heating source outside so they can avoid making their space smell like plastic. You can also bake your Shrinky Dinks in a toaster oven.
Is It Safe To Bake Shrinky Dinks In The Oven?
Baking shrinky dinks inside your oven is perfectly safe so long as you do so properly. One of the most important ways to keep this craft safe is to set your oven to the appropriate temperature based on the specific shrinky dink paper you’re using. Don’t be tempted to set the oven at a higher temperature to speed up the process.
It’s best to designate a baking sheet specifically for crafting purposes. Even though you will likely place a barrier between your baking sheet and your shrinky dinks, using that baking sheet for food after it’s been used to bake plastic isn’t the best idea. You can use either parchment paper or aluminum foil so your shrinky dinks don’t stick to the sheet.
Proper baking of your shrinky dinks won’t impact your oven either. You might worry about if the smell can impact the taste of your food, but again, with proper ventilation, any smell residue is going to go away. If you find that the smell doesn’t seem to go away, you can do a quick clean of your oven with some baking soda and vinegar.
Is Shrinky Dink Paper Toxic?
Shrinky dink paper isn’t inherently toxic upon exposure, but improper use of the paper can potentially make it toxic. Heating plastic at an extremely high temperature can cause toxic fumes to be released into the air which can be harmful to your health. Even at the right temperature, shrinky dink plastic can get very hot so it’s important to handle it carefully.
As mentioned, you’re not supposed to bake your shrinky dinks at high temperatures. Plastic can react poorly with extreme heat and not only will the smell get significantly worse, but the smell could also end up containing toxic fumes that could be hazardous to your health. Ventilation is key to ensuring that the smell doesn’t bother you, even if it’s not dangerous.
Shrinky dink plastic can be turned into a ton of different crafts, gifts, and mementos that you can keep for a long time. The plastic itself and the finished product doesn’t contribute to any environmental harm when it’s used as per given instructions as well.
Shrinky dinks do have a smell when they’re baking, but the smell doesn’t last for very long. Making sure that you can air out your kitchen well will make it so you don’t have to deal with the smell for very long. The smell is an unfortunate byproduct of this super nostalgic craft, but it’s only a temporary one.
The good news is that, when you follow all the instructions appropriately, you’re not potentially risking your health by creating toxic fumes. There are some precautions to take to ensure that your shrinky dink experience is a safe one. When you use shrinky dink paper correctly, you can create something special and watch some cool science in action.
Make sure to follow all my tips and recommended products to ensure your Shrinky Dink project turns out great! Also, don’t forget to check out my other articles for all your painting Q&A’s. Happy painting!