Can you eat play-doh?

In this article, we are going to answer the question, “can you eat play-doh?” We will also mention the structural components of play-doh that will determine if you can eat it or not. We will also suggest what you should do if you happen to eat play-doh unintentionally and provide an example of how to make a homemade play-doh.

Can you eat play-doh?

No, you cannot eat play-doh. Though play-doh contains some edible components, it also has non-edible components which we shall discuss soon.  

The nutritional significance of play-doh is nothing to write home about, you shouldn’t eat play-doh. The scent may just be so appealing to your senses of smell but please do not eat it, we will see why soon.

What is play-doh?

Play-doh is a modeled compound that is used by most children for artistic purposes. Play-doh can be modeled into different shapes, hence it can serve as an educative tool for kids. It was developed initially to be used as a surface cleaner and later on became kids’ favorite play stuff.

Play-doh is made from starch, sugar,  salt, and other additives such as surfactants, humectants, preservatives, and fragrances with the essential components being water and starch. The starch is derived from wheat flour which has amylose and amylopectin at 25% and 75% respectively.

When water is added to the starch, hydrogen bonding takes place leading to the gelatinization of the polysaccharides in starch. When extra starch is added, the presence of amylopectin causes crystallization through the amylose molecules. This is why Play-doh is usually moist and soft but not hard. 

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are used as surfactants to minimize the stickiness of Play-doh. Pleasant fragrances such as vanilla contribute to the pleasant smell of Play-doh.  Synthetic inorganic food-grade dyes such as Red Dye 40 are usually used to give Play-doh its brilliant dyes.

What makes play-doh unfit for consumption?

Play-doh is not fit for consumption because play-doh contains starch, water, and salt as the main ingredients. Gluten is known to be present in wheat flour (source of the starch) causing allergic reactions when consumed by some people. The immune system overreacts to certain foods such as gluten causing delayed-type hypersensitivity.

Also, the salt content in Play-doh is so high that the taste buds cannot even bear the taste of play-doh. Too much salt is known to lead to electrolyte imbalance and circulatory disorders.

Surfactants like the PEGs are not edible additives because of their soapy nature. PEGs based medications are known to cause diarrhea and stomach pain. Hence play-doh is not a good thing to eat.

Preservatives such as sodium benzoate and boric acid are used to prevent the growth of mold over time in play-doh. Boric acid is known to be toxic and can be deadly if eaten.

What happens if you ingest play-doh?

If you eat play-doh accidentally, you will most likely experience mild symptoms like stomach pains, diarrhea if you are allergic to gluten for instance, and vomiting. These symptoms may disappear with time.

The high salt content can cause high blood pressure, coupled with diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration. Too much sodium can also lead to kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack.

What should you do if you ingest play-doh?

If you eat play-doh, you should drink plenty of water. This will dilute the sodium and prevent dehydration. 

Give the poison center a call if you have consumed large quantities. This is the surest way to monitor and access the risk involved and take the necessary actions to restore sanity.

Are all play-doh unfit for consumption?

No, some homemade play-doh does not contain any toxic synthetic chemicals such as preservatives or surfactants. Let’s look at how to make yourself a play-dough at home.

Ingredients for a homemade play-dough

  • All-purpose plain four (6 tablespoons)
  • Warm water (0.06L)
  • Food grade colorant 
  • Coconut oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Salt (1 tablespoon)

Method of preparation of the homemade play-dough

  1. Mix the flour and the salt in a bowl.
  1. Dissolve the colorant in the warm water.
  1. Pour the solution in step 2 into the flour and salt mixture.
  1. Stir very well with a ladle until a gel-like consistency is achieved.
  1. Prepare a dust-free smooth surface and knead the mixture until you obtain a fine texture.
  1. Package and keep in a refrigerator.


In this article, we have answered the question, “can you eat play-doh?” We have also discussed the individual components of a play-doh and the effect each substance will have on the body if one eats play-doh. We have stated what will be observed when one eats play-doh and the precautions to take in case of accidental ingestion of play-doh.

We hope this blog was important to you, please feel free to contact us if you have further questions.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.