Homemade Playdough: Keeping Kids Safe

Monday, September 23rd, 2019
Ariel Garsow

The kids are back in school. That means time to make homemade playdough! But, did you know that flour – one of the ingredients in homemade playdough – can carry harmful bacteria that can make you sick? And, since young children put almost everything in their mouths, that’s risky.

Flour has been associated with several recalls and outbreaks over the past few years. Early this year, Pillsbury recalled their flour due to potential Salmonella contamination. Just last week General Mills recalled Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour (five-pound bags, use by date Sept. 6th, 2020, UPC code 016000 196100) due to potential contamination with E.coli O26, a strain of bacteria that can cause very serious illness, particularly in children. When there is a recall like this one, it is important to check your cupboard. If you still have the flour in the bag, check the use by date. If the use by date is Sept. 6, 2020, throw out the flour. If you are unsure about the use by date and it could potentially be that date, throw it out. For more details about this recall, click here.

Now you are aware that flour could potentially contain bacteria like Salmonella or E.coli. What do you do?

If you still want to make playdough, you could bake your flour to reduce the risk. It is important to know that baking won’t completely eliminate the risk – we’ve all seen how flour can spread around the kitchen! Since cross-contamination is still a risk, don’t try to cook recalled flour – it really is best to throw that away.

After you are confident that you do not have flour associated with either of the recalls above, you can follow this playdough recipe, which we modified from https://www.iheartnaptime.net/play-dough-recipe/. It should make enough playdough for 4-6 kids.


- 2 cups all-purpose flour

- 2/4 cup salt

- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar

- 2 cups lukewarm water

- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

- Food coloring

- Plastic bags

Playdough ingredients

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 °F;

2. Spread out flour evenly on a baking sheet

3. Put the flour in the oven for 5 minutes;

For the time and temperature of baking flour, please see this source here

Flour in the Oven

4. In a medium pot, mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar;

Playdough Mix

5. Add the water and the oil;

Playdough Mix
Playdough Mix

6. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until the dough is formed;

Playdough Mix

7. After the dough has cooled a little, knead the dough until smooth;

8. Divide the dough into the number of balls corresponding to the number of colors you want;

Playdough Before Food Coloring

9. Place a dough ball and about 15 drops of food coloring into the plastic bag and knead;

Playdough and food coloring

10. Now your dough is ready for the kids to play with!

One last note, make sure the kids properly wash their hands before using the playdough to limit the germs from their hands going into the playdough. And have fun!

Ariel Garsow, Graduate Research Associate, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology

Photos credit Nicole Badik

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