Homemade Shrinky Dinks from Recycled Plastic
Beware- if you read this you will start compulsively checking plastic containers to see if they can be made into homemade shrinky dinks! You might remember making Shrinky Dinks as a kid, they seem kind of magical and when I discovered there are ways to make shrinky dinks at home using #6 plastic, I started keeping my eye out for possible containers.
When I found a cracker container with a number 6 on it (My first #6 find!), I wondered- could I make homemade shrinky dinks with rippled plastic??
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I started experimenting- sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little time experimenting before getting the kids involved. I rifled through my recycle bin and grabbed a few other containers just in case they would work. Soon I had determined:
- Number 1 plastic shrinks a little, but not much and also sometimes just turns white and curls – it’s not a good material for DIY shrinky dinks.
- I read that foam is #6 plastic so I gave this a try with craft foam- sure enough, it shrinks like mad too. It does not, however get stiff.
- Meat trays from the deli, are number 6 as well – and they seem to be thick enough to make a shrinky dink.
- The #6 plastic with the ridges has a pretty neat effect when made into a shrinky dink. I like that it adds a texture to the little beads.
Here’s how we made homemade shrinky dinks:
- #6 plastic from your recycle bin
- Sharpie markers
- Hole punch
- Tin foil or parchment paper to line a cookie sheet for baking them on.
- If you wish to shrink these outside to avoid any fumes, a toaster oven you can use for crafts.
We cut out squares and heart shapes from the plastic container to decorate. Each piece we hole punched, and then colored with permanent marker before shrinking in the oven.
More detailed instructions:
- We cut pieces from plastic containers and punched holes in them so that we could use them as little charms on necklaces or earrings. You can see the plastic that I used which came from a cracker container.
2. We decorated our plastic pieces using colorful Sharpie markers.
3. We put our creations in the oven at about 350ºF. I put them on a baking tray on parchment paper, but you could make a tray out of tin foil too.
After about a minute- oh no! They’re curling!
After about two minutes (maybe three?)- they uncurl, and that’s it, they won’t shrink any more.
I was worried about the fumes, and I did turn on the hood, but I didn’t really smell bad. In fact I think I got more fumes from the permanent markers than from the plastic. Updated – I have since read a better idea in Jean Van’t Hul’s Artful Year: She takes this kind of activity outside and uses a tray on her gas grill to avoid any fumes. Another option to take it outside is to use a toaster oven.
It’s definitely fun to try out recycling some plastic to make your own shrinky dinks. I’ve also discovered that it’s not too expensive to just buy a kit or a pack of shrink plastic sheets.
Options for buying Shrinky Dink Plastic:
- Ink Jet Printable Shrink Film – print out images right from your computer!
- Grafix Shrink Film – these packs of shrink film come in a rainbow of colors which could be fun for making bracelets or necklace pendents.
- This pack of Frosted Ruff n’ Ready Shrinky Dink Sheets comes with 10 pre-sanded sheets of shrink plastic.
Grab some inspiration for making homemade shrinky dinks:
Shrink! Shrank! Shrunk!: Make Stylish Shrink Plastic Jewelry
This book even includes a section on making recycled plastic shrinky dinks. The projects are cute and stylish. The Not-Your-Grandmother’s Cameo Necklaces and the Unicorn Ring are my favorites.
Shrink Art 101 with Rubber Stamps
The strength of this book is that by using rubber stamps the author comes up with some very sophisticated shrink plastic jewelry. The techniques in it which use stamps may be best paired with purchased plastic sheets rather than recycled pieces of plastic, simply for ease of transferring the design.
The Shrinky Dinks Book
Great for kids (this would make a fun present for a 10 or 11 year old) this book from Klutz comes with 6 sheets of shrink plastic, pages with designs to trace and color and instructions for making key chains, necklaces, charms and more.
64 Positive Things to Say to Kids
Subscribe to Download your FREE printable of 64 Positive Things to Say to Kids
I have #1 plastic as well as foggy #6 plastic. Will these work? Also, I’m a little concerned about what Recycle Guy said… are you sure this is okay to do? If the fumes are really that harmful how do I ventilate it and can I use the oven again afterward? Do any plastics shrink safely in the microwave?
Not sure if this was covered in any of the information above, but I can’t find it… Can you provide an approximate percentage of shrinkage? In other words if I start out with a 1 inch piece of #6 plastic, what will i end up with in terms of size?
I love this idea!(I originally saw it on another tutorial which did NOT mention the requirement for #6 plastic food containers.) I decided I wanted to make charms for key chains as Xmas gifts. I cleaned & cut all of the plastic food containers that I could get my hands on.
I read this & other tutorials(liked this one the best?) and quickly learned about #6. I’m really frustrated because the plastic food containers I have found either 1) Have NO number on them 2) Have #1, #5 or #8 . ????
What’s wrong with these types? I’m seriously considering using them to see if they will work. It’s worth a shot, right? If I could find a tutorial that lists each number & why that particular number won’t work, (one site listed a couple types, but none I have) I might not feel so determined to give them a try. Unless I missed it somewhere, that info isn’t online ANYWHERE. Do I really have to scrap all of these cleaned & cut down containers bc of the incorrect type?
I’ve seen info that says people have used plastic gift cards?, vinyl records(to make bowls, etc…)
I guess I can melt other plastic, like gift cards & just know they won’t shrink.
Plastic advice needed, please ?
David P Bonham
Here’s the info on the plastics:
#6 is the only plastic for shrinking PS is sometimes inside the triangle
If you have a Restaurant Supply store close you can get pkgs of lids that are clear plastic, you don’t have to buy the containers and there are a good supply of lids in the pkgs.
has anyone ever tried running their shrinky dink or other recycled sheets through an inkjet printer for the black and white lines picture to go on the plastic? what were your results?
Alex Brands sells the ‘inkjet printer’ shrinky dink paper for more than twice the cost of the ‘clear’ sheets and I don’t have that much money in my budget for an event to spend over $2.00 per sheet. I’m trying to find a more economical efficient way to make 200 SD charms for a fun event I am running.
Do the results come out nice and strong? I like to use them as pet tags and don’t want them breaking easily… Thanks.
It kind of depends on the plastic – there seems to be quite a variety when it comes to the recycled plastic. I might purchase the plastic if I wanted to be certain of the results.
Do NOT use your kitchen oven! Melting plastic releases toxins which happily attach to any fats found in your oven, and will subsequently release into your food. Get a used toaster oven and use it outdoors.
The disposable aluminum pie pans (and rectangular casserole ones, etc..) that they sell everywhere that have clear lids–the lids are #6 plastic. Sometimes you don’t need the lid, or after it’s been used, rinse it and use it–great big flat pieces of #6 plastic!!! 😀
It turns out K cups (Keureg) are also #6. the little round bottoms work quite well.
I love making crafts and I like reading and getting opinions from other crafters. This would be my first time doing shrinky dinks. My first project is the Jedi character from Star Wars for my navy grandson, is ready to bake. I just want to thanks you and everyone else that has made a comment on your website. Helpful comments.
GO TO DOLLAR TREE AND PURCHASE THE FOIL CAKE PANS –
THE PLASTIC LIDS ARE #6. TWO LIDS FOR $1, THEY’RE 9X11 IN SIZE
Sweet! I love visiting the dollar tree anyway. Will add the foil pans with lids now.
@Recycle Guy Almost EVERYTHING causes cancer now….. 🙁
If you are worried about the marker fumes use colored pencils like the shrinky dinks come with They work fine!
ours shrank A BUNCH, and our rippled part went flat, but we loved it, and now have mini charms come time to make necklaces! #6 is so hard to come by as we buy so little prepackaged food. but I put the word out if people have it, i’ll take it!
When you buy the name brand Shrinky Dinks, their plastic is also #6 plastic sheets. So it’s the same thing and just as dangerous, although still fun to make! So ventilation is always recommended!
#6 Plastic is Polystyrene. When you heat it, styrene, the cancer causing gas, is released. So that “not too bad smell” might be worse than you think. Although this is cool it is definitely not health and should not be done with children. At least not children that you like.
True, and omigosh, you’re hilarious!
Hi there, I was reading about making shrink dinks and it reminded me of something similar I did a few years back. I took a white meat tray and trimmed the sides off and I colored on it. I placed it on a cookie sheet and set the oven at 250. Place the cookie sheet in the oven for about 10 or 15 min. The trick is to watch it carefully so when it does start to curl lay a spatula on top to keep it flat. This activity is really cool because it shrinks right before your eyes. It shrinks down to about 2 inches. When it cools it’s hard as a rock.
Sounds like fun, thanks Sandra! We’ve used those foam meat trays for so many different crafts – I bet the kids would get a kick out of making shrinking pictures.
What type of spatula do you use in the oven?
I just found the cheep kind of clear but not quite plastic cups are #6! A whole bag of shrinky dink plastic for $2. The brand is Genpak – I found it in the grocery store (https://www.genpak.com/product-photos/translucent-plastic-drink-cups/). It melts more in one direction than the other (so a circle becomes an oval) but it is good enough for a 4 yr old (and his mom). – also use a “craft only” toaster oven outside.
A toaster oven is the most economical thing to use. I have done these for years and have just now started up again. I don’t know about the recycled plastic, which I am thrilled to find out is usable, but on the shrinky dinks you can use your computer and put your photos on them. I use the rough textured, the Frosted Ruff N Ready 8×10 ten sheet pack, and they look great, when you cut a square they will have a sharp corner but sandpaper will smooth them out. As a comparison for measurements, a 10″ sheet will shrink to approximately 4 1/4″. Hope this helps. Judy
Thanks for this fun activity idea. I used it (and linked to you) in my post for the read aloud book “Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat”. https://shannonsbooknook.com/?p=6867
It was the perfect extension activity!
What I’ve read is that it is dangerous to put the styrofoam plastic #6 into the oven since the stuff it is made with will cause poisonous fumes — toxic. Also would be wary of melting plastic #1, regardless of whether it would melt.
I also have tried it with a microwave, not oven, but will use oven from now on, as it smelled bad. It might be the marker, but still not okay. Please be careful. A minute of throwing caution to the wind could cost you your health, now or down the line.
Thanks Laura, definitely wise to take our long term health into consideration. Doing anything like this certainly requires adequate ventilation.
Here’s my email: [email protected]
Hello there .,.. we are fundraising and someone had the weird sense of contributing to our confusion at this time of yes – they sold us a Shrinky Dink to resell. If you want it, email me and perhaps we can arrange something. The unit is missing the plastic but everything else is there.
Good luck to you all.
Is this still available?
the containers from Taco Bell that you get natchos are also #6 plastic at least the clear plastic lids are
Solo cups are #6 plastic!!
Does it matter how large of an item you’re trying to shrink? I tried this the other day with a pretty large (6″ x 8″) drawing of my dad’s that I was hoping would shrink up and I could make a key ring out of it……. it just curled in on it’s self and never un curled…. any tips for Large shrinkies???!!!
Hi Brandy, I’m sorry, I’ve never tried making something that large, maybe that’s the type of project that would require a commercially available shrinky dink material so that the plastic would be a uniform consistency. I just don’t really know!
the directions on the shrinky dink pkg say to lay something across the large pieces to keep them from curling..i lay a couple Popsicle sticks or a piece of foil over top which works pretty well to keep large pieces from curling and turning over..
I love this idea I am already awful when it comes to throwing things out this will make me even worse 🙂 I really like the idea as it is great to up-cycle items that are usually thrown away. I am pinning to my up-cycle board!
You can use the white foam meat trays. They shrink really well. Only thing I’m not thrilled with is they feel “hollow” sort of. Gotta’ use the permanent markers on them. I too am excited about the #6 clear plastic!
You can also find #6 on those foil baking pans that are disposable. The lids are usually #6. They are so cheap you can find them for a $1 or 2 and it gives you a pretty good size of plastic that is flat and no ridges to work with. I use those pans a lot for taking food to my mom’s so I just save the lids when we are done.
Most of the clear plastic containers from the bakery (that contain muffins or cookies) will work too. I also discovered that if you lightly sand one side of the plastic, with steel wool or a fine sandpaper, then use colored pencils to draw or trace your design, on the sanded side, the colors get more vivid after it’s shrunk. This way you don’t have to deal with the fumes from permanent markers. 🙂
Thanks for the tips about sanding the plastic!
Those plastic drink cups you can buy at the grocery store are #6 plastic, some are white, red, blue, clear, etc. Have used the white ones.
What is the purpose of the hole punch?
We punched holes in ours prior to shrinking them so that we could use them like beads. Once the plastic is shrunk it would be very hard to get a hole into it unless you used a drill.
Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky
Wow, I never knew you could do this! Thanks for the great idea.
Mary Van Vactor
Guess what else is made of #6 plastic? Those cute sunburst-shaped containers of cherry tomatoes that are in all the grocery stores. At least the bottoms are, not sure about the tops. Some disposable drink cups are #6 as well.
LOVE this! I remember Shrinky Dinks from when I was a kid. And having a use for plastic in a crafty way? Priceless!
Now to find some #6 plastic….
I was looking for a way to make shrinky dinks for my girl scout troop to add to their homemade snow globes. I found that you can buy 8″x10″ #6 plastic sheets at Home Depot for $2 a sheet. I love this idea better from now on we will be using recycled plastic. However if you are in a bind and “need” it quickly the sheets from Home Depot worked GREAT!!
Anna @ The Imagination Tree
VERY fun and totally being added to our to-do list! Pinned 🙂
Styrofoam cups can be colored with permanent markers and shrunk to make Barbie size doll’s hats. You can also cut into creative shapes and color before baking.
The Iowa Farmer's Wife
love this! i have wanted to try it since i read about it, but you’re right! #6 is hard to come by!
This is such a great way to use old bottles!
Ah I love this! I had a real plastic melting phase a while back where I made vinyl record bowls and bizarre things from those little green army men!
I would love to see some of your work! Do you have photographs?
Crystal @ Growing A Jeweled Rose
What a great idea! My son would love this! He’s not quite ready for big cooking or baking projects, yet, he has Down syndrome. But this he could do! And learn (again) about hot stove–don’t touch, but it’s OK to peek in the little window to watch! I pinned your post on my Pinterest here https://pinterest.com/lnmontessori/
Chrissy @ The Outlaw Mom Blog
TOTALLY AWESOME! Glad you figured this out and posted the fab tutorial 🙂 Know anything about melting #6 plastic in terms of toxicity? Just curious. Not that it will necessarily stop me!
it is very toxic and should be done in a well-ventilated area. if you google it, there are a bunch of sites that warn of this. #6 is considered styrofoam only clear – but they are the same TYPE of plastic. records are EXTREMELY TOXIC…
i did some shrinky last week inside. i had the fans blowing & all but i think next time i will take my toaster oven out on the porch…
#6 (Polystyrene): Polystyrene is used in foam food trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, opaque plastic cutlery, and other disposable food service items. It’s a concern because the chemical styrene can leach from it into food and beverages. Styrene is released when polystyrene is heated. According to the EPA, short-term styrene exposure at levels above the Maximum Contaminant Level (used to set drinking-water standards) can cause nervous-system effects such as loss of concentration, weakness, and nausea. Long-term exposure can cause liver and nerve damage and cancer.
Ok, thanks. My friend Jean at the Artful Parent recommends using an outdoor low temp gas grill so that no one breathes the fumes – sounds like that would be safer. Or, of course we can also try one of the other zillion crafts available 🙂
I understand the concern of chemicals although ideally the caution for plastics such as these is geared toward heating food/drinks in them while planning to consume after. I think making a few tiny shrinks especially with hood on will not cause harm. Happy crafting!