Playdough: 3 Reasons Why Cream of Tartar is the Secret Ingredient

Do you make your own playdough at home? You may have noticed that most recipes call for cream of tartar. Read on to find out what is it and why you need it.

Homemade scented playdough

Why is cream of tartar an important ingredient in playdough?

Small tub of cream of tartar

Adding cream of tartar has many advantages when making homemade playdough. Firstly, it makes the dough stronger and stiffer. Secondly, it adds volume and elasticity making the dough nice and stretchy. Finally, it acts as a preservative which is really important if you want to keep your playdough for another day. You may find your playdough can last weeks or even months!

What exactly is cream of tartar?

Cream of tartar is not a cream. It is actually a fine white powder that looks a lot like baking powder. It is an acidic salt that occurs naturally inside many fruits and vegetables. Typically it is made as a byproduct of winemaking. The salt left behind on the casks of fermented wine is processed to become cream of tartar. There are various theories about why the product has the word cream in its name. Its chemical name is potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate.

Is cream of tartar safe?

Cream of tartar is used in baking, so it's also safe to use for homemade playdough. It shouldn't be eaten in large amounts, but then neither should your playdough!

Where can I buy cream of tartar?

1kg tub of cream of tartar from Educational Colours

You will find small tubs of cream of tartar in the baking ingredients section of your supermarket. McKenzie's Cream of Tartar is sold in a 125g tub. Health food shops may sell it in larger quantities. For playdough use, craft shops sometimes stock very large containers, popular with preschools making up a fresh batch each week.

What is the playdough recipe on the McKenzie's cream of tartar tub?

This is a very popular recipe and works well. Combine 2 cups of plain flour with 4 tablespoons of McKenzie's Cream of Tartar and 1 cup of salt. Mix with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, 2 cups of water and some drops of food colouring. Put the mixture in a saucepan and stir continuously over a medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until the dough congeals.

What if I don't have any cream of tartar?

Have a look for recipes online that don't use it. Sometimes playdough recipes use Kool-Aid, lemon juice or vinegar instead. There are also non-wheat flour recipes that don't require it such as conditioner and cornflour dough. Have a look at our Playdough Recipe Pinterest board for hundreds of different recipes. WikiHow has a page detailing various ways to make playdough without cream of tartar.

What else is cream of tartar used for?

In baking, cream of tartar helps to stabilise eggs especially when making meringues. It can also be mixed with other things for use in cleaning. It's also used when making soap.

How long does cream of tartar keep for?

Keep your cream of tartar in an airtight tub away from heat and it should last indefinitely.

What next?

After making your playdough, add a selection of fun tools and see what your children make with it. Explore our store to find playdough cutters, rolling pins, stampers and all of the other playdough tools you need. Or get started quickly with our Playdough Accessories Collection.