Can You Microwave Shrinky Dinks?

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Shrinky Dinks are a classic arts and crafts activity loved by kids and adults alike. The plastic sheets let you create miniature works of art that “shrink” when baked in the oven. But with today’s busy schedules, not everyone has time to turn on the oven and wait for it to preheat. Can you speed up the process by microwaving Shrinky Dinks instead?

Key Takeaways

1. Shrinky Dinks are made from polystyrene plastic engineered to shrink when baked in a standard oven at 325°F.
2. You should never microwave Shrinky Dinks. Microwaves cook unevenly which can warp or melt the plastic before it shrinks.
3. Alternative shrinking methods include using a hair dryer, heat gun, Crock Pot, toaster oven, or hot plate. Move the plastic around for even heating.
4. Re-baking already shrunk Shrinky Dinks will ruin them. But unused plastic can be stored and shrunk later.
5. Great Shrinky Dinks project ideas include jewelry, ornaments, magnets, game pieces, and mini artwork. Use permanent markers and bake holes before shrinking.

How Do Shrinky Dinks Work?

Shrinky Dinks are made from polystyrene plastic sheets. When heated to around 325°F, the plastic undergoes a chemical reaction that causes the polystyrene molecules to move closer together. This makes the plastic denser, resulting in up to a 70% reduction in size.

The plastic was specially engineered this way by Shrinky Dinks. Normal polystyrene plastic like Styrofoam would simply melt in the oven. The controlled shrinking allows the plastic to maintain its shape while becoming smaller and thicker.

Why You Shouldn’t Microwave Shrinky Dinks

While it may seem convenient, you should never microwave Shrinky Dinks.

Microwaves heat food differently than conventional ovens. They use microwave radiation to excite water molecules and generate internal heat. This means microwaves cook from the inside out, while ovens heat from the outside in.

Shrinky Dinks are engineered for standard oven heating. The even external heat allows the plastic to shrink down gradually without warping or melting.

Microwaves can create hot spots that melt and deform the plastic before it fully shrinks. Parts of the plastic may shrink while other areas are still soft, leading to a warped final product.

So for the best results, always follow the package instructions and bake Shrinky Dinks in a 325°F oven.

Shrinky Dink Baking Times

Baking times for Shrinky Dinks depend on the thickness of the plastic sheets:

Plastic ThicknessBaking Time
Thin sheets1-2 minutes
Thick sheets2-3 minutes

Watch closely through the oven door when baking. Remove the Shrinky Dinks once they have fully shrunk and flattened out but are not brown or melting.

You can bake Shrinky Dinks on regular aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat. The plastic may stick to other surfaces like parchment paper.

Alternative Ways to Shrink Shrinky Dinks

If you don’t have an oven, there are some alternative methods for shrinking Shrinky Dinks safely:

Hair Dryer

Place the Shrinky Dinks design on foil and weigh it down with something flat like a book. Use tweezers to keep the edges from curling up. Carefully heat the plastic with a hair dryer on the highest setting, moving it around to heat evenly.

Heat Gun

Follow the same method as the hair dryer, but be extra careful with a heat gun. Keep it 6 inches above the plastic and move it constantly so you don’t overheat any areas.

Crock Pot

Crock Pots can replicate the even oven heating. Place a foil liner in the crock pot and preheat it to HIGH. Lay your designs flat and leave the lid off so you can monitor shrinking. This will take a bit longer than a conventional oven.

Related: Can You Use the Microwave with a Crock-Pot?

Toaster Oven

A toaster oven works the same as a full-sized oven. Follow the package directions and bake at 325°F on foil until flat and rigid.

Hot Plate

Preheat a hot plate to around 300°F. Place the Shrinky Dinks on foil on the surface and watch closely until shrinkage is complete. Keep the designs moving occasionally for even heating.

Can You reuse Shrinky Dinks?

Once shrunk, Shrinky Dinks are no longer usable for baking again. The plastic has undergone a permanent chemical change during the shrinking process.

Re-baking used Shrinky Dinks will cause them to warp, melt, or burn. They can’t be reversed to their original larger size.

However, you can reuse the leftover plastic before baking. Simply cut or trace new designs from the unused sections. The plastic sheets can be stored long term and shrunk down at a later date.

Shrinky Dinks Ideas and Tips

Shrinky Dinks open up endless possibilities for DIY projects. Here are some fun ideas to inspire your creativity:

  • Jewelry like charms, earrings, pendants
  • Ornaments and decorations
  • Magnets for the fridge or magnetic boards
  • Miniature artwork, signs, or logos
  • Game pieces for board games
  • Bag tags and zipper pulls for backpacks

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you put Shrinky Dinks in an air fryer?

No, you should not use an air fryer to shrink Shrinky Dinks. The powerful fan would likely blow the lightweight plastic around. Stick to a conventional oven for best results.

How thick are Shrinky Dinks?

Shrinky Dinks plastic sheets typically range from 0.015 inch (thin) to 0.045 inch (thick). The thicker plastic takes slightly longer to bake.

Can you use an Easy-Bake Oven for Shrinky Dinks?

Yes, Easy-Bake Ovens reach about 325°F, which is hot enough to shrink Shrinky Dinks safely. Bake on foil until flattened and rigid.

Why aren’t my Shrinky Dinks shrinking?

If your plastic isn’t shrinking, the oven may not be hot enough. Try increasing the temperature 25 degrees and watching closely. Older Shrinky Dinks plastic may take longer to react.

Can you put acrylic paint on Shrinky Dinks?

Yes, acrylic paint works well for adding color to Shrinky Dinks before baking. Make sure it’s dry before baking so it doesn’t run. Soft pastels can also be used. Avoid oil or water-based paints.


Shrinky Dinks require even, external heat to shrink down evenly into miniaturized versions of your designs. Microwaves simply don’t heat plastics in the right way for the shrink process to work properly. Follow the baking directions for best results, or use an alternate heating method like a hair dryer or Crock Pot if you don’t have an oven. With some creativity, Shrinky Dinks can be used to make jewelry, ornaments, magnets, game pieces, and more.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

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