Homemade Shrinky Dinks from Recycled Plastic

by Alissa Marquess on January 31, 2012

Beware- if you read this you will start compulsively checking plastic containers to see if they can be made into homemade shrinky dinks! This is what happened to me when I first read about homemade shrinky dinks. The poster said to use number 6 plastic, and it turn out that’s a little bit hard to come by.

The other day 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??

homemade shrinky dinks from recycled #6 plastic

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:

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.

homemade shrinky dinks collage image

For more detailed instructions:

Please see the post where I orginally found out about this idea: DIY Shrinky Dinks

Tips 1 homemade shrinky dinks imageTips 2 homemade shrinky dinks image

We put them 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.

creating homemade shrinky dinks image

I discovered that it’s not too expensive to just buy a Shrinky Dinky kit: Make Your Own Shrinky Dinks, but as for me, now I’m on the look out for more plastic I can recycle into my homemade shrinky dinks!

This craft is featured in the heart project.  Find out how to get your copy of this gorgeous crafts book, which is raising funds for an important cause [here]

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Chrissy @ The Outlaw Mom Blog January 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

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!

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nolajuls August 19, 2013 at 7:12 am

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…

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Recycle Guy January 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm

#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.

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Alissa Marquess January 29, 2014 at 11:05 pm

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 :)

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Lisa Nolan January 31, 2012 at 5:53 pm

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 http://pinterest.com/lnmontessori/

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Crystal @ Growing A Jeweled Rose February 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Very cool!

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Charlotte February 2, 2012 at 2:07 am

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!

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JDaniel4s Mom February 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

This is such a great way to use old bottles!

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The Iowa Farmer's Wife February 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

love this! i have wanted to try it since i read about it, but you’re right! #6 is hard to come by!

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Patty Heard February 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm

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.

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Anna @ The Imagination Tree February 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

VERY fun and totally being added to our to-do list! Pinned :-)

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Jaime February 9, 2012 at 9:15 am

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!!

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OneMommy February 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

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….

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Mary Van Vactor March 7, 2012 at 7:14 am

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.

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Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky April 9, 2012 at 4:48 am

Wow, I never knew you could do this! Thanks for the great idea.

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Cathy April 13, 2012 at 7:02 am

What is the purpose of the hole punch?

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Alissa April 13, 2012 at 7:33 am

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.

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brenda May 16, 2012 at 8:27 am

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.

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Corri June 24, 2012 at 8:24 am

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. :)

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Alissa Marquess June 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the tips about sanding the plastic!

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Tami June 24, 2012 at 9:27 am

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.

:) Tami

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Crystal White June 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

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!

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Amy Rhodes June 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm

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!

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Brandy August 6, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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???!!!

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Alissa Marquess August 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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!

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Lacy October 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

Solo cups are #6 plastic!!

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Aunt Mel October 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm

the containers from Taco Bell that you get natchos are also #6 plastic at least the clear plastic lids are

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Guinevere November 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm

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.

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Guinevere November 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Here’s my email: unityoffaithcc@gmail.com

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Laura Havlick April 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

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.

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Alissa Marquess April 23, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Thanks Laura, definitely wise to take our long term health into consideration. Doing anything like this certainly requires adequate ventilation.

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Shannon July 2, 2013 at 10:02 am

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”. http://shannonsbooknook.com/?p=6867
It was the perfect extension activity!

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Judy August 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm

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

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Shallon August 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm

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 (http://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.

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Sandra McVeigh January 12, 2014 at 9:45 pm

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.

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Alissa Marquess January 14, 2014 at 11:43 am

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.

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Recycle Guy January 29, 2014 at 3:11 pm

#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.

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Holly April 15, 2014 at 6:53 am

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!

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