Making homemade dough ornaments has never been easier with this recipe for Homemade scented baking soda ornaments. You only need a handful of ingredients to make a beautiful smooth dough, much like playdough or clay. Decorate it any way you like and let it dry. The result are fabulous Christmas ornaments that you can use for your tree or as gift tags.
I am a firm believer in having fun at any age and being crafty at any age. Doing things away from the various screens in my home always calms me down and helps me feel grounded. When winter starts knocking on the door and I start thinking of decorating my Christmas tree (my favorite activity!) I immediately think of cornstarch and baking soda ornaments.
Making dough for Christmas ornaments was one of those popular crafts they had us do in preschool, because it’s a safe and fun activity for all ages. I get nostalgic thinking about those years. I still have a box of 90s colorful bulbs and ornaments stashed away in the basement somewhere. And I still love making homemade ornaments.
These beautiful snow-white dough ornaments aren’t just adorable, they are also a very affordable alternative for your typical winter decorations. I think they can cozy up any part of your home. And they fit really well with any decor, because they look more like winter decorations and not just Christmas ornaments.
Dried ornaments are smooth and can be painted any color or drawn on with pretty markers, which makes this a fun DIY activity you can do with your children.
Why I love homemade ornaments
- They are affordable. A pack of baking soda and cornstarch are so cheap, but they will give you a good amount of ornaments. We all know how various decorations can quickly add up, so I love the idea of making something out of almost nothing.
- Easy to make. This recipe is very straightforward, you don’t need to be an experienced crafter to pull it off.
- Can be shaped any way you like. The possibilities are endless. Personally, I have a favorite cookie cutter that’s shaped like a cat and I haven’t seen many cat Christmas decorations. I can make hundreds of little cats this way.
- They last for years! I still have a full container of ornaments I made 3 years ago. As long as you keep them away from moisture, these hold up so well.
Please note that baking soda dough with cornstarch isn’t edible. Which is actually great because you can use expired ingredients for this recipe. If they look and smell okay and aren’t moldy, you can use them no matter what the expiration date says.
Cornstarch is pretty indestructible anyway, as long as you keep it dry. Baking soda might lose some of its strength with age, but you don’t actually need it to do anything in this recipe. So if you wouldn’t make regular cookies with expired baking soda because you’re doubting its leavening strength, you can definitely make Christmas dough ornaments.
How to make baking soda ornaments
Combine baking soda, cornstarch and water in a saucepan. Whisk until completely combined and your mixture looks like velvety milk.
Cornstarch is a bit tricky to mix-in. I find that it just sticks to the sides of the pot like glue. So make sure you’re hitting all the sides of the pot with your whisk or use a spatula to double check you’ve scrapped off all the starch.
Add your scented oils, if using. I like to use either essential oils or food-grade oils that you can otherwise use for baking. Add a few drops.
Even if the smell is overpowering, know that the final dried ornaments won’t be that fragrant. So it’s better to add too much than too little. If you want, this is also when you would add food coloring, if you want to make ornaments of different colors.
Cook this baking soda dough mixture over medium heat for a few minutes, whisking constantly, until it thickens into a paste. This takes around 5 minutes. Remove from heat, give it another good whisk and transfer to a plate to cool to room temperature.
Once your dough is cool enough to handle, it’s time to knead it. It will feel a lot like clay or playdough. Sprinkle your work surface with some cornstarch and knead the ornament dough.
If the dough is too wet and sticky, add a few tablespoons of cornstarch to it. Just so it’s not sticking to your hands, but it is still pliable. If you add too much cornstarch, the dough will be too dry and it will crumble and crack and you don’t want that.
Roll out your baking soda and cornstarch dough with a regular rolling pin. Roll out the dough about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick at most. You don’t want them too thin as they can be hard to pick up and can break, but no more than 1/4 inch thick as that could make them too heavy. If using a patterned rolling pin, give the dough one final decorative roll-out.
Gather your holiday cookie cutters and cut out your desired ornament shapes. Make holes for string with a straw. Lay ornaments on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow the ornaments to dry overnight.
Tips on drying
There are two methods for drying baking soda cornstarch ornaments. One is air drying, which takes longer. The other method is oven drying, which is faster. However I prefer to air dry homemade ornaments.
Drying ornaments overnight
The best way to dry ornaments and prevent cracking is by drying them on a baking sheet overnight out in the open (like on your kitchen counter or a partially opened oven).
The next day you have to check and see how dry they are. If they still seem damp in the center, gently flip each ornament, so they can dry on the other side as well. Let them dry like this overnight as well.
I’ve never had an ornament crack by doing this. I like to make my ornaments in advance and give them full 2 days to dry before writing on them, adding ribbon or anything else.
Drying ornaments in the oven
The key is really low temperature. Set your oven to 175°F (80°C) and place a baking sheet with your ornaments in the center of the oven. Check on your ornaments every so often, making sure they’re not cracking, browning or similar.
Carefully flip the ornaments on the other side after about 40 minutes. Allow the other side to dry for another 30 minutes. Then you can flip the ornaments again and dry them further if needed.
How much time you need will depend on the size of each ornament, so just keep an eye on them. Thicker or larger ornaments need more time than small ones. In the end, you can also turn off your oven and slightly open it and allow your ornaments to dry like that.
Tips on decorating
Before you start decorating your dough ornaments, it’s important that they are completely dry. If you’re not sure wether they are fully dry or not, it’s better to wait an extra day. Dry ornaments can have some specks of cornstarch leftover, so brush them gently with a brush to remove any excess cornstarch.
- Add colors: You can paint ornaments lightly with food coloring or watercolors. You can brush them with glitter paints. Or you can draw on them with markers. Know that once you start painting them, you’re adding moisture to the baking soda and cornstarch dough. You need to let the ornaments air-dry again completely, before you really start using them.
- Add ribbons: You can tie colorful ribbons through the holes, to make the ornaments more colorful.
- Make a garland: You can make a full ornament garland or just add some ornaments to an existing garland to make it look new again.
- Make gift tags: You can make gift tags with homemade Christmas ornaments. They look special and personal and you can make a unique one for each person.
How to store
Store your scented baking soda ornaments in an airtight container, layered between sheets of paper towels or parchment paper. They stay perfect like that and last for several years. They aren’t indestructible, so be gentle with them, but they do hold up really well.
More easy recipes for the holiday season
- Cinnamon roasted almonds (The best festive snack in the world. So easy and so tasty.)
- Orange sugar scrub with cinnamon (An affordable and cute gift idea.)
- Salt dough ornaments
Homemade scented baking soda ornaments
- 1 cookie cutter shape of choice
- 1 cup (270 g) baking soda
- 1/2 cup (70 g) cornstarch, more for kneading
- 3/4 cups (180 ml) water
- 1 bottle essential oil, orange, lemon or cinnamon
- Make the mixture: Mix baking soda and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add water and whisk until soda and starch are dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until thickened. As you stir, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as well. The mixture will first get bubbly before it gets thicker.
- Once the mixture is thick like toothpaste, remove it from the stove. Transfer dough to a cool plate or glass bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out, if you're leaving it for longer.
- Place dough on your work surface. Dust it with cornstarch and knead the dough into a smooth ball. If it’s sticky or too wet add more cornstarch, tablespoon by tablespoon and keep kneading until it’s less sticky. It should be pliable, but not sticky wet nor dry and crumbly. (It will break if it's too dry.)
- Add more cornstarch to your work surface and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch (6mm) thick. Use a normal rolling pin for rolling. Only use a patterned rolling pin for a final decorative roll-out, if using.
- Cut out desired shapes and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut out holes (for hanging the ornaments) with a straw. Let ornaments air-dry overnight. Flip them over the next day and let them dry until they’re completely set, ideally another day. The longer you wait the better.
This recipe was first published in November 2016. Republished with new photographs and additional notes in November 2020. Last updated on October 5, 2023.