Interesting Facts About Play-Doh

By Carol Finch
Happy child playing with Play-Doh.
Happy child playing with Play-Doh.

Play-Doh has given generations of children an outlet for their creative skills, allowing them to use their imagination to mold just about anything. It has been used as a modeling compound since the 1950s, but was not originally designed for kids. Its popularity took off once it moved into the toy sector, and the companies that have owned the product over the years have sold an astonishing amount of Play-Doh. Since 2006, it has had its own National Day on September 16.

Play-Doh Started Life as a Wallpaper Cleaner

In the 1930s, a soap manufacturer called Kutol Products started to produce a wallpaper cleaner. At the time, homes used coal fires, which left sooty residues on walls. Wallpaper was not washable and people used to use a putty-like substance to dab off the soot. Demand for the cleaner took a nosedive in the late 1940s when people started to switch toward cleaner, gas-burning furnaces and washable vinyl wallpapers; the company looked like it might close down. However, the sister-in-law of one of the owners spotted a new way to use the product. She ran a nursery school and was looking for a cheap way for her kids to make Christmas decorations. The cleaner was more pliable than traditional clays and didn't stain. Kutol took out the detergents, added colors and gave the cleaner a nicer smell to create Play-Doh.

You Can Smell Like Play-Doh

If you give most adults a can of Play-Doh, the first thing they'll do is open and smell it. Play-Doh has a very distinctive smell that reminds many people of their childhood. In 2006, the compound's current owner, Hasbro, gave people the chance to smell like Play-Doh. The company commissioned the Demeter Fragrance Library to create a unique perfume as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. According to Demeter, the perfume's target market was "highly-creative people, who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood."

The Weight of 950 International Space Stations

It is said that if you made a snake out of all the Play-Doh sold since 1956, it would go around the Earth 300 times. According to Hasbro, this is an urban legend, but Play-Doh has some impressive stats. Hasbro manufactures 100 million cans every year and has sold more than 2 billion cans since 1956. This comes to a total weight of more than 950 million pounds of Play-Doh. As a weight comparison, the International Space Station weighs close to 1 million pounds, making the weight of sold Play-Doh heavier than more than 950 International Space Stations.

Play-Doh's Recipe is Top Secret

Although many parents make their own versions of Play-Doh at home, nobody outside of Hasbro knows exactly what goes into the compound. This is closely-guarded proprietary information. Hasbro has released some details over the years. It admits that the compound is mainly made from water, salt and flour and that it does contain wheat. Typically, kids who play with Play-Doh will freak out their parents by trying to eat it at some point. You should be more worried if one of your pets regularly chows down on a lot of Play-Doh -- its salt content may be harmful to them.

You Can Make Hard Play-Doh Soft Again

If you don't keep Play-Doh in its can or an airtight container, it'll dry up into a bricklike hardness. Don't think you have to trash it because it's no longer squidgy -- you can actually rejuvenate it with a little water. Put the Play-Doh in a bowl and add a drop of water. Let it sink in and knead the Play-Doh to soften it. Keep adding drops of water, as needed, until it is soft again. Alternatively, wrap the Play-Doh in a damp cloth and put it back in its can overnight.

About the Author

Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.