Free Starter Guide

How to Make Salt Dough Ornaments

Salt Dough Ornaments painted white, red, silver, and gold lay on a white background.
Project At-A-Glance
Crafts/How-To2 hours (includes cooling/drying time)
Celebrate the Christmas season with this easy recipe for Salt Dough Ornaments! These ornaments will last for decades, and use pantry staples you probably already have on hand.

Share this post:

One of the most popular holiday-themed posts on my blog is my tutorial for how to make cinnamon ornaments—they are easy, smell wonderful, and are a super fun craft for the whole family. But if cinnamon isn’t your thing, another great option for homemade ornaments is to use salt dough.

One distinct advantage to making salt dough ornaments is that I can almost guarantee you already have all the supplies you need in your kitchen. All you need to get your ornaments going is all-purpose flour, salt, and water. It’s a great craft for those days when you just aren’t quite sure what to do with the kids (or adults). No special materials or equipment required. Just mix, cut, bake, decorate, and hang!

A painted salt dough ornament hangs from a red ribbon on a green Christmas tree.

Why do you need salt in salt dough ornaments?

Before I dive into the (really simple) directions, I want to answer a question you see a lot when talking about salt dough—why salt? Well, there are a number of reasons. First up, the large volume of salt makes this dough not-so-tasty, which is a good thing when you have the littlest elves helping you and they are determined to take a sample taste of the craft project. While the dough isn’t toxic, it isn’t exactly recommended anyone eat it. After all, consuming raw flour has been linked to e. coli outbreaks

Secondly, and probably most importantly, salt is an excellent preservative. If you left the salt out of the recipe below, and just mixed together water and flour, you would end up creating a near-perfect little homestead for mold to set up shop in—not so great if you want to keep these ornaments in a box in the basement for the majority of the year. Salt is such a great preservative, that I have a salt dough ornament that hangs on my Christmas tree that I made as six-year-old in 1989! That’s a 30-year-old ornament, friends. Add the salt to preserve these ornaments for long-term memories.

Multiple salt dough ornaments painted in gold, red, and black lie flat on a white background.

What ingredients do you need to make this salt dough recipe?

The recipe for these ornaments doesn’t get any easier. You need exactly three ingredients to get you going (scroll down to the bottom of the post for a printable version):

  • All-purpose flour (4 cups)—I recommend sticking with all-purpose flour here because it’s affordable, it’s easy to work with, and it creates the most consistent color. Bleached all-purpose flour is best, but unbleached works, too. Since you aren’t ingesting this at all, go ahead and get the bargain basement generic brand flour to save yourself some cash. Save the whole wheat flour for making muffins or baking bread!
  • Table salt (1 cup)—Again, make sure to add the salt to preserve these ornaments! Just like with the flour, go with the generic brand table salt here—reserve your high-end Himalayan sea salt for cooking.
  • Warm water (1 1/2 cups)—The warm water helps the dough come together a little bit easier. Plus, you’ll knead the dough with your hands, and warm dough is so much more comfortable to knead in the winter!

The ingredients for the salt dough recipe—flour, salt, and water—lie flay on a white countertop.

What tools will you need to make salt dough ornaments?

Chances are, you’ll have all the tools you need to make these ornaments already in your house. Here’s a general list of what we used to make the ornaments pictured here:

  • Mixing bowl and large spoon
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Forks, steel wool, rubber stamps, other textural items—optional, to add texture to the ornaments
  • Straw or toothpick—for poking a hole for the ornaments to hang from
  • Baking sheet
  • White spray paint—optional, for giving the ornaments an even background to decorate
  • Glitter, glue, paint, Mod Podge—optional, for decorating, or leave the rustic salt dough ornaments
  • Polyurethane spray (like this one) or Mod Podge—optional, for extra preservation power
  • Ribbon—for hanging the ornaments

Multiple salt dough ornaments painted in gold, red, and black lie flat on a white background.

How do you make salt dough ornaments?

Alright, let’s make these ornaments. You’re going to be blown away by just how easy this is!

Step 1: Mix the Dough

Grab your large mixing bowl, and add in the flour and salt. Stir until well combined. Then, slowly stream in the warm water while stirring. Keep stirring until you’ve added all the water.

Pouring warm water into flour to make the recipe for salt dough ornaments.

You’ll get to a point where it is too hard to stir with a spoon. Put it down and use your hands to get in there and mix it well.

Mixing together a batch of salt dough to make ornaments. Dough is in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon on a white countertop.
Once the dough starts to come together, keep kneading with your hands for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable (just like making a pizza!).

Two hands hold a ball of salt dough against a white background.

Step 2: Roll Out & Cut Ornaments

Put down a large piece of parchment paper, and place a good-sized chunk of dough in the middle. Place another large piece of parchment on top, and roll out the dough until 1/8″ thick. You want to err on the side of a thinner dough. Too thick, and the ornaments tend to split or break easily because of air pockets that get trapped in the middle. I’m a believer that all body types are beautiful, but in this instance, thin is in.

Two female hands use a wooden rolling pin to roll out salt dough to make ornaments.
A batch of salt dough is rolled thing on a white background. A wooden rolling pin sits beside it.
Remove the top sheet of parchment, and then using cookie cutters, cut into the dough—do not try to remove the cut out pieces! You want those to stay on the parchment.

Cookie cutters are used to cut shapes for salt dough ornaments out of a piece of salt dough on a white background.

When you’re finished cutting the pieces, peel away the excess dough, leaving behind the shapes on the parchment.

A hand peels away excess salt dough scraps from around cut out salt dough ornament shapes.
I like to put texture into my ornaments, so this is where I bring out any random object that has a fun texture—forks, straws, steel wool, other cookie cutters, scissors. There are no rules! You can also use rubber stamps.

A hand uses a fork to add texture to a heart-shaped salt dough ornament.

And then, take a drinking straw, and poke a hole in the top of each ornament for a ribbon to hang from. Make sure to blow out the plug in the end of the drinking straw before you go to the next ornament. Trust me, I’ve ruined a good stainless steel straw or two by forgetting the dough inside and having it drying rock-solid inside!

A hand uses a straw to poke a hole for a hanging ribbon in a heart-shaped salt dough ornament.

Step 3: Bake Your Ornaments

Transfer the whole parchment paper and shapes onto a baking sheet. Bake the ornaments in a 300°F oven for about an hour. This isn’t an exact science, because inevitably, your shapes won’t be 100% even in thickness. They are done when they feel hard. They are really done if they start to brown (no worries, that’s something we can fix later!).

Tight view of various shapes of baked, undecorated salt dough ornaments.
Let the ornaments cool completely before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Paint and Decorate Your Ornaments

Now we get to the really fun part—decorating! If you prefer the rustic, classic look of the salt dough, you can hang the ornaments as-is. But I think part of the fun of making salt dough ornaments is getting out the glitter and making a holiday mess.

Before I start decorating, I like to mist all of my cooled ornaments with a thin coat of white spray paint. This helps cover up any irregularities in color (like when some got too brown from baking), and I think it helps the ornaments looks more like clay than hard bread. A light coating will dry to the touch in just a few minutes so you can keep decorating. Of course, this part is totally optional!

Overhead view of various salt-dough oranment shapes on a piece of cardboard that have been spray painted white.

Once the spray paint is dry to the touch, I paint using acrylic paints and brushes (puffy paints would also work wonderfully). I like to use the textural spaces to help guide where I put paint—but it’s really up to you to get creative on how you want to decorate. Where I want glitter, I use Mod Podge or school glue. It’s a fun, carefree way to spend a holiday afternoon!

Hand uses a small paintbrush to paint gold details on a salt-dough ornament. A paint palette sits nearby with extra paint brushes.
A salt dough ornament covered in white glitter sits on a white background with a bottle of Mod Podge and glitter in the background.

Step 5: Seal and Hang Your Ornaments

Once all your decorating is dry, it behooves you to seal these ornaments so they last a good, long while. While the salt does an excellent job of preserving the salt dough itself, sealing the ornaments will help keep all the decorations you just lovingly applied looking great for years to come. I like to use spray poly, but coating each one in a thin layer of Mod Podge would also do the trick.

A hand sprays polyurethane onto finished salt dough ornaments.
I just do one coat on each side and let it dry completely. I like to use matte or satin finish poly so the ornaments still feel like unfinished clay, but if you dig the glossy look, use semi-gloss or glossy poly or Mod Podge.

String up the ornaments using pretty ribbon or twine, and then put those beautiful new ornaments on your Christmas tree! These also make wonderful, thoughtful gifts. We tend to make either a batch of these or my Cinnamon Ornaments each year to give as stocking stuffers to friends and family.

A sparkly snowflake shaped salt dough ornament hangs from a Christmas tree with a red ribbon. Christmas lights and red sparkly ornaments are blurry in the background.
Multiple salt dough ornaments painted in gold, red, and black lie flat on a white background.

How do you make a salt dough handprint?

Salt dough ornaments are a great way to mark major milestones in your life! This is a salt dough ornament we made to mark our daughter’s first Christmas using her hand print. Her hand was so tiny. *sniff* *sniff*

A hand holds a salt dough handprint ornament hanging from a red ribbon. The background is a blurry Christmas tree with lights.
To make a salt dough handprint (or footprint):

  1. Roll out the dough as directed above, making it slightly thicker than you would for regular ornaments.
  2. Evenly press the hand or foot in the dough.
  3. Cut around the handprint or footprint using the rim of a bowl or glass. You might be tempted to do the other way around (cut out the shape first, then get the handprint), but trust me on this one—wiggly, squirmy babies do not know how to center their hands into a shape! You’re better off having a large piece of salt dough to “catch” the print, and then cutting out around it.

I recommend making more than one of this precious heirloom! Salt dough is incredibly affordable, so you can make lots of “copies” for just pennies more. I speak from experience here. While salt dough preserves well, it is still breakable, and I dropped and broke our handprint ornament from our daughter during her second Christmas. I would have been heartbroken if I didn’t have two others stashed in storage. Happy holidays!

Looking for more fun holiday crafts? Check these out:

 
Salt Dough Ornaments Recipe

Salt Dough Ornaments Recipe

Yield: 30 ornaments
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Salt Dough Ornaments are a fun Christmas craft that uses pantry staples you probably already have on hand!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • Glitter, paint, and ribbon, for decoration
  • Polyurethane spray, for preservation

Instructions

To Make Dough

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Slowly stream in the water while stirring until it comes together. Finish mixing together with hands. Knead until dough is soft, about five minutes.

To Bake Ornaments

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Place half of the dough between two large pieces of parchment paper. Roll out until 1/8" thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment.
  2. Using cookie cutters, cut shapes (leaving them on the parchment). Peel away the excess dough. Transfer the parchment with shapes to a baking sheet.
  3. Using a straw or toothpick, poke a hole for ribbon or an ornament hanger. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until hard.
  4. Once cooled, decorate using glitter and paint. To make sure the ornaments last a long time (I have one from 30 years ago!), spray with a light coat of polyurethane spray. Thread on a ribbon and hang on tree.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

35 Responses
  1. Z

    So, if you put the salt and water together and heat it until the salt completely dissolves, you’ll have a really smooth nice dough that isn’t as “rustic” as this stuff. 🙂

  2. Hi! I am a teacher and I am wanting to do this with my class. Could I go ahead and make the dough the night before? can the dough be ok until lI can go home to bake? What would you suggest the steps be ?

    1. Amber

      If i were you, I would just make the dough and bake them ahead of time and let the students decorate them to take home. That way you don’t have to worry about mixing them up or changing shape.

      Depending on the school and district, you might be able to work something out with the kitchen staff to let you bake them at school.
      Just a thought.

  3. Brooke

    Just to pass along our knowledge, you can add more salt, and it will give the dough built in sparkles. 🙂 Been making these since I was a child, but have to look up the recipe every year lol

    1. Cassie

      Interesting, I’ve never had that happen! I’m not sure there is anything you can do to fix it, sorry. Once something is mildewed, it’s pretty hard to remove it.

  4. Laura

    I want to use this idea to make decorations to be used outside. Does salt dough crack easily in the frost (like terracotta does)??

    1. Cassie

      I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you use a VERY, VERY thick coat of poly over the decorations. The salt dough is very porous, and will swell and shrink with the humidity, causing breakage.

  5. Before I start decorating, I like to mist all of my cooled ornaments with a thin coat of white spray paint. This helps cover up any irregularities in color (like when some got too brown from baking), and I think helps the ornaments looks more like clay than hard bread. This step is totally optional.

  6. When you painted them …what types of paint did you and your children use? I am concerned that if I use just any paint it will soak in and not be distinguishable. Yours are absolutely beautiful! I want to do this with my niece and nephew over Thanksgiving weekend when I babysit! Please advise.

  7. Meghan

    I want to do these over thanksgiving – hand prints for my son and footprints with my infant. Do you just press the hand/foot straight into the dough or did you use parchment paper in between?

  8. Liz

    I want to try these but I was wondering I have lace left over from my wedding dress, I made garters for all the girls in my family, my sons wedding for my daughter in law to have, and a couple headbands, for my first grand daughter, i also made some clear glass ornaments stuffed with lace for muy other daughter inlaw. I was wondering if i would take lace, and lay a piece cut out like the salt ornaments anda then spray them with the clear coat would the lace stick?

    1. Cassie

      I’m not sure about that (I haven’t tried something like that), but you could definitely press the lace into the dough and get a really good impression—and then the lace pattern is on the ornament. Let me know how either turns out! 🙂

  9. Carrielynn

    I have been looking at the different ways to make the dough ornaments and I have run into a resipe that calls for cream of tartar.what is the difference between using it and not? If any.

    1. Julie @ Wholefully

      Apparently it can make the dough a little more elastic and stretchy? That’s just what my research found though – I haven’t tried it with cream of tartar myself!

  10. Jeanene

    Happy Holidays! Approximately how many Salt Dough ornaments do you get from using all of the ingredients? My cutters are large to med size.. To make about 30 or more would I need to make a couple of batches of dough? Also, I live in a small 3rd floor apt and..I thought it would be unsafe to use spray poly or paint.so I got the kind you brush on. Would that work as well or mess up the glitter, ect. on them? Which one is best to store them in, a cardboard box or a plastic container.

    1. Cassie

      You could definitely get 30 out of one batch with medium ones—if you use the larger ones, I’d double the recipe.

      I’ve never tried the brush on kind with the ornaments, but honestly, you’re going to have just as much of an off-gassing issue as you would with the spray kind. I *highly* recommend doing either spray or paint-on poly outdoors.

      And either is fine for storage. Good luck! 🙂

  11. Stacy

    Hoping someone here can help. My keepsake salt dough ornaments got molding this year while in a wet basement (dumb move on my part, I know). Any ideas on how I can clean them up and preserve them?

    1. Cassie

      My only suggestion would be to repaint them with a good, sturdy paint and then make sure to seal them well—sorry to hear they molded!

  12. Lisa

    I just made 3 hand prints and one foot print but they seem to be puffing out and you can’t really know it’s a foot print what can I do? What would cause this to happen?

    1. Cassie Johnston

      They tend to puff or bubble if the dough is a little thick (or maybe not quite evenly rolled out) or if they have air bubbles. I’d recommend trying again!

  13. Tonia

    We made these the other day after our dog was hit to have a paw print! We baked them but some were thicker then the others we thought they were done but now a couple days later some are still softish! Are the okay that way or what should we do?

    1. Cassie Johnston

      I would recommend rebaking them or popping them in a dehydrator until they are very dry. I’m afraid soft dough will mold eventually.

Starter Guide

The free Living Wholefully Starter Guide is packed full of tips, tricks, recipes, and a 14-day meal plan to get you started on the road to vibrant health.

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Host

Hello. I’m Cassie, and I’m excited you are here!

I’m a big believer that eating a healthy diet can change your life—it did mine! At Wholefully, we want to help you you'll find find the foods that make you feel great. You'll find tons of Whole30, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian recipes to help you along your journey.

Learn More →