How to Shrink Styrofoam at Home

Written by alane michaelson
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How to Shrink Styrofoam at Home
Don't limit yourself to styrofoam blocks; styrofoam cups can be made into tiny hats for dolls. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Shrinking styrofoam at home takes just a few minutes, whether you need to shrink styrofoam for practical uses or for a fun craft project. Styrofoam is made from polystyrene beads that are expanded and fused together in a mould to make shapes. It is commonly used as an insulation material or as a packaging material. Shrinking styrofoam can help customise packaging for fragile items, or can also be used to make miniature beads, charms or other decorative items.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Styrofoam
  • Baking tray
  • Aluminium foil
  • Markers (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Hole punch (optional)

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  1. 1

    Pre-heat the oven to 176 degrees C and cover the baking tray with aluminium foil. If you are not decorating your styrofoam, skip to Step 4.

  2. 2

    Cut your styrofoam to any shape you like, with supervision of a parent. You can use cookie cutters or other items to guide your design. Use the hole puncher to create a hole in the shape if you plan to use it as a bead or decoration for a necklace.

  3. 3

    Colour the styrofoam shape with markers, drawing any designs that fit the look you're after. For example, create a bracelet of hearts and stars by cutting out many hearts and stars, punching holes in them and colouring them your favourite colour. Also, you can draw your initials on the shapes, and they will shrink to tiny proportions.

  4. 4

    Place the styrofoam pieces on the baking tray and bake for about five minutes. Different styrofoam may shrink differently, so monitor the styrofoam closely during this time. It will curl up as it shrinks, and then flatten back down when it's done. Once the shapes flatten, remove from the oven.

  5. 5

    Cool the styrofoam on the baking trays until they are cool to the touch.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep your windows open and exhaust fan running while baking the styrofoam.
  • This craft project should be done under the supervision of adults. Cutting styrofoam can result in accidental injuries, and baking styrofoam can be dangerous if it is left in the oven too long.

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