You may have already noticed that using epsom salt as a craft medium is becoming more and more popular. It’s an inexpensive material that’s readily available at discount department stores and dollar stores. Epsom salt goes a long way and is perfect for creating pretty textures for all sorts of projects.
Two years ago I made these beautiful luminaries using epsom salt and food coloring. They quickly became very popular and have been shared generously throughout many forms of social media. I jumped on the bandwagon and started making different projects using epsom salt, but soon discovered that the gorgeous results I had found with my luminaries would be short lived. The salts eventually turned white and lost their pretty sheen.
At first I thought it was because of the salts coming in contact with the glue that caused the color change. Then I wondered if the heat from the candles inside the jars were causing the discoloration. That theory was shot down when I noticed some other projects I made that had no contact with heat had also turned white. As it turns out, over time the moisture from inside the salt crystals actually evaporates, leaving the chalky looking dry white salt. This would explain why epsom salt remains crystalized while inside its sealed package.
It wasn’t long afterward that the Epsom Salt Council reached out to me looking for a crafting expert to evaluate the validity of some of the epsom salt projects that were popping up everywhere. So I did a little experimenting and here’s what I’ve found:
Salt Crystals on Surfaces
If you are using epsom salt to cover a surface such as an ornament or a jar that will be exposed to the air, the salt will eventually dry out and turn white. Some examples of these types of projects include my Epsom Salt Luminaries, these glittery Easter Eggs, these Epsom Salt Ornaments and these snowflake ornies.
Other examples include this epsom salt covered candle, as well as these decorative wine bottles. All of these items will be exposed to air and within a few weeks the moisture from the salt will evaporate, leaving flaking, white salt.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them! Just keep in mind what will eventually happen and be prepared to treat these as temporary projects. Many people have asked about making my luminaries for their wedding and I have suggested that they be one of the last items they prepare so they won’t have to worry about the evaporation and color change. Another beautiful thing is that salt dissolves in water, so you can rinse off your project and reuse it for something else! I reused all of the jars that I originally used for my luminaries.
Science and Art
As far as crafting goes, epsom salt is a fun way to mix a little science with art, especially with kids. This article, How to Paint with Epsom Salts shows you how to create crystals on paper using a 1:1 ratio of boiling water and epsom salt. If you remember anything from science class, you may recall that a 1:1 ratio is not enough liquid to permanently dissolve the salt. This is how this project works. The salt will dissolve temporarily, but if allowed to sit for several hours, you will see salt begin to settle at the bottom of your container. You must have more water than salt for the salt to remain dissolved. Because of this, when you use a paintbrush to apply the salt water to colored construction paper, crystals will form on the paper as it dries. This is a fun project for children and a great way to teach a little science as well!
I experimented with this same 1:1 solution that I had used on the paper and began brushing it onto a glass jar. The result after several coats, was a bumpy, snowlike texture. After allowing the jar to dry completely (overnight) I have been able to grip the jar firmly and turn it in my hands, rubbing the salt texture with my hands. The salts stays firmly in place and none of it flaked off. However, all it would take is running it under a faucet to remove the texture.
Along the same lines are these puffy snowflakes. Because the amount of salt is much higher than the amount of water, the salt does not dissolve, but does break down enough so that when applied to paper and allowed to dry, the salt will stick to the surface.
A Little More Permanent
Using epsom salt is a great way to add texture to your projects. A fun example of this are these Epsom Salt Star Jars I created for the 4th of July. By Applying the salt and then painting over them, the texture is sealed inside the paint. There’s no chance of the salts flaking off and no worry of them turning white either. This method could be applied to many different surfaces such as wood, canvas, and glass.
So go for it, craft with epsom salts. Just know that if the salts are exposed to air they will eventually turn white, most likely within a few weeks. For more information about using epsom salts for health, beauty and even in the garden, visit the Epsom Salt Council’s website.