How do I know if it needs more layers or it is just not fully dry??

Hi! I am making a snake pinata for my son’s birthday out of a large zig zag balloon. Although it is dry to the touch, it is not fully firm in each part of the balloon. For the last two nights I have put about one and a half layers of paper mache on, with the pinata seeming to dry in between. I live in a very humid climate, but I dried it with a large fan. Please help!! We need to be able to decorate it in time for the party! Thanks so much!

Answer from Piñata Boy

This is a really good question. Papier-mâché dries from the surface down, so it can appear dry but still be wet underneath, and when the papier-mâché is still wet underneath it’s more flexible. This means that when the papier-mâché bends easily under pressure, you can’t always tell whether it’s because the walls are too thin, or because it’s still wet underneath the surface.

The best way to tell is to allow it to dry for another 12-24 hours and see if the walls harden up, but it sounds like the party is coming soon and you can’t wait that long. It sounds from your question like you put on one and a half layers each night for two nights, so you have three layers on, and that should be enough. In that case the papier-mâché is probably still wet underneath the surface. But if you meant that over the two nights you put on a total of one and a half layers, in that case it’s probably dry but the walls are too thin.

Popping the balloon when the walls are still wet underneath is a risky move, because sometimes the papier-mâché will collapse under its own weight, but here’s what I would do:

  • If you have three layers of papier-mâché on the piñata, go ahead and start decorating now, leaving the balloon inside to support the walls. Once it’s decorated and dry you can cut in a candy door and remove the balloon. The surface decorations, especially if they’re glued on using white glue, will help fortify the walls and prevent collapse. Once the balloon is removed, the papier-mâché will dry a little faster because it can lose moisture through the inner surface as well.
  • If you have one and a half layers on the piñata, it will definitely need more papier-mâché before you can remove the balloon. Since you don’t have a lot of time, make the papier-mâché paste really thick so that it dries faster. Keep adding flour until it has a consistency like mud instead of like pancake syrup. Then set it in front of a fan and keep turning it to help it dry all around more quickly.

I’ve been in your shoes a few times myself, and ended up staying up all night decorating in order to finish the piñata an hour before the party starts. It’s worth it in the end.

Good luck!

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