Shipping in Hot Climates
Just recently, we had a customer report that her shipment of Translucents was hard and crumbly. All of our Translucents are quite soft so we know SOMETHING had to have happened between our door to her's.
While polymer clay is not "sensitive," "perishable," or "fragile" by normal shipping terms, it can be damaged by extreme temperatures. While trying not to be long winded, we will share that we had an entire factory shipment damaged beyond use. This pallet apparently was left out on the airport tarmac in full sun. A recent test by WLC Artistry has shown that temperatures as low as 150F for 2 hours can fully bake Cernit polymer clay inside of a bubble wrapped package.
So, the question is "can polymer clay be shipped safely?" Well, of course it can. However, those who live in extreme areas (or your shipment passes through one of these areas) need to take special precautions. Our incident happened in Houston, Texas. Phoenix, AZ knows well how hot things can get. Our most recent incident happened between Houston and Guam. We have shipped thousands of packages and this happens infrequently.
While infrequent, this poses some questions about shipping safely. What can we do together to minimize this risk?
- Black mailboxes out by your street reach 130F regularly during the summer. There is significant research that says mail order medications should not be put in these mailboxes. The same goes for polymer clay. Even white standalone mailboxes can be an issue. Remember that your mail could be delivered before noon and spend hours exposed to excessive heat. What can you do for this? Let us know and we will ship and require a signature to release the package. This is the only 100% method. For us, we have a great relationship with our postal carrier and most days they leave meds and such at our door. However, your carrier does not work every day and those substitutes are terrible (and that is being kind).
- The longer it takes to ship something, the higher the risk that it will be exposed. While we sell small orders of less than 7 56g blocks, this is not advisable. These can only be shipped in a cost effective manner as First Class Parcels. However, that is slower than Priority mail. If your orders are at least 1 lb or more, we use Priority mail which reduces your risk. The shipping weight of 8 Each 56g blocks is just over 1lb.
- From the customer's side, remove delivered mail promptly. Do not let it sit or hours (or heaven forbid, days!) Plan your orders in such a way that you can ensure that someone will be home.
- If your mail is in what is called a "cluster box" with a building around it similar to what is found in apartment complexes, then you have less risk as the box is not exposed to the full sun. But still, remove delivered mail promptly.
- If your mail is in the neighborhood cluster box, then you should be concerned. These are groups of 10-12 boxes that are typically aluminum and have full sun exposure.
- We at WLC Artistry store our Cernit in a fully climate controlled storage facility that never exceeds 72F. We protect our shipments from the elements while they wait for USPS. Your order leaves our facility in prime condition!
- Finally, as a last resort, plan your purchases during cooler months. We realize that this is a tough decision. But it is precisely what WLC Artistry is doing to manage our supply. We cannot place factory orders that ship between May and August. While this causes us to be out of some colors and types for several months, it is the only solution to ensure the quality of the product. We even work with the factory and the weather forecast to plan these shipments. We take special efforts to make sure we clear customs promptly so that the shipment does not sit in a hot warehouse for any length of time.
All of this is a lot to digest. And none of that helps if you shipment arrives heat damaged. So what can you do? Well, that depends on the level of the exposure. Polymer clay that is stored properly, slowly gets firmer with time. We received the new Cernit Pearls in late 2021 and they were so soft, we had difficulty using them. We have received Cernit Number 1s that were about 12 months old from the factory and they are quite firm but roll out easily (The shelf life of Cernit is just over 4 years if stored properly.) Minor heat damage appears just like aging. You can think of it as "accelerated aging." So what can you do?
- Minor heat damage can be handled by using the product promptly. It may require a bit of conditioning.
- The next level can be helped with Cernit Soft Mix or Cernit Magic Mix. See the product details via the links on how these items work.
- Both of the items above are indicated if the clay is stiff/hard but does not "crumble." While we have successfully used Cernit Magic Mix on this type of clay, it is not 100%. It requires extensive effort to condition and you should be using a pasta machine for this or your hands and arms can get really tired. We recently converted one of our Atlas 180s to work with a battery powered drill to make conditioning easier. More details on this process to come!
- It the package crumbles beyond Magic Mix, then there is no solution but to get new product.