Is paper mache gluten free? Paper mache is a common project in childhood, whether in daycare, preschool, elementary school, or any project. It is a great craft to do – easily manipulated and dries stiff. But is it safe for kids with Celiac Disease or who otherwise need to be gluten free?
Paper mache is made from water, flour, and newspapers. The flour used is wheat or all-purpose flour and is not gluten free. This can pose a risk to children with Celiac Disease or otherwise need to be gluten free as the flour will go airborne when moved or mixed. It will settle on every surface in the classroom or craft space, and the children will breathe it in. Paper mache is not an appropriate gluten free craft.
So what should you know about it beyond that it isn’t gluten free and are there any alternatives?
There are some great alternatives to how to paper mache is typically made that are gluten free and result in a stronger project!
What Is Paper Mache Made From?
Traditionally, paper mache is made by mixing water and flour (wheat or all-purpose flour) to make a thin paste. Newspaper strips are then dipped in it to coat them and then laid on or around an object and dried to maintain the shape when the object is removed.
The main component of paper mache (wheat) is the biggest risk to gluten free and should be avoided.
Flour gets in the air when scooped, moved, plopped, mixed, and otherwise manipulated. There is no getting around this fact. When flour becomes airborne, it will end up settling over the next few days on every surface. It will also be breathed in and swallowed by anyone in the area.
This is a major problem for those with Celiac Disease or who have a severe intolerance to gluten. When they get exposed, it could take hours or days to notice symptoms. There are no outward symptoms in some with Celiac Disease, even though their insides are being damaged.
If you are teaching a class with any kids who need to remain gluten free, paper mache is not a good choice as it stands.
However, some alternatives to paper mache will make it safe for these students to do the project without any alterations.
Some of these are gluten free flour, corn starch, or even glue!
What Are Gluten Free Alternatives To Paper Mache?
Paper mache can present a problem for gluten free children or adults just by being in the room where you made it without even touching the project itself due to airborne flour.
So the question is, do you scrap the idea of the project you have in mind, or is there another way to do it? Preferably an easy way to do it without a bunch of specialized (and expensive) ingredients.
One reason that flour is used is that all-purpose flour is very inexpensive to manufacture, especially after considering its subsidies.
Unfortunately, the other options for paper mache won’t quite meet up with the inexpensive nature of wheat-derived all-purpose flour.
One option is to use gluten free flour.
Another is to use corn starch.
The most interesting option, though, is to use glue.
If you choose to go the route of using glue,
Can You Use Gluten Free Flour For Paper Mache?
Gluten free flour won’t give you the paste that gluten flour will. It tends to separate when left to do what it will. This is something that you can see when making gluten free crepes, for example.
So, in the end, I do not recommend using gluten free flour to make paper mache, but there are so many more ways to make gluten free paper mache than gluten free flour.
And honestly, this would probably be the most expensive.
Can You Use Corn Starch For Paper Mache?
Corn starch is the most recommended way to make gluten free paper mache and sometimes is referred to as a gluten free flour. When I referred to gluten free flours, I talked about all-purpose flour blends and not any starch or flour without gluten.
To make paper mache out of corn starch, you must add it to your water and make a slurry. Then bring it to a boil and simmer for a few minutes until you reach the correct texture of a paste for dipping newspaper in for paper mache.
When you make paper mache with edible ingredients, I recommend adding salt so that your creation will not start to mold. This is also advisable for homemade playdough or any other craft that you want to last longer than a weekend.
Can You Make Paper Mache Without Flour?
Paper mache can be made using corn starch (see above), but even glue can work!
To make paper mache, you need to make a paste that will coat stips of paper, usually newspaper. The second part of this is that it should make the newspaper stiff and hold its own shape when it dries.
There are plenty of things out there you can use to substitute flour for paper mache. Some will work better than others.
Can You Use Glue For Paper Mache?
Glue can work for paper mache!
The idea is to essentially take glue (such as Elmer’s glue or art paste) and add it to water until you reach the desired consistency. The desired consistency is where the mixture will coat the paper but will not clump on it.
Some people say that making paper mache in this way is even better than the traditional way.
And I have to agree! It is a much better way to make it than with gluten flour and so simple. Maybe school classrooms will start to use this instead of flour and make it a much better situation for kids with Celiac Disease or otherwise gluten intolerant.
Is Glue Better Than Flour For Paper Mache?
There is debate on whether you should use glue or flour in your paper mache.
Flour is the traditional route, but glue seems to hold up better, and it won’t cause your projects to mold.
If you are looking for a project that will last a very long time, not mold, and stay stiff, this is the way you want to do it. If you are looking for something to do with the kids that you will likely toss after its creation, and you want something edible in case they ingest it, go with corn starch.
It is really going to depend on the materials you have at hand and what your intent for your project is.