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Play-Doh is a non-toxic compound similar in texture to bread dough that has been sold as a children’s toy around the world for over half a century. Its exact makeup is a trade secret, but it is primarily a mixture of wheat flour, water, deodorized kerosene or another petroleum distillate (which provides the smooth texture), salt, a drying agent such as borax (which deters mold), an alum-based hardening agent, and colorings and perfume. It is non-toxic, non-staining, and soluble in soapy water. When kept in a sealed container, Play-Doh remains pliable, but when exposed to air it hardens in about a day. However, because it tends to crack during hardening, it is not good for projects one wants to save.

Play-Doh was invented by Noah and Joseph McVicker in 1956 and awarded U.S. Patent 3,167,440 in 1965. One of many common products invented by accident, it was meant as a wallpaper cleaner. It was marketed by toy manufacturer Rainbow Crafts, and first sold at the Woodward & Lothrop department store in Washington, D.C.

Play-Doh is available in several different colors and sizes, and has a distinctive smell and texture. Over 900 million pounds have been sold so far. The product is now owned by American toy giant Hasbro.

In 2006, the distinctive Play-Doh smell was turned into a limited-edition fragrance by the Demeter Fragrance Library to celebrate the product’s 50th birthday. There is also a national Play-doh Day on September 18.

While Play-Doh is registered, there are many different recipes for generic play doughs with various differences, such as to edibility, odor, or color.


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