Styrofoam comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be used for anything from construction to crafting, but cutting it always comes with one constant hiccup: the mess. Styrofoam beads hold static electricity worse than a pair of plastic shoes, which makes them stick to everything like little annoying magnets. They can be a pain in the neck to clean up, and a headache to prevent. Fortunately, we have some recommendations that will limit the mess in your workspace, give you clean, precise cuts, and make your job a breeze. And because Styrofoam is so soft, you won’t need to worry about dull blades. One caveat to consider, however, is chemical off-gassing. Be sure to identify which chemicals your Styrofoam contains before you take any heat to it. Or, if you’re uncertain, buy a respirator to wear while you’re cutting to avoid breathing anything harmful. Let’s look at the best ways to cut Styrofoam and the top tools on the market to help you get your job done right.
|Rank||Model||Our Favorite Product|
|#1||A Hot Knife|
Our Preferred Method
|RoMech Foam Cutter – Pro Electric Hot Knife (200W)
|#2||A Hot Wire Cutter||Hercules Tabletop Styrofoam Hot Wire Cutter (CT-115)
|#3||A Long Blade Utility Knife||Slice 10559 3″ Extra Long Industrial Knife
|#4||An X-Acto Knife||Xacto X5282 Basic Knife Set
This virtually mess-free method is perfect for varying sizes and thicknesses of Styrofoam. It’s easy to handle, makes quick cuts, and won’t leave ragged edges behind. While you might think a standard utility knife will work just as well (and they can, in some circumstances), the added heat will give you a smoother edge and will prevent those irksome little Styrofoam beads from getting everywhere. A hot knife is also an economical and durable option. If you choose this route, be sure to hold the knife at an angle when cutting, and use a smooth, even stroke. Cut slowly around intricate curves or shapes to avoid mistakes, and don’t try to apply too much pressure. Check out our recommendation below for a great hot knife to get you started.
We recommend the RoMech Foam Cutter – Pro Electric Hot Knife (200W):
Although not as freeform and versatile as a hot knife, a hot wire cutter can achieve similarly clean, smooth, and quick results. The upside to a wire cutter? It doesn’t require the same dexterity as a hot knife. You can get one mounted to a table surface to allow your hands full control over the Styrofoam sheet, which will help you get more detailed cuts. These are perfect for crafting, especially, as you can make more precision shapes with a fine wire. As mentioned above, you’ll want to take precautions for chemical off-gassing. Also, remember to cut slowly and don’t apply too much force for the best results. Check out our top pick below for the perfect tabletop wire cutter.
We recommend the Hercules Tabletop Styrofoam Hot Wire Cutter (CT-115):
This is where things can get tricky. While a long blade utility knife will get the job done quickly and efficiently, you’ll have to use extra care to avoid a mess. These knives are cheaper than a hot knife and provide the same cutting dexterity, but if you’re not careful you can end up with a messy cut. If you have a solid or extra thick Styrofoam sheet, however, this can be a cheap and easy way to make your cuts without a lot of hassle. Make sure you’re cutting at a 40-degree angle, and use a clean, smooth slice. Any sawing motion will just give you ragged edges and create those obnoxious Styrofoam beads. You’ll also want to make sure your blade is nice and sharp before you start, and don’t use a serrated blade. Check out our recommendation below for the best utility knife to tackle the job.
We recommend the Slice 10559 3″ Extra Long Industrial Knife:
We’ve put this a little lower on the list because most Styrofoam sheets are too large for a tiny X-Acto knife. You’ll just wind up with sore hands if you try to use one. If you’re making delicate or small cuts, crafting, or using thinner sheets, however, the extra-sharp blade and capacity for detail in one of these knives can be a perfect option. They’re sharp enough to avoid too much mess, as well, and the same smooth cutting motion you would use with a utility knife will give you fairly clean edges. The best part of avoiding heating tools, too, is you eliminate the need to worry about chemical off-gassing. Check out the X-Acto knife set below for a perfect versatile kit to get you started.
We recommend the Xacto X5282 Basic Knife Set:
Yep, you read that right. Good old trusty dental floss is not just for those tight spaces between your teeth. It’s strong enough to cut through softer materials, as well, and if you need to make straight cuts in a piece of Styrofoam, this is the cheapest and easiest way to make that happen. Keep in mind that this isn’t going to work well for construction, large cuts, curves, or detailed shapes. But if you need to slice some rectangular shapes and want a quick solution, give it a try. All you need to do is wrap the floss around the section you want to cut (it’s a good idea to mark the cut with a pencil first), then pull both ends of the floss to tighten it around the foam. As you pull, the floss will bite into the Styrofoam and slice it apart. We’ll spare you the details about the best floss on the market, but we will leave you with a quick tip: using a waxed floss will improve the glide through the foam.
For efficiency, quality of cut, and versatility, you really can’t go wrong with our top pick, the RoMech Foam Cutter – Pro Electric Hot Knife (200W). You can do a little of everything with one of these tools, and it’s economical enough to be worth the investment. If you’re a crafter, however, you’ll probably want to lean toward some combination of a hot wire cutter and an X-Acto knife. These will give you the most control and the best detail for intricate cuts. Fortunately, Styrofoam is so easy to cut that you can get away with just about any method, including the dental floss jerry-rigging mentioned above. Just keep in mind that Styrofoam fallout can be annoying. If you want less to clean up, go with one of the heating tools and avoid sawing motions.
There’s no wrong way to cut Styrofoam, but the ways we’ve mentioned above will get the cleanest and most efficient cuts out of your product. There’s a lot of information out there, and sometimes it’s hard to decide what will work best for you. We hope this guide and our product reviews will help you find the perfect method for getting the right shape from your Styrofoam. As always, good luck with your project!
Ryan is a freelance writer from Arizona. When he's not blogging about his favorite hobbies, he's writing fiction, hiking or running in the great outdoors, and spending time with family.