Are you a squirrel? Do you pick up chestnuts, seed pods, and pinecones every time you go for a walk and add them to your collection? I certainly do, and pinecones are one of my favorites. They come in so many different shapes and sizes, from almost-round stubbies to giant oblong cones. Pinecones are iconic natural items to use for seasonal decor, whether you adorn a wreath with them or simply display your collection in a pretty basket. Instead of painting or bedazzling them with glitter this year, try giving them a softer, weathered look by bleaching your pinecones!
How to Make Bleached Pinecones
Bleaching pinecones requires very few supplies and is an easy project. Even so, it does take some time. When I started researching how I should tackle this process, I came across many people who said it didn’t work for them. Don’t worry, for the sake of crafting science, I will guide you on how to successfully bleach pinecones to use in your holiday decor!
It doesn’t matter what type of pinecones you use. I gathered several different species and sizes. Each species of pinecone will bleach differently. Also, bleaching them will not turn them totally white. They will become lighter, but not pure white. It’s more of a patina or weathered look (kind of like driftwood).
I used two parts water to one part bleach. It’s best to do this part outside or in a well-ventilated area because of the fumes. Make sure you are wearing clothes that you don’t mind ruining just in case you splash yourself with bleach water, and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
Put the pinecones in a large bucket (I used a 5 gallon utility bucket). Fill the bucket with water first and then add the bleach. The cones will float. Push them back down into the bleach water and lay the bricks or stones on top. You might have to add another rock or two and tuck any floaters back under the rocks.
Let the pinecones sit in the bleach solution for 24 hours, but no more than that. I did a check after 12 hours or so and noticed some of my smaller pinecones were already whitish.
Pinecones close up when they are wet, so if you can’t see any change because they are closed, that doesn’t mean it’s not working. Let them sit submerged in the bleach water for the entire 24 hours for the full effect. Any longer than that and the pinecones will start to deteriorate in some spots.
After 24 hours, put on your gloves and work/craft clothes and remove the bleached pinecones. I laid them out on a large piece of paper outdoors so the fumes would dissipate. To dispose of the bleach water, I poured mine in a bathtub slowly, being careful not to let any twigs or dirt go down the drain.
As they dry, the bleached pinecones will start to open up again. If it’s a sunny day, perfect! Leave them outside to completely dry. It can take a few days for them to fully open. If you are in a hurry or have a stretch of wet weather, you can dry them in your oven. Set your oven to the lowest setting (it’s usually 170-200 F) and let the pinecones dry for a couple of hours. As soon as they are open, remove them.
As they dry, you will be amazed at the transformation! Once dry, bleached pinecones get a silvery sheen to them that will make them perfect for any type of holiday crafting. They are even pretty on their own displayed in a tall vase or bowl. However you decide to use them, making bleached pinecones is a simple project that yields beautiful results.
And just look at what you can do with them!
Make a wreath:
Make an outdoor decoration like this Simple & Elegant Natural Pinecone Swag
I love these bleached pinecone ornaments from Stone Gable:
And here is another version from the pages of Country Living. They bought these beauties from the Etsy shop Ashworth’s Art.
UPDATE: After posting this originally, we got a lot of questions about bleached pinecones, so here are the answers to your bleached pinecone FAQs:
Will my pinecones smell like bleach?
Nope, not once they dry. Bleach dissipates quickly in the air so, although making the pinecones is a stinky process that should be done outdoors or with good ventilation, once they are dry the bleach smell will go away.
What kind of pinecones should I use?
The results of this project will vary with different pinecones, and I suggest trying a bunch of different kinds until you get a final product that you like. In my experience, really fresh pinecones don’t take to bleach as well and it’s best to use those that are older, dry, and fully open.
Is bleaching pinecones safe?
The final product is very safe, but as with any project that involves bleach, make sure to take appropriate safety precautions. Work in a well ventilated area and when you leave the pinecones to soak keep them somewhere that will not be accessible to children or pets.
More Decor Ideas You Might Like: