October 18, 2017
“What’s in the oven?” I turned to see Mr B’s hopeful eyes as he came home from golf. “Um….Pine Cones.” His eyes rolled up to the back of his head. And he walked off mumbling something about “Betty Crocker.”
I was surprised by the number of questions I got recently when I posted about bleaching pine cones on Face Book. I didn’t realize how many peeps hadn’t heard of it. So of course I needed to write a blog post about it. I mean, come on…..everyone needs to bleach some cones! And this is easy, I promise.
You will need:
Dry, open pine cones. Don’t use those that have been scented. Scented cones won’t bleach, or at least that’s what I was told…..I never really tried after that because I trusted my source. If you don’t have pine trees within a reasonable distance of your home, you can order unscented pine cones through Amazon. (If there is anything I can’t find on Amazon, I have yet to discover it.) And if you’re picking up cones from under trees, make sure you choose fully opened ones. If they aren’t open that means they are still full of sap and won’t take the bleach.
Bucket or deep container
Something to hold the cones down while bleaching
Rubber gloves and safety glasses
I mix “about” 50/50 bleach and water, truthfully I just eyeball it. I mix it so that the water still looks slightly yellow from the bleach. Don’t use full strength bleach, it will “eat” the petals from the cones. I’ve tried using full strength a couple of times with the same results. The cones were soft and mostly disintegrated after three days.
Make sure you wear gloves and safety glasses when mixing the bleach and water to avoid splashes in your eyes.
After the bleach and water is mixed, place your pine cones in the bucket and weigh them down with something. I mostly use a plate, turned upside down….I’ve used the bleach jug, or pots to keep the plate down. Doesn’t matter what you use as long as it won’t be harmed by the bleach. The object is to keep the cones under water. I turn mine after the first day just to make sure they get evenly bleached. I leave the cones in the mixture for two days. You can go for three if your solution is weak. With practice you’ll get your procedure down for the results you want.
When pine cones are wet they close up. You’ll think the bleach isn’t working because frankly, they look yucky. (Technical term) They may be whitish and feel a bit slimey. Take them out at that point and rinse under running water. Drain for a few minutes on a paper towel while you set your oven to 150 degrees. I set mine at 200° if I’m in a particular hurry, which is often….um, because I was born without the patience gene. Place foil on an old cookie sheet and place the cones on the foil with a couple of inches between each cone for air circulation. No, they won’t stink up the kitchen if rinsed and after spending two or three days in bleach I’ve never seen any critters. The drying process will take several hours. Check your cones often.
Bake until the cones are about 75% open. Remove from the oven and let them continue to dry over the next few days. You can leave them in a sunny, dry place outside but it can take days for them to open. And who wants to wait days to see bleached pine cones??? Not me. Again…..no patience. It’s a curse. After the cones are fully open, you can spray them with a matte sealer, Krylon makes a good one for art projects. Fair warning…..sealers may darken the color a bit.
I’ve yet to achieve totally white cones. Mine come out various shades of tan and cream. But I think they are lovely. I love the faded color as well as the texture they bring. You may think they’re not very light until you put them next to normal, unbleached cones. I did another batch a few days ago and left them in the bleach and water for three days, they came out lighter than the two day batch, but my solution was weak and I felt another day wouldn’t cause them any harm. It’s trial and error.
I was asked why I just didn’t paint them if I wanted white cones…..um, because they wouldn’t be “natural.” I like that my cones are real, albeit not the color Mother Nature intended. There’s just something about taking a pine cone that’s perfectly fine, beautiful in its own right, and bleaching the crap out of it…. Improving on Mother Nature??? Maybe. It’s all about perspective. You may feel that I’ve ruined them and that’s OK. I like my bleached cones.
As for Mr B, don’t feel too sorry for him. He got snickerdoodle cookies. Fresh from the oven. The Target oven. In the handy Target bakery.
Create the home you see in your heart, right where you are living now. Everyone deserves a sanctuary.