Gathering your own pine cones is a great way to save some money on Christmas crafts, plus gives you a little exercise and fresh air while out collecting them.
If you’d like to gather your own pine cones to use for crafts like pinecone wreaths and ornaments, you first need to prepare them so they’ll be fully dried, de-sapped and de-bugged. Here are a few tips…
Drying & Opening Pine Cones
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread pine cones across it in a single layer. Place the pine cones in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cones are fully opened and the sap has melted. Do not leave the oven unsupervised during this time, be alert for smoke or fire.
- Remove from oven and let them rest for a couple days before cutting or using in crafts.
- This drying process will kill any bugs and melt the sap due to the heat. There will be a natural sheen or gloss from the melted sap.
Instead of oven drying, you could wash then air dry them. Here’s how:
- Wash the pine cones in a sink full of warm water with 1/2 cup to 1 cup of vinegar. Let them soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure all the sap has been washed away. This washing process will debug the pinecones as well.
- Lay down two or three layers of newspapers on the workspace that you will be drying the pine cones on. After soaking, rinse the cones in fresh water then lay the cleaned pine cones on the newspapers in a single layer. Allow to dry for 3 or 4 days.
- The cones should be fully opened when they are completely dry. There will be no sheen to these since the sap has been washed away rather than melted into the cones.
How To Bleach Them White
- Use a 50/50 mix of water and chlorine bleach. Soak the pine cones in the bleach solution for 8 to 9 hours. Remove the pinecones from the bleach, rinse off in fresh water then lay them out in a single layer to dry in the sun.
- The bleach will kill all bugs.
- After the pine cones have been fully dried, de-bugged and opened, you can spray them with a clear acrylic spray, polyurethane or spray varnish. It doesn’t have to be a heavy coat, but try to ensure the pine cone is fully and evenly covered (don’t miss the bottom).
If you’re going to use pinecones for outdoor crafts such as bird feeders  and firestarters, you don’t need to clean and prepare them first.
If you use them in homemade potpourri recipes , clean them but don’t preserve with any type of spray.