How To Prepare & Preserve Pine Cones

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…

Gather Up All The Pine Cones You Like And Preserve Them For Craft Use With These Easy Tips
Gather Up All The Pine Cones You Like And Preserve Them For Craft Use With These Easy 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.

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    • Amelia

    i love the instructions on how to preserve pine cones. It saves money especially with the economy we’re in.

    • Marisa

    Do I put them in the oven so that they open first before I wash them.

    • Samantha Ekin

    Your website is wonderful. I havdon’t had any female family members pass on Any kind of craft traditions, but I’m changing that with my daughters. Everything is so easy to follow. Just wanted to say Thank You for that. I see many good memories and gifts for years to come.

    • Jodi

    I have really huge pine cones, will I need to leave them in the oven longer? I took them out after 30 minutes a they are still quite sappy.

    • Al

    Has anyone use a bbq grill in preping?

      • Marlene Barnett

      Yes, I used a BBQ grill to prep pine cones. I found it difficult to get and keep the temp even. It was awesome advice to put aluminum foil under the pine cones to collect the melted pitch! In my experience a slightly higher temp of 250 was needed to melt the pitch. This process required constant monitoring from me. At one point I saw smoke rising from the grill — but it was the pitch smoking. So I got a couple dozen pine cones debugged and un-pitched without setting them on fire!

    • Carla

    If I were to sprinkle cinnamon on them before baking would they keep the smell and/or be ok ?

      • Cheryl

      I bought drops for fragrance but I haven’t used them yet. Hopefully the drops will make them smell good.

    • Linda

    I came to this site after I already washed one pine cone to see if I did something wrong. I am glad I did a “trial run” before I let the kids in on all the fun. We collected pine cones. I am new to crafting and had heard that you should wash them first, so I sudsed up the sink with Dawn and warm water. Suddenly, sap was oozing from every cell of its being. The more I tried to wash it away, the more it stuck to my hands. I was wondering if this was the secret bonding ingredient in Super Glue. After various soaps and scrubs (I couldn’t find the Goo Be Gone), I was finally able to unstick my hands using Dawn straight from the bottle while scrubbing with the vegetable brush. Oh, my! I am so glad I didn’t just dig right into this with the kids. Afterward, the pine cone was softer and more pliable, so I stuck it into the wreath cage. It dried to a beautiful sheen and glued itself into place and is no longer sticky. Whenever you work with virgin pine cones, do yourself a favor and wear disposable gloves. I’m not sure if its short bath in Dawn killed any bugs. You should probably follow the instructions above for that.

      • Tahoedirt

      I have a tip I learned from cutting firewood- Buy a large container of mayonnaise- It’s the best and easiest to remove sap.

        • Jen

        I use clorox wipes to get sap off my hands.

          • Somia

          Can I spry my cone after dry with gold and silver

        • Linda T.

        Just as an aside about the Mayo…
        Once out on a relative’s fishing boat we went through an oil slick. He bought so many cleansers, but none worked. We tried mayo and magically, the oil came off. Also, while teaching and writing on a white board, a regular magic marker was left in my reach and I used it on the white board. Luckily, mayo from the cafeteria removed it.

    • Ashley

    This will be my first time prepping fresh from the trees pine cones. I’m so glad I read this before starting! Firstly, thanks to this blog I know how to clean the sap away and preserve my pine cones for the crafts I have in my mind. Secondly, thanks to Linda’s comment, I’ve decided NOT wash them in my sink but in a bucket instead and use a hose for rinsing (also I will be wearing gloves). I’ve also decided not use the oven technique, I do not want to risk fire in my oven and home, also I don’t want them to have a shine to them. I’m so excited to try this out! Thank you

    • Dawn

    Re cleaning up your hands and other stuff, remember that ‘like dissolves like’, which is why your mom used peanut butter to get bubble gum out of your hair. The sap is a type of lipid/fat; you can use a little oil (vegetable, mineral, 40/20, 20/40, whatever;)); rub it into wherever the sap is to dissolve it a little, then use a good grease-cutting dish soap like Dawn to wash it off. Easy peasy. It doesn’t take a lot of oil or dish soap. Your hands will feel nice and moisturized afterwards, too! Win! Win!

      • Jeannine

      A homemade sugar scrub works well also. I work in a Christmas tree shop decorating wreaths and that’s my go to.

    • Kay

    I have always made my pine cone wreaths by soaking the pine cones in water so they close up, then putting them in a wire wreath frame, then the pine cones open up. This time I would like to spray paint some of them. Should I paint them first, then immerse in water just like the unpainted ones?


    Hand sanitizer will get the sap off your hands easily.

    • Darfan

    Can you add Cinnamon to the pine cones before
    Baking in the oven to seal them?

      • Jerry J

      Darfan, I think what is used to give the cinnamon scent to pine cones is cinnamon oil. You can find it on Amazon, or probably at Walmart. It should have a nice strong cinnamon smell so start with a small amount.

        • Jerry J

        Darfan, I neglected to mention that I would use the oil after they were out of the oven and cooled down.

    • Paula Mclaren

    How can i keep them open, once they are dry, and heated etc… then i put them outside in muy wreaths or urns, and they close….

    • Amber

    Do I need to allow sit a few days for the craft I just did over technique and wanted to do the craft with the kids this afternoon they are going paint them green and put glitter to make little ornamnets

    • Suzie

    Is it 200 degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius?

    • Lynne Stranick

    I’m wondering if this same method of cleaning and drying would work well With Gumtree balls. Of course t wear gardening gloves to gather them, ouch they have sharp thorn like needles. They will look great on a dried flower wreath.

    • Kim

    How do I take the seeds out? Somebody told me I can replant them in cups till they start to grow root and then replant them in the ground. Is this true?

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