FROM THE PROJECT FILE~ Bleaching Pinecones

An idea came across my Pinterest feed recently that I immediately saved; a tutorial for bleaching pinecones. Do you ever find yourself bereft of new and fresh ideas for seasonal decor? I sure do. I resist the template approach to seasonal decorating; you know, getting out the boxes marked fall for example, and putting each autumn accessory in exactly the same place year after year.

I'm a manic crafter, attracted to new ideas. I like to challenge my creative limits. Therefore, because I've been rooting around for unique fall decor ideas featuring natural materials, this pinecone idea sparked my interest.

The process seemed pretty straightforward so I gave it a try, and I'm happy to share an overview of the technique with you. I had mostly good results. I say mostly because I learned that not all pinecones are created equally. Some are darker, tighter and loaded with more sap than others. These variables affect the bleaching process. So if you decided to try this, remember that your results may vary.

Of course the first step in this fairly easy process is to gather together a few pinecones. Now keep in mind that I live in the Evergreen State and pinecones are pretty easy to come by.

This is what the roadside looks like along my daily walk route with Dallas. Especially this time of year, and during our current stormy conditions, it's easy for me to find pinecones among the blow-down. But you may have to buy them at a crafts store. If you are buying them, make sure they are untreated.

The only things you will need for this project are a bucket (I used a plastic one), bleach, and rubber gloves.

I tried following the Pinterest online tutorial, but after a few mildly successful attempts I developed my own strategy. Here is what to do~ outside if possible.

Mix 2 parts water to 1 part household bleach. I use a whatever dollar store brand because in my opinion, bleach is bleach.

The tutorial said 3 to 1, but I didn't have good luck with a solution that dilute.

-Mix about 2 quarts of water to 1 quart bleach.
-Put about 3 pinecones in the liquid. You don't want to crowd them.
-Weight the pinecones down because they will float to the top otherwise. I used a heavy plate, but          you can also choose to use bricks or rocks.
-After about 12 hours remove the pinecones, but make sure you use your rubber gloves and wear
 clothes you won't mind splashing bleach on if you get a little messy.

I am not what I'd call a measure person. It's really okay to freewheel this project.

The pinecones won't look bleached when you take them out of the water. They will actually close up tight and you might feel disappointed. But take them to a clean spot and lay them out on a towel until they are dry. From time to time, turn them over so that all the water will run off. Your local humidity will dictate drying time.

NOTE: Make sure you change your bleach water after removing your pinecones. I noticed that the water becomes filled with sap and brown pigment, and I was unable to get a second successful bleaching.

I hope, like I, you will be amazed when your cones have totally dried out. Isn't this a beauty?

I know that pinecones have traditionally been reserved for Christmas. But because they are part of our local landscape year round, I am exercising creative license by bringing them inside early.

I combined the pinecones with very white pumpkins in this arrangement. As you can see, you will not get a pure, bright white result from bleaching. The pinecones will lighten up, some more than others. So don't set unreasonable expectations.

Here is an example from an altogether different conifer~

A friend gave me these. Although the brown did indeed lighten up, the red tips actually took on an even deeper hue.

What do you think about using pinecones in October? I'm really enjoying them mixed in with my fall decor. In fact, I like them so much more than the natural dark brown. In my home they look more elegant and provide higher contrast. Your thoughts?

If you try this bleaching technique, please let me know. I'd love to see pictures of your results.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Dana, What a great idea - bleach on pinecones. Pinecones are good for fall and Christmas. This ideas makes them fit into more decorating themes. Thanks for sharing. Sylvia D.

  2. Hi Dana, I saw this on a blog a couple years ago and made some for Christmas. They were pretty. Not sure if mine bleached as nicely as yours. Thanks for sharing with SYC.