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Pine cones are one of those elements of nature that get overlooked by almost everyone… unless they are a crafter. To a craft lover, pine cones are bundles of potential, just waiting to be made into something amazing!
I’ll never forget going to an outdoor maze one day, beneath some tall pine trees. My enjoyment of the maze paled in comparison to my enthusiasm about the incredible pine cones that were scattered all over the ground. (And yes, I picked up a bunch to bring home with me…)
But before you can make something with pine cones, you have to clean them.
Pine cones are home to dirt, debris, and bugs so it’s important to clean them properly so they’re ready for your craft projects.
It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. All you need to clean pine cones for crafts is water, vinegar, an oven, and a little bit of time.
When you’re done, you’ll have a bunch of clean pine cones just waiting to be used for all of the craft and decor projects you can dream up!
Here’s how to prepare pine cones for crafts. (And here’s how to prepare acorns for crafts too!)
How to Prepare Pine Cones for Crafts
Step 1. Gather Supplies
- Pine cones
- Bowl or bucket
- Cookie Sheet
- Paper Towels
- Clear Acrylic Sealer (optional)
- Pine Cone Prep Checklist (free in my resource library!)
Step 2. Soak pine cones in vinegar and water mixture.
Before you begin, remove any visible dirt, grass, pine needles, or leaves you can see.
Next, in a bowl, mix water and vinegar together. A cup of vinegar is a good starting point.
Add in pinecones and soak them for 20 minutes.
This will help clean dirt off of them, and begin to get rid of any bugs inside them too.
The pine cones will close up as they get wet, so don’t panic. This is normal.
Step 3. Bake pine cones in 200 degree oven.
Next, take the pinecones out of the water and rinse them. Using a strainer is the easiest way to do this.
Drain off any excess water.
Place the pine cones on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in a 200 degree F oven.
Here is where you have two different options:
3a. Bake the pine cones at 200 degrees for 20 minutes to kill any remaining bugs, and then let air dry for 2-3 days until open and fully dry.
3b. Bake the pine cones at 200 degrees for 2+ hours, turning them every 30 minutes, until they are fully dry and opened up. (Keep a watchful eye on them because you don’t want them to burn or become brittle with too much baking.)
Depending on how much time you have to babysit your oven, and how fast you need the pine cones for your project, you can decide which of these two methods to use.
NOTE: Some people ask if they smell as they bake. They do give off a wet, woody smell as they bake, mixed with the vinegar from the soaking step. To me, it’s not a great smell, but it’s not terrible either. It goes away once you’re done baking.
Step 4. Place pine cones on paper towel-lined cookie sheet to air dry.
If you don’t want to bake them for 2+ hours, remove them from the oven after 20 minutes and let cool before handling.
Line your baking sheet with paper towels, and place the pine cones on it to air dry.
Depending on factors like pine cone size and the humidity level in the air, the required air dry time for your pine cones will vary.
Mine took 2 to 3 days to open back up and dry completely.
I moved them around and flipped them over after a day so any of the still-damp parts could be exposed to air and dry better.
When they are all fully opened and dry, they’re ready to go.
Step 5. Remove any remaining debris.
Once they are opened back up, you might see some remaining bits of grass, dirt, or debris you missed in earlier. (Or at least I did haha.)
You can use a toothpick etc to remove anything else that is still inside the pine cones.
Step 6. Spray with Clear Acrylic Sealer for added protection.
This step isn’t necessary if you are going to paint or embellish them further.
However, if you plan to use or display the pine cones naturally, sealing them with Clear Acrylic Sealer helps to preserve and protect them and adds a little bit of shine.
Step 7. Go make things!
Now they are ready for you to use to go make things!
Maybe you’ll decide you want to paint your pine cones, or maybe you’ll make Cinnamon pine cones, turn them into a pine cone wreath, or even make a simple pine cone Christmas ornament or a pine cone person ornament. Or you could leave them natural and incorporate them into your fall or holiday decor plans.
Whatever you plan to do with them now that you’ve figured out how to prepare pine cones for crafts, you’ve got the raw materials for some awesome projects!
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Mary Gossett says
Thank you for answering my question. It answered my question
How do you cut them
Hi Angela! I can’t speak from personal experience yet because I haven’t tried to cut them, but I have seen where people use a long clipper of some type or even scissors. I’ve read that if you carefully remove the pine cone prongs from the row where you want to make your cut, it’ll clear a path for you to be able to get your scissors or cutting utensil in so you can make the cut without breaking anything else. If you try to cut them and find something that works great, let me know so I can pass on the information!
Angela Walkup says
Another reason to heat the pine cones up is because it drains all the pitch out of them so be sure to line your pans as she mentions above. I ruined my good cookie sheets one year ☹️.
Good point, Jenny! Yes, that tray lining is key!
Lisa G says
How long and where do I keep them until I’m ready to use them?
You can store them in a tote or bin, or even a basket until you’re ready to use them. I have some in a basket from several years ago and they still look great. The only issue with an open basket is the possibility of dust getting on them, depending where they are haha.
You could also keep them in a closed bin too. And there really shouldn’t be a time limit on them. As long as they don’t get wet, they should last for years!
I hope that helps!
Holly Janflone says
Is there a way to keep them open if using them for an outdoor project? I want to use them in my window boxes but they always close when they get wet!!
Unless you could 100% seal them from water, I don’t think there’s a way to keep them open. You could experiment with different sealants; maybe something that is meant to keep wood sealed? I haven’t tried it but that’s what I would start with.
They do close every time they get wet, yes. But on the plus side; they open up again pretty quickly when they dry out again haha!
sheila Mabrey says
I am using really big cones for hanging them from a chain and decorate the top. The problem I have is that after baking them, they curl slightly and the curl makes it difficult to have them look straight when hanging from a string. Any ideas on this?
Hmm… I see what you mean! Do they all seem to curl in a similar way? Or is the curling random? Does it help to lay them a certain way while baking; like maybe if you turned them halfway through baking, would the curl straighten out?
If nothing seems to help, that might just be the way the pine cones are made once they get a little bit dry… if that’s the case, I’m not sure anything can be done, unfortunately.
Let me know if you figure anything out! I haven’t worked with big enough pine cones to have this issue, but I’m interested to see how they turn out! And if you care to send a picture of your finished product, I’d love to see it!