Project Guide: Preparing Acorns and Pine Cones for Fall Decorating

Hometalk Guides
by Hometalk Guides
Free and readily available, natural elements are a staple in DIY fall decorating. Pine cones and acorns are sitting right in your yard, and they make excellent embellishments for wreaths, lanterns, and all different ornaments. But after growing outside, acorns and pine cones are carrying dirt and sap, among other creepy-crawly type things, so before you start with the gluing and glittering, here's what you have to do to prepare them for crafting.

Need some inspiration? Here are some things you can do with cleaned acorns and pine cones:
- Pine Cone Coffee Table Craft
- Rustic Acorn Wreath
- Acorn Filled Lantern
- Colorful Pine Cone Wreath

Preparing Acorns and Pine Cones:

- Before You Start

- While You're Working

- After You've Finished

1. Prepare Your Space

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and place a large metal cookie sheet on the countertop.

2. Prepare Yourself for Working

If you're washing your pine cones and acorns with a mixture of bleach, make sure that your hands are gloved, and that you're wearing work clothing that you won't mind staining or ruining.

Basic Tools Include:

  • Water

  • Vinegar

  • Bucket

  • Paper Towels

Optional Tools Include:

  • Bleach

  • Small Brush

1. Remove Debris

Make sure your acorns and pine cones are free of any bits of debris before you start deep cleaning. Remove any wood pieces, pine needles, and sticks, and then shake off any excess sand and dirt.

2. Clean Them Thoroughly

Soaking Method

  • Wash the pine cones or acorns in a bucket of water + half a cup (or more if needed) of white vinegar

  • Mix them around in the water so that any last bits of dirt are scrubbed away

  • Let them soak for about 30 minutes

  • The pine cones will start to close up as they soak, but don't worry - they will open up again fully as they dry

  • Drain the pine cones or acorns on a paper towel for a few minute so that the excess water will drain off

Cooking Method

  • Line your pine cones or acorns on a foil covered baking sheet

  • Place it in the oven (at 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1-2 hours

  • As they cook, the pine cones will open and any green acorns will turn brown

  • They will dry differently depending on their size, so make sure to check on them every half hour so that they don't burn

  • When they're done, let them cool for 20 minutes before working with them

3. Bleach Them (Optional)

  • Put your rinsed pine cones or acorns into a deep bowl

  • Pour a 50/50 mixture of water and bleach over them so that they're completely covered

  • Soak them overnight or longer

  • Because they float, place a plate or bowl on top of the bowl of pine cones and acorns, to keep them submerged

  • The bleach will make the cones close up, but don't worry, they fully open when dry

  • Dry them on paper towels for a few days while you wait for them to reopen, or place them in a 200 degree oven for 1-2 hours

Add Protection

After the pine cones and acorns have been dried and de-bugged, spray them with polyurethane, clear acrylic, or spray varnish. Make sure that every pine cone or acorn is fully covered with a light layer, to prevent any future infestation or damage.

Projects to Look At:

- Pine Cone Flowers

- How to Decorate Acorns for Fall

- Chicken Wire and Pine Cone Wreath

- Pine Cone Fridge Magnets

- Bleached Pine Cone Crafts
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3 of 18 comments
  • Cindy Stam Cindy Stam on Oct 21, 2016
    I would use the vinegar rather than bleach, and would not varnish. Leaving them natural, attaching with wire, nit glue, will make it edible and safe to offer back to nature (smeared with peanut butter or a little recycled cooking grease), and wildlife, after you tire of them.

    • Judy Doyle Judy Doyle on Oct 14, 2020

      After smearing with the peanut butter we rolled the pine cones in bird seed then hung them in the trees.

  • Jessica Cossin Jessica Cossin on Sep 09, 2017
    When you soak something in bleach & then heat it up in the oven, your creating Nerve Gas! Not exactly a great way to start decorating for the Fall! Please stop wait for the pinecones & acorns to dry naturally! This will harm you & anyone else living in your home!