How To Bleach Pinecones for Holiday Decoration

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Pinecones are one of the best fall decorations, and we’ve seen them every which way: painted, flocked, doused in glitter, rolled in peanut butter — you name it!

Now, we’re seeing them bleached. That’s right … bleached! Think of this pale, Scandinavian-inspired look as the sleek, modern take on this traditional autumn decor classic. And we’re kind of loving it.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Why You Should Bleach Your Pinecones

There are at least three great things about this project. First, pinecones are free. Go outside, walk towards a pine tree, look down, pick up pinecones. That’s it.

Second, no glitter is involved. This is great for people who don’t like glitter and also people who don’t like to clean up glittery messes. All you need to do is grab some bleach and a mop bucket or some sort of wide pan with at least four-inch sides, and you’re halfway there.

Third, they’re really pretty.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Why You Should Scent Your Pinecones

If you’re reading this and wondering “Do I really need to scent my pinecones after bleaching them?” the answer is yes. Even if you rinse the cones really well and let them dry, they still smell like bleach.

I’m sure if you let them dry and sit in storage for a year or so the bleach smell would fade, but they are so pretty (see above) you’ll want to use them right away. Plus, scented things smell good.

So grab your favorite fall essential oil (get the cheap kind at the market; it doesn’t have to be food grade) and be sure to give yourself five to seven days to let the project sit and soak in all those good oils before setting them out on display.

What to do with your pretty pinecones: 3 Ways to Decorate Your Table with Pinecones

How To Bleach & Scent Your Pinecones

Makes 15 to 20 scented pinecones

What You Need


  • 15 to 20 pinecones
  • 35 to 40 drops of essential oils (cinnamon, clove, ginger, fir, and juniper are a few favorite fall scents)


  • Bleach
  • Large bucket
  • Weights (stones or bricks work great!)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking sheet
  • Large zip-top bag


  1. Collect pinecones: Collecting pinecones isn’t a science. Pick up whatever looks pretty to you! Still, it’s nice to have an array of shapes and sizes. It’s also a good idea to pick up a few more than you think you’ll need. You can always mix and match bleached and unbleached.
  2. Wash your pinecones: After collecting your pinecones you’ll want to wash them really well. Fill up the sink and submerge the cones to drive any little bugs or dirt out.
  3. Dry your pinecones: Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the pine cones in a single layer and bake at 200°F for 3 to 4 hours. This process should also dry any leftover sap and take care of any little critters that were left behind.
  4. Bleach your pinecones: Fill up a tub with equal parts bleach and tap water and place the pinecones inside. Place a few large rocks or a brick over the pinecones to keep them submerged. I used a gardening pad and one brick and it seemed to hold things down really well.
  5. Let your pinecones soak for up to 24 hours: After 12 hours pass, check your pinecones. If they have not yet reached the desired shade of lightness, let them soak for longer. Do not let them soak for over 24 hours or they’ll start to disintegrate.
  6. Rinse and dry your bleached pinecones: Dump out the bleach and rinse them really well under water. Lay them out in a single layer and let them dry for 2 to 3 days.
  7. Scent your pinecones: To scent the pinecones, dump them all into a large zip-top bag and add 35 to 40 drops of essential oils. Seal it well and let the pinecones sit for up to one week. The longer the bag stays sealed, the stronger and longer-lasting the scent will be. If at the beginning of next season the pinecones have lost their scent, repeat the scenting process over again.