Easiest 5 Minute “Bleached Pinecones” {without Bleach}

Make 5-minute “bleached pinecones” without bleach! Easy crafts & DIY modern farmhouse decorations for fall, winter, Thanksgiving & Christmas!

I love bleached pinecones. As one of the easiest DIY pine cone crafts and decor, they look beautiful in almost any settings from farmhouse to modern. They are especially gorgeous additions to fall and winter decor, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations.

DIY farmhouse decor: natural bleached pine cones without using bleach

However, so many of us are sensitive to bleach. Exposure to bleach fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, lungs, and skin. There might also be negative environmental impacts when we dispose bleach.

Another challenge of bleaching pine cones is that you have to wait for a few days to let the pine cones soak in the strong bleach, and let them dry. The results can vary quite a bit depending on the varieties of pine cones. Some pine cones will turn a greyish brown instead of white.

wood platter on blue: easy DIY Thanksgiving table decoration centerpiece

*Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

So how do we make beautiful “bleached pinecones” without using bleach?

After testing on a bunch of pine cones, I think I have found a really simple and easy way to make natural looking “bleached pine cones”. Ready for the secret?

Oh and here’s the real test: “Dad, look at these white pine cones, they are from a rare species of pine in California!” If you get an answer like “Wow! ” you have succeeded! πŸ™‚

How to use whitewash to create bleached look on pine cones.

In simple terms, whitewash is diluted white paint. It creates a soft look while still showing some natural variations and textures of wood, brick, or in this case, pinecones.

farmhouse whitewashed weathered wood with DIY bleached pinecones without using bleach

Although it is super quick and easy to whitewash pinecones, there are a few tips and tricks to make them look very natural, almost like real bleached pine cones (instead of painted white pine cones). I will share with you all the secrets in this tutorial!

If you are interested in how to whitewash wood, here’s a detailed tutorial with 3 simple techniques.

Ultimate guide + video tutorials on how to whitewash wood & create beautiful whitewashed floors, walls and furniture using pine, pallet or reclaimed wood. | apieceofrainbow.com

Materials and tools to make faux bleached pinecones

( Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here. )

  • pinecones: after collecting some pinecones, dry brush them clean using an old tooth brush, or wash them and let dry. Some pine cones  will close up after they get wet, and open again once they are dry, so plan ahead if you decide to wash them.
  • non-toxic acrylic or craft paint: here’s one of the secrets: DecoArt brand “Buttermilk” paint color  makes the pinecones look like bleached.
  • container to mix paint and dip the pinecones in, and (optional) rubber gloves
no bleach white pine cone crafts Christmas decorations

Step 1: mix paint to whitewash pine cones.

The paint color and consistency are keys to make the pinecones look like they are bleached pinecones instead of just painted white pinecones. This “Buttermilk” paint, as you can see, is not a pure white like white plastic container.

dipping pine cone in white wash

Mix 1 part water with 1 to 2 parts paint depending on how thick the paint is. Experiment with a couple of pine cones first, you can wash them clean if you don’t like the consistency. I used 1 part water to 2 part paint ratio for this “Buttermilk” acylic paint.

Related: Another great non-toxic pine cone decorations DIY-  3 minute DIY snow covered pine cones, branches, and berries in 3 easy ways, detailed tutorial here!

farmhouse table decorations with candles and DIY snow covered pine cones & branches in wood tray

DIY snow covered pine cones and branches!

I used these DIY snow covered pine cones & branches in our enchanting snowy DIY mason jar centerpieces, tutorial here!

DIY mason jar centerpieces tutorial, so easy!

Step 2: dip pinecones in whitewash paint.

Wear gloves ( do what I say, not what I do…) and dip each pinecone in the diluted paint. Keep rotating the pinecone until it’s coated with whitewash in all the nooks and crannies.

a handful of beautiful "bleached pinecones" in 5 minutes without using bleach

Lift the pine cone, let the excess paint drip off for 10-20 seconds, and put the pine cone on a sheet of plastic to dry. That’s it!

Now let’s look at some ideas on how to use our “bleached pinecones” in home decor.

farmhouse christmas decor with bleached pine cones

For an instant winter or Christmas decoration piece, place a mixture of  natural and “bleached” pinecones in a glass jar. It would look beautiful on a table or a shelf.

You can also put a mixture of whitewashed pinecones, moss, and other natural elements in a bowl or basket as table decorations.

These soft white pine cones are gorgeous in DIY fall, winter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas centerpieces. Check out the DIY 10 minute centerpiece tutorial here.

farmhouse table decorations with white pine cones and moss

Love pine cone crafts and decor? These DIY giant flowers with pine cones will make you feel like Alice in wonderland!

How to make flowers from nature walk findings such as pine cones and leaves. These giant blossoms make such dramatic, beautiful and free home decorations! via A Piece Of Rainbow

DIY giant flowers with pine cones

Happy creating!


  1. This was a great option! I tried bleaching last year and it didn’t really work and was messy. Maybe the pinecones I used weren’t dried out enough as I just went outside and picked them up. But, I still wanted the look, so I found your post when I was Googling. I had some white latex paint (eggshell surface) and some ochre colored paint to us for a tint. The process was simple. I did the first dozen pine cones with the full strength paint (1 part water/2 parts paint), added more water for the second dozen and then thinned the paint again for the last 2 dozen. They turned out beautifully. I dried them on wire racks over absorbent paper, turning them several times to avoid any pooling. I love the slight variation between the 3 groups and the end was exactly what I was hoping for!

  2. wow, great idea. got me thinking about maybe red ones with the white for a Christmas look. thanks for sharing this wonderful article with us.

  3. Thanks for the whitewash method! I have not had success with bleach. Going to do that this week! Love getting new ideas! Merry πŸŽ„ Christmas!

  4. Does the whitewashing take place of sealing the pinecones? I’m stumped as to how to seal them. Could I use diluted Mod Podge this way to seal them?
    Theae crafts are very lovely.
    I live in Minnesota, it’s October, and we’ve had snow, so no chance to dry anything outside – lol.
    Thank you so much

  5. Hi, I also bake my pine cones. Before I start my hunt for pine cones, I remove the middle rack in my oven. I then grab a large paper grocery bag and hit the woods. When back, I just put the bag in the oven making sure the bag is not touching the heating elements. Turn the oven on to 200 and sit back and relax as the pine cones fill my kitchen with scent pine. A day well spent! Thanks a million for all your wonderful ideas.

  6. I loved your unbleached pine cones, however I hope you can tell me where I went wrong. I bought whitewash powder and buttermilk acrylic paint. Dipped the cones into the mix which adhered well onto the open cones which when coated in paint closed up. When dried most of the paint fell of and
    Returned to powder. help please!! I had visions of producing many many beautiful cones to enhance Xmas wreaths sold each year for charity. Marje U.K.

    • hi marjie, i used diluted acrylic paint which adhered well. some cones will close, then reopen when dried. maybe try leaving out the powder, and leave the cones in a very warm dry place in the sun or a warm oven so they dry and open faster! πŸ™‚


  8. Have never seen the bleached pine cones before…really stunning in any arrangement…thanks so much for sharing…I have access to LOTS of them in my yard…

  9. Love the ideas. Do you have any suggestions on how to remove stubborn resin from my NJ pine cones as water and brush do not work.

    • hi doreen, i have read that rubbing alcohol or alcohol based nail polish remover can dissolve pine resin. let us know if you do try it, and i will add a note to the post πŸ™‚

  10. wow, great idea. got me thinking about maybe red ones with the white for a Christmas look. ( I am a ‘red’ person).

    • hi bev, they take a while to open. if you place them by a warm and dry spot like heat vent or a warm but not burning hot oven, they open up much faster πŸ™‚

      • I used this method prior to seeing this post and had the same issue with dipped cones closing. Those that closed didn’t open up again. Ever. I suspect fresh, younger cones might be the culprit, as this closing can be seen in nature after a hard rain on fallen cones and dried paint could easily seal them in the closed position. I’m going to do a bake on future ones before dipping to see if dehydrating helps. Will try an after-bake, if not. Dipping also used a lot more paint than brushing and, as I was doing this late at night, the night before I needed them, and running low on the color I needed, I brushed the second half. Tedious, but those that didn’t get saturated by dunking were the only usable ones the next day.

  11. I truly love all of your ideas! I’m moving into a older house, and I plan on using the white washed pine cones on the mantle with assorted greenery. Thank you so much for giving us your wonderful ideas! Pam

  12. I was so inspired by the ‘bleached’ pine cones and the process you used to achieve them that I joined your blog & was able to explore even more of the wonderfully creative projects you’ve posted. Really looking forward to seeing more posts & exploring more areas of the posts you’ve already posted. WooHoo!!!

  13. Beautiful! I absolutely hate pine cones. I guess because when we were young we had trees and had to clean them up every weekend . I went to an estate sale they had tons. The owners son hated them as well. When I went back to retrieve my items he had stashed a ton of them in my items!!! 😬 I always use a very few of them for Christmas. This game me life and an idea for Christmas. I have 2 huge glass vases and I’m going out into the flowerbed and grab some lambs ears. I don’t like them but this will be beautifully designed. Lol! Thanks for your inspiration. I may try a few other colors.

  14. What a great alternative to using bleach! I like this process so much better and they really do look bleached and not painted. I really love the centerpieces you put together using them, simply gorgeous!

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