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Tutorial: Bleached Leaves

I've had a few questions about the bleached leaves seen in my last post
so I thought I'd share some information... it's not hard to bleach real leaves!

it is up to the user to observe smart practices and use common sense 

while undertaking this craft project...
*make sure to wear protective eye wear, face mask, gloves, and long sleeves 
to protect from splashes and fumes.
*make sure to have a first-aid kit on hand - including an eyewash vial.
*make sure to work in a VERY well-ventilated area where fumes will not build up.
*make sure to keep ALL pets and children of any age away from this project
at all times.
*make sure to follow all of the safety directions below.

*a large rectangular Rubbermaid storage bin with lid
(you'll sit the lid on top but will NOT seal it closed)

*a gallon of chlorine bleach [generic brand is ok for this]
*an equal amount of cool clean water
*real leaves 

leaf-gathering  tips:
*waxy leaves don't do well. thicker leaves, like oak and maple, get the best results.
*use leaves that are as dried out as you can find – greener leaves get 'gooey'.

*don't raid from public places or your neighbors' yard without asking!
*check with local landscape service companies to get free branches & leaves from their yard trimmings.

*lay the branches of leaves as flat as possible in a large Rubbermaid-type storage container.
*fill container with enough 1/2 and 1/2 mix of COLD water to bleach to cover the leaves. place the container cover on top - but DO NOT SEAL IT.
***Keep ALL Children & Pets AWAY From This Project!***

*check on them every two hours or so. when they have lightened to your liking, pour a gallon of cool clear water into the container to dilute the bleach solution. 

*carefully dump or dip the bleach solution out of the container into a large bucket. dispose of the solution in your toilet or bathtub drain - NOT into your driveway, gutter, or yard.  

*rinse leaves in clear, cool water to get the bleach residue off.

*lay flat and let them air-dry.

*you may have to use a drop of hot glue to re-attach them onto the stem/branch.

*spray them with clear spray paint to 'seal' them against weather if you want.

this method works on cheap fabric leaves from the dollar store, too!

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  1. Great tutorial- What a neat idea-I have not seen this done before- xo Diana

  2. Pinned this, I've never contemplated such a thing before, and if it's one thing I'll have come fall, it's leaves!


  3. This is a great tutorial. Thank you so much for sharing this, Debi!

  4. Girls, you are all welcome! It's my pleasure to share some of the tricks I've been using for years! ;0)

  5. Hi. I experimented with these last night (which means I only used a couple of leaves). They are perfect, but curling a little more than I want. I wonder if a iron on low would work to flatten them out. I also picked up some birch bark to see how that turns out with bleaching.

  6. 'Kisses', you might try wetting the leaves again (with water only) and then patting them to remove most of the moisture with paper towels. Then place the leaves on a cake cooling/ drying rack, with a book over the top of them to hold them flat while they dry completely.

    Don't use a valuable book!!! ;0)

  7. thank you for your Quick response about the leaves curling. I have been using an upside down plate to dry, that could be the problem.

  8. I tried this using oak leaves that had fallen off my tree.They were pretty much brown. It took over 9hrs in the bleach water ratio and then they were falling apart........as if eaten away. Could not use them all all. Am I doing something wrong. I checked on them every 2 hrs but they did not take on the bleached look till after the 9hrs. I know this is an old post but would appreciate any help! Thanks so much!

    1. Sharon, I am not sure why it's not working for you.... but it could be that your leaves were TOO dried out. Brown is ok as long as the leaves are still pliable and not stiff. You might try it again with leaves that have not fallen off the tree yet.

  9. Nope!! Just can't seem to get it. I wish you had a video of how to do it. I tried both types. Maybe if i had a pic progression of how they are supposed to look after a certain time? I would love this to work. I have a yard full of oak and maple trees and would love to be able to bleach the leaves.

    1. Sharon, I am sorry to hear that this isn't working for you... I don't have any photos of the process and right now, I am so slammed with making my Sweet Sweater Pumpkins that I just don't have time to create a tutorial. I don't know how many leaves in how large a container you are using, but perhaps try a small flat container with six leaves, and see if that will work. That's the only suggestion I can think of to offer you!

  10. Thanks again. Maybe I had to many. If it works I will let you know. I can't wait to see the pumpkins!! :)

  11. i accidentally just deleted a comment asking a question, from an unknown reader. they asked if this method could be used for palm leaves - and my answer would be, i have no idea. i've never tried! in my experience, palm leaves will bleach naturally if left in a bucket of water in bright sunlignt until it evaporated and the foliage dries. (much like hydrangea blooms do). i'd suggest trying that method first, and if the palm leaves don't bleach out enough, try spraying them with a bleach/water solution. (and i'm sorry i deleted your question)

  12. Hi Deb, wondering if this same process would work with large fern leaves? :)

    1. it might *possibly* work on leatherleaf ferns, as their leaves are thicker with a glossy finish on one side. i doubt it would work on more delicate fern leaves - but those would likely dry well all on their own, lightening in the process. (i've never tried, so i'm just not sure!) thanks for visiting and asking, Kels!

    2. Thanks Deb! I've hung up a few different size ferns and will see what happens! Just a big fan of the bleached ferns that are popular at the moment and wanted to give them a go myself!

    3. Kelsw99 How did the ferns turn out? Did they bleach or turn to mush?

    4. Sse i'd love to know, too!!!

      one method worth trying for fern leaves is to make a bleach/water mixture (20% bleach to 80% room temp water) and then lay the fern leaves flat on cardboard or newspaper and spray them with the mixture. it could take a few spray & dry sessions for them to lighten up.... then flip over and do it again. worth a try, right?!

  13. Hi Deb, just wondering if this technique would work to bleach Amaranth ( love lies bleeding) It’s lovely but need white instead of red, have you done any flowers at all?

    1. hi, Jen! i have not bleached any flowers (or palm leaves, which is a current decor trend and why this post is getting so much attention right now!) HOWEVER.... here is my first thought about amaranth: you can get it in GREEN. (i'll post a link after my reply) if you start with green flowers, then you should be able to lighten that shade to a whiter, paler tone. i'd try letting them dry (on the stems) a bit then spraying them with a bleach/water solution rather than immersing them like leaves... you don't want the florets to fall off. if you try this and it works, come back and let me know!!! best of luck - and thanks for visiting ;)

      here's info on green Amaranth: