Learn how to preserve fall leaves and you will have an abundant and free source of decoration materials for your next DIY craft project. It is a great indoor activity with kids and a fun way to match your interior to the season.
Usually, it is my job to show you how to clear a yard of fallen leaves so this is a change of pace. But there is a creative side to me too and I’m happy to share it with you.
Let’s get into how to preserve fall leaves for framing and later I’ll also explain how to dry fall leaves for other decorative purposes. Ready to gather leaves?
Can you Preserve A Fall Leaf?
It is more than possible to preserve fall leaves. In fact, there are several ways to preserve leaves and I’ve tested them all.
The advantage of preserving rather than drying leaves is that you keep a brighter color and softer texture. This makes them more pliable and versatile for whatever decorative ideas you have in mind.
When you preserve autumn leaves you are able to decorate all kinds of items, from frames, wooden boxes, and jewelry pieces to fall-inspired art. You’ll have a memory of your favorite season year-round.
How to Preserve Fall Leaves
As I have mentioned, there is more than one preserving method for fall leaves. They are all simple and inexpensive so choose whichever method is easiest for you.
I’ll take you through each one with a step-by-step guide, including the materials that you will need for preserving leaves.
Method 1: Using Paraffin Wax
This method covers your autumn leaves in a layer of paraffin wax, which is the same material used to make candles. Although it’s a simple dip and dry approach, it does need specific tools.
You don’t want the brittle dry leaves, so select only freshly fallen leaves. These give the most vibrant colors and soft texture. Also, only use leaves with stems still on so that you can handle them without touching the wax.
You will need:
- Paraffin Wax (Alternatively Soy Wax or Beeswax)
- Double Boiler or Wax Heater
- Heat-Resistant Thongs
- Drying Line
- Laundry Clips
Step 1: Check whether all the leaves still have their stems on them.
Step 2: Gently wipe the leaves clean with a soft damp cloth.
Step 3: Dry the clean leaves with a soft clean and dry cloth.
Step 4: Select an area where you can hang a clothing line or similar, ideally a spot without any wind.
Step 5: Place the paraffin wax in the double boiler and let it melt but not boil.
Step 6: Lift a leaf by its stem using the thongs and dip it into the warm melted wax.
Step 7: Gently shake off the excess wax, letting it drip back into the double boiler to avoid waste.
Step 8: Attach the dipped leaf to the drying line using the laundry clip.
Step 9: Leave to dry.
Method 2: Using Glycerin
Dipping leaves in a glycerin solution is my favorite method. Instead of fading the natural colors, it makes them even brighter.
You can use the glycerin method to preserve leaves individually or even a pretty branch or twig with several leaves on it. The bath works best for twigs that have recently fallen from the tree.
You Will Need:
- Clean Deep Container or Bucket
- Liquid Vegetable Glycerin
- Small Hammer
Step 1: Select only freshly fallen leafy twigs or branches.
Step 2: Clean by first using a damp cloth and then a dry cloth.
Step 3: Mix one part liquid vegetable glycerin with two parts water inside the container.
Step 4: Place the leafy branch/twig or leaves on a worktable or tough flat surface.
Step 5: Hit the bottom of the twig/branch or stem of the leaf once with the hammer.
Step 6: Let the leaves, twigs and branches soak in the glycerin, making sure they remain beneath the surface.
Step 7: Cover with a small plate if any of the leaves float to the surface.
Step 8: Let sit in the glycerin bath for a few days, about 2-5 days for complete absorption of the solution.
Step 9: Remove from the solution and wipe dry.
Method 3: Preserving Falls Leaves with a Book
This is probably the easiest method for preserving fall leaves but it also requires the most patience. If you can’t sit still for too long, like me, this isn’t the wisest choice.
However, you don’t need to go out and buy any additional supplies so this is the most budget-friendly option. You’ll also get drier leaves which can add great texture to your crafts without buying a leaf press.
You Will Need:
- Two Sheets Printing Paper
- Paper Towels
- (Hardcover) Heavy Book(s)
Step 1: Choose any individual leaves or flowers that you think are pretty. Remember you will be flattening them.
Step 2: Place the leaves on one half of the piece of paper and cover by folding over the other half.
Step 3: Take the second sheet of paper and fold it over the other like in step 2.
Step 4: Line the last page of the book with several layers of paper towels.
Step 6: Insert the folded printing paper.
Step 7: Lay the book flat and stack extra books on top if needed.
Step 8: Check the texture of the leaves after 7-10 days. Don’t remove until they are completely dry.
Method 4: Drying Leaves Using a Microwave
Any time a microwave comes into play you know that it’s going to be a quick method. It’s no different with preserving fall leaves inside the microwave.
This isn’t one that I would recommend doing with kids because there is a chance that the leaves catch fire inside the microwave. So even though this is a super quick method, it requires very close monitoring.
You Will Need:
- Paper Towels
- Craft Spray
- Microwave-Safe Plate
Step 1: Clean the leaves of any debris and moisture.
Step 2: Place the leaves between two sheets of paper towel, ensuring no leaves overlap.
Step 3: Put the leaves on the plate and place them inside the microwave.
Step 4: Set the microwave timer for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Check whether the leaf has dried up. (Curled edges mean it still contains some moisture and black spots mean it is burnt.)
Step 6: If necessary, set the microwave for another 5 seconds.
Step 7: Repeat microwaving for 5 seconds at a time until the leaves are completely dry.
Step 8: Remove the paper toweling and let the leaves dry further overnight.
Step 9: Seal the leaves using a craft spray like mod podge to preserve their color.
Method 5: Pressing Leaves with Wax Paper
The wax paper method is another quick one, but again, one that is not safe to do with small kids. You’ll be using a hot iron to make laminated leaves so you can imagine the things that could go wrong if you’re not paying attention.
The advantage of this method is color preservation. You can store them for a long time without the colors fading which is perfect for a larger project.
You Will Need:
- Paper Toweling
- Ironing Board
- Wax Paper
- Thick Brown Paper
Step 1: Clean and dry freshly fallen leaves.
Step 2: Arrange the leaves between 2 thick sheets of paper towel.
Step 3: Place on your ironing board and iron on both sides, without using the steam.
Step 4: Continue ironing, flipping regularly, until both sides are dry – approximately 5 minutes.
Step 5: Remove the leaves from the paper toweling and place between two sheets of wax paper with enough space between each leaf.
Step 6: Place between a large folded piece of thick brown paper.
Step 7: Gently iron again without using the steam setting and being careful not to burn the paper.
Step 8: Once the wax paper sheets are stuck together remove the thick brown paper.
Step 9: Iron directly over the wax paper using a low heat setting and flip regularly until all air bubbles are gone.
Step 10: Let the wax paper cool off completely.
Step 11: After cooling, you can cut out the leaves or leave them as a sheet until use.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Still not sure whether you should be microwaving leaves, have them stay submerged in glycerin, or choose one of the other methods? These FAQs may help you decide on how to preserve leaves.
How long do glycerin preserved leaves last?
Leaves that were left in a glycerin mixture will look good for several months. After about 8-12 months they will start to fade in color and dry out.
What to spray on dried flowers to preserve them?
You can use an acrylic sealant like mod podge to preserve dried flowers. Just make sure that they have been completely dried before applying the spray or they might develop dark spots.
Can you preserve leaves with glue?
You can preserve leaves with glue if you have dried them first. Take dry pressed leaves and cover them with clear white glue so that their color still shows.
Hopefully, these step-by-step instructions for leaf preservation gave you some creative ideas for fall projects. With just a few basic household items you can create incredible and unique decorative items using nature’s own materials.