How to Dry Fall Leaves to Keep a Bright Color

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Dried fall leaves can be dried and preserved for year round decorations.
Dried fall leaves can be dried and preserved for year round decorations. (Image: Fall Leaves image by nutech21 from Fotolia.com)

Fall leaves come in bright colors of red, gold, orange and brown. These warm colors are fleeting, and all too soon fade away as the air turns colder and the leaves drop from the branches. Fall leaves can be brought inside and preserved to make colorful fall decorations for your home that will last longer than one season. There are many techniques for drying leaves, but only some of these are successful in preserving the leaf's colors.

Things You'll Need

  • Small bowl
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Water
  • Flat pan
  • Small rocks
  • Cloth
  • Small cardboard box
  • Box cutter
  • Silica gel
  • Multi setting microwave
  • Acrylic craft spray
  • Ironing board
  • Wax paper
  • Iron

Glycerin Drying

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup vegetable glycerin and 1 cup water. Vegetable glycerin can be found at a local pharmacy. Place a flat pan on a level surface where it can be left undisturbed for a few days. Pour the solution into the pan.

Place the leaves in the solution so they are laying flat. The leaves should not be touching one another. Place small rocks around the edges of each leaf to weigh it down and hold it in place. Let the tray sit for 2 to 6 days to allow the leaves time to absorb the liquid.

Check the leaves. If they feel soft and are darker in color then they are ready to be removed from the solution. Take each leaf out of the pan and dry it gently with a cloth. These leaves will remain soft and pliable and maintain their fall color permanently.

Microwave Drying

Collect fall leaves from the branches of a tree. Do not gather leaves that have fallen to the ground as they have already begun to dry and lose their color. You want fresh, living leaves for the best results.

Place a small cardboard box on a flat surface. The cardboard box needs to be small enough to fit in the microwave but large enough to hold leaves. Remove the flaps from the top of the box with a box cutter.

Pour a 1 1/4 inch layer of silica gel into the bottom of the box. Silica gel can be purchased at craft stores or floral shops. Place the leaves so they are laying flat on top of the silica gel. Space the leaves so they are not touching. Cover the leaves with a 1 1/4 inch layer of silica gel.

Place the box in the microwave. Set it to the defrost setting. If your microwave does not have a defrost setting, and has levels between 2 and 10, set it to level four. If your microwave only has four or five levels, set it to level 2. Set the timer to 2 1/2 minutes and press start.

Remove the box from the microwave and gently pour the top layer of silica gel off of the leaves. Touch the leaves gently to feel for moisture. If not completely dry, replace the top layer of silica gel and return to microwave. Microwave for another 2 1/2 minutes. Remove leaves and spray each side with acrylic craft spray.

Iron Drying

Place a sheet of wax paper on an ironing board. Place one leaf on top the wax paper so it is laying flat. Cover the leaf with a second sheet of wax paper.

Set the iron to medium heat. High heat will melt holes in the wax paper and burn the leaf. Place a towel over the layers of wax paper.

Run the warm iron over the area of the towel covering the leaf. Do this for 2 to 5 minutes. Remove the towel and check to see if the layers of wax paper are sealed together. If not, replace the towel and resume ironing for another 2 to 5 minutes.

Remove the towel and let the wax paper cool. Once cool, cut around the leaf. Leave 1/2 inch of wax paper around the edge of the leaf to act as a border and to ensure that the paper stays sealed.

Repeat this process for each leaf. Wax paper leaves should be stored out of direct sunlight to ensure their color is not bleached out.

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