Autumn leaves are stunning. Some people travel miles to catch a glimpse of fall foliage, and many want to take a piece of this natural beauty home. One way to do that is to dry and preserve leaves and then use them in craft or art projects or home decor. Luckily, there are many ways to dry and preserve leaves, whether they are spring, summer or fall leaves.
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Drying Leaves for Crafts and Home Projects
If you have extra time, let Mother Nature do her thing and air dry the leaves, especially if you don't need them pressed or completely flat. Just leave them in a well-ventilated space. Using string, you can lie them flat or hang them upside down by their stem. Put them in front of a window or gentle fan to expedite the process but avoid direct sunlight to maintain the color of the leaves.
You can also use a microwave to dry your leaves. If necessary, clean your leaves by gently rubbing them with soap under lightly running water to remove any excess dirt. Dab them dry with a paper towel, taking care not to damage the leaves. Place the leaves between two dry paper towels and put them in the microwave.
Microwave for 30 seconds for smaller leaves and one minute for larger leaves. Start with 30 seconds, adding more time as needed if you're unsure. Let them cool before using them.
Pressing Your Leaves
Another way to dry live leaves is to press them in a book or use a flower press tool. You want enough weight or pressure on the leaf to force out all the moisture and make it permanently flat. Remove any excess moisture by blotting the leaves with paper towels. You may also want to begin drying the leaves using the air-dry method. If they're too wet, they'll damage the book.
Put the leaf between two dry paper towels and place it inside a large book, such as a dictionary. Stack other large books or other heavy items on top to add weight. Leave them for at least a week or longer if needed to dry and flatten them completely. Instead of a book, you can also use a special flower-pressing tool, which you can buy at a craft store or make yourself.
Other Methods to Dry Leaves Quickly
The heat from a dry iron is also effective in drying leaves. It's the best method to use if you're hoping to preserve the color of the leaf. Put the leaves between two wax paper pieces. Let your iron warm up to gentle heat that is high enough to be effective but low enough that you don't have to use steam.
Place a towel on the wax paper and apply the iron for about three minutes or until the top side of the leaf is dry. Remove the towel and flip over the wax paper so that the other side of the leaf is on top. Replace the towel and repeat the ironing process.
Silica gel can also work for drying leaves. This substance looks like baking soda or salt but is tremendously absorbent. You can buy it at hardware or craft stores. Put a thick (about 1 inch) layer of silica gel at the bottom of a microwave-safe pan. Use another layer of silica gel to cover the leaves and microwave for 30 seconds.