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Here’s How to Preserve Fall Leaves for Natural Home Decor

A woman working on fall-themed leaf crafts.
SeventyFour/Shutterstock

Autumn leaves are so colorful, why not use them in your home as bright, whimsical decor? It’s easier than you might think. Check out two simple ways you can preserve them below.

Heating your leaves is the quickest way to dry them. While some folks press them (much the same as pressing flowers), the methods below also work well.

The Wax Paper and Iron Drying Method

The most common way to preserve leaves (both autumn or fresh green) is the wax paper pressing method. Instead of investing in a flower press or finding a heavy book, you can use an iron for quicker drying time.

You don’t need much to make this project happen. Just gather your leaves, some wax paper, and an iron and ironing board. If you don’t have an ironing board, just place a towel on a sturdy table instead.

Then, follow these steps:

  1. Warm your iron on a low setting (like the one you’d use for synthetic fabrics).
  2. Place a leaf between two halves of wax paper.
  3. Press the wax paper with your iron (you can put a sturdier piece of printer paper on top of it if you want). Move the iron back and forth for several seconds (fresh leaves that are more moist will take longer) per side to seal the leaf in the wax paper. Make sure you get all of the edges.
  4. Cut around the leaf, but leave a little wax paper so it will stay sealed inside.

Most people leave them sealed, but you can also try to peel off the wax paper. This takes a delicate hand, but a lovely wax-looking finish will preserve them. Since it doesn’t always work, though, plan ahead. Iron more leaves than you need to make up for those that come out a bit wonky.

If you’re out of wax paper, have no fear! You can iron them with regular paper on both sides for about the same amount of time. They’ll still be dry, they just won’t be preserved in wax.

You can still use them to decorate candles or put them in resin.

The Microwave Method

If you don’t have an iron, you can still quickly dry out some colorful autumn leaves by putting them in the microwave. Don’t just toss a stack in there, though—they won’t flatten, and you’ll probably also create a fire hazard.

Grab some paper towels and a dish of water, and then follow these instructions:

  1. Place the leaves in a folded paper towel.
  2. Put them in the microwave and place the dish of water on top. This is for fire safety, but it will help press them, as well.
  3. Microwave your leaves for 15-20 minutes, and then check them. Be careful not to burn yourself!
  4. If your leaves aren’t yet about the same consistency as paper, nuke them for another 5-10 seconds until they are.

Never leave your microwave unattended while drying your leaves!

Fun Things to Do with Your Leaves

You can find tons of cool things to do with your preserved leaves online, but here are a few ideas:

  • Make fall-themed candles with embedded leaves.
  • Scatter them in the center of your dining table as an accent.
  • Make greeting cards with the leaves glued on the front.

Preserving autumn leaves is a fantastic way to keep those lovely pops of color around a bit longer. When those bright yellow, orange, and red leaves start drifting down this year, be sure to scoop up a handful to keep!

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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