Monday, November 5, 2012

Bleaching Bottle Brush Trees

bleaching bottle brush trees, Christmas
Distressing things are just second nature to me.  Give me something new, and I will figure how to to make it vintage-looking.

Several years ago I was cleaning the destruction left by Christmas and accidentally knocked some of my bottle brush trees into the bleach water.

I screamed in horror as the "green-ness" of them was fading - quickly fading!

I fished them out of the sink, washed them in soap and water, and laid them out to dry.

To my surprise, I loved them!

They turned a very pretty pastel color.  Pale greens, blues, yellows.  I was liking this look.

Now I did not, repeat, I did not go immediately to my stash of genuine vintage bottle brush trees and give them a dip in bleach, but I did jump in the car to Hobby Lobby to see how many bottle brush trees they had on clearance.   Snatched up several bags, whisked them home, and promptly bleached the color out of them.

I now use those in spring decorations.  I also have some fall ones.

I honestly did not know they were such a big deal until last week when several bloggers started tutorials on them.

This is what I do.  This is not an exact science.  You cannot predict the outcome.  Sometimes it is pretty, sometimes it is not.  Be forewarned.

First buy the cheapest bag of bottle brush trees you can find.  Please do not use vintage trees - they are getting harder to find for collectors.

I found a bag of 21 for about $7.  This was the cheapest I have ever found them.  I am convinced they were marked incorrectly.  I bought 8 bags of them.

I put a tub in the sink and dump in some bleach - probably about two cups - I don't measure because sometimes you have to add more.  Follow with enough warm water to cover the biggest tree.  

Just throw them in the tub.  I use a plastic fork to sink them.  The snow will come off.  Don't worry you can add more later.  I rub the fork gently down the bristles.  The dye appears dark brown in the water.  Soak them until the color is where you want it to be.

Take them out and give them a good bath in warm soapy water and place somewhere to dry upright.

Now observe the two photos above.  Two different batches of trees.  Within each batch is a wide range of colors even though the trees stayed in the bleach about the same time.  You do not have any control over this.  You get what you get.  In the first photo is a batch I left soaking while going to answer the phone.  You will notice they are darker and more orange-y in color.  The second photo shows a batch that spent about five minutes in the bleach bath.  Again a wide range of colors.

After a long drying period, gently fluff any bristles that have smushed.

I pick out the ones I like and put them aside.

At this point you can use any number of methods to put color back on the not-so-pretty ones.

I use Glimmer Mist by Tattered Angels because it is easy to use and seems to dry faster.

Here is a group dyed to perfection with blue, red, pink, and peach.

You can use your imagination as far as decorations go.  I leave mine plain, but you can add balls, garland, stars, and, of course, snow.

Here is the before picture of the bottle brush trees fresh out of their package.

I am not knocking how they look here - I will soon have them all over the place.

But those bleached beauties just call my name!

I have taken a load of them to the store for my display case with a pick-up truck from the Men's Metal Accessories Shop at Hobby Lobby.  (Who knew that existed!?!)  I loaded the back of the truck with trees.

I forgot to take a picture, but I have seen several tree trucks floating about Blogland.

Now I have 80 more trees to bleach and dye so excuse me for running off.  Don't you just love the smell of bleach in the morning?

See y'all!

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  1. I love how they turned out...especially the pink ones!

  2. Your bottle brush trees turned out great after bleaching. Love the variety of colors. I had the same results when I bleached my real fall leaves. I used leaves from the same branch (tree) and the results were different for each leaf. Some turned real light while others only bleached in spots, even after leaving the leaves in for a very long time. Oh the mysteries of science.

  3. So cute!!! I would have never thought of that! I have a TON of little bitty faux trees (not bottle brush ones) and MIGHT try this on one to see how it goes!

  4. Really nifty, Donna! Thanks for the how-to on this. Something to consider . . . one of these days . . .

  5. Very cool idea! I can see this for other seasonal decor as well!

    Gail, you bleached fall leaves? I'd love to see that!

  6. Love these!!! I have a bunch of old ones that have seen better days (not vintage, just old to me) and think this might be a great way to add some interesting colour to my Snow Babies display.

    Also love the smell of bleach - always clean my bathrooms and kitchen floor with it just so I can smell that "clean".

  7. Love your bleached bottle brush trees. I did that several years ago for an all white Christmas display and just loved it. I have not tried to dye them yet. Looks really neat with all the different colors, displayed as they are.
    Audrey Z.
    Timeless Treasueres

  8. I love how they look . . . some of the best artsy ideas, started off as accidents. This was a special little accident :)
    Thanks for sharing.
    Your blogging sister, Connie :)

  9. Love these! Thanks for the great tips! Now for the tree hunt...

  10. I like the colored ones. I've bleached them white , but never thought about coloring them again. I will have to try that this time. I think I bought my trees at Home depot of all places.

  11. Great post. I have a box that I want to bleach, but mine are vintage. I hadn't even considered your point about them becoming more rare. Food for thought before I dunk then in the bleach tub.

  12. P.S. Shared your tips on my FB page.

  13. I love swinging by to say, “Hello from Whimsy Wednesday!” Thank you for partying with us!
    Smart! School {House}

  14. I love bottle brush trees, I have to try these this year. Thanks for sharing how you do it, Laura

  15. These are so fun and festive! Saw you link up on some blog hops. Would love it if you linked up on my blog hop and added it to your list Also let me know if you'd like to follow each other!

  16. This is so cool! Thanks for sharing!

  17. I just love bottle brush trees and have way before they became so popular. I found some white trees and will simply spray them so I don't even need to bleach but will use bleach on my green ones.

    Thank you for sharing.

  18. Oh my these are so beautiful! I want to make some now! I have a small stash and no time until next week....arghh! These will be featured EVERYWHERE and I pinned them because they are awesome! I'm going to put this link on my Silo Hill Farm Creates facebook page right now! Awesomeness and you my dear are a genius!

  19. Well I never! I may just have to get me some bottle brush trees! How clever. What a great way to add some pretty color to a Christmas scene.

  20. I want some! The bleached effect is fabulous. Love the variations. If I wasn't so busy with the non-stop plain hard, backbreaking work of getting my house in shape for company, I'd go buy some trees and get busy. Maybe after Thanksgiving. Thanks for the great idea!

  21. You're a STAR with your own feature spotlight over at I Gotta Create! These little firs are so fabulous! Thank you for partying with the Wildly Original crowd each week Donna. Love this idea!

    <3 Christina at I Gotta Create!

  22. This is a really awesome idea! I'm going to have to be on the lookout for some trees so I can give this a try. Yours look great!

  23. What a neat idea! I love when accidents turn out for the good. Thank you so much for sharing this at Rustic Restorations Weekend!

  24. So clever, so awesome Donna! I love your Bottle Brush Trees!

  25. I love these... especially the pink ones. They look so vintage!!

  26. These are so cute! Would love it if you came by and shared it at One More Time

  27. I will have to try the dye next. Love them Donna.

  28. Hi, Stopping by to let you know I appreciated that you linked up and let you know you have been featured at One More Time Events.

  29. Wow, I really LOVE the look of these bleached trees. I have got to give it a whirl! Happy to be a new follower. I have a link party, Share Your Cup Thursday. I would love for you to share sometime!

  30. These are just great, thanks for sharing this project with us.

  31. I love these trees and have been looking for them everywhere!

  32. thanks for posting this type of amazing blog.. keep updating and keep blogging.
    Bottle Brush Manufacturer


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