How to preserve moss.

I’d like to start us off today with a poem.

Moss is soft
Moss is green
Moss is where the wormies scream
when you on them step
by accident

by karen
copyright 2014

I’m not sure how much screaming they actually do when you step on them considering they don’t make a sound when you accidentally cut them in  half with a shovel, but poems are meant to evoke emotions more than truth.  Like political campaign commercials.

So moss. That’s what we’re dealing with here today on The Art of Doing Stuff.  I’ve been preserving moss for about 8 years now.

You’ve probably all either seen or bought Reindeer Moss (which is actually a lichen).  It’s a soft, fluffy moss used as filler in planters and flower arrangements.  It’s usually died a lime green colour.  Nice, but not completely natural.  Like my hair.

Preserved reindeer moss is also very expensive.  Like my hair.  So when we went up to the cottage a 8 or so years ago and I saw reindeer moss growing all over the cottage property I figured I’d grab some and figure out how to preserve it once I got home.

Turns out it wasn’t very hard, but finding reliable instructions to do it was.   Therefore, because I like to share all that is good, easy and crafty in this world I have for you today 2 easy ways to preserve any moss.

I’ve used this technique with both Reindeer moss (which we have established is indeed actually a lichen) and regular button moss.

 Title

The first method I’m going to show you is the one I can absolutely guarantee works. I used this particular technique 8 years ago to preserve some Reindeer moss and some button moss and both types are still as soft and pliable as the day I picked them.

You’ll need Glycerin and Methyl Hydrate (or Denatured Alcohol).

Glycerin is available on the shelf in drugstores ($5.99)

Methyl Hydrate (or Denatured Alcohol) is available in hardware stores (can’t remember how much … but it’s cheap)

How To Preserve Moss 1

Pick the twigs and leaves out of your moss and send the party goers home.
How To Preserve Moss

Mix together 2 parts Glycerin with one part Methyl Hydrate.

How To Preserve Moss 3

 

Stir it up with your tongue.  Just joking.  Please don’t do that.

 

How To Preserve Moss 4

 

Place your moss in the bowl and leave it for 10 minutes or so to absorb the mixture.  If only half of the moss is being covered just flip it after 5 minutes.

How To Preserve Moss 5

After the 10 minutes are up, remove the moss, squeeze out the excess mixture and then transfer the moss to another container to drain.  Once it’s drained, place on a paper towel for more drainage.

Repeat this process keeping new moss in the mixture and draining the already soaked moss.

 

How To Preserve Moss 6

The moss may feel like it’s going a little bit crunchy at first. That’s just the methyl hydrate removing the moisture from the moss. Don’t worry. It’ll turn soft again. Don’t fiddle with it and crunch it up. Just leave it.

Leave your moss on towels (paper or otherwise) to dry for the next couple of days. Once you can feel it’s soft and pliable but not wet, put it in bags or plastic containers until you want to use it. It will stay soft and pliable forever now.

The second technique which I tried and worked (but can’t guarantee it will keep moss soft for years) is slightly different.

For this method of preserving moss you need Glycerin and hot water.

One part glycerin, 2 parts HOT water.

How To Preserve Moss 7

Mix together the Glycerin and hot water. The point of using hot water is it will help the moss more easily absorb the glycerin.

Put a batch of moss into the mixture and leave it for an hour (or until the mixture has completely cooled)

How To Preserve Moss 8

You may need to weigh the moss down to ensure it’s completely covered by the hot water/glycerin solution. Just put another bowl over the moss and weigh it down with a brick.

How To Preserve Moss 9

If you don’t have a brick, just use whatever you have handy.

How To Preserve Moss 10

To repeat this process with another batch of moss you have to reheat your water and glycerin solution. I dumped mine into an old tupperware container and just heated it up in the microwave. You could also reheat it over the stove.

The second technique using only hot water and glycerin has kept the moss soft for a few days now, but I have no idea if it will hold up as well as the glycerin/methyl hydrate solution over time. For now, so far so good.

Like I said, this technique will work with any moss.

How To Preserve Moss 11

Mossy moss
You’re soft and squishy
With this solution
foreverishy.

by Karen
copyright 2014

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103 Comments

  1. Jamieson says:

    Classy picture lol. Just another silly day at the orifice?
    An Ode To This Post
    Here’s a picture of some sphagnum,
    With some cream for itchy bag, mum.

    That’s as far as I got.

  2. Cynthia Jones says:

    Just for readers in Australia, denatured alcohol is called Methylated Spirits here. The manufacturers started tinting it purple years ago in an attempt to stop people drinking it for a cheap buzz. I guess that might change the colour of the soaked moss slightly but not too much. I have spent many hours doing Important Faerie Work decorating my letterbox, mushrooms and teacups with fake moss and glue. This is a great chance to try something new. Hmm….I wonder if spraying this mix onto stone or brick that is moss-covered would preserve it outdoors. Check out Old Moss Woman on Facebook, Karen. Another lover of moss and mushrooms.

    • Debby says:

      you can in Australia get the non purple metho-you just need to ask they keep it off the shelf in hardware shops & some stores

  3. Pat says:

    I wanted another corner of the kitchen.

    • Liesl Joubert says:

      Me too

    • Ev Wilcox says:

      Me too!

      • And instead we got … moss.

        That alright by me because I actually purchased a little container of moss for the very first time a couple of weeks ago. This is Texas. I’ve never seen moss grow on anything. It’s growing like crazy on the window sill, but I don’t know what to do with it. I can replace all the fake moss in my glass succulent containers with it, but otherwise I’m clueless. I’m also clueless as to how to keep this stuff alive and multiplying. Any help would be appreciated because it’s not like they sell this stuff all the time.

  4. Cynthia Jones says:

    That FB site is Old Moss Woman’s Secret Garden. Methinks you may be part fey. Like a wise woman who would live in the forest in olden days, making stuff, fixing stuff and trying to avoid that bunch of guys coming up the path with pitchforks. 🙂

  5. Amie Mason says:

    Very interesting! I’ve never used moss for decorating but I do I love using sphagnum moss for creating terrariums. Is sphagnum moss available to buy over there Karen?

    You might enjoy this: http://www.fishandthelemontree.com/in-the-garden/orchid-terrarium/

  6. Laura Bee says:

    Once again ~ you have changed my life. Or at least given me another bit of very, very useful knowledge.
    Just last week I picked up a piece of bark with a little moss on it & the next day it was dead! The fairies have been mad all week.
    Your poetry is brilliant.

  7. Kat says:

    I do not want to preserve moss even though I am crafty that way but your post today intrigued me as I have a cool bottle of glycerin (it is one of those dark brown glass bottles from the pharmacy 20 oz. in fact) in my fridge that I bought a long time ago (I was going to make a new revolutionary skin mosturizer) and I know the expiration date is long gone but have no idea how to dispose of it? I think I will secretly dig a hole in the back yard and dump it in killing all worms and sucking the moisture out of them. LOL!!! Not really but what the hell am I going to do with it?

    • Mary Werner says:

      Glycerin is a by-product of turning oil into fuel industry and is used by road department to “water” down the dusty dirt roads – suppose to be completely biodegradable and is great for your hands. Stampers use it to refresh their ink pads and can be used for embossing. Great product and cheap. Don’t think it needs refrigeration nor would there be an expiration date.

  8. Debbie says:

    I love this post and wish I’d known about this three years ago when I had to buy a bunch of expensive moss for hats a friend and I were making for Saratoga Hat Day. The hats had little race horse trains going around the brim and a working water fountain in a gazebo on top of the hat. We won first place. The moss was for decoration with little flowers around the race track on the brim. Yes, we wore the hats all day and they stayed on our heads.

    I love the line: “It’s usually died a lime green colour.” The clever use of “died” rather than “dyed” is sheer brilliance!

    After three hours of lesson planning, I go to sleep with a smile on my face. Thank you!!!

  9. Nancy says:

    This is so exciting! You’re a genius, Karen. I love moss but I don’t know what kinds we have. In the pacific NW there are different looking mosses EveryWhere. They sell moss killer by the tons. So sad. Did y’all know moss blooms in the spring.? It does. Tiny white fairy flowers. I going to try and preserve blooming moss.

    • Margaret K. says:

      The plant with white flowers is not an actual moss – it’s related to pinks and chickweed, although its common name is “Irish moss”. It might not respond as well to to the glycerin/alcohol treatment, particularly the flowers. You can glycerin tree leaves, though the process is a little different. I hadn’t seen this suggested for moss before – learn something new all the time.

      • nancy says:

        Oh thanks for the info. I am from Louisiana, we only have Spanish moss. I have to try preserving Irish moss anyway, it’s part of the TAoDS attitude.

  10. Jacquie says:

    Love the stuff you weighed the bowl down with; made me snort water out of my nostrils. I had just taken a drink – I don’t keep water up there for such occasions. Best to clarify that I feel.

  11. Love your idea of “whatever you have handy” for weighing things down…but I think you’re teasing us by not showing the label on the bottle Karen!!

  12. JennyW says:

    Can we all just take a moment, and be grateful, that spiders don’t fly….

  13. Tigersmom says:

    Whatever you have handy – hehehehehe.

    Didn’t the weight of the brick or handy items smush the moss and misshape it or is moss way tougher than I’m giving it credit for being?

    I, obviously, have had very limited experience with moss.

  14. mayr says:

    How do you know this stuff?

    Also, the “whatever you have handy picture” = BAHAHAHAHA!

  15. So, wondering why you can’t just air dry it since it just sits still when in use? I guess I mean that if it turns brittle, no one should notice if it is in a flower pot? But, I’ve only used moss outside, still living, so I have limited brain space taken up with such thoughts. Thanks for the DIY!

    • Karen says:

      Mainly because you’re right. It turns VERY brittle. You can’t even touch it because it crumbles. Also, because most people change their planters or flower arrangements or whatever, it’s good to have something that you can take out and use again. If it’s dry you can’t do that. The other thing about preserving it is, because the moss is still pliable, you can mush it and bend it and form it around little plants in your planter. ~ karen!

  16. I was all set to dive right in and preserve moss. We legit have about 100 acres of the stuff. Then.I.saw.the.spider.

    Ha! I think it is a better idea for you to come here and stay in the treehouse while preserving moss. Problem solved.

    🙂

    • Karen says:

      I think that is not a better idea, lol. The treehouse part sounds good. But being stuck in it preserving moss like I’m on some sort of mossy chain gang is not. ~ karen!

  17. jainegayer says:

    I was planning to plant roses today but now all I want to do is preserve moss. It would look so nice in my with my orchids. OK, I need a life!

  18. Mary Werner says:

    How very smart of you to get a copywrite for those poems! You make me laugh even without saying anything like what you used for bowl weights. Looks like we could use a tutorial on 101 ways to use glycerin!

  19. Ev Wilcox says:

    Though some of us wanted another kitchen corner, I did like your weights!

  20. You are definitely a true poet! Thanks for the laugh this morning!

  21. Ruth says:

    I got totally distracted by your weights (not that I have moss in my neck of the woods anyway)… but let’s talk about those suppositories. Do they work as well as the ointment? Inquiring minds would like to know…. ;-D

  22. West Coast Nan says:

    “foreverishy”, my new favourite word! I am going to work that into a converstation…

  23. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    Interesting stuff…that includes the bowl of whatever is handy. You must be full of it…
    I, too, want another corner!!!! Cabinets, please. You keep teasing us.

  24. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    love those brown turdy looking mossies….what are they???

  25. Vicky says:

    The spider makes me nervous. I don’t like them.

  26. Robin says:

    Thanks for the handy info. Can’t wait to try to preserve some moss… And thanks for sharing what the contents of your medicine cabinet are…now I don’t have to wonder what’ s in there!

  27. Kelli says:

    *guffaw* I’ve had one hell of a morning, so this was just what I needed.

    Many thanks to you, your moss, and your “creative process” for giving me the giggles. Seems to happen a lot when I come here. 🙂

  28. Liz says:

    Karen is funny, she is smart
    She makes doing stuff an art
    She will teach you if you don’t know it
    and super fun bonus…
    she’s a poet!
    moss.

  29. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    This is so great for my Fairy Gardens..Gnome Gardens..Terrariums..So off to gather the lovely moss in the Magical Forrest beside my house..where the Fae and the Wee Ones live..One bit of warning..never piss-off the Fairys..they have wee little bad tempers..lol

  30. Barbie says:

    I can attest that the second method does and will last. I have done systemic preserving for years with our business in large quantity….and we use glycerin and dye (also some surfactant for help with the updraw)(I simply use dish soap for surfactant) instead of expensive something or other…works just as good. Great post!

    • Cimpan Lucian says:

      Hello Ms. Barbie,
      First let me thank Ms.Karen for her helpful post. I myself am looking to make a framed moss panel. Since I can’t find dried moss in my country and buying from somewhere else would be too expensive, I thought I’d give this method a try (there’s a lot of bun moss growing in the woods near my house, so raw material would not be a problem). I understand that for the colors to keep looking fresh I need to use dye- and from your comment I see I have to use also dish soap. Could you please tell me what type of dye and soap you would recommend, what should i be looking for – there are many products out there that contain a lot of different chemicals, so i don’t know if all of them work.
      Thank you for your time,
      Lucian Cimpan

      • Barbie says:

        Lucian, we just use any cheap dish soap and there is actually no exact science to it. We just put a “glug” into the container with the glycerin and dye and swish it around until it is nice and bubbly….it is simply to make the uptake go easier…..surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. It’s a wetting agent so to speak. We get our dye from a company in Colorado http://www.kochcolor.com/absorptiondyes_main.htm….but you may try going online and searching the term “Dyes for systemic preserving” Hope this helps.

  31. Sarah says:

    K is for KITCHEN!!! I suspect this (albeit wonderful ) post is mosstly a diversion! Think you may have a mutiny on your moss covered hands soon! Truly, madly, deeply,. . . we all scream ‘more kitchen’!!! All in agreement? Say ‘eye’!!

  32. Olga says:

    I have no hope we going to see the 3rd corner of the kitchen anytime soon. Every post is going to be just a tease until we all just drop to our knees and beg. lol

  33. Kate Sparrow says:

    First of all, thank you for the comedy. As if this wasn’t fun enough to learn about all on its own, your wise cracks take it to the next level. Funny stuff. I want more!
    Secondly, thanks for sharing this. I’ve been wondering how to do this for years and what do ya know, I finally got around to googling it and was lucky enough to find you here. Much appreciated!
    Last thing, do you know if this will work on ferns or other plants?
    One more big thanks!
    Kate

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kate. Well now I’m gonna have to go back and re-read this post. It’s funny you say? Huh. So, I haven’t used this techinque with anything other than moss. Both reindeer moss and regular moss. The regular moss (button moss) lost most of its original bright green colour, but it preserved just fine. So the same thing might happen with the fern. I’m not sure. It’s an easy and inexpensive enough project that it shouldn’t be too hard to give it a shot and then promptly report back to me so I know how it went. 😉 ~ karen!

  34. Melissa says:

    K…I’m sitting on a mossy log overlooking a brand new beaver dam on our property thinking “I need me summa this moss” and since I’m all modern tech n’all I looked up how to preserve on my iPhone and I’m sitting here on this log with my dog jack all “come ooooooon mom!” And I am just CRACKING UP over this post if yours!!!

  35. Tori says:

    Hello..
    This made me chuckle and was informative..double bonus.
    Will this method work with Lichen or Lichen flowers?
    thank you thank you thank you
    tori

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tori. Reindeer moss is a lichen, so depending on what you’re planning on preserving it should work. you’re welcome you’re welcome you’re welcome. ~ karen!

  36. Pingback: Everything You Ever Wanted (and didn’t want) to Know About Moss | Pith + Vigor

  37. sara says:

    So I do have a question, did you dry the moss out before putting it in the solution or do you just pick and put it in? And if so for how?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sara! Nope, there’s no need to dry it out. Just clean it a bit. You know, for the bugs and twigs, lol. After dipping the moss will last forever. It’s incredible! Have fun. ~ karen

  38. sara says:

    Thank you so much, I did the other process today with the drying moss then heated glycerin and your way seems much easier and efficient so thank you again 🙂

  39. TAnya says:

    The writing on this is so good and funny that I decided to subscribe to whatever, whatever you’ve got going on. Thanks for a great read and fantastic info!

  40. tanya says:

    hmmm.
    I was so excited at the thought of being able to preserve some moss for an art project that I rushed out and grabbed the supplies right away. However I had a massive fail. Correct ingredients/ratio/measuring, so what the heck happened? I ended up with ultra-glossy and soggy moss that never firmed up even after spending 3 days in the sun outside on newspaper.

    Fortunately no partygoers were harmed in this experiment.
    Any tips?

  41. Crystal says:

    How would I go about preserving a large amount at once, without breaking it apart? I’m making a table cloth with some for my wedding and I’d like to do this right the first time! (I’m sure the obvious thing would be to get a tub large enough but that could get expensive with the glycerin and denatured alcohol…)

  42. Jane Little says:

    Hello from Louisiana. I am preserving moss grown on bark. Should all bark and soil be removed before preserving? Does the bark become preserved during this process?
    Thanks,
    Jane

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane! I have to be honest with you, I’ve never tried to preserve moss on the bark. I’ve always removed it. I’m not sure it would work. I have a feeling the wood would just eventually either dry out, or rot because the glycerine wouldn’t be able to be absorbed right through the wood. It’s easy for it to absorb completely into the moss, but not the wood. If I were you I’d remove the moss, preserve it separately and then if you want the look of it on bark, place it on bark later. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • Jane Little says:

        Thank you for your quick reply! I enjoy the finding and preserving process more than the decorating process. Will now need to be creative!
        Jane

      • Jane says:

        One more question :> Does the smell go away?
        One more comment :> You’re the best!

        • Jane says:

          The smell could be coming from my first batch which contained too much organic matter. Both batches are in the same room. I plan to cut more away. Should I preserve again by saturation or misting?

          • Jane says:

            Sorry for play-by-play mistakes! Decided to toss it due to chance of mold. Learning how to not be afraid and just experiment is challenging for me!

        • Karen says:

          You know what Jane? It doesn’t go away completely. :/ I’m not sure if the smell subsides a little or if you just get used to it but it doesn’t seem as bad after a while. ~ karen!

  43. Jane Little says:

    Have you any instructions on preserving boxwood?

  44. Megan Beasley says:

    Would this method work for Spanish moss? Since it is not a lichen but a bromeliad, I wasn’t sure. I have a ton of it that I harvested and now need to dye and preserve. Help!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Megan. I haven’t tried it so I can’t guarantee it would work, but I think as long as it’s something that’s porous, this method would work. I’d at least give it a shot if I were you. 🙂 ~ karen!

  45. Laurel says:

    How long do you think the glycerin and hot water moss would last? I just need some to last me until my January wedding 🙂 We live in Florida and I will be taking advantage of the abundance of Spanish moss around these parts for my centerpieces. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      It will last forever. Seriously. It will never ever go brittle. I have some I did almost 10 years ago and it’s still perfect. ~ karen!

  46. Deborah says:

    Hey Karen,

    2 years have passed since you tried the 2nd technic with he hot water and glycerin, so I was wondering how the moss looks like by now ? I mean, I know that if I try the first techinic, I would not resist by styring with my tongue, so I think it would be wiser for me to adopt the non toxic one. 😉 Since I am using the moss for art wich will be sold (hopefully…), I have a big concern about how the moss from the 2nd technic turned out after 2 years. 🙂 Thanks for the response !

    Deborah

  47. James says:

    Hi is this method non-toxic? I’m looking for a non-toxic version to preserve my reindeer moss. Also, do you know a method to paint the moss with non-toxic paint? Would truly truly truly appreciate that. 🙂

  48. Shannon says:

    canyou preserve the moss and lichens after they have already driedout like rehydrating them and then do the glycerine process? by the way I love your site too bad our commune of same mided are spread out just the same nice to have links like you
    shannon

    • Karen says:

      Hey Shannon! I’m not really sure if the process would work on dried moss but it sounds like it would. I rehydrate things like mushrooms and saffron and chile peppers all the time but soaking them in water so my guess is your idea would work! ~ karen

      • shannon says:

        Thanks for thetrply and it does work on stuff that has already dried I do it in hot water and glycerine helps dehydrate like u said I’m so excited I’ve been doing wreaths for years and everything is always dried eventually it starts breaking down little by little now it will last longer I usually do a thanksgiving wreath each year fromforest treasures and seed pods flowers ect trasures this year I have been making smaller wreaths from each camping trip specific to that trip or area we went to its addicting thanks

  49. Chelsea Moore says:

    Any suggestive on how to separate mods from the diet more effectively? I just keep typing it apart…! Help!

  50. Michelle Grant says:

    By using just glycerin and hot water, is dye required to keep it green or will it stay green on its own?…Thanks, Michelle

  51. Fiona says:

    Great post thanks so much!
    To harvest the moss, do I just go with a spatula and scrape it off the tree trunks and charming bridges in my area? I’ve experimented with collecting moss before and remember it having a thick layer of dirt on which it attaches sometimes. Does one just wash this off or is this kind of moss not preservable?
    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Fiona! Button moss is like that. It has a layer of sort of … dirt/grime on the bottom. I have successfully preserved it using this glycerine method. Just knock a bit of it off the bottom. As much as you can without having the moss fall apart and you’re good. ~ karen!

  52. Sonja Quinn says:

    Karen, sometimes the moss I collect has a lot of dirt on the bottom side. (especially button moss) I can’t scrape to much of it away without the moss falling apart. Does this extra dirt cause any problems with the preserving process? Also, does anyone know what is the best way to attach (glue??) the moss to wood? I’d like to attach the preserved moss to a piece of wood but don’t know what type of adhesive to use.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sonja! You can still use this technique with button moss. I know what you mean about the dirt on the bottom. Just try to keep it all together as best as you can. Your glycerine mixture will get dirty when you do it but it will work. Just be careful when you’re working with it. I think you might have better luck wiring the moss to the wood. Stapling, wiring, that sort of thing. ~ karen!

      • Sonja Quinn says:

        Thanks for your help, I did try preserving the button moss, and it seems to take forever to dry. It’s been atleast 4 weeks and it I still making the new newspaper I transferred it too damp. Is this normal?

        • Karen says:

          Hi Sonja. I can’t actually remember how long it took my button moss to dry, but my guess is it will be fine eventually. And the best part is, it will last forever! ~ karen

  53. Patty lamers says:

    Hi Karen, i would like to give my moss some color, do you think i can add foodpaint to the mixture?? Patty 😊

    • Karen says:

      Hi Patty! I’ve never done it myself but this would probably be the perfect time to add food colouring. The mixture *should* absorb it into the moss. Try a little test piece first to make sure it works. My only concern would be the glycerine would prevent the food colouring from ever drying and every time you touched the coloured moss, it will stain your fingers. Another way to go about it would be to stain the moss first in food colouring and water and then do the soaking solution. Then your worry though is that the food colouring all bleeds out. I just realized I’ve been NO help to you whatsoever, lol. All you can do is try each method and see which works best. Good luck! ~ karen

      • Patt says:

        Well i gues i’ll just have to try and see how it works out, 😊 i’ll let you know 😊maybe we find out a new way to paint moss 😉 patty !!

      • Patty lamers says:

        Thanx Karen, i’ll just try and let you know the result 😉 Patty !

  54. Patty lamers says:

    Hi Karen, thanks i’ll try and let you know the results 😉 Patty !

  55. Taya says:

    Hey! Great post!!
    Would this same method work to preserve ferns or other plants as well? Thanks!

    Taya

    • Karen says:

      Hey Taya! I’m not sure if it would work with other stuff or not, I’ve never tried it. I have a feeling it might not because I feel like the material you’re preserving would need to be porous in some way. BUT … I’d totally try it if I were you. 😉 ~ karen!

  56. Ronnie Attiq says:

    I’m interested in dying moss to make a vertices garden but my question is does the moss need to be a white or light color , could I bleach a green moss white then die the desired color .

  57. Kat says:

    Hi, is the firs method with methyl and glycerine non toxic? I want to make a deroration for hospital and i dont know if methyl is harmless. Thanks

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