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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131 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    I have tried the first option with denatured alcohol and the moss feel soft weeks later but they turn brown. I preserve it right after harvest and for the exact amount of time with the exact measurements. I have not tried the water method yet.

  2. Bach says:

    This post has me intrigued. Do you dry your moss before the preserving process? If so, how long would you recommend? I live in a hot and humid place

  3. Hazel says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I have tried to embed dry lichen into resin. It worked great the first time but the second and third time, the lichen gives off a yellowish green colour to the resin. Any ideas on how to prevent this? Thank you. Hazel

    • Karen says:

      Hmm. I’m not sure Hazel. The first thing I would do in that case is probably let the moss rest for quite some time before putting it in resin. At LEAST a month. I have no idea why I’d do that but I would, lol. ~ karen!

  4. Danny Degarmo says:

    Love your article. Couple of questions: 1) Is vegetable glycerin and glycerin USP the same as far as preserving moss goes. 2)DYES-What kind do you use?? –Process??? I’m having real problems with dying my reindeer moss?? — Mood moss looks painted is this correct?
    Thanks for any help you can give me.

    Danny

    • Heather says:

      I have experimented with RIT fabric dye as well as food coloring. Thus far, RIT has worked well. I have also used her glycerin and denatured alcohol method and thus far, all of my moss is still soft weeks later. I plan to try it with the hot water method too.

  5. Sally says:

    I live in the southern part of America. We have Spanish Moss as well as lots of funguses, and lichens. Looking forward to trying this to preserve them.

  6. Iulia says:

    Hi,

    I am looking to buy preserved moss for crafting. Would you happen to know if it can be dyed?

    Thanks.

    Kind regards,
    Iulia

  7. tuesday scott says:

    Hysterical and exactly what i was looking for. It’s been a couple of years now, did the water & glycerin lichens stay soft? Thank you!

  8. George says:

    Great article!
    I would like to suggest that when you make dry moss, make sure each piece of moss is separated. If multiple pieces of moss dry together, they will not be easily removed from each other.

  9. Marilyn says:

    Will this keep the moss green?

  10. majid says:

    i am Majid from Iran

  11. majid says:

    Hi Karen!
    i am maid from Iran. thanks for your post.I used this first method for preserving fern but it wasn’t successful and the leaves did dried up after 2 days… .what is problem? is this method use only for moss?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Majid! It does need to be moss. That’s because moss is absorbent, so it can pull the glycerine mixture into it. With a fern or something that isn’t absorbent, the mixture would just sit on the surface. Maybe, maybe, if you let the fern leaf sit for a long time (days) in the mixture it *might* work. But I’m not sure. Good luck! ~ karen

  12. Nannette says:

    I absolutely will do that and keep the pieces and watch them and report my results as I get them. Thank You for getting back to me so quickly!
    Nannette

  13. Nannette Lewis says:

    Obtaining denatured alcohol is problematic and fairly expensive for me since I have to order it online (I Live in the boondocks) with a town of any size over 70 miles away. In your opinion, could I substitute 91% Isopropyl Alcohol for the denatured alcohol and use the same 2/1 mixture as you did in your 1st example and expect similar results?
    or would that 9% of water in the 91% Isopropyl foul things up from drying?

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette! I’m afraid since I’m not an alcohol scientist, I don’t know, lol. However, I think it would be O.K. And like I always say, give it a try. Oftentimes things we don’t think will work do. πŸ™‚ ~ karen!

  14. Emma says:

    Heres a couple ive done in the glycerin and purple meth, no tint from the ourple dye at all and will compare photos after a month to see how it looks, amazing!

  15. Emma says:

    I just got your subscriber email…. lol! How special do i feel now! πŸ˜‚

    Problem in the uk is there is no clear methyl hydrate on the shelves! Or even hidden in the back of the shops, and asking for it online is either super expensive or requires an hmrc letter, soooooo can isopropyl alcohol be used as a substitute?

    Emma πŸ€”

  16. Emma says:

    I know this is an old post so not getting my hopes up for a reply now but, can the glycerin methyl concoction be kelt and reused? Im in scotland so up to my eyeballs in moss.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Emma! It doesn’t matter how old a post is. I get notifications of comments for all of them. πŸ™‚ And yes, you can keep and reuse the concoction. Just put it in a jar with a lid and you’re good. πŸ™‚ ~ karen!

  17. Josh says:

    How has your moss held up? did it keep a green colour or should food colouring be added?

  18. April Wood says:

    Hi Karen, loved ur blog on preserving moss. Ur blog mentions dyeing it, but does not mention a dye. If I collect moss bright green do I preserve it then and it should stay the colour that I picked. Also If I dye a piece that has faded like the ones in your picture will the colour restore in the preserving process to a brighter green. Thanks April

  19. 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

  20. 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 .

  21. 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. πŸ˜‰ ~ karen!

  22. Patty lamers says:

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

  23. 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 πŸ˜‰ patty !!

      • Patty lamers says:

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

  24. 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

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