Cotton is the soft and silky fibers that bloom from cotton plants and are used for clothing and medical applications. A cotton plant yields cotton bolls that can be threaded to make fibers for clothing and woven to absorbents. But raw cotton can also be preserved to make decorative souvenirs that can beautify the home and offices. So if you are interested in learning how to preserve raw cotton, then this guide is for you.
It must be noted that preserving raw cotton actually involves preserving the cotton stalks and the cotton bloom on them. If you planted cotton plants in your backyard garden and are ready to harvest them, you might want to know how to preserve them for long-term storage and for sales to hobbyists who make crafts with them.
You must be aware of your preservation plans before harvesting your cotton plants so that you can exercise due caution during the harvesting and preservation stages.
How to Preserve Raw Cotton: The Steps
You can preserve raw cotton effectively by harvesting your own mature cotton plants or buying one from your neighbors. Crafters engage more in cotton decorations and preservation during the Fall since that is when the plant hits the market after harvesting. Preserving your own cotton starts with cutting and preserving the stalk and the bloom.
1. Cut your cotton stalk
You must cut your cotton twigs or stalk properly to initiate the preservation process. You must be careful to cut the cotton stalk according to the actual length that you require for preservation. You must also cut the stalk when the cotton bloom is fully open and ready for harvesting. You must cut with a sharp knife at around 6 inches, and you go for 18-30 inches if you desire a longer stalk for use.
Sometimes it’s best to cut a longer stalk that you can trim as you want instead of a shorter stalk that can get damaged during the cutting process.
2. Hand your cotton stalk upside down to dry
That is quite plain and understandable. After cutting your cotton twig, place it somewhere dry and well-ventilated in an upside-down position to dry. It must remain in this upside-down position for at least one week until you see that the leaves are completely dry and the stem lacks flexibility. Once it is completely dry, you can progress to the stage of cleaning the cotton stalk.
3. Clean your raw cotton stalk
The next thing in the preservation process is to completely remove any dry leaves and broken branches from the stalk. This cleaning process will ensure that your raw cotton is well-preserved and presentable to people as a decorative piece. Only branches that you find unnecessary should be removed, and the same goes for dry leaves. Everything should be well-trimmed if your cotton stalk is to be used for a wreath or bouquet.
The cotton balls should also be properly cleaned, and any desired balls or branches that fall off by mistake should be glued back in place.
4. Polish the cotton
You can polish the cotton balls to make them more attractive. You can do this through painting and spraying – but we shall come to that separately. Polishing your cotton bolls ensures that all debris is removed and each cotton boll gets whiter. The cotton balls are the most attractive and fascinating part of a cotton stalk, so ensure you devote enough time to make them look white and more attractive.
5. Seal and paint with acrylic spray
When acrylic spray is used on raw cotton, it seals the cotton for long-term preservation and dynamic art uses. It serves to paint the branches and stalk of the cotton plant in a way that makes it more attractive for placement on centerpieces, wreaths, and bouquets. While a clear acrylic spray is the best for sealing raw cotton, you can also use hairspray if that is what you have.
After spraying the flower, you must leave it hanging at room temperature for 1-2 weeks until it is completely dry. You can spray up to three layers of aerosol hairspray on the plant to achieve the best color and style for your cotton stalk. This will make the raw cotton twig and flower appear more attractive and last longer for aesthetic use.
It must be noted that spraying your cotton is not mandatory; you can leave the raw cotton stalk in its natural beauty. But spraying the cotton provides a finishing that adds value to the plant for preservation and decoration purposes. According to experts, well-preserved cotton stalks can last for 5 years before beginning to show signs of deterioration – meaning that the longevity of your raw cotton depends to a large extent on how well you apply preservation processes.
DIY cotton stems are artificial
Although it is possible to purchase artificial DIY cotton stems, these can never be like the natural cotton plant stalk and flower. You can grow a couple of cotton plants in your backyard for harvesting and preservation if you want to learn the skills from the ground up, and this knowledge will also enable you to open a cotton store if you master the craft enough to make it a business.
As a side note, some experts say you can air-dry your harvested cotton stalks and cotton balls instead of drying them for several weeks in a ventilated place. If you choose to go this route, you might have to make some little investment to purchase a hand air-drier that is portable for use. With this machine, you can dry your fresh cotton plant in 24 hours instead of having to wait for 1-2 weeks.
However, care must be taken that the cotton is fully dried before you decide to seal and paint with an aerosol acrylic solution. This is only to beautify it and prolong its longevity for many years. Go ahead today and try your hands at harvesting and drying a cotton stalk for preservation and marketing purposes. Become a master at how to preserve raw cotton and become a master crafter in your own rights.