February 2, 2007

Cleaning Dried Eucalyptus

It was time to clean my dried flower arrangements. The last time I cleaned the one in the bathroom was... never. Not that they didn't really need any cleaning, but because it's a big arrangement with assorted flowers and reeds that it would really require a considerable block of time to clean them.

You wish you could just throw them in a bucket of sudsy water, shwish them around, pull them out, and shake them dry. But you can't. You have to hold each stalk and gently brush off the dust and dirt. You could lose a dried flower or break a twig here and there, but it's part of the cleaning process.

Most of my arrangements are eucalyptus -- I like them for their resiliency. The fragrance is distinct, although I've encountered some that get nasty after a while, smelling like old socks -- I think some driers mess with additive fragrances. But, dried eucalyptus really last forever.

So, I picked up my trusty soft-bristled paintbrush, took a seat out in the patio, dumped all the preserved eucalyptus branches, dried wheat stalks, mini-bamboos, twisted cane sticks, and dehydrated flowers on the round table, and went to work.

It took me about an hour to clean three floral arrangements. I re-arranged only enough for one vase. The rest, I laid out in an oversized shirt box to store for future use. I could've thrown them away... they're dead anyway. But I'm a certified card-carrying packrat, er, conservationist-recycler, who believes that every item in this world could potentially be a component of a revolutionary art piece. Okay, I'm a packrat. But look, these preserved eucalyptus leaves still look good after... so many years!

Eucalyptus leaves are particularly prone to dust... they attract dust... or more like dust clings to them for dear life. That's because the leaves and stems are naturally oily. Eucalyptus is preserved by letting them absorb water spiked with glycerin, an ingredient in the soap-making process. Effectively, the branches are "dry" but remain oily. Therefore, it requires a little patience to clean these branches because you have to brush both sides of each leaf to really do a good job. Blowing or "swiffer"-ing won't do. Well, consider it a zen experience -- not unlike pruning and shaping bonsai. Or, just like you polish your silver, you brush your dried eucalyptus.

Here are some photos I took during my zen moments:


Anonymous said...

Hi, Ruby! I feel that I know you already! I love you're sense of humor! Thanks for the info on how to dust my dried eucalyptus.I have procratinated doing it. You have given me hope! You did such a great job!

Anonymous said...

Gosh! It has been 1-1/2 years since anyone commented on this. I have to add that I too had procrastinated much too long in cleaning these wonderful plants. But anyway, thanks for the info!

rebecca said...

so cool!! i was about to throw my eucalyptus swags out. i took them down from an archway in my home to do some painting and i really hadn't looked too closely at them for a while. when i did i nearly pitched them. then "a little light bulb turned on in my head"! i've been trying to "google" questions that i've had recently. so i did it! i googled "how to clean dried eucalyptus"! low and behold, your procedure was there! thanks sooo much for sharing! : )

Melissa said...

well, i guess i knew what the answer was gonna be to this question... i REALLY wanted to put the dried eucalyptus in "in a bucket of sudsy water and swirl it around" but ....i DO want to save em, so ....here i go!!
thanks for your post

Anonymous said...

i have put my eucalyptus in the sink, sprayed with water and put it on paper towels to dry... works fine, easy and quick.

Anonymous said...

I, too enjoyed your post. What happens to the plant if it
is wet? Thanks in advance!

Linda Bell said...

Good information is useful forever. Thank you for sharing the before and after pictures. Was cleaning for the holidays and didn't want to discard my tired looking arrangements. Now I won't have to.

Teresa Cypher said...

Good article--and I love your sense of humor. Pack-rat indeed... lol Thanks for the explanation. :-)

Anonymous said...

I love my eucalyptus branches! Mine still smell great. I also hoped for an easier fix, but I can Zen on my porch in the morning. I also like your sense of humor. From one pack rat to another -- thanks so much.