Choose your pine cone based on it being dry and firm, not wet and soggy. Also if you feel a particular pine cone is very sticky, skip it and move on to collect a different one. You might get lucky and find all your pine cones are free if sap, and if so terrific! But if not, don’t worry, when you get home you will cure that. Be sure to choose pine cones of all sizes because a large one may work well in one craft and tiny ones may work well in another. So keep an open mind in regard to shape and size.
When you get home and you are ready to clean your pine cones, you have a choice between 2 methods. You can soak and wash them or you bake them. The washing method will remove the sap, and the baking method will glaze the sap. In either case, it will rid of any stickiness so they can easily be used in crafts.
If you choose the wash method, the best way to clean them is in a double sink. A large laundry tub type sink works great. You will place the drain stop in your sink and lay the pine cones down inside the sink. Then you will squirt some antibacterial dish liquid soap over the pine cones and begin filling the sink with very warm water. Be generous with the soap. Let the pine cones soak for at least 20 minutes, then return to the sink and let the water out. Now you can begin rinsing them. When the pine cones are drained and you can see they don’t feel sticky, then give them a good rinse. If they are still sticky, then repeat the procedure, this time using some all purpose non toxic or disinfectant household cleaner. When you are done washing the pine cones, lay them on some plastic garbage bags or grocery bags on the floor to dry. Be sure it is in an area where children or pets won’t tamper with them.
If you choose to use the oven bake method, then simply line large baking pans with foil. The foil protects your pans from the sap. Heat your oven to 200 degrees and bake the pine cones for about 20 minutes. This should take care of removing the sticky sap problem and your pine cones will become glazed. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you do not leave the kitchen when you bake the pine cones because you want to check their progress. They may need a little more time or a little less depending on pine cone size and how your oven generates heat. You may even decide to raise the oven heat for a few minutes, but not by much and only when completely supervised.