Christmas Snow/Flocking From Soap

To go with the window frosting, I wanted to flock my evergreen wreath and Christmas tree.  Yeah, flocking is not cheap.  While discovering this fact, I came across website after website that gave recipes for making fake snow from Ivory Soap Flakes.  Which, would make an awesome Christmas craft, if they hadn’t discontinued Ivory Soap Flakes back in 1978!  How the hell do these recipes make it to the internet?  Perhaps some old lady has a bomb shelter full of Ivory Soap Flakes that she pulls out each year to whip up some faux snow?  Then she blogs about it… and everyone just copies the blog without actually trying it out.  So, if you have a huge stock pile of Ivory Soap Flakes AND liquid starch here is the original recipe:

  • 2 cups Ivory Soap Flakes
  • 2/3 cup liquid starch
  • 4 tbsp hot water
  • glitter and 2 drops of blue food coloring

Unless you live in 1950 it’s going to be a lot of hassle to get your hands on at least two of the three ingredients, so, here is my DIY, modified recipe for Christmas tree flocking.  Makes enough for a wreath and a bunch of pine cones with left overs:

  • 1 bar plain Ivory Soap* (grated) Get as close to one bar as you can without grating your fingertips
  • 1/2 cupish heavy spray starch (sprayed from the can) or Powdered Starch* mixed according to the instructions
  • 3 tbsp warm water from the tap (the hotter the better)
  • glitter and/or blue food coloring

Step 1

Grate the soap.  My mother (Granny) had magically seen the elusive Ivory Soap Flakes in person, so, I went to her house to consult.  We gathered her 15 or so graters (They have a bit of a kitchen equipment obsession.   Though as hobbies go this is a tasty one Patrick and I take advantage of) and tried them out.  We finally decided on one size that made little curls of soap.  You definitely want to err on the side of too big, if they are too fine then they just dissolve.

Already snow-like

Step 2

Spray your starch into a measuring device.  I wasn’t very particular and I got tired of spraying it, so, I ended up with slightly more than 1/2 cup.  DON’T turn the can upside down!  The propellant will shoot out without any starch.  Though, most people probably already knew not to do this.  Sorry there isn’t a picture of me spraying starch.  If you need help with this step…  Please email Patrick, I want to read his response.

Step 3

The old recipe had you put the contents in a mixing bowl and add glitter and food coloring.  I wouldn’t bother; neither of them made a difference.  Just throw the starch and soap in a mixing bowl and start whipping it with electric beaters? Mixer?  Whatever the hell you call the things you use to make cake batter with.

Glitter- not nearly as awesome as expected

Step 4

Add the warm water and whip on high till it really stiffens and foams up.  It will look and have the consistency of whipped cream with lumps.

Step 5

Plop on branches and let dry overnight and/or if you want a lightly flocked look put some in your hands and just stroke the branches.  Try not to giggle at “stroke”.  The first time I did this (yes I tried this a couple of times before actually putting it on my wreath) I didn’t A) whip it enough and B) wasn’t sure what the hell it would look like when dry.  Dig to the bottom of the bowl and get some of the chunks mixed in with the foam.  Put more than you think you need because some of the foam disappears as it dries.  However, it does a good job of mimicking thick, wet snow and clings very well to the branches.

Snowy Christmas Balls :)

I made a new project from soap flocking!  See my Perfect Faux Snowballs for more ideas on how to use this recipe.

Just a few notes

This recipe worked surprisingly well and as Patrick pointed out it was one of my only craft projects that made the kitchen cleaner than when I started.  I was pretty dubious when I gooped it on the branches but I went online and looked at pictures of actual snow on wreaths and tried to mimic the layout.  I just wish I given it a thicker coat.  I also wanted the sparkle of ice crystals in the snow, but the glitter I mixed in didn’t show.  I experimented and sprinkled glitter on the snow after I applied it and before it dried.  Sprinkling glitter on the flocking worked much better.

It might be fun to tint the snow (retro pink?) but if you just want white then the blue food coloring didn’t make any difference.  The only other issue is that up close it still smells like soap.  For the wreath (hanging outdoors but under cover) it doesn’t matter, but I am going to try adding some evergreen essential oil before I do the tree.  I want the house to smell like Christmas not soap.

I’m going to give the faux snow a thumbs up, and maybe after tinkering I’ll be able to give it two thumbs up.  Anyone else have a fake snow/flocking recipe?

Edit: I ended up doing this recipe a couple more times to flock garland etc…  The evergreen essential oil got rid of the soap smell and sprinkling crystal glitter over the top gave it the ice crystal sparkle.  Finally, using hotter water doesn’t change the consistency at all but it gives you more working time.  It starts to set as soon as it gets cool.

 *These links are affiliate links.  I have not received any compensation to review or use this product.  Basically, I recommend it because I use it.

133 thoughts on “Christmas Snow/Flocking From Soap

  1. Speaking of memories, our grandmother used to help us make a Santa Claus Castle every year out of boxes (square or shoe boxes and Oatmeal cylinders or paper towel tubes) and fake Ivory Flakes snow “frosting.” I was looking for some such instructions for my grandkids (which is no where to be found) when I came across this blog. Wow! You’re a lifesaver! If you want to put up a blog about the Santa Claus Castle, I’d be back again, since I’ll just be winging it this year. I’m remembering the red cellophane taped in the windows with a light inside, and some sort of chain or string roping for a drawbridge. Thanks again.

  2. Thanks so much for your recipe and comments. My daughter and I decided to put up a live tree this year in addition to the artificial one. (We have not had a live tree for years!) I remember my mother flocking her tree with the Ivory Flakes…so we decided to do that too. I started searching the internet for flocking recipes when I could not find the Ivory Flakes!! Project is now complete and looks great! Thanks again!

  3. For several years, in lieu of a live Christmas tree, I decorated a tall bare-branch sweet gum tree with Ivory “Snow” using the powdered version and my mixer to whip it. No starch. Branches on sweet gum trees grow little extensions or “wings” which are ideal for holding snow and my artist husband would add little mounds or clumps of snow where the branches emerged from the tree to make it very realistic. Added nothing for further decoration except icicles, made of twisted aluminum foil covered in glitter. Much prettier and professional-looking than it sounds. Of course, my children were grown and gone. Would never have deprived them of a real tree, and the grandchildren had real trees at their homes. It did make the house smell soapy for a few days — I should have added Christmas tree-scented oil. After Christmas we would put it in the yard (minus icicles) and enjoy it even longer, as we seldom get snow in Georgia.

    • I am going to have to see these tin-foil icicles. They sound very interesting! I will have to try the recipe without starch sometime.

  4. This was the funniest damn tutorial I’ve read in a very long time!
    It’s refreshing to read down home (down-to-earth) directions. So many people out there that try to be politically correct! Blahhh I say…….Ya’ll take mental notes from this tutorial in case you ever write anything in the future.
    Have’nt tried the snow idea (my husband just bought a can but I’ll try this with the kids next time)
    Thanks Brianna, ya’ll are my kind of people.

  5. More evidence I was raised in a cave! We cut our tree down yesterday and I wanted to make wreaths for my front doors today and came across your demo on wreath making. How can I not know what flocking is and how to make it?! I feel robbed of my childhood!! Will be making this TODAY. P.S. I think we would be friends if the universe ever allowed us to cross paths!!

  6. Your wreath is so pretty. Thanks for the tutorial. I had a thought, and maybe someone mentioned it in the above comments, but I haven’t read them all. Sorry if I’m repeating things. You know when you put a bar of Ivory in the microwave and it explodes into a cascade of powder? I bet that would work in lieu of the flakes. And you can still find liquid starch. I went looking for a goop recipe for my son a couple years ago. Note that I could only find it in the US, not in Canada. Happy Holidays!

  7. Thanks for sharing . I read all the comments as well. I must say I have for many years made the fake snow . My kids loved it growing up and now it’s the fun they add with their kids when it’s the season .gets everyone in the spirit. I haves tired the soap shavings that was great to know. I use the Ivory snow washing powder mostly found in the little small grocery stores . I thank you so much now I know that it is something ,else I can use and not drive all over town to find the powder.

  8. Yall are great!! You made my day!! Lol.. you too Patrick!! Lol… i think i will give your modified recipe a try for my very old tired looking work office tree!! Ive decided to do a Vintage them and i think this will add the perfect touch!! Thank you! An have a Blessed Christmas!!

  9. A soap snow tree is beautiful. It is a rather large project to take on, but I know the enjoyment I ,family and friends get is well worth the mess and effort .When the tiny white lights are turned on the soap makes the entire house smell wonderful .I’ts only September but I am already thinking about Christmas . So have a wonderful Christmas and try and and make your tree unique this year .Roberta

  10. I grew up in the 50’s and the snow on the tree from whipped Ivory Flakes was a tradition in our house. My sister and I would use a hand mixer and used a large pot then spread the “foam” on each branch. Because it did harden, it actually held the needles on the tree!! I don’t recall adding starch, just warm water and it was the consistency of whipped cream. I too never thought of shredding a bar of Ivory Soap but I’ll give it a shot this year , so thanks!!

    Marti

  11. I grew up doing this every year with my brother & sister. At some point each of us ate the “snow” because it looked so much like whipped cream. When I had my kids I went looking for Ivory Snow flakes & discovered that they had been discontinued. I made the mistake of buying Dreft once, thinking it was the baby detergent that did it. That stuff was pink! So then over the years I used various brands of powdered detergent without dyes & fragrances but it never whipped up like it did when I was a kid. It still looked great when it dried but something just wasn’t the same. At any rate, my kids have grown up associating the smell of pine mixed with soap with Christmas just as I did. They’re now 20 & 16 and enjoy doing the flocking just as much as when they were younger. But this year I have had a hard time finding any powdered detergent at all. I stumbled across your blog doing a search on my phone at the grocery store & was so STOKED to see this idea (and kind of feeling stupid for not thinking of shaving the bars myself). We’re doing this tomorrow. My mother died in October & I only wish she were still here to see & do this with us! Thanks & I look forward to reading the rest of your blog

    • That sounds like an awesome tradition. I was switching the colored light bulbs around the tree to get a good spread of color. My husband asked me what I was doing because the boys were impatient to get on with the decoration.

      What it came down to is that my Grandmother used to make is all wait while she moved the bulbs around the tree. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas without the ‘color fussing’.

      So your kids get awesome fake snow and mine now have the traditional of obsessive color moving. :)

  12. I have a question- does this harden? The stuff I used last year was like shaving cream- never dried completely and has little kiddo fingerprints in it! I need something that gets hard. Thanks!

    • Yes it gets hard but also a bit brittle. So keep that in mind.

      I imagine in the summer if under humid conditions it might get soft again. But here in winter it gets very dry and non-malleable.

  13. Thanks for this recipe. It was super simple and the wreath and pine cones turned out great. For people living in Texas I was able to find liquid starch at HEB and got the Holiday Forest oil from Pier 1 since Michael’s and Hobby Lobby were out of it. Added 1 tsp of oil to the mix and it definitely got rid of the soap smell.

  14. In the late 60’s I made small Christmas trees out of Styrofoam cones and a recipe similar to the one mentioned above. I would attach small Christmas ornaments and would lightly tint the foam. They were a big hit and I was able to keep them from year to year. Of course they are long gone but I have wanted to try it again. Thank you for giving me hope.

  15. My sister and I just finished flocking a bunch of fake mini pine trees that we will be using as part of the center pieces for her upcoming wedding in January. They turned out SO great! This was super easy, and we had a lot of fun with it. Thank you so much for posting the recipe and your methods:) You’ve helped make a winter wonderland wedding become more…..wintery (?). Love!

    P.S. – this is definitely the way to go for those of you who have tried to find spray flocking only to find disappointing cans of essentially white spray paint. It’s just as cheap, and well worth the labor (which really isn’t that much).

  16. I was so glad to find this article! I learned the Ivory Snow Flakes version way back in high school and used to make centerpieces with my kids using a styrofoam base, twigs for trees, and miniature people and items like houses, lamp posts, etc. Also used a mirror as a skating rink. The snow was beautiful, specially when sprinkled the clearish type of glitter. So this year I wanted to take a step back in time and make one with my youngest grandchild, but didn’t want to use that canned snow. Thank you for doing all the experimenting for me!! I can’t wait to do this project again.

    • You aren’t the first person to say you used it to make trees and scenes. Now I want to try that! I hope your project turns out just like you envision.

  17. Hi!
    I am thinking of doing this on some of my live trees outside. Do you know if this is permanent or will cause any damage to my trees? Does it come off with water?
    Thanks!

    • Well it would be a lot if soap to put on a live tree. While the starch makes it a ton harder to wash off than plain soap I still thank a rainstorm would cause issues. I have only used it outside in protected areas.

  18. Brianna,
    Thank you for the detailed comments, they take the guess work out of the project. We are on a tight budget this year and will be decorating our tree in home made items such as pinecones, etc.. I cannot wait to get started!

  19. This may sound silly, but do you put the lights and ornaments on the tree before you flock? If so I guess everything would have to be cleaned really well when you take the tree down. Thanks for your post!

    • Not silly at all. I would suggest flocking first. Something about the mix becomes super hard to remove off items when it dries. I made the mistake of thinking it would wash off like soap. No… Wrong!

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