How to Clean Oyster Shells


Evelyn asked: I would like to know how to clean oyster shells so that I can use them to bake oysters in. I have seen people use the shells to bake oysters in at home. I want to be sure that I clean them right before trying to cook oysters in them to be eaten. Thank you.

Baking oysters is a simple process and one that requires little preparation. Since oysters are sealed shut when they are purchased, only the exterior needs to be cleaned. However, if you wish to reuse the shells again in the future for other serving purposes, they will require a more thorough cleaning and sanitizing as well.

How to Prepare Shells for Baking

You Will Need:

  • Water
  • Scrub brush

Steps to Clean the Oysters:

  1. Begin by filling a bowl with warm water.
  2. Moisten the scrub brush with the water and gently scrub away any dirt or sand from the outside of the oyster shells.
  3. The insides will not be cleaned as this is where the oyster meat is located. The oyster’s shells will open during the baking process.
  4. Once the oysters have opened and have thoroughly cooked, the top part of the shell can be removed and disposed of. The oysters can then be served directly in the shell.

How to Clean Shells to Reuse Them

You Will Need:

  • Water
  • Scrub brush
  • Bleach
  • Dish detergent
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Clean the Oysters:

  1. Begin by cleaning the outside of the shells using the methods above.
  2. To clean the inside of the shell, begin by removing any meat that was not consumed. Take special care to remove the muscle that attaches the oyster to the shell.
  3. Next, scrub the inside with warm water and dish soap.
  4. Rinse thoroughly.
  5. If extra cleaning is needed, fill a bowl with water and add a small amount of bleach. Soak the shells for a few minutes.
  6. Remove them and rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  7. Dry with a soft cloth and allow them to air dry completely.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Bulk oysters are often cheaper and can be served as fresh in shells that have been cleaned using the methods above.
  • If any shells hold an odor, dispose of them immediately. This odor indicates that somewhere in the shell there is still some meat that has started to rot.


  1. W. Taylor says:

    Hello, lots of good tips. I want to remove the “periostracum” (?) coating on the outside of N.E. blue mussels. I have tried bleaching and every kind of stiff brush; it only removes whatever is loose. I want to have clean shells so the blues and purple colors show (not the brown coating.)

    Also, large sea clams from local beaches have lots of “rust” coloring on their outer shells. My guess is: iron from the saltwater. Bleaching only works a little. Any ideas about how to remove the rust color?
    Thank you very much. W. Taylor

  2. Melanie says:

    W. Taylor,
    For the periostracum, try freezing the shell or boiling it. The methods are described in this article: How to Clean Seashells.

    For the rust stains: Here is an article with a variety of methods for removing rust stains; How to Remove Rust Stains from Fabrics. Consider testing the methods on one shell first though to look for any damage.

  3. David says:

    I want to wash them for my koi fish pond. What is the best way?

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