Adam asked: How do I clean seashells (clam shells, oyster shells, hermit crab shells, etc.). When I take them out of the ocean, they are left a little bit sandy and a little bit filmy. Sometimes, there is even life still inside of the shells. What’s the best way to clean them to keep them on my shelves and not smelling like the ocean?
Seashells make beautiful souvenirs from any trip to the ocean or beach. From children to adults, we all enjoy finding a beautiful shell on the beach and bringing it home to display. First, always be sure that there aren’t any inhabitants in the shell and if so, leave it on the beach or return it as soon as possible. Follow the guidelines below to keep your shell collection for many years of enjoyment.
Cleaning the Shells
You Will Need:
- Baby or mineral oil
Steps to Clean the Shells:
- Fill a bowl with one part water and one part bleach. It should be full enough to cover all of the shells completely.
- Soak the shells in the liquid until the periostracum, the flaky, leathery covering on the shells, is removed.
- If there are any barnacles or other attachments on the shell, pick them off with a pic or a screwdriver. Avoid using too much force as it can break the shell.
- Use the toothbrush to remove any other particles from the surface.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow them to dry completely.
- If you are planning on displaying the shells, rubbing them with baby oil or mineral oil will give a beautiful shine.
- If you are planning to put the shells in an aquarium or terrarium, soak them in filtered water for a two days, replacing the water each day. This will allow any bleach residue to dissipate.
Special Cleaning for Sand Dollars
Sand dollars are fragile creatures and have special cleaning instructions.
You Will Need:
- Soft brush
- Sand Dollar Coating
Steps to Clean Sand Dollars:
- Begin by allowing the sand dollars to dry for a few days.
- Fill a bowl with one part bleach and three parts water.
- Place the dead sand dollars into the solution and allow them to soak for a short while. Do not leave them in the solution for too long as they will become brittle.
- If necessary, use a soft brush to gently scrub away any dirt.
- Rinse thoroughly and allow them to dry completely.
- If desired, a commercial hardening coating like Mod Podge can be applied to protect them and lessen the chances of them breaking.
Additional Tips and Ideas
- If time is available, just leave sand dollars out for several months. They will dry and whiten on their own.
- If there is a broken or rough edge, it can be sanded smooth with a file.
- Cleaning shells can be a messy job. Be sure to wear protective eyewear to protect yourself from any squirts or sprays.
- If there is loose tissue inside of the shell that cannot be removed, you can set it outside and flies, ants and other insects will remove it over time.