How to Clean Seashells


Seashells are the soft outer layers of dead animals. While they may be beautiful and unique, they tend to be dirty.

Maintain the aesthetic of your shells by regularly cleaning them. Fortunately, there are several effective methods for doing so without affecting their color or damaging the surfaces.


If you need to clean seashells that aren’t ready for the aquarium, boiling is a great way to eliminate unwanted microorganisms. Just be sure to boil them in a pot with plenty of room for expansion and heating up evenly.

Boiling removes the periostracum covering and also kills any dead animal tissue inside. Once clean, you can use the shell as a decorative item or craft project.

Alternately, you can use a solution of bleach in equal parts water to dissolve the shell’s outer layer (known as periostracum) and brighten it up.

Once the shell has completely dried, brush away any barnacles and rinse it thoroughly in clean water. Once completely dry, you can polish it with mineral oil or satin-finish polyurethane spray to protect it for future use.


Bleach is an acid that can bleach out a color or darken it. It comes in various forms, such as chlorine, sodium hypochlorite, and hydrogen peroxide.

Bleach is usually the most efficient way to remove dirt and debris when cleaning seashells. The key is mixing just enough bleach with enough water so that the shells have time to soak in.

After some time has passed, be sure to rinse them off to make sure all of the grime and gunk has been washed away. Once you are happy with their look, rub mineral oil onto them for extra shine and vibrant colors.

If you want to preserve your shells for future generations, bleach them in the sun. This is an easy, cost-effective, and safe way to remove periostracum coating.


One of the best ways to clean seashells is with toothpaste. This gentle alternative to bleach will leave your shells shiny and spotless.

Apply a generous coat of toothpaste onto the seashells and let dry for at least 5 hours (overnight is ideal). Gently scrub away any hardened dirt with an unused toothbrush.

It is best to use a soft brush with soft bristles when cleaning the shells to avoid scratching or damaging them. While reaching all corners and crannies may take effort, the action will be worth it when your shots look as good as new again.

Another way to keep your shells clean is by mixing 1 part vinegar with ten parts water and soaking them in the solution for 5-8 hours. This will dissolve calcium carbonate from the shells, and you can then rub a small amount of baby oil on them to restore their shine.

Muriatic Acid

Muriatic acid is one of the most popular and effective ways to clean seashells. This potent chemical helps remove a shell’s dull surface, revealing its deep layer beneath.

First, remove the periostracum – an organic coating or “skin” covering the shell’s interior. This can be difficult, and you must use tweezers to pry it loose.

Next, use a toothbrush to scrub any remaining buildup and rinse thoroughly. Finally, rub mineral or baby oil onto the shells for shine and improved appearance.

Muriatic acid can be hazardous if spilled or splashed, so it’s wise to have a large bucket of water and baking soda on hand in case of accidental spills. This will neutralize any acid present and protect you from potential health problems that could arise as a result.


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