How To Clean Seashells Without Using Bleach

Date Published: August 1, 2021
Author: Kylee Smith

Seashells make for great decorations after being cleaned. While many people opt to use bleach to clean seashells, there is a better method available that will effectively clean your seashells without using bleach.

Seashells are porous and will absorb any type of odor, including bleach. Unfortunately, the bleach odor may never go away. Additionally, bleaching seashells can ruin the color of your seashells. Thankfully, there is an alternative process for cleaning seashells that works great and can be completed in three easy steps.

Seashell Cleaning Supplies

Most people collect seashells walking along the beach or swimming in the ocean while on vacation. Unfortunately, sea smells and gunk often cake these shells, and they need to be cleaned and made beautiful once again. Bleach makes cleaning seashells look easy, but it is just as easy to clean those shells without using such a harsh substance. You will need the following supplies to properly clean your seashells.

Large Pot

A large pot filled with water is necessary for boiling the seashells.

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Metal Tongs

Metal tongs are used to remove the seashells from the pot of boiling water.

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A towel is used to place the shells for drying purposes.

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Tweezers are used to remove any remaining sand and debris from the shells after they are pulled from the boiling water.

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Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is used for polishing the shells afterward to bring forth color and a lustrous shine.

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Cleaning Seashells Without Using Bleach

It is certainly tempting to use bleach as a cleaning agent for seashells. Collected seashells often have a funky odor and can be filled with slimy gunk. While bleach is a wonderful cleaning solution for many tasks, it is not the best choice for cleaning seashells. Follow the four-step process to clean your seashells without bleach and see just how good they look after applying mineral oil.

Step One: Soak Shells Overnight in the Bathtub

Soak the shells overnight in warm in your bathtub. If you have fewer shells, you can soak your seashells in the sink instead. Do not add any cleaning agents for this step of the process. Simply soak your shells to help remove the sand and debris.

  • Pro Tip: Soak the shells longer than a day if you are not in a rush and have a spare tub or sink to use. You can use a large container or bucket to soak your shells in as well.
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Experts recommend soaking the shells for up to seven days. How long you soak your shells is up to you, but the longer you soak the shells the better.

Step Two: Boil Seashells Using Large Pot

Fill a large pot with lukewarm water and add the seashells. You must add them now at room temperature to ensure the seashells do not crack. Next, be sure the water is at the proper level. You want it two inches above the shells. Turn the burner on and bring the shells to a boil. Continue boiling for about five minutes.

  • Pro Tip: Boil shells for a few extra minutes if you have a lot of them or have extra-large shells.

Step Three: Remove Shells Using Tongs

Use a pair of metal tongs to remove the shells from the large pot and place them on a towel to cool and dry. After the shells have cooled, use the tweezers to remove any remaining sand and debris that is visible.

  • Pro Tip: Some remaining tissue may be located deep in the shells. If you do not feel like checking your shells and pulling the tissue out with a pair of tweezers, place your seashells outdoors on a towel. Bugs will take care of anything remaining.

Step Four: Shine Shells Using Mineral Oil

A simple way to shine shells is to use mineral oil. Before polishing the shells with mineral oil, be sure they thoroughly dried. You can apply the mineral oil using your hands, or you can use a paper towel instead.

  • Pro Tip: Baby oil may also be used in place of mineral oil, as both oils are interchangeable.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning seashells is an easy, four-step process that can be completed in about 30 minutes, minus the initial soaking time. This bleach-free process works great. Once properly cleaned, you will be able to display them throughout your home.

FAQ: Cleaning Seashells Without Using Bleach

Shells can also be shellacked or painted. Shells are used in a variety of arts and crafts projects. Whether you will use them to create art or simply put them on display, your shells will look nice when they are properly cleaned.

How long does it take for seashells to dry after applying mineral oil?

The seashells will be completely dry in about 24 hours.

How do you make seashells look wet?

A fast-drying polyurethane spray helps achieve a wet look. Once applied, your shells will have a clear gloss finish.

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How do you harden seashells?

If you prefer to harden your shells before putting them on display, place them back out in the sun for a couple of days. The sun along with the mineral oil will harden your shells for optimal preservation.

Can you use nail polish on your seashells?

Yes, you can use nail polish on your seashells. It is one way to get creative with shell art. Shells are made of calcium carbonate, so nail polish works great.

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