How to clean and polish seashells: 12 steps (with pictures)

Table of contents:

How to clean and polish seashells: 12 steps (with pictures)
How to clean and polish seashells: 12 steps (with pictures)

Seashells may help you remember your fond memories at the beach, enhance your decor or even make a DIY project. If you are collecting seashells on the beach, you should think about cleaning the outside and the inside, as well as polishing them so that they can be preserved.


Part 1 of 4: collecting seashells

Clean and Polish Seashells Step 1
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 1

Step 1. Collect your seashells where you usually like to find them

You could go to a beach near your home or to the beach where you are going on vacation. You could also buy seashells at craft stores or on the net.

Clean and Polish Seashells Step 2
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 2

Step 2. Do not pick up seashells belonging to a living creature

Respect nature and leave the living crustaceans alone. You'll know if a shell is occupied if you turn it over and spot the creature inside.

Check the laws in your community to be sure you are not collecting shellfish that are prohibited from collecting. For example, it is illegal to collect queen conch in United States waters. There are species that are protected because of overfishing

Clean and Polish Seashells Step 3
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 3

Step 3. Determine if a seashell is fresh or dead

A fresh seashell contains animal flesh attached to it. The animal tissue in the seashell is dead. A shell devoid of the animal's flesh died.

Knowing how to distinguish whether a seashell is alive or not will influence how you choose to clean it. For example, you will need to remove the animal flesh inside a fresh seashell

Part 2 of 4: remove the flesh from the fresh seashell

Clean and Polish Seashells Step 4
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 4

Step 1. Boil the seashells to remove the animal flesh

Boiling or cooking the shellfish softens the flesh inside the shells and makes them easier to remove. You will need a saucepan and tongs in order to remove the flesh. To clean fresh shellfish through cooking.

  • Place the seashells in a large saucepan filled with room temperature water. Cover the seashells with an additional 5 cm of water. It is important to use room temperature water and place the seashells in the pot before bringing to a boil, as sudden heat is likely to crack the shells.
  • Bring the water to a boil. Boil the water for about 5 minutes. If you are boiling more than one shell, extend the cooking time. Likewise, larger shellfish require more cooking time.
  • Remove the seashells from the water with tweezers and gently place them on a soft surface, such as a hot towel.
  • Use your tweezers to gently pull out the animal flesh inside the seashells and get rid of them.
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 5
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 5

Step 2. Bury your fresh seashells

This cleaning method may take more time, but many people like to use it in order to avoid damaging the shells. Boiling the shell, freezing it and removing the flesh by hand is likely to crack it. Burying your seashells in a secure place will help you avoid damaging them. It is a natural way to cleanse the flesh. Ants and insects will feed on the flesh and clean it. To clean seashells by burial.

  • Dig a hole in the ground. Make sure that the hole is big enough to fit all your seashells in and that there is also enough space between each of them. The hole should be about 45-60cm deep to prevent unwanted animals from digging it or people walking in it crushing your seashells.
  • Place your seashells evenly in the space.
  • Cover the seashells with soil.
  • Wait a few months for the insects, larvae, worms and bacteria to remove the flesh inside the shells. The longer you wait, the better the results.
  • Dig the hole again to see if all traces of animal flesh are gone.
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 6
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 6

Step 3. Freeze your fresh shellfish

Freezing kills animal flesh that remains inside the shell and makes it easier to remove. To clean a seashell by the freezing method:

  • place your seashells in a resealable bag. If you have a lot of seashells, you may need to use multiple bags,
  • add water to the bag until the shells are covered,
  • place the bag in the freezer,
  • let it harden for a few days,
  • remove it from the freezer and let it thaw completely,
  • take out the shells and remove the animal flesh that is inside.

Part 3 of 4: cleaning shells

Clean and Polish Seashells Step 7
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 7

Step 1. Soak your seashells in water for a week

Water dissolves the dirt on your shells and leaves them looking shiny and clean within a week.

  • Change the water every day. Adding clean water to your seashell bath will result in even cleaner shells.
  • You could also choose to boil your shells after the week has passed to make sure all particles or animal flesh are completely gone.
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 8
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 8

Step 2. Use bleach to clean your seashells

Bleach permanently removes dust, impurities and animal tissue from your shells. However, some say that this product can alter the color of seashells and make them smell like bleach forever. To clean a shell with bleach.

  • Fill a saucepan with as much water as you have bleach. It should be filled enough so that all the shells are covered.
  • Soak the seashells in the solution. You may notice a laminar, leathery-like substance leaking out of the shells. This is the periostracum, that is to say the organic envelope (or skin) of the shell.
  • Once this husk is gone, you can remove the seashells from the solution. You could also use a toothbrush to remove particles from the seashells.
  • Rinse your shells thoroughly and let dry completely.
  • Rub the shells with baby oil or mineral oil to restore their shine.
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 9
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 9

Step 3. Clean your shells with toothpaste

Toothpaste is a less potent alternative to whitening your shells. To clean a dead shell with toothpaste.

  • Coat one side at a time of the shell with a small layer of toothpaste.
  • Let the toothpaste-covered seashell sit for at least 5 hours, so that the toothpaste has time to work inside. You could also leave it on overnight to make sure it works.
  • Once the toothpaste has hardened or become sticky (depending on how thick you applied), take an old toothbrush and a glass of hot water to scrub the shells thoroughly. Remember to go into the small cracks and small holes that are difficult to see.
  • Make sure you remove all of the toothpaste, even if that means rinsing the seashells under running water after scrubbing. This will remove loose chippings and toothpaste residue, remove any rough or sharp objects, and achieve the smoothest surface possible.
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 10
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 10

Step 4. Remove the barnacles from your seashells

If you see barnacles attached to your seashells, use a dental tool, soft toothbrush, or wire brush to remove them.

It will be more effective if your shells have been cleaned beforehand, either by soaking in water or by bleaching

Part 4 of 4: polish seashells

Clean and Polish Seashells Step 11
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 11

Step 1. Rub each shell with mineral oil for an intense shine

Let the seashells dry for at least a full day, then rub them with oil.

  • Mineral oil not only restores the shine of the shell, but also preserves it.
  • You could also use WD-40. However, you should use gloves to handle seashells when using this product.
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 12
Clean and Polish Seashells Step 12

Step 2. Spray the seashells

You could use satin polyurethane or clear nail polish. This type of coverage helps preserve the organic appearance of the shell, while giving it a brilliant shine.

Work one side of the shell per day. Let it dry completely before moving on to the other side. Each side needs about a day to dry


  • Leave the shells alive on the beach. This is the habitat of these animals and there are plenty of other shells that no longer house animals that are there for you. Gently throw away inhabited shells into the sea and look for unoccupied ones instead.
  • You could also place the shells containing flesh near a garbage can or dumpster. Find a trash can that you see fly larvae or maggots in, and make sure the seashells are exposed enough for the bugs to enter. The flies will be able to lay eggs in the shells and their offspring will be able to eat the dead flesh inside. This process can take at least a week.


  • Some seashells (especially cowries) can be damaged by bleach and other treatments. If you have a seashell that has a very special meaning to you, identify which species it is and look for a treatment that is well suited to it. You could also try processing other seashells of the same type first that you don't like as much.
  • Some shellfish do not tolerate boiling well, especially fragile or soft shellfish. If you're worried about breaking your shellfish, bring the pot to a light boil instead of a full boil.
  • Be careful not to burn yourself when removing the hot seashells from the boiling water. Remember to always wear protective gloves.
  • Bleaching can strip the color of the seashells. If you don't want a "white" shell, check frequently and / or dilute the bleach solution (you can add more if needed).
  • Always wear protective equipment for your eyes and hands when handling bleach.

Popular by topic