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Seashell Cleaning and Refinishing

I obtained your name from the web after searching for someone who might tell me how to clean sea shells before polishing.

The shells are straight from the ocean and need to be cleaned and I don't know what to use. I see similar shells for sale, all white and bright but I've tried a mild bleach solution and nothing happens.

What do the "experts" use to clean and whiten shells?

Thanks very much and I hope you can help; I will await your response.

Thank you,

James Granata

Most of the shells I collect are bleached white from the sun, sand, and sea. When taking them from the beach, I used to leave them outside in the sun in my backyard, so the ants could get to them, and clean out any remaining organic material.

tom pullizzi monitor   tom pullizi signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania

I believe that the cleaning you describe is done with 5 - 10% potassium hydroxide solution. It dissolves an adhering layer of gummy stuff secreted by the mollusk when it's alive.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

I am new to all of this, how do I polish the shells? It may sound odd, but even here in the desert we find shells on the banks of the few rivers that we do have. They are clean but, have no shine some do look like they should be able to take one.

Thank you in advance for any help that you can give me.

Jeff Van Hoy
- Mesa, Arizona


Well.... I have heard that a 50-50 solution of bleach and water will get the shells very nice and clean; then one should polish using mineral oil.

I got this information--and more--at They seemed to have plenty of good advice about seashell cleaning, and some links to places that sell tools, etc.

Anyway, I just found a nice big conch shell while snorkeling today, and I'm going to try the bleach technique.

While I was in Indonesia last year, a lot of people told me that vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] also works, but I have no clue! Ciao,

John Baldridge
- Bahamas

I recently was on vacation in South Carolina and found a few shells. I boiled out the mussels and got them out with no problem. Now the problem is that the shell is pretty and shiny underneath but the top that everyone sees looks like it is covered with a grey substance that is very dull. I would like to make them shiny and pretty on top too, but I am not for sure how to do that. Could someone please give me advice.


Pamela D Smith
- Corydon, Indiana

dear sir, I am now into collecting seashells as a hobby. I would very much like to make a shell curtain. unfortunately I need to drill holes into every shell so that I can run a string through, but I don't know how. I tried using the ordinary drill technique but it does not work. can you please advise as I really do need help. thanks, celine hu

Celine Hu
- Singapore

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