How to clean sea shells

How to clean sea shells

Hello shell collectors.

Perhaps you collected some sea shells from the beach or by the river side.

Seashells can be used as beautiful accessories in your home, but they must be cleaned properly first.

You must remove all sand, dirt, and other yucky stuff before putting them on display.

Many people also like to bleach seashells for a different look and/or polish them to make them extra special.

Here are the steps for how to clean seashells and then polish your seashells.

Rinse Clean

Start by rinsing your seashells outside with your garden hose or if you don’t have a hose you can put them in a bucket of water, swirl them around and dump the water out, repeating the process several times to remove as much sand and dirt as possible. Or you can even put them in a kitchen colander and run water over them to help remove sand and dirt.

For a more detailed cleaning, use a toothbrush to scrub any visible dirt off of your seashells. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the seashells as well.

If the previous owner of the shell’s body is still inside the shell, it must be removed or else it will stink really bad as it decays. You can use tweezers to remove it,

Then clean your seashells, simply wipe them off with a disposable paper towel or old rag.

Bleach Clean

Sometimes seashells don’t actually lose their color but rater have a build up of calcium on their shells, hiding the color underneath. This calcium is usually white and uneven with bumps and ridges. In order to clean this calcium off you need to:

  • Grab a bowl.
  • Pour in a mixture of cold or room temperature water and bleach (3 parts water, 1 part bleach).
  • Take proper precautions when using bleach that you do not splash it on anything that might be affected (such as your clothes).
  • Let sit for a few hours, sometimes longer depending on how much of a build up there is.
  • Once a few hours have passed, you can pull one of the seashells (wearing gloves). You can use a toothpick or paperclip to start tying to take the buildup off.
  • You can also use an old toothbrush or wire bush and scrub the shell, just make sure to be careful as to not break the seashell if it is a delicate one.
  • Sometimes you’ll need to put the seashell back into the bleach water and let sit for a few more hours.
  • Once they are all clean, rinse off with water to get all the bleach off.
  • Then let them dry,


How to clean coral

The easiest to clean (and the hardest to break) is coral. When you clean coral, you’re actually cleaning off any leftover ‘skin’ that either is still dying, or already dead. All you have to do here is put the coral into a solution of bleach water (3 parts water, 1 part bleach) and let sit for a few hours. Then you will want to let the coral pieces dry outdoors for about a day.


Shine it

For those shells that have just lost their color due to sun and sand exposure, all you’ll have to do is brush on a thin coat of mineral oil. You can buy mineral oil at any food or drug store and it’s usually only a few dollars. When applying mineral oil: Use a small brush or even your hand and smooth on a thin coat. Place shell onto a layer of newspaper to dry for about 2 to 3 hours. After it dries, you can brush the under side if you want to, and them let that side dry.



I hope you found this information helpful and useful. Please feel free to ask for any help or suggestions. I am here to help and guide you in making your very own masterpiece.

Go create, and have fun!

Tina Louise





14 thoughts on “How to clean sea shells

  1. Thanks Tina for this enlightening post you’ve put together

    I’m learning something new here today

    Shells are truly beautiful to behold, and i’ve seen the whole cleaning and bleaching process that makes them so.

    But i’m thinking, shouldn’t the coral have been normally cleaned off, during the initial cleaning and bleaching processes?

    I had a great time reading through, hope to come around some other time

    1. Thank you for visiting my post.I am glad you found it helpful. Yes, I agree, shells are truly beautiful to behold. Yes, Coral will be cleaned once you do the cleaning process.  Don’t forget to rub baby oil or mineral oil on the shells to restore shine. Then you can display your beautiful masterpiece. Enjoy your shells! Please feel free to visit again and reach out to me if you need any help.



  2. This is a great article. I usually only wash mine under water and then place them on display. Never really thought about going into a lot of depth as you have described. I will use a toothbrush next time and see how they come up.

    You have some great ideas on cleaning and bleaching.

  3. Hi Tina,

    I think you are doing a great job generally of being visible on the blogging space, your work is amazing and helpful.

    This is exactly what I like about articles like this one. It brings awareness of stuff I wouldn’t have found otherwise, the way you describe the details involved in cleaning these shells was fantastic.

    Such an helpful article, keep up the good work

  4. My son loves to collect sea shells when we go to the beach. We have a glass jar that we’re filling up slowly to display them. We usually just rinse them out, but now I’ve got some tips for some of those tougher shells. I’ll be sure to try out the mineral oil to give my shells that nice bit of shine! Thanks for the tips. 

    1. Thank you for visiting the post. I am glad you found it helpful. Mineral oil will also help bring out some of the shells natural colors. 



  5. This is a useful and helpful information. I don’t know that seashell can be so stinking as mentioned if not properly clean. Thank you for the step by step ways to clean a seashell and corals that it might serve as a beautifying objects. I learned something new from this review. Thank you. Good job welldone. 

    1. Thank you for visiting the post. I am glad you found it useful and helpful. Enjoy your Sea Shells.

      Have a great day,


  6. Dear Tina,

    Thanks for the informative post. Every time I go to beach, I collect some sea shells. I usually just rinse the sea shells with tap water and display them at home.

    Your instruction on How to Clean Sea Shells gives me a good education. Following your procedures, I am confident that I am going to gain a lot of beautiful sea shells.



    1. Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for visiting the post. I am glad that you found the information helpful. Please feel free to visit again and ask for any help if you need it. Enjoy your Sea Shells.



  7. Dear Tina,

    Thanks a lot for the informative and helpful post.

    I use to collect sea shells in my childhood and to be honest never cleaned it and I use to have it in a bag without using it but I don’t know why I collected it lol. My mom use to ask (While cleaning the house) why are you keeping this and it occupies the place and I use to say just keep it mom.

    After reading your post I can tell you I have taken some great insights from this post and the day came to use my sea shells. The first thing I need to do is clean the sea shells and thanks a lot for the helpful advice. And gonna use sea shells as Architectural decoration in my free time.

    Wishing you Great Success!


    1. Hi Paul,

      Glad you found the post helpful. Sea Shells are really beautiful by themselves. You just need to clean them and put whatever coating you want to on them, and then just display them. Please feel free to visit again. If there is anything I can help you with, please let me know.

      Take care,


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