In the past few months, we’ve seen quite a few large HORSE CONCHS found around the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach after disturbances in the Gulf Of Mexico by Tropical Storm Debbie and Hurricane Isaac. I was very lucky to have found all three of these empty shells right after TS Debbie. Since we’ve had quite a few discussions about how to clean these type shells, I thought I’d show you the process I took to clean my shells to get ’em all spiffied up to look like…. drum roll please…. to look like THIS!!!!!
This next shell is the one on the left of the top photo. The brown or blackish skin you see on this one is called PERIOSTRACUM. It’s not scum! This is the outer most layer of the shell that forms while the mollusk is still alive but may wear away with older mollusks.
I happen to like the PERIOSTRACUM on some of my shells just because most of my HORSIES are plain white so I think it’s special to keep a few with the skin… and it’s actually part of the shell and it’s growth. So I’ll clean around the skin on this one.
But sometimes the PERIOSTRACUM hides an awesome color of the shell. This next shell shows that bright yellow color underneath the skin so I wanted to take all of the PERIOSTRACUM off this one to see what it looks like…
This next shell shows lots of wear with tons of BARNACLES but it’s a whole shell and the color is spectacular so I’ll pick off the BARNACLES and clean her up.
Okay, so let’s get started cleaning these shells! This is the process I took to get these shells in tip top shape…
My tools and “ingredients” :
Bleach, protective eyewear, scrubbers, picks, dental tools, screw driver, hammer, mineral oil, water and bucket (oops! I forgot to add the bucket in the shot).
Step #1– Fill a big bucket with enough water to cover your shells.
Step #2– Wear protective eyewear since we are getting ready to add the bleach and it may splash up. Since I was outside, I wore my sunglasses.
Step #3– Add 1/4 bleach to your 3/4 water. (Honestly, I just guestimate)
Step #4– Place your shells in the bleach water. Don’t just throw them in! That bleach will go everywhere. Trust me. I speak from experience. Place them in, y’all!
Step #5– Enjoy the site of your new babies taking a bath… for at least 24 hours.
Step #6– Use a strong pick or dental tool to pop off those BARNACLES. Soaking in the bleach water softened everything up pretty well so most came off pretty easily. Thank you Soul Sister Susan for helping me clean these shells and being a lovely hand model! LOL
Step #7– For those really stubborn BARNACLES, I learned a trick from MurexKen… use a hammer and screwdriver at an angle to chisel those bad boys right off the shell. I know, sounds crazy to take a hammer to a beautiful shell but if you can get just a tiny bit of the screwdriver wedged under the side of the BARNACLE you can tap the top of that screwdriver like a chisel and… Viola! They pop right off. If they are really tough I brace the shell in between my knees to keep the shell still and keep chiseling until the whole BARNACLE is gone. Really! It works!
Step #8– Scrub-a-dub-dub! Use any and every scrubber you have to scrub that PERIOSTRACUM off the shell. I have a blunt ended dental tool that was my best tool for scrubbing. Even my thumbnails worked great to change it up but everything I used was a veeeerrrrryyyy slow process. When I got tired of scrubbing, I just placed them back in the bleach water then started again the next day.
Step #9- Once the shell is clean, rinsed with fresh water then dried…lightly pour Mineral Oil on a double paper towel and wipe the oil on the shell. I prefer this method because I can control the amount of Mineral Oil a bit better and it doesn’t seem to puddle up in places on the shell. Just keep turning the shell in your hand with the lightly oiled paper towel until the whole shell absorbs the light coat of oil to keep its color.
So it took about 4 or 5 days for my shells go from looking like this…
To looking like THIS!!!
This one turned out to be Shellacious!!! Wow! Look at the color and the stripes! Oh my. I am thrilled with this awesomeness! It is a huuugah Candy Corn!
Leaving it in the bleach did nothing to the color and didn’t do any damage to the glossy inside of the aperture. And look how the mineral oil made the original color become so brilliant again. Spectacsheller!!!
Okay but one more thing…. Let me show you one more easy trick to get that PERIOSTRACUM off your shell if your shell is white to begin with and you have a couple of weeks to wait it out (but folks, don’t use this next method if the shell is a pretty color that you want to keep because the sun will bleach it white). Just put the shell outside in the sun without any oils on it. Plain and simple. The skin will peal and flake off.
You can even use these for outside decor while you wait for that brown skin to peel up then the rain will wash it away. That’s my kind of cleaning so you have more time for shelling! LOL
So on that note…. Gone Shelling
For most of my other shells that don’t have the hard-to-clean PERIOSTRACUM or BARNACLES or major gunk, I only use 1/8 bleach to water and only let them sit overnight and rinse them really well.
Want more beach bling cleaning tutorials? Click on my links….
Great step-by-step Pam… thanks. And I love that orange horsie on the right… the lines that go around it are cool!
Thank you, Pam…and Susan… for sharing this tutorial! I have been wondering the best way to clean and preserve shells that are collected.
Looking forward to another trip to Sanibel…. do love this site, Pam and especially the “cyber-shelling”! Keep sharing!
Great tips, thank you! All three of the shells are gorgeous!
Thank you so much for the cleaning tips! We have so many shells with that periostracum, and I was wondering how to get the stuff off.
I am also going to try the other cleaning for my Kings Crown, using the muriatic solution, that you showed step-by-step.
My friend and I did the muriatic acid trick and they turned out spectacular! Remember not to dip it too long in the acid, though.. It is tempting!
Sherri from MN
They turned out beautiful… especially on the shells that I thought were “pure white” – nope, beautiful colors :-)
Awesome informative post Pam..love the step by step process and the step by step horse conchs on the outside too.
There are no microwave instructions for big shells. You made it look so simple. I think I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled at garage sales & thrift stores for some small tools to use. I bet a Drexel with the small brush attachment would work too.
Dremel not drexel – dang auto-spell.
Dental picks are excellent tools for cleaning shells; usually if you let your own dentist or dental hygienist know that you need a few dental picks for cleaning seashells, they will simply give you a few tools that they aren’t going to use any more. Or, if you know someone who teaches at a dental college, you can ask them.
I just worked on some of my smaller shells with a small screwdriver and an old toothbrush and it worked great on getting the barnacles and other crud off. Soaking them in bleach really helped them come off easily. Thank you for sharing! I usually use clear nail polish on my prettier shells to help them keep the bright look they have when they are wet, so I did that with the shells I worked on, but didn’t do the oil. Does this do the same thing as the mineral oil, or do I do the oil first then the polish, or should I do just the mineral oil?
can’t wait to find my own big ‘ol horsie to try it on!
Nice instructions Pam. I would add: 5a… wash off the bleach and water mixture before working on the shells, because even though it is diluted a lot, the bleach solution can be a bit hard on your skin as well as your clothes.
I also wanted to mention that a lot of regular-sized, already clean-seeming shells, like scallop valves and so on (shells that don’t have any barnacles or slipper limpets etc stuck to them, that aren’t green with algae, and don’t have any dead animal left inside them) well, they generally don’t need any more treatment than simply washing in tap water and air-drying. It’s good to get the salt from the seawater off the shells if you want them to stay in good condition for decades.
I usually use a non-rusting kitchen sieve immersed in a bowl (or bucket) of water to rinse small shells.
I dry really small shells on a dark-colored washcloth on top of a large thick paper plate. That way white shells such as wentletraps etc show up really well and they dry fast this way.
It’s also worth remembering that in general, most shells that have a pretty color, if they are left on display in strong sunlight for very long periods of time, they will eventually fade and lose most or all of their color.
Don’t they turn out out beautifully? I usually apply the mineral oil with my hands- love the feel of the shells :)
That last horsie is a true palomino! Just gorgeous! Thanks for the tutorial!
How beautiful! I need some Sanibel…probably looking at December!
Thank you so much Pam. Very informative!! Loved the hammer idea. Your shells turned out beautiful!
P.S. did you see Isaac is trying to make a comeback? It’s trying to reorganize up near Alabama. If it strengthens, it will be named Nadine. Hope it’s a mild storm but enough to kick up some shells. One thing we do not need here on the east coast of Florida is more rain :-(. Some streets are still underwater.
Thank you, Pam for taking the time to post the tutorial. Those Horse Conch are truly works of art! They are spectacular. Can’t wait to find one myself someday. Hope it’s soon! HAPPY SHELLING!
When you use the mineral oil, do you rub it into the shell, or just put a coat on it? How do you keep it from leaving oily marks on furniture? Thanks.
First we’ve got to find those suckers! Any suggestions for that?
I would say ideally:
1. Look for the big horse conchs after a storm that had big waves
2. Search during a very low tide (a good minus tide)
3. Get up earlier than other people
4. If the water is already calm, try looking in the shallows
You see, the big horse conchs live mostly below the lowest tide level and their shells are heavy. Under normal conditions the Gulf is very calm so the big shells won’t wash up unless there are some fairly big waves to push them up.
Shelling is the only time I become a morning person :)…. A VERY EARLY morning person…
The very first day I got to Sanibel I got up the next morning at 5 am in the pitch dark to go shelling on a minus tide with my big LED flashlight. I had no idea what I was doing, or where to look, so I didn’t come back with anything special at all!
My nightmare about shelling in the dark is that a junonia lies just out of my flashlight’s reach, so I go past it without seeing it!!!
Oh for sure! I think that could really happen!! Yikes, what a horrible thought!
I found night shelling quite difficult I must say. I suppose you get used to it, and I guess the better you know the beach, and the better you know the general area, and the more used you are to shelling there, probably the better you do at night.
I don’t mind getting up just as it is starting to get light, before the sun comes up, but I don’t know how easily I could get used to shelling when it is totally 100% dark.
Thanks so much Susan! I’ll put your information in my ‘Shelling Sanibel’ file to use for my next trip. lol
Donna R from NY. I’m also Donna R. lol I’ll keep ‘in Tulsa’ signature line so you & I don’t get confused. ;)
Unfortunately the wind direction and the waves (or lack of them) are aspects of shelling that we not only can’t control, but we can’t even predict those things very well, not even just a day or two in advance, and they are the most important factors really.
But we can try to be adaptable, and just go look and see what Mother Ocean has ‘on offer’ at one beach or another, even if what we find is not the one thing we were hoping to find.
My hubby & I enjoy snorkeling. I wonder if that is an option? I didn’t notice any snorkelers during our 3 day visit waaay too long ago.
It seems from what Pam has said that sometimes the water around Sanibel is clear enough to make snorkeling a pleasure, but at other times waves or currents stir up the sediment enough to lower the visibility. When I was there I tried and could not really see.
Lol, ok, Donna!! I’ll keep NY in my signature until I move to Sanibel (how big is your garage, Pam?? Just kidding!!)
I keep telling my husband we’re retiring to Sanibel. He laughs & says we’re retiring to a large sailboat. ha ha! We’ve only been on a sailboat twice in our life. I think a good compromise is we can live on his boat while docked in Sanibel.
Donna, Clark can help you find that perfect home with a dock when yall are ready to move to Sanibel!!! Oh and just so you know, I read every single comment! I hope to meet you too!
Sue, when you put the mineral oil on a paper towel it wont puddle up on your shell when you rub it in. It will soak in pretty good. After I rub that lightly oiled towel on to coat my shell, I let it sit for a day and if its too oily, I take a dry paper towel to it. It will soak in so you it shouldn’t have any oil that should drip off. Thanks for bringing this up so now I have add the words “lightly oiled” to my post. ;) Please use your own judgement on how you are most comfortable doing any of these steps.
But please remember y’all that this is a tutorial of how I clean my own shells.There are probably so many different ways to get to the same finished product (and maybe easier ways!) but this is just how I chose to clean my horse conchs. If you have other ways, we’d all love to hear them! We all could use as much information as possible! This is just one more part of the process of our beloved shelling.
I soak my shells in lots of water and about a cup of bleach, 24 hours, using a dishpan. For shiny shells like Olives and Shark’s Eyes, I soak them in water and a little bit of dish washing soap, 24 hours. I rinse them well and let them dry 24 hours on paper towels. Then I apply triple thick gloss. This brings back the shine and protects the colors. I coat one side and let it dry on wax paper, then coat the other, each drying 24 hours.
Thanks Pam. That gives me a better idea! Great tutorial, and BEAUTIFUL conchs!!
Really Pam. This is an awesome tutorial. Having clear pictures with detailed directions are wonderful for those of us who have yet to do this. Would you mind if I post this to Pinterest??
Of course! Please do post to pinterest! And thank you!
Thanks so much for taking the time to post these instructions! Beautiful shells!!!
GReat Post — but can you tell me where to find those Horse Conchs !!
I loved reading these comments
I think we will have to stalk Donnie, the Shellinator :-).
Pam, glad to see that you are now using the hammer and screw driver technique, which is very effective and saves a lot of time. I broke countless dental tools before I started using them. It is also wise to use this technique only on fairly sturdy shells and to keep the screw driver tip away from the shell’s more fragile lip. As for the mineral oil, I use a 50:50 solution of mineral oil and lighter fluid and apply this mixture with a small paint brush (model airplane size) to the surface of the shell. As per my comments in Pam’s “How To Restore Color To Your Seashells Tutorial”, http://www.iloveshelling.com/blog/2011/02/09/how-to-restore-color-to-your-seashells-tutorial/ , most seashells are fairly porous and contain microscopic pores or holes in the shell. Mineral oil is fairly viscous and has trouble penetrating these microscopic holes. Adding the lighter fluid makes the mineral oil less viscous and permits it to more easily penetrate a short distance into the shell. Since the lighter fluid also has a much lower vapor point, it helps the mineral oil penetrate the shell and then evaporates so that the shell surface is dry/shiny and does not feel sticky with any residual mineral oil (unless you apply too much). Hope this is helpful.
Very helpful, Ken…thank you!
What do you think of spraying a light coat of laquer on shells? When I was newer at shelling, I did that and they have kept beautifully so far (about 5 yrs), however, will they one day lose color?
Shells should not lose color at all if they don’t sit in the light (like on a windowsill) for a really long period of time. However, it is true that shells that are beach-worn often do look better when they are wet, or when oiled, or when lacquered. Like MurexKen, I have a scientific interest, and I hope to give my shells to a museum in the future, and so I would never lacquer a shell unless I was going to turn it into jewelry. And of course I would never think of using acid and would only use bleach in cases where it was inevitable, like for stinky shells. But that’s just my perspective.
I use clear nail polish as my Great-grandmother did fifty years ago. I inherited her shells and they still look beautiful. Just the drug-store brand of nail polish is what we use.
Do you do this for all shells? It would take me a very long time to paint them all! Do you just use one coat? I am thinking of trying the glue technique for my starfish..
Christine, thanks for your kind comment. Sherri, the most honest response that I can give you is that I have never used lacquer to coat my seashells. Since the mineral oil/lighter fluid mixture works so well, I have never felt the need to do anything else. I am more scientifically oriented, rather than artistically oriented. The lacquer coats the surface of the shell and sometimes obscures the shell’s micro-architecture. For that reason, I would stay away from it, but I certainly would not be as dogmatic about the use/non-use of lacquer as I am about the use of the “A” word. It is hard for me even to say it. (acid) O.K. I said it, but please don’t tell anyone that I even whispered it. This entire discussion has been most informative. Pam, has provided more helpful information than most people learn in a decade of shell collecting. The collective wisdom of all the followers of this blog is greater than any one shell collector. So, the discussion helps us all. Thanks Pam.
Fantastic, MurexKen. I wouldn’t have learned so much about shelling if I hadn’t stumbled on Pam’s blog. She’s so generous, I can’t wait to meet her and hug her neck. I hope you’re reading this Pam. ;)
Susan & MurexKen, thanks. Yes, I agree. For me the acid is kind of a last ditch resort to restore really worn out color. The shells will always be for just me. I don’t think I would give up my best finds to a museum, not even for lots of money, lol.. But for my viewing and displaying pleasure, I love to have them lightly laquered so they look like they just came out of the ocean.. MurexKen, I love hearing from you! Thanks!
Sherri from MN
What gorgeous shells. I’d love to find one that size one of these days. Great tutorial Pam.
Thanks Pam! Now if I could only find me a nice big horsie… :-) Mary Jo, I also apply the mineral oil with my hands. I think its easier to get it into all the cracks and crevices – and it leaves your hands silky smooth! Kaybe/Susan – I was able to get a whole set of picks at Harbor Freight Tools for just a few dollars. You can probably get them at any tool store or hobby shop.
Oh, and I forgot to mention – the picks store nicely in a toothbrush holder for easy storage!
Like that idea! Thanks! Sherri
I love all your information! I can’t wait to go and visit Sanibel- Captiva again. I went to the 75 th Sanibel Shell Show this year and didn’t enter any of my shell creations but, I’ll be ready this year. I love all the pictures and shelling stories! Keep up the good work!
Hi Pam, When I am on Sanibel in Jan or Feb most of the large horse conchs found house a dead creature. Dead conchs stink! I bought a small hook from Bailey’s that I used to pull out the dead creature. Later I found one and I just violently shook the shell in the water and the dead creature fell out. Then I put them in bleach water and followed the same procedure that you did. I did add a soak in baking soda and water to destink the shell. MEM
I wanted to add how difficult it is to find dental pics to clean shells. My husband suggested I go to Harbor Freight to look. Yep! I found a set of 4 for just a few bucks.
I have a couple of beautiful, huge, true tulips I found during red tide. Both of them were dead, I’m guessing because of the tide :(. I found them the day before we left so I didn’t deal with while I was there, I shipped them home – poor mailman. When they arrived, I put the box in the freezer, and there they have sat. I’m thinking about putting them in the yard, far from the house, to let nature take its (cleaning) course. We live in the country so there are lots of varmints, and I worry about something picking them up and hauling them away. Seriously, we have raccoons that constantly go after the water wriggler in the bird bath and haul it into the woods. They’ve even hauled a ten gallon metal bird seed container into the woods – more than once! I don’t know, maybe we have a Sasquatch living in our woods.
Anyway, guess I’d have to bury them – but how deep? Any suggestions?
Oh my goodness, I forgot to thank Pam for taking the time to provide the great tutorial on how to clean shells – Thanks!
If there is a piece of dead mollusk still stuck way up on the inside the shell making it stink, I have had really good luck with just turning on the tap at full blast and letting the water flush out whatever remains in the there. Just keep water blasting in the aperture and shake the shell with that water in it every once in a while. Try it… you dont have much to lose and it’s very easy. Good luck!
Thanks so much for the great tutorial — we came home from a visit to Sanibel about 3 weeks ago. I love your blog and actually discovered Sanibel because of it (and life has never been the same since). While visiting a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to find a good-sized horse conch. I have been utilizing your tutorial to try to clean him up. Just like you said, after a good bleach soak, the barnacles and other “junk” came off pretty easily. But girl, you were not kidding!!! The “periostracum scrubbing off” process is so slooooowwww. Wowzers. I’ve been working on/off with this shell for the past several weeks. I decided to try letting it “bake” in the sun for a few weeks first (because he’s not very orange underneath anyway), but I got impatient when the skin didn’t dry/peel as quickly as I’d hoped. I think it might just be too cold in New England.
So far, I’ve had the best luck in scrubbing off the brown “skin” (after the long bleach soak) with a very fine steel wool pad (I’ve gone through 3 so far). However, the skin is really attached to this horse conch good. I’m really struggling to get all of the brown skin off the bottom portion of the shell. I’m curious to know . . . has anyone found a good scrubbing utensil or method to get this stuff off more easily? Or, is it just a matter of tenacity to get it off?
I feel your pain, Airon! LOL Some are tougher than others and I just let them soak a little longer and just do little at a time. The wierd thing is, my thumb nails are the best scrubber i have. I must have some hard nails because, it gets that perio off better than anything (albeit, still little at a time). Maybe because our sun is so much stronger here in Florida that leaving them out to bake off takes only a couple of weeks… without doing any work. I hope you took a before picture because when you are done, I hope you post a picture of before and after on the iLoveShelling facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/iLoveShelling!
Thanks, Pam! Sure do appreciate you commiserating with me. That gives me encouragement to continue. I did take a “before” picture, and I’d love to post a before/after once I’m done. This morning, after my shell had been sitting in the bleach another night, I noticed that every day, it’s losing a bit more and more of the periostracum.
As P.S. to my last post, I am finding (for anyone in a similar boat) that if you’re having trouble getting the periostracum off, even with vigorous scrubbing, the most helpful thing seems to be letting it sit and soak in the bleach water for several more hours (or days). I read a couple of scientific articles (on the net yesterday) which seem to suggest that the chemical compound in bleach will eventually dissolve away the periostracum if the shell sits in the bleach/water long enough, and the scrubbing isn’t working. I also read that you can try using lye (as in the stuff you make soap with) if the bleach doesn’t seem strong enough, since lye is a stronger base than bleach is. However . . . I’m nervous to even mention that since lye is so caustic, and you have to be so careful with it (it dissolves people’s skin as well as periostracum!). Of interesting note, the same article that mentioned the lye specifically stated that muriatic acid does not work on periostracum because it’s an acid, not a base (just in case anyone is wondering about trying to use it here). Apparently, you need a strong “base”, not an acid, to dissolve away the periostracum, and that’s why bleach works. I’m going to keep using the bleach solution since lye just sounds scary. I’ll report back.
Wowee! I used this on a passel of random shells that had loads of mossy scum on them. (Lightning whelks, fighting conchs, and a couple of bivalves that I didn’t know the name of.) And lol, guess what? I had this cute little baby lightning whelk that appeared to be dark black, but after a few days of bleach it had all these gorgeous colors! :D YAAAY :D !!! And the fighting conch? The way it looked post-bleaching made fighting conchs my new favorite shells. Thank you soooo much Pam! Now I want to hunt through all my old shells and find all the ones with ick on them so that they can undergo this awesome transformation as well.
p.s: I forgot to mention that I didn’t have any dental tools, so I used a metal fork to pry those barnacles. That was probably the funnest part.
Just got back from Sanibel and have a larger whelk with some of that black stuff on it. Thanks for the tips! I am so jealous of your horse conchs!
Hi, Pam. Great website!
I have been collecting (and cleaning) Florida seashells since 1975. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the use of lye to remove barnacles and oyster residue from your shells. It really works – soak the shells in a lye solution for a few days (it doesn’t damage the shells like acid) and the barnacles etc will just fall off in clumps. The lye breaks down the “glue” the barnacles use to attach themselves The problem is finding the lye. They used to sell it at the pharmacy counter in drugstores, but not the last time I checked. You can also use crystal Drano (Home Depot) though it includes fragrance and color, the effects of which I never tested back when the pure stuff was available. If you can find it, however, it will save you hours and hours of time otherwise spent with your dental picks. Be sure to use a plastic bucket, gloves and eye cover and don’t inhale the fumes. It will also generate heat when you first mix it up. When you’re done, you can just pick out the debris and then dump it down your toilet :) – John
Oh John, that’s fantastic info too! Honestly, I’m so lazy when it comes to cleaning my shells so lots of those barnacles and residue stay on my shells. I have some gorgeous scallop I wish I would take the time to remove other residue.. I’m going to try this some time this summer and show the results! Thanks aagin
Good luck and I hope it saves you some time! I would practice on some nasty ol’ encrusted Horse Conchs or Lighting Whelks first, before using on your precious finds, just to get the hang of it. I didn’t discover this on my own, BTW – I believe it was mentioned in one of those old “How to Clean Seashells” pamphlets from the 70’s, published by St. Petersburg’s own Great Outdoors Publishing Company. They had a lot of excellent publications on seashells and other Florida wildlife.
Thanks so much for your tutorial! I promised a friend to clean up a horse conch conch that her grandson found. What a mess, it was awful. I did everything you said. Thousands of barnacles left straightaway. Then nothing, nothing, nothing. Googling told me…old Clorox loses strength everyday. New bottle and ALL is perfect and smiles! XX00 Lesa Pinney
Can you elaborate on cleaning the gray concrete looking stuff that covers the brown skin ? I can’t get this to budge and am tempted to use a hammer! My shell was found off the SC coAst.
Thanks for this tutorial! I just want to make sure that soaking my fighting conch in the bleach solution won’t take away any color or shine – will it?
Hi . I just really started collecting shells . Your sites have really helped educate me on all the different types of shells . Well since Hurricane Mathew I’ve been finding all sorts of shells on Edisto Beach , South Carolina . I found a Large horse conch shell today. I had to dig it out of the pluff mudd . It still has its skin as well . You can’t find these shells here so you can imagine how excited I was to find one in almost perfect shape . I was wondering are these shells real old ? If the skin is still on my shell does that mean it recently had tenant ? It’s so big I just feel like it’s old . Like I said we don’t find shells that big down here .
Thank you so much for this tutorial!! I wish I could submit photos because my husband found an apple murex that was in really bad shape, not broken, but completely covered in barnacles! He told me to throw it back, but I figured there had to be a way to clean it. After reading this blog and then going after the shell, you would never know it was covered in barnacles. Thank you so much for this tutorial!
You are so welcome! It’s so much fun to hear that it helped you- thanks for your sweet comment :)
I just found 3 BIG horsies off Blind Pass (where the sandbar is across from the Flamingo restraunt is, Sanibel side not captiva side) last week! Evening low tide, about waist height in the water. Watch out for Penn shells, they’ll cut you up. But that’s how I found the horsies, found Penn shell after Penn and almost gave up but found the first conch that way. Continued walking backwards in the water feeling (carefully) with my feet. Half-ish buried in the sand. Also found an enormous lightning welk. The welk was worse for wear and didn’t look great but it was whole and as much as I wanted to keep it we left it, after taking some pics, with the rental condo. But I kept the horse conchs! They’re huge! Got a tip from a fellow sheller and went to check it out the last day we were there. Biggest shells I’ve ever ever found and I’m thrilled! Going to use your post to clean up two of them for sure!
Wooohooo!!! Shellzam! That’s so cool! Okay one more tip… if the horsie has lots of periostracum (the brown skin) use more bleach in your water solution. Like 1/2 and 1/2 for at least a day- it almost melts it away. I hate to normally use so much but it really helps. Good luck!!!
Thank you for the tutorial!! We just moved to South Korea ( military fam) and hit the jack pot in the middle of no where. They were literally everywhere like small seashells but rather conchs the size of my hand and my eight year olds hand! We grabbed a huge grocery bag I keep in the car and packed it full. Now I’m searching ideas for gifts! Maybe sending some back with notes about being across the sea but in our hearts or something to that effect! Thank you again!!
Do you know how to clean the conch foot/operculum? I remember going to a warehouse in OC MD where they prepared conch meat for sale: shells in one bin, meat in one, and those feet were peeled off – supposedly to be cleaned and made into wind chimes. Thanks
How do you cover the pores on the conch shells – when you fill them up with water – they drip.