sand dollars found on sanibel

Finding SAND DOLLARS on the beach is always such a special treat. If you find dark “furry” SAND DOLLARS with a fine coat of little hairs on their body anywhere near the water, they are most likely still alive so it’s best to leave them where they are. We feel so special just to see such amazing live animals in their own habitat in the wild. But… if you find completely dried SAND DOLLARS on the beach in lighter shades of white and tan without fur … Whoop Whoop! Those are such special treasures like Jill from Nebraska found near Gulfside City Park this week.

jill sand dollars sanibel beach

I found quite a few of these little gems in the high wrack line almost a month ago (my post Bittersweet Baby Sand Dollars). There were so many people picking them up, I’m so surprised there are any still there. After meeting Jill and seeing her sweet SAND DOLLARS, I felt a little embarrassed that the ones I found were still sitting in my garage… dirty… sandy… unorganized… and would probably get broken if I didn’t get them out of the way. How could I let that happen to such special finds??!!

dead sand dollars sanibel florida

So I got out the bleach, a plastic shoe box sized bin and my SAND DOLLARS then took them to my back yard to work some magic on them. I filled the container halfway with fresh water then added probably 5 capfuls of bleach to it. Okay… honestly, I don’t measure that well- I’m guestimating but if they don’t turn white within an hour, I add more bleach.

cleaning sand dollars with bleach

These puppies are soooo stinkin fragile, you have to be very gentle with them so I drop each one individually into the bleach solution.

turn sand dollars white

Since I didn’t want to get too much bleach on my fingers (it’s heck on the fingernails!), I chose to use a plastic shovel from one of my shell buckets to scoop them out after they turned white within an hour. I placed them on a plastic tray lined with a paper towel so that their edges were not touching. I wanted them to lay flat so their chances of breaking were less likely.  I learned on the second round that I really didn’t need the paper towel- they did fine without it.

how to clean sand dollars

Some were so stubborn! If they still had brown spots, I realized some had a buildup of sand on them so the bleach solution wasn’t getting through evenly. So I took them out of the solution, dried them off and gently rubbed my thumb on them to remove that sand build up. I added a little more bleach, then dropped them back in. Round 2!

how to turn sand dollars white

Then I let them dry in the sun. Once they are dried, you can protect them with an Elmer’s Glue solution. I didn’t do this to mine because I’m not sure what I will do with them yet… and it would take me 5 days to coat each of of them! LOL But if you want to add a protective coating, mix equal parts of Elmer’s Glue and water together then coat each sand dollar. After letting them dry on wax paper…. Viola! Gorgeous white SAND DOLLARS!

Here are the simplified steps:

  • In a bucket, mix 3/4 water with 1/4 bleach
  • place sand dollars in solution
  • remove in about an hour or after turning white
  • rinse with fresh water (thanks Dom!)
  • place on flat surface
  • dry in sunlight
  • coat one side with solution of 1/2 Elmer’s Glue  and 1/2 water
  • let dry on wax paper
  • coat other side
  • let dry
  • Enjoy finding a special bowl to display them or fun project!

clean white baby sand dollars elmers glue