“How do you clean SEA URCHINS?”
I was asked this question countless time last week after posting photos of Masses Of Sea Urchins On Sanibel Island last week (to see the article CLICK HERE). So now Im going to do better than tell you… Im going to show you!
I only collect SEA URCHINS that are in the high and dry wrack line on the beach – they are never damp so I know for sure they aren’t alive. I love the ones that have already lost their spines and have a big empty hole in the center since most of the cleaning has already done by Mother Nature. But if Mother Nature hasn’t had time to do our cleaning for us, we have a couple of options.
First option- leave your SEA URCHINS outside in the sun for several weeks and let the spines fall off and shake the “crumbs” from the inside. Easy peazy but it takes a while.
If the spines of your dry URCHINS don’t come off by gently rubbing your fingers against the test (body), place your SEA URCHINS in a bucket of water for a couple of hours. Take one out at a time and pinch and rub the spines off. Use a brush if you want or wear rubber gloves if you have tender skin.
While handling your URCHINS, sometimes you will hear the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN (the mouth) inside the URCHIN so if you remove all of the “skin” or fleshy parts around the center mouth with a dental pick, you can usually pull or shake the dried pieces of mouth (or jaw) out of the URCHIN. If you are lucky, the whole piece will come out in tact. If the ARISTOTLE’S LANTERN comes out in one piece, I save it – don’t ask me why, I just think they are cool (? heehee).
Once the SEA URCHINS are spineless and hollow, place them in a bleach water solution. I used about 1/8 bleach to water. In this plastic shoebox size container, I used 3 capfuls of beach.
After an hour or so, rinse them in fresh water then leave them out in the sun to dry. The URCHINS get even more brittle if you leave them in the bleach solution for too long but I do leave some in a little longer so that they will be a lighter shade that the others. I like the different colors!
Once they are clean and dry, you will probably want to harden and preserve your SEA URCHINS. Mix a solution of Elmer’s glue with water. I guesstimate about 50/50 but I don’t worry too much if I have more glue than water- it always seems to work out. You can either be neat and paint the glue solution on your URCHINS or you can dunk. I prefer pouring the glue solution inside the URCHIN then dunking the whole thing in the glue cup then spreading it with my hands (I’m messy like that!). I place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on my tray then let the glue covered SEA URCHIN dry.
Still have questions? Check out the video tutorial I made to show you each step of the process. CLICK HERE to see it on my YouTube Channel or click on the next image.
This is what the finished SEA URCHINS look like. There are several different types of SEA URCHINS from Sanibel so each one tends to be a little different. Beautiful!
PS- Never take live SEA URCHINS. If you dont know how to tell if they are still alive CLICK HERE.
Join me on an iLoveShelling Shelling Adventure trip! CLICK HERE for dates and reservations.
This is wonderful&so helpful..I love the tip about how to vary colors!!!Thank-you Pam!!
Thanks Pam….I always wondered how to clean the little buggers!!
Great video! We have sea urchins here in Nova Scotia too. The only ones I’ve ever seen are green, though. Very pretty :)
thanks. I want to go find one!
Thank you so much, Pam! You know I’m thrilled!
I just started working on the ones I brought back from Sanibel a week ago.Your tutorial could not have come at a more perfect time.
The inside goo is dried by now so everything is much sweeter than before.
In the end each one is so different and together they are brilliant. So glad to know a little Elmers and water will keep them going a long time.
another good post,i only have one urchuin but it was empty so I didn’t have to clean it but next year at shellaballoo I hope to get a few so now I know what to do thanks to pam.you are quite a lady that shares and shares and I hope everyone appreciates that because I know I do.by the way I majored in art and you are a winner at that also.keep up the posts sincerely r.g.stein
Pam, thanks for this! I hope I find some urchins some day. It brings to mind another question relating to cleaning shells, which is how do I bring the color back to shells that seem to have faded or have a film of something over them? My orange scallops, the gaudy nautical, some of the tulips and others I collected at the shellaballoo are not nearly as vibrant and the patterns are not as distinct as when I first found them. I rinsed them in water, but have not officially “cleaned” them in the bleach/water solution (I am afraid of doing that for some reason so I am procrastinating!). Could it be salt build-up from poor rinsing or what? I have watched the video on cleaning with the acid, but I am way too chicken to do that. Any tips? THANKS!
Put some mineral oil on a cotton ball and rub it on the shells. Let it stay on there for a half hour or so, and then rub the excess off with a tissue. It does wonders for restoring the color to shells!
Katherine, If you look down the side of Pam’s page you will see a category for cleaning shells. There are lots of good tips. MIneral oil works great, and I have done it, but if “dust” is a concern, the oil attracts more dust. Have fun cleaning.
You are a doll Katherine!!!! Xoxo
Great post Pam, will definitely try your technique the next time! Now I just have to find some urchins to try it on…
Pam, I haven’t been to Sanibel and Captiva Islands in over 2 years but I love shelling – in fact it’s my favorite pastime. I’m so glad that you take the time to bring to life for me that thing that I love to do the most. And thanks for educating me on things such as how to properly clean and preserve shells and sea urchins.
However, I will admit that I’m extremely jealous that you walk the beaches as often as you do. I plan on coming down in July or August and I was wondering if you could tell me where the best shelling is. When I come down all I do is shell – from sun rise (as soon as I can get there) until the sun sets. The last several times down I pretty much only shelled between Sanibel and Captiva Islands or Fort Myers Beach. Anyway, I know that shelling is wonderful all over the entire island of Sanibel but because I’m only there for a short time I was wondering if you would tell me where I might have the most success. I use the shells to create artwork, jewelry, etc.
Anyway, thanks for sharing your adventures. Keep up with the posts – you make so many people happy.
This is super informative. I hope to find some sea urchins when I’m on Sanibel for a day and 1/2! I’ll be seeing you on the April 1st cruise!
Pam, thank you for the awesome video! It has been super helpful because I had no idea how to clean all of these sea urchins. You’re the best!
I’m so happy to see this. They are a favorite find!! Thank you!!
We live in Panama City Beach and I collected a bagful of urchins. I followed your cleaning process to a T. However, I decided to do a test. So I put out 3 trays. First one I left in bleach solution for 2 hours, 2nd for 2 1/2 hours, and 3rd for 3 hours. Sadly, they dried and all look the same. What did I do wrong? I know they are at least, clean and do not smell anymore. I am going to apply the glue next and just display them anyways.
Hi, are you able to preserve a sea urchin shell with all the spikes or do the spikes degrade in time?
Never tried. Never thought of it. They long spines are so very fragile.
So, thinking about, I guess I wouldn’t really want to, either. Just my opinion.
Thanks for this guide! We just returned from Sanibel Island and my girls collected many sea urchins, sea stars and shells. We found the sea urchins with spines much sturdier than those without (which makes total sense). They are a bit harder to clean, but much less fragile. I soaked them in a 1:10 bleach solution for a few hours, then rinsed and soaked them again in fresh water.
I found using a soft toothbrush and scrubbing them gently UNDER water worked really well to remove the spines and clean the shell. I then used my fingers to remove any stubborn spines. You can resoak these in bleach to adjust the color but as you mentioned, they will get more fragile the longer you soak in the bleach solution. We will paint them with the glue solution after they’ve dried. Thanks again!
Thank you for the tutorial. I need to clean thick, white build up off of shells. These are shells that my friends collected on their honeymoon 15 years ago. They left them at their old house when they moved. She expressed how sad she was that she had not taken the with her. So, I stopped by the house and got them. My QUESTION is, do you think the white build up could have formed AFTER they picked them up off the beach? They have been sitting in a flower bed in Texas all this time. My fear is that I am going to clean them up and when I present them they will think, “This is not how we found them!” and be disappointed.
What about cleaning them after ? I have starfish and sea urchins & I had a house fire. I’m trying to figure out how to clean them without ruining them