Many people pick up a seashell or two while on vacation at the beach. It makes a nice inexpensive momento of their vacation and time spent here on the sea islands of the Lowcountry. But most folks are unaware, until it’s too late, that if not cleaned properly seashells can have an ill-effect.
From glares from other travelers wondering why you have not showered, to airport authorities searching through your bags for the unknown odor emitting from them. Properly cleaned seashells, on the other hand, will show no such effects. The natural color of seashells are often quite different from what you find at the beach. A good cleaning is all that is needed to bring this out and destroy any odors the seashells might have.
My favorite summertime memory as a child was walking the beach for hours with my older sister and BFF collecting cool seashells. As adults, mothers and wives it’s still our “go to” time together alone. Recently my sis was here for her first Beaufort experience since we moved to Beaufort, and it prompted me to want to share our decade old tradition of how to preserve awesome shoreline finds.
It’s easier than you think and here’s how we display our awesome finds after preserving to bring years of memories and enjoyment.
The ingredients are pretty simple. I metal pot like a lobster pot (you just need enough room to cover the shells); bleach, water, a colander and some paper towels or newspaper. In addition you can use either mineral oil or spray shellac to bring out those AWESOME striations of color in your shells and keep them shiny.
First thing to do is take those nasty dirty sandy shells and gently place them in the bottom of a pan. Cover them with a 25/75 solution of bleach to water. Set on high heat to a boil.
If you have sand dollars that were NOT taken from the beach alive, you’ll want to pull them out with a slotted spoon at around 10 minutes as they are very porous and fragile. Rinse generously with water to prevent the bleach from eating them. If they still aren’t white enough the best bet is to set them outside to “sun bleach” them for a couple of days.
The final step is to either use a towel or spray bottle to coat them with mineral oil, or you can spray them lightly with shellac found at any craft or home store.
You will be amazed at the colors and patterns that appear after this treatment.
After drying they will be ready to display for years of wonderful memories of your time spent along our Beaufort, SC seashores.
*All shells pictured for this preservation were found in one walk along Hunting Island Beach’s south shores. Please remember that any sand dollars still gray or tan and moving on the underside, or shells with creatures in them are protected animals and should NOT be taken for souvenirs.
Written for ESPB by Lyndsay Letellier