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How to Clean Seashells After Your Beach Trip

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How to clean seashells after your beach trip…don’t skip this step.

Look at all of these gorgeous blue seashells! Being an east coast girl, I had never seen blue mussel shells on the beach before. Needless to say…some of these came home with me. I always find it surprising how quickly shells start to have a foul odor. Today I’m going to share with you my method of how to clean seashells.

As I stated before in THIS post and THIS one, I love to collect seashells on the beach. The moment my feet hit the sand, it’s as if my head is being pulled down by a magnet. Before I know it, a couple of hours have gone by and my hands are full of collected seashells.

Like in this photo below – my hands were already full and I had only been on the beach for about 10 minutes.

Be a Good Steward

Never, ever do I collect live shells. The ones housing crabs, mussels, conch or other living creatures are left in their natural habitat. I only collect non-living seashells from the beach. But non-living shells house enough things that make it necessary to clean seashells after your beach trip.

Why do you need to clean seashells?


[per-ee-os-truh-kuh m]
noun, plural per·i·os·tra·ca [per-ee-os-truh-kuh] /ˌpɛr iˈɒs trə kə/.
  1. the external, chitinlike covering of the shell of certain mollusks that protects the limy portion from acids.

The periostracum is the flaky, leathery covering that coats most seashells. Every nook, cranny and ridge of the shell can hold bacteria, algae and more. After collecting shells it is most important to clean them straightaway before they begin to smell. Trust me – it doesn’t take long for the smelly-factor to start either!


  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Glass or plastic bowl
  • Old toothbrush or small brush
  • Dish soap
  • Paper Towels
  • Mineral Oil meant for food use only – like THIS , THIS or THIS one. Please don’t use oils such as vegetable or olive oil. These will become rancid and spoiled. You may also use an oil that is meant for wood cutting boards. Click the photo links below:

How to Clean Seashells:

  • In a glass or plastic container, mix equal parts bleach and water. I used 1 cup of each.
  • Add seashells
  • Let soak for 1 hour
  • Remove 1 shell from the bleach mixture and attempt to clean. If it cleans easily – move onto the next step. If the shell is not clean, return it to the bowl with the other shells and soak 1/2 hour longer.
  • Discard the bleach-water mixture. Rinse and wash shells thoroughly in hot soapy water while scrubbing with the old toothbrush. Be sure to remove all dirt, grit, etc. especially from crevices.
  • Rinse and wash again in hot soapy water to be sure all of the bleach, dirt and grit are removed.
  • Let air-dry on paper towels.
  • When shells are completely dry, buff with a small amount of mineral oil.
  • Display shells in a dish, tray or container.

This photo clearly depicts the difference between an uncleaned and clean shell.

Some people warn against bleaching because the shell might absorb the smell and that can‘t be gotten rid of. Also, it can ruin the color. So, if you are bleaching your shells, don’t leave them in the solution too long. Personally, I have never had this issue and I have been using this seashell cleaning method for decades.

Don’t worry – the shells are only this shiny after first applying the mineral oil.

I love displaying my blue shells in this vintage silver sugar bowl.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Do you display your shell collections? We would love to see them!

Don’t forget to Pin this to your favorite Pinterest Board!

You might also like these shell-inspired posts!

Coastal Inspired Succulent GardenDIY Nautical Seashell Napkin Rings

Beach Inspired Coffee Table Decor


  1. These blue shells are gorgeous! Thanks so much for the tips and tricks about how to clean them. I can’t tell you how many times someone has snuck a shell in their luggage for the smell to all but knock us out the minute we returned home because they were not cleaned or cared for properly. This post so much. Also, thanks for the shelling etiquette reminder. Big hugs, CoCo

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thank for the helpful tips! Those blue shells are gorgeous! Where did you find them? May need to plan a trip!

  3. David Rothwell says:

    Maybe you should start a sea shell exchange! That way people all over the world can exchange for shells that are not native to their area.

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