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How to Clean Clam & Oyster Shells Found on a Beach

The shells of clams and oysters may appear dull and crusty before cleaning.
Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Seashell collectors enjoy combing the beaches for pretty shells. Unfortunately, the shells found on the beach don't always look pretty at first. The effects of the minerals in seawater can obscure the beauty of seashells. Clam and oyster shells are two of the most common seashells found on beaches throughout the world. To fully enjoy the beauty of these unique shells, a seashell collector needs to learn how to clean them without damaging them.

Removing the Animal

Rinse all loose sand and debris off the shells with a garden hose.

Place the clam or oyster shell in a pot of water on a stove.

Bring the water slowly to near boiling. You need to avoid boiling the water or it could damage the shell. When the water has been brought to near boiling, the clam or oyster is usually cooked.

Open the shell with your fingers and pull the animal out with an ice pick. Get every bit of flesh out of the shell or it will stink later.

Cleaning the Shells

Mix 1 gallon of bleach with 1 gallon of water in a 5-gallon bucket.

Soak the seashells in the solution for 10 minutes to three hours. The length of time you bleach the shells depends on the degree of encrustation on the shell. The "skin" that covers the shell will come off in the bleach during this time.

Remove the shells from the solution with a pair of salad tongs and pick away any foreign material with the ice pick.

Dilute 1 cup of baby oil with 1 cup of paint thinner and brush this solution onto the cleaned shell with a China bristle paintbrush. This causes the shell to shine and brings out the colors.

Things You'll Need:

  • Garden hose
  • Stove pot
  • Water
  • Ice pick
  • 1-gallon bleach
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Salad tongs
  • 1 cup baby oil
  • 1 cup paint thinner
  • China bristle paintbrush
  • Safety glasses
  • Rubber gloves


If you don't want to boil the animal, place the shell on an ant hill for a few days, and the ants will eat it.


  • Wear safety glasses and rubber gloves when handling bleach.
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