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Saturday, May 10, 2014

How to Clean and Preserve Conch Shells and Sand Dollars

Collecting Seashells in Wildwood New Jersey
We travel a lot and most of the travel destinations that we visit happen to be near the ocean. We specifically love the coastal areas of Stone Harbor, Wildwood and Cape May in New Jersey. One of our favorite activities to do is to walk the beach and collect beautiful seashells from the Atlantic Ocean.

On one recent trip down to the Jersey Shore we collected some huge conch shells (whelk shells) and we found several small sand dollars floating in the surf. We were quite happy to find all of these items as it is very rare to find them anymore.

We knew before we headed back home to Pennsylvania that we needed to clean them up and preserve them for the ride home. Trust me, you don't want to be packing any stinky and dirty conch shells in your luggage! In our case, the animal was still alive, would of died and stunk up our car ride home!

How to Clean and Preserve Conch Shells and Sand Dollars
How to Clean and Preserve Conch Shells and Sand Dollars
For the conch shells, you will want to rinse them down thoroughly with cool running water. Remove all of the loose debris. In a large pan (we used a stock pot) fill it up with hot water and place it on the stove. Once the water starts boiling, gently place your whelk shells down into the hot water, turn the heat down to a gentle boil and let them boil for 20 to 30 minutes.

You will want to open up some windows if you can as our condo got stinky during this process, an over-whelming fish smell for sure! Once they are done boiling, remove them with tons and place into the sink. Run cool running water over them to help to cool them down.
How to Clean and Preserve Conch Shells and Sand Dollars
Take a fork and jab the animal that is inside the shell, trust me, it is now dead. Carefully use the fork to remove it (it came out in one solid piece for us). Place in a trash bag, tie it up and remove the bag immediately to help prevent further odors. Rinse the shells under water thoroughly, towel them dry. Wrap them in towels or bubble wrap for the trip back home.

The sand dollars are much easier to preserve. Rinse them thoroughly under cool running water. Make sure you hold onto them so they don't drop & break. We never submerge ours in water. Gently pat them dry with paper towels and then lay them on a cotton towel to air dry. They need to completely dry out.
How to Clean and Preserve Conch Shells and Sand Dollars
You will need some Aleene's Tacky Craft Glue (the kind that dries fast and dries clear). Mix together 2 tablespoons of the craft glue with 1 to 2 teaspoons of tap water to thin it down. Use a foam brush and brush this mixture onto one side of the sand dollar. Let dry. Flip it over and brush the mixture on the other side; let dry. You will want to repeat this process 2 or 3 times to put a nice clear coating onto each sand dollar which helps to preserve them. Super easy to do!

Well there you have it! You will want to clean and preserve your precious shells while on vacation to help protect them for the ride home. If you can't do it while on vacation, rinse them and wrap them in towels until you get back home.

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