Crafty & Creative

(Video) The Best Way I Have Found to Clean Beached Oyster Shells

In order to create my stunning earrings and necklaces, the first order of business is finding and cleaning the oyster shells. Spending a few hours scouring the river beaches as the tide goes out is one of the best ways for me to relax, de-stress, enjoy the beauty of nature, and (believe it or not) get some good exercise from the high volume of deep knee bends!

Once I get back to the house with a bag of shells, I first hose them off in the backyard just to get all the sand off. I leave them outside (in the sun if possible,which helps with natural bleaching) until I’m ready to clean them.

When I first started on this creative journey back in May 2017, I tried quite a few ways to get the shells really clean. I’m somewhat a germ-a-phobe so wanted to be absolutely sure any remaining bacteria or whatever-lies-on-a-dirty-shell is totally, absolutely gone from the face of the planet.

  1. I first tried the bleach method. After reading online how other people go about this, I determined that there is no particular “best” way. I read recipes using amounts of bleach ranging from a 50/50 blend of bleach and water, 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water, 1:8 bleach to water… and the list goes on. So I just said the heck with it and poured some bleach into the bucket of water.

Next question – how long do I leave it there? Again, my Google search left me with more questions than answers. From a few minutes to a few hours to a few days…..?!? So I tried them all. One length of time didn’t seem to make a difference in my eyes. However, using 100% bleach did diminish serious green algae stains within a couple of hours.

But I was still using bleach… and not really wanting to. So…

2.I next tried antibacterial soap and water. I soaked a rather small batch in a big bowl and then scrubbed each one with a toothbrush and soap, rinsed them really well and set outside on a towel to dry. This method actually seemed to work pretty well, BUT whew! It took a long time and wasn’t any fun at all! If I’m going to be cleaning shells frequently, this just wasn’t the method for me.

3.My husband started asking me what I’m up to in the kitchen. Not cooking dinner for sure! Being an avid gun collector, builder, and cleaner-upper of gun parts, he showed me how he cleans the nasty, gunky, stuck-on stuff using an ultrasonic cleaner. I had never heard of this machine before, and I hated to admit that he had found the gem which would save me from a life of toothbrush-scrubbing, but he did. I thanked him and high-tailed it to Amazon to order one for myself!

Two days later (thanks to Prime shipping), my Ultrasonic Cleaner arrived. It was a bit like Christmas. And for the record, the specific one I bought after reading many reviews was the ISonic P-4820-SPB25 Commercial Ultrasonic Cleaner with 25 minute timer, 2.6Qt/2.5L, White Color, Plastic Basket, 110V. 

iSonic® Professional Grade Ultrasonic Cleaner P4820-WPB with Heater and Digital Timer, Plastic Basket

If you are wondering how the cleaner works, it’s a bit scientific. but it does work!  Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about it: “Ultrasonic cleaning uses cavitation bubbles induced by high frequency pressure (sound) waves to agitate a liquid. The agitation produces high forces on contaminants adhering to substrates like metals, plastics, glass, rubber, and ceramics.”

I set up a cleaning station in my kitchen and borrowed some of my husband’s Simple Green cleaner to add to the water. Simple Green is a concentrated, non-toxic, and biodegradable all-purpose cleaner (and the one my husband uses for those gun parts I mentioned). It’s also made in the United States. I typically use about a half a cup in the container of water and change the water after 2 cycles.

I’ve made a video of the process I go through to clean my shells with the ultrasonic cleaner. It’s definitely my preferred choice, and if you plan on doing a large number of shells, as I am for my business Awshucks Designs, it’s definitely worth the money.  Besides, you’ll be able to use it for other purposes. I learned on the Tovatech web site that it can be used for cleaning so many things, such as jewelry, gun parts, medical or dental equipment, antiques, dentures, scuba gear valves and regulators, vinyl records… the list goes on and on!

Please leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve ever used an ultrasonic cleaner before and if so, for what purpose? I’d love to hear your shell cleaning stories, too!

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9 thoughts on “(Video) The Best Way I Have Found to Clean Beached Oyster Shells

    1. Hi Erlene- it’s not going to take anything off that may need scraping. On the shells I find there are often pieces of barnacle or chunks of another oyster shell. Sometimes I can knock them off with my finger or scrape of with a dull knife while the shell is wet. The cleaner will just get them clean; I’ve not seen that whitish film come off. I’ve watched videos on YouTube people of people dropping (certain types of) shells into diluted muriatic acid which is corrosive and a harsh chemical, but it seems to work if you do it right! Thanks for your comment!

  1. Hello Letha, are you leaving your shells in the ultrasonic cleaner for 15 minutes or 15 seconds?

  2. Hi Letha, this is so interesting. Is this the kind of oysters you see at restaurants (they grey colored ones) is it a different kind?

    1. The ones I use come from the beach or the “pluff mud” but most of them are off the sand, so I don’t know about cleaning ones that come from a restaurant. Thanks for asking!

    1. It would probably work for sand dollars but they can by tricky… the little experience I have is it’s easy for them to be dingy and not white when done. Good luck!

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