Shiny Shells

My husband and I both really enjoy collecting seashells together. We have been growing our collection of shells found at the beach together, and have a few projects in mind for some of them – which started with these glass vase lamps we just finished for our bedroom:

Glass Vase lamp with sea shells

When we pick up shells at the beach, they’re almost always wet, which really helps the colorful ones look beautiful. When we get home and clean them off then let them dry, the colorful ones tend to have gotten duller, often with what looks like a white haze. I went looking for ways to bring back their shine and bright colors, and stumbled upon baby oil!

Using baby oil to clean seashells

Before using the baby oil, I thoroughly cleaned and disenfected my shells. I started by rinsing any debris off in the bathtub and soaking them in water for several hours. Then, I made a mixture of about 50% water and 50% bleach and soaked the shells in this for another 3-4 hours. Then I soaked the shells in clean water overnight and let them dry on a towel in the morning. Yes – this takes a long time. But most of the time is waiting for things to soak, and other things can be done in the mean time.

Using baby oil to clean seashells

I used precision tip Q-tips (which I love using for all kinds of things – they’re great!) to rub a thin layer of baby oil on the parts of the shells where I wanted to shine and/or bring out the color. It did a great job of removing the haze and dullness, and the effect remained even after it had dried! So far its been several weeks, and they are still looking great.

Apparently the mineral oil in baby oil is what actually does the trick – the baby oil I got lists mineral oil and fragrance as the only two ingredients. When I went to my drug store to find mineral oil, it was only available in large containers and for a higher per ounce price than the small 3 oz. container of baby oil I got – which was more than I will ever need.

Using baby oil to clean seashells

Sure, you can buy bigger shells at the store for not too much and leave out all this hassle. Eddie and I enjoy beachcombing though, and having pretty things we’ve found together around the house always brings smiles to our faces 🙂

34 thoughts on “Shiny Shells

  1. I too have numerous shields, rocks, etc. that have sentimental value. What I do to keep a shine is paint them with clear nail polish After cleaning them. This works for quite a long time and they can be cleaned off as dust goes by. Love your site!!!!

  2. When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to make beautiful greeting cards using tiny shells as petals on flowers. She’d paint them with water color. I just love shells!

    BTW, your blog is the featured site on this week’s Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop on Ducks n a Row. Please be sure to stop by! 🙂

  3. We have some abalone shells that this would look great on. But the shells are also covered with thick hard composites. Will this process of cleaning get that off too?

  4. thanks for this tip – I have some shells and was wondering what in the world to do about the dulling. thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for the info. Will try it on some of my most colorful shells and shell fragments.
    One comment you made, “It makes me smile”, is how I feel when I see my colored glass
    bottles in the kitchen windows with the rising sun shining through them.

  6. I used to use baby oil, but I had several big conch shells that I’d picked up on vacation. The big shells just sat on a shelf or in a corner by the shower. The baby oil seemed like it attracted dust and always looked dusty. So one time when I saw a sea side stand selling shells that had that wet pretty glossy look to them I asked what they used to keep them so shiny. Future Floor Wax was their answer. I had some on hand at home because some of the floors on our lower level needed it. So when I got home I tossed the shells I wanted to “wax” into a large pot of water with some soap and brought them to a boil to remove the oil residue and then rubbed them down with a coat of the floor wax. i still use the floor wax method to this day on any shells that I won’t be putting in a sealed environment.

    1. I love the idea of floor wax thank you for sharing, in my case i use Mod Podge gloss clear acrylic sealer spray bottle, wich you can paint your shells any color u want, with acrylic paint or nail polish and then spray the sealer, very easy to clean if dust get on them. : )

  7. I’ve used mineral oil but found that you have to keep reapplying it every so often, but it does make the shells look gorgeous. I’ve also used clear gloss as well for certain projects. I also have used z spar varnish, which you can get in a marine supply store. However, you’ll need turpentine to clean your brushes. It also turn “yellow”, which give the shells a pretty antiqued look.

  8. Muriatic acid removes the lime layer from the shells and leaves the pearly layer, use very heavy rubber gloves and a small rubber bucket for the shells and have a bucket of water next to it to rinse the shells right away before the acid can eat a hole right through it. I made a large and beautiful mirror frame cleaning the shells this way and it lasted for a lot of years but moving so often finally wrecked it. I lived in Ft Walton Beach Fla when I made it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *