How to Clean a River Clam Shell

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River clam shells can be used for a variety of purposes, from decorative ash trays to sculpture adornments. Preparing the shells for use requires delicate procedures to ensure the shell remains intact. There are varying ways to clean clam shells, including sun bleaching and a chlorine beach bath. The cleaning method will likely depend on the desired purpose of the shells. Regardless of the method used, take care to preserve the natural beauty of the shell.

Things You'll Need

  • Sauce pan
  • Spoon
  • Newspaper
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Bucket
  • Cookie sheet

Removing Animal Matter

  • Bring 6 cups of water to near boiling in a medium sauce pan. Place river clam shells that still have animal matter attached into the water.

  • Cook the shells for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Remove the pan from the heat source and pour the contents into a metal strainer or colander.

  • Place the shells on a sheet of newspaper.

  • Gently remove the animal matter from each shell with your fingers and a spoon.

Cleaning the Shells

  • Place shells on a cookie sheet and leave them outside for three full days. The sun and other natural elements will help to bleach and roughly clean the surface of the shells.

  • Fill a bucket with one part water and one part chlorine bleach.

  • Place shells in the bleach solution and allow them to soak over night. The bleach will remove mineral deposits and unsightly stains from the shells, revealing the natural array of colors.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the sun bleaching method for a more natural appearance.
  • Do not overheat the water when cooking the clams. Excessive heat may damage the nacre (opalescent layer).

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