How to Color Shells

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Things You'll Need

  • Seashells

  • Bleach

  • Water

  • Bucket

  • Towel

  • Liquid food coloring

  • Water

  • White vinegar

  • Paper towels

  • Tray

Walking along the beach and collecting pails full of beautiful seashells is one of those summertime rites of passage that no one should forgo. But once you're home, what do you do with all those shells? The answer is easy: Seashells are ideal for creating fun and beautiful homemade crafts. Seashells, like eggshells, are extremely porous and can be dyed any color you desire. Once your shells are colored, you can use them to adorn picture frames, lamps, candle sticks, vases or even clothing. What a lovely way to preserve your memories.


Step 1

Collect dead seashells, which are simply seashells that have no animal life inside them. You can usually find these shells on beach shores.

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Step 2

Mix a 50/50 solution of bleach and water in a bucket. Place the seashells into the solution and allow them to soak until their periostracum have dissolved. The periostracum is the outermost layer of a seashell and is usually black, brown, golden-brown or pale yellow.


Step 3

Remove the shells from the bleach solution. Use a toothbrush to scrape off any remaining debris.

Step 4

Rinse the seashells well in tepid water. Lay them out on a towel to dry for at least one week. It is vital that the shells are completely dry before you color them.


Step 5

Prepare your food coloring. Since you will need to submerge and soak your shells, mix at least 1 cup of each desired color. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as to how much color to add to 1 cup of water.

Step 6

Add 2 tsp. white vinegar per 1 cup of food coloring. The vinegar will help the color adhere to your shells.


Step 7

Immerse your shells in the food coloring. Allow the shells to soak until you have acheived the desired tint and depth of color.

Step 8

Place the wet, colored shells on a paper towel-lined tray to dry.


Old seashells that have been weathered a bit absorb dyes more readily than younger shells. For your own protection, wear gloves and protective eyewear when cleaning seashells.


Do not collect live seashells (shells that are still inhabited by animal life). Not only is cleaning them a lengthy and messy process, but collecting live seashells is prohibited on some beaches.


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