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How to Preserve Heirloom Seashells

by Fern on August 30, 2013

in DIY Squad,How To

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You may have read the title of this post and thought, why is Fern–a container gardener–writing about seashells? Well, some of you may remember that my Grandma is the one who fostered my love of gardening. She passed away in 2008 and one of my most treasured items from her is a large conch seashell. Because gardening and my Grandma are intertwined, I thought that it would be great to plant succulents in the shell and keep it on my balcony. But then I got to thinking, maybe soil and water and plants aren’t really a very good way to preserve this heirloom long term. I’d still like to keep it in my garden, but I’d like to clean it up and take better care of the shell so that it lasts for a long, long time. Maybe you have shells you’d like to use in your garden, but you’d like to protect them from the elements? If yes, here’s how…

LOTB Shell 2_2013-08-30Supplies Needed

How to Clean Your Shell

If your shell has a dark brown/green flakey covering, it’s called periostracum and you’ll most likely want to remove it. Your shell might also have algae and other dirt that you want to clean off. You can do this with 50/50 mixture of bleach and water. Just soak your shell until it’s gone, but don’t leave it much longer than that. If you have hard water like I do, you might also want to add a little bit of a product called Lemi-Shine. It’s usually in the dish detergent section of the supermarket. NOTE: Do not use bleach on naturally shiny shells like cowrie shells, soak in 90% alcohol instead. Once your shell is done soaking, take your old toothbrush and brush away any dirt or periostracum still clinging to the shell and then rinse with fresh water. If your shell has rough lips and you’re not concerned with preserving it in it’s natural state, you can use a Dremel to gently smooth the rough spots. Same goes for barnacles and other remnants of sea life clinging to the shell. Whether to keep them or remove them is up to you. If your shell has white scum that you’d like to remove, this video explains how to remove it using muriatic acid (look in the pool supply section of your hardware store). If you’d like to add a little shine, wipe your shell with mineral oil. You could also spray your shell with a clear coat of satin finish polyurethane. If you go that route, be sure to let your shell dry on a piece of wax paper inside, in a dust-free area. And voila! You’re done.

Do you have any experience preserving seashells? Add your tips in the comments! For more inspiration on preserving family heirlooms, I encourage you to watch this video from True Value and share your own heirloom stories below.

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This post is sponsored by True Value Hardware. However, the opinions and ideas are all my own. You can read more about my review and sponsor policy here.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna August 31, 2013 at 11:34 pm

I always enjoy your posts but really relate to this one. My grandmother taught me to garden and instilled a love of all growing things and….when she died I brought home her favorite shell…exactly like yours! I want to be that kind grandma!

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Fern October 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

First you get to be that kind of mom! :-)

Chanelle Boshuizen October 11, 2013 at 12:19 am

When I traveled to Asia, I saw a lot of heirloom seashells as souvenir and I wonder how they preserve the beauty of it. Now I know how. Thanks for the tips.

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