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Thread: How do you get the smell out of sea shells?


  1. #1
    Renaissance Diver
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    headhunter's Avatar
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    Apr 2004
    So Cal (Altadena)
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    Question How do you get the smell out of sea shells?

    I did a search on this, but found no info.

    My wife, Victoria and I went to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico about a week ago and she picked up a bunch of sea shells and brought them home.

    She asked me how to get the fishy smell out of the shells, so that she could put them into a bowl for decoration.

    I've never been one to collect sea shells. I thought vinegar or bleach would do the trick. I was wrong.

    While I was sitting here reading threads, she asked me what else she should try. It occured to me that someone here must know what she should do.

    Before recommending a vat of acid, I thought I'd ask the board.

    So... how do you do it?



  2. #2
    Marine Scientist

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    archman's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
    SE Florida
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    try soaking in freshwater for a few days, add a bit 'o liquid soap while you're at it.
    Some people swear by slices of cucumber. Apparently for getting rid of fish smells they can't be beat. They absorb the smell... or something.

  3. #3

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    Roughwaterjohn's Avatar
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    Apr 2004
    San Diego, California
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    Removing smell from shell

    step #1 Remove nose from shell
    step #2 Set shell down
    step #3 Walk away
    step #4 Smells all gone!
    John A.

    I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    - Robert McCloskey

  4. #4
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    H2Andy's Avatar
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    how about setting them out in the sun for a few days? seems to work wonders
    on tons of smelly stuff
    all your brain are belong to us

  5. #5
    Scuba Instructor

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    Jun 2003
    Broken Bow, Ok (SE corner)
    I'm a Fish!

    Thumbs up odor removal

    Here is something that works on just about everything (even skunk spray...don't ask).

    1 quart of 3 % hydrogen peroxide (the stuff ya buy at walmart)

    1 cup baking soda

    1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap

    Mix together & use immediately. It WILL NOT keep.


  6. #6

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    armyscuba's Avatar
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    Boston Massachusetts
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    Try Gasoline and Tide...hmmm..no that's Naplam...Never Mind..If You soak the shells in DRAINO..it will remove interior and exterior film..then You can pour it down Your Drain..Do two jobs in one.
    CPT D
    Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
    Reef Raiders
    "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom"
    "Keep Your Powder Dry"

  7. #7

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    ElectricZombie's Avatar
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    Mar 2002
    Wilson, NC
    I use undiluted bleach. Cleans them up and gets rid of all the smell.
    Johnathan Mitchell
    NAUI Instructor

    "I'm going to go outside now and sacrifice a jacket BC to the DIR God."

    "Do it right the first time."

  8. #8

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    pipedope's Avatar
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    Feb 2002
    Side of the hill, Alaska

    first things first

    Make sure that the animal is all gone.

    I usually find a local any hill to be very good at this part. Do NOT leave a shell out in any place where hermit crabs are living. As soon as the shell is clean one of them will move in and take it away.

    Once the ants are done a simple wash should do it.
    If any of the original owners body is still in there NOTHING will make it stop smelling.
    Retarded (retired) commercial diver.
    Now just working to survive a dance with Lymphoma.

  9. #9

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    rgbmatt's Avatar
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    Mar 2004
    Honolulu, HI
    Vinegar is bad - the acid dissolves calcium carbonate and destroys the shell's finish. Alkaline solutions such as bleach are better, but still don't overdo it - you will damage them if they soak too long.

    Putting them in the sun is also a bad idea, unless you want the shells to become white like the ones on the beach!

    If the shells weren't quite dead yet when she picked them up, there'll be loads of nasty rotting snail meat inside that will really stink. If it's dried up already, it's next to impossible to pick it out so the best you can do is try to locate some really hungry ants who are smaller and stronger than you are. Otherwise, the smell will go away in a couple of months if you're patient enough to store them in a dry place (but don't get them wet again or it'll return with a vengeance).

  10. #10
    Cousin Itt

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    Warsaw, Poland
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    I love collecting shells and have a lot of them. I wash them with freshwater and a soap. Then - as H2Andy proposed - I put them on the sun.
    But remember - shells taken from the water loose their colors. To get the colors back I paint them with transparent lacquer. In fact the best one is transparent nail polish!!!! If you don't do it the other solution is to keep the shells in water - but it means a lot of trouble. So polishing them is the only way to get the colors back - at least the only one I came up with.
    After that they are ready to be a part of house decoration.
    And they do look nice!

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