Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Clean Conch Shells and Whelk Shells

I love to go shelling and every time we visit a beach I am on the hunt to find the best seashells that I can find. With that said...I do NOT collect or bring home shells that are still occupied by living animals. I try to ONLY collect ones that I am sure the animal is deceased or has left his home.

On a recent trip down to Wildwood in New Jersey we found a ton of Knobby Whelk Shells laying on the beach and washing up onto the beach with the surf. Out of the 35+ years that I've been visiting this beach...I've never seen anything like it!

Over a 3-day period of time we collected almost a hundred of these beautiful shells. While they are officially called a Knobby Whelk Shell...some people who don't know the correct terminology call them Conch Shells. All of the ones we collected were 4" to 7" in length...perhaps a few over that.

I would say that the majority of them had a dead animal inside and we needed to remove it so that the seashells wouldn't end of up stinking. Today...I am going to tell you how I like to clean my Conch Shells or Whelk Shells so that others can properly learn how to do it.

1. Rinse them all off under running tap water. Please make sure the animal inside is dead. If not, return them to the ocean!!! Once you have them rinsed clean you will want to proceed.

2. Fill up a large stock pot with salted hot water. Place the shells inside and bring the salted water to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and boil them for approximately 7-10 minutes. Turn off heat and drain out the hot water.

3. Place seashells into the bottom of your kitchen sink. Run cool water over them. Take a fork and pierce the animal inside and use the fork to pull the animal out in one singular piece. Trust me, they pull out pretty easily when you are using a fork.

4. Rinse those shells again...I like to run cool water over them for 3-5 minutes to help remove any sticky debris that may be lurking inside where I can't see. Lay out a towel and place all seashells on the towel to air dry. Once dry you can pack them up for the trip home or proceed to the next step.

5. If you want to clean them right away...which I recommend that you do...go out and get some S.O.S. Pads or scrubbing sponges. Trust me, the S.O.S. pads will NOT hurt these types of shells. You will want to use the scrubbing pad under cool running water and scrub up the outer shell. The bottom photo on the left above shows an unscrubbed shell. The bottom photo on the right shows one that has been half-scrubbed so that you can see the difference. Trust me, scrubbing them makes them even prettier!!! Let them fully dry!

6. If you want them to shine pretty...there are a few things you can do:

* Spray them with clear acrylic sealer
* Rub them down with mineral oil or baby oil
* Mix a few drops of water in with some clear Modge Podge and use a foam brush to coat them with the sealer (my preferred method). Let dry.

That's it! It's pretty easy to clean up these large seashells that you find laying around on the beach. Please be respectful though and return all living animals in their original shells back into the water. Only collect the shells that you are sure that the animal inside is deceased or ones that the animal has abandoned. Thanks!


jopb said...

I wonder what pollutant cause all,these Whelk/Conch shell creatures to die. Otherwise I can't imagine why so many would wash up,on the beach. These are very clear instructions and whenI next come across a sell I shall know what to do with it.

Unknown said...

Lived in that area many yrs ago. We collected knobbed whelks as above, and did all of the work save the SOS pad. We used a bleach water soak, with a coarse plastic scrubber pad. There was no pollution or act of humans to kill off the whelks, but a storm surge that probably swept their habitat free of shelter and up onto the beach. Natural occurrence.

Shellseeker said...

Thank you, Rose....while we were living up North, we did have the pleasure of finding the whelks at Wildwood Crest on many occasions and keeping the ones that were dead or empty. T

They are still part of my prized collection of shells and memories now that I am living in Myrtle Beach, SC.

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