FAQ How do I get the stink out of a shell?

FAQ How do I get the smell out of an empty sea shell so I can reuse it?

FAQ How do I get the smell out of an empty sea shell so I can reuse it?

CrabbyMum asked:

Get the odor out of shells? I know to boil newly purchased shells, but I want to reuse some of the shells that are smelly from a crab dying in it. So far, we’ve lost one of the Littles (PP = Faith) and I think another is not going to make it. I have her in iso and will wait til we are sure before dealing with it’s shell tho. But I tried soaking the ones that Violet and Faith were in because the odor was so strong in them yet and then boiled them. I remember reading how Vinegar can damage them so I didn’t use anything but declorinated water. Didn’t dare try soap or dishwashing liquid either. But once the water got to boiling the odor nearly drove us all out of the house. :sick: What should I have done? Is there a safe way to remove the odor?
I really want to get these shells clean because they are both usable shells. Violet’s was large and not particularly pretty on the outside, but the inside is in good condition except for the odor. Faith’s is painted and boiling removed most of the paint and the clear shellac or what ever the polish was on it. The size of that one is perfect for the other Little one and since I don’t have much in the way of tiny shells (waiting for a new order to get here), I really need it before she comes up from destressing. At least I HOPE that is why she is still in hiding…

are you boiling with SALT water?

I just had a crazy thought that might safely work….ocean water will probably eat away the shine of the shell if there is any. But put some ocean water within the shell and leave it sit for a couple of hours. Shake out the ocean water, and here is the crazy part…put it in a baggy with a twisty tie on it and place it in the freezer overnight. Not sure if you have ever heard of it or tried it, (and it works too….if one has a smelly pair of tenny shoes, (or any shoes) and put them in a garbage bag and put them in the freezer for 24 hours it kills the stench of the shoes. Honest…it works with shoes.

Hmmm… Hadn’t thought of using salt in the water. Just declorinated and boiled about 5 minutes. I was tempted to try a weak bleach solution but was afraid of what that might do to the shell and didn’t want to risk not being able to get it all out of the shell. I would think that a crab with a bleached bottom would be crabby indeed. :blush:
I like the baking soda and/or lemon idea as they are natural and are natural deodorizers. Faith’s shell is a shiny spotted one (looks to be a Babylon Spirata type) so I’d like to preserve it if possible. Violet’s shell is a nonpolished Pica and the outside is sort of crusted with a stone like material that I was afraid would come off when it was cleaned – but it didn’t.
Marie. Oh golly – I remember doing that with tennies when I was a girl. It really did kill alot of odors – we soaked them in baking soda water, froze them in the snowbanks in winter and then left them hanging on a line for a day or two. I’ll give it a try with the soda and the freezer.

Ok – I wonder… How about soaking in Hydrogen Peroxide? Just in case the odor is still there because there is something still stuck inside the shell that I can’t get at. Wouldn’t that bubble it out?

I was a bit leery to post this link last night, but if you think something maybe stuck in the shell, (part of Violet or another previous critter) this maybe a route to try. But I would be very hesitant about any chemicals within the hermies shell. (one never knows if the shell will absorb them or not)

From: http://www.seashells.org/cleaning/liveseashells.htm

How to clean live seashells
It might be a good idea to check with local authorities where you will be gathering the sea shells as some areas prohibit the practice of collecting live specimens. If you are lucky enough to gather some live sea shells there are a few methods of cleaning that can be followed. Before starting to clean your live seashells you might also want to read through cleaning dead seashells.

1- Burying-This one is by far the easiest to do. Find an area in your yard where you don’t mind digging a hole and bury the seashells about 18 “( enough so animals will not dig them up). Let them remain buried until insects, larvae, worms, and bacteria remove all the tissue (a least a couple months). The longer the better. Go to step 5

2- Freezing- If number 1 is not an option then this method will work also. Place the seashells in a water tight bag and cover with water then place them in the freezer(just like you would fresh fish). When ready to clean allow the seashells to thaw at room temperature. After they are completely defrosted you should be able to grab hold of the animal inside and gently pull it out. Go to step 5

3- Boiling-Take a pot of water large enough to hold the seashells you are cleaning. Bring the water to a boil and let boil a few minutes(longer for larger or a great number of seashells). Using tongs and being careful not to burn yourself remove 1 shell and grasp with gloves or towel, so you don’t burn yourself, and gently pull out the animal tissue inside. Go to step 5

4-Microwave- This is an easy method if you don’t mind the smell in your microwave (my wife is not to fond of this method). The time you cook your seashells can really vary by microwave so really just try it until you figure out how long to put them in for and then treat them just like you would in step 3. Go to step 5

5-Bleaching-After no tissue remains soak the seashells in a 50-50 solution of bleach and water. There is no set time to let them soak because it various by the type of seashells and quantity of seashells being cleaned. Just make sure to remove them after the periostracum is gone. The periostracum is the flaky leathery covering that covers most live seashells.

6- Fresh water-Remove from bleach and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. If preferred you can rub the seashells with baby oil to give them a luster.

Notes of interest

1- If tissue should break off inside the seashells you are cleaning there are two ways to proceed. Shake the seashell vigorously trying to remove the extra tissue or sit it outside where flies, bugs and ants will crawl inside the seashells and remove any remaining tissue.

2-Operculums- This is the trap door of the shell that helps protect it from intruders. Many serious collectors like to keep this part of the shell to show that it was a live taken seashell


3- Water picks- Sometimes on smaller seashells another method to remove the tissue is to squirt them with a water pick and the high pressure will push the tissue out. This will only work with smaller seashells.

4- Dental picks- A lot of times dental picks and other instruments are used to help in removing barnacles and other growth on seashells. These can be purchased at many seashell stores. Try checking www.seashells.com .


does the smell really need to be gotten rid of though? I mean, for us, yeah, of course it’s WAY more pleasant to have a clean, non smelling shell for our crab to inhabit, but for the crabs, they probably don’t care. I guess that there’s a smell there for a reason – i wonder if there is some little decomposing bits of the previous crab still left. If thats the case, they probably do need to be cleaned. I know i’ve cleaned (just boiled) some shells, other’s I’ve just placed back in the crabitat – the crabs don’t seem to care too much.

Normally if there is a stench to the shell that cannot boil away when sterilizing it there is ‘something’ down within it. So it is best to try to get the odor to go away. As you said though, it probably doesn’t bother the hermies as far as the smell goes…but if there is something down within the shell it could harm their soft abdomen. I have had this happen a couple of times with new shells I have bought online. They appeared fine, no odor, but when I boiled them prior to offering them to the hermies oh my goodness the stink! :sick: After a few boils, an ocean water soak and another boil, not sure what it was but upon shaking the shell small bits of black substance came out of them. On one shell I had to do the ocean water soak a couple times and boil again after each soak before the stink went away and each time something black came out of the shell. :sick:
P.S. Sorry to say to, but this ‘might’ of been one of Violets complications too?

i guess that’s probably a pretty good rule to follow – if it smells, there’s something causing the smell and it’s best to get it out

Perhaps I’m just stupid and didn’t know this, but, I had a shell that needed cleaning. It had some funky green spots inside that I’m thinking had something to do with when my hermit crab, Daes, who was occupying the shell died. I didn’t want to use bleach on the shell to get those spots out and I wasn’t sure boiling water would be helpful. I guess I should’ve tried vinegar first, but nope. I decided I’d try lemon juice. I left it sitting overnight and this morning I dumped out the juice. The shell it self was crusty (strange) and that could’ve been scrubbed off. BUT …the lemon juice ate a hole through the shell.
So, the conclusion? Do not soak your shells in lemon juice to clean them. At least overnight.
And the worse part? It didn’t even get rid of the green spots!
So I thought I’d just post this and save everyone a shell.