Warning: As with any chemical solutions, this should only be done by adults in a well ventilated area. Proper safety apparel should be worn at all times. Cleaning shells using muriatic acid is dangerous and is done at your own risk.
Recently, I’ve started to decorate with a lot of shells and wanted to learn how to clean them. So, like most people, I scoured the internet to learn how to clean all the gunk and calcium build-up on shells. I found that there are two common ways to clean shells, bleach or muriatic acid, but not a lot of people discussed how to dispose of the acid solution. So today, I’m going to share how to clean sea shells with muriatic acid solution AND how to neutralize and dispose it.
- safety googles
- rubber gloves
- respiratory mask
- muriatic acid (buy at Lowes or Home Depot for around $8)
- glass bottles (I used large glass vases)
- glass measuring cup (do not reuse for food)
- baking soda or lime
- paper towels/towel
- metal pick (optional)
- metal scrub brush (optional)
- large plastic bucket or tub for acid neutralizing
Before starting, here are a few precautions:
- DO NOT do this indoors or near anything that is stainless steel as it can discolor the metal.
- DO NOT allow children to do this or be anywhere near you while doing this.
- Make sure you have all the proper safety equipment on BEFORE and DURING the shell cleaning process as the acid can burn the skin. If any acid gets on the skin, immediately wash off with water.
- Have water and a large box of baking soda or lime ready to neutralize the acid in case of any accidental spills.
How to Clean Sea Shells with Muriatic Acid Solution
- In a large glass bottle, add 3/4 cup water and then 1/4 cup of the acid (always add water and then the concentrated acid).
- Fill another bottle with just water.
- Use the tongs and dip one shell at a time into the muriatic solution for about 3-seconds. You will seeing “fizzing” as the acid attacks the calcium build-up on the shells. Leaving the shells in longer than 3-seconds can compromise the shell and color.
- Immediately dip the shell into the water to rinse and place on a towel to dry.
- If shells still have growths or large white calcium build up on it, softly scrub with a wire brush or use a metal pick to scraps it off.
How to Neutralize and Dispose of the Muriatic Acid
DO NOT dump the muriatic acid solution down your drain or into the sewer system without neutralizing it first. To neutralize the solution, add water and baking soda or lime in another large container and slowly add the muriatic solution. Alternate between the baking soda and muriatic solution until there is no “fizzing”. Once there is no more fizzing, it should be safe to dispose.
If you have other ways to clean sea shells, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
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