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How to Clean Sand Dollars

Learn how to clean sand dollars from the beach using household items! You’ll have clean, sparkling sand dollars to use in crafts and projects. Read on for all the tips.

how to clean sand dollars
how to clean sand dollars

Until a few months ago, I had never found a sand dollar on the beach in my life. Then we took a trip to Morro Rock Beach in Morro Bay.

Because we were trying to avoid crowds, we only went to the beach in the morning before anyone was there. And I could never have imagined finding so many sand dollars!

Literally, hundreds.

Psst — before you dive in, check out these other beachy posts!

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How to Collect Sand Dollars responsibly

The first day we went out, we noticed that there was a variety of colors and textures to the sand dollars. So we did a little research.

The white, clean sand dollars that you think of when you imagine a sand dollar are actually the sand dollar skeletons. They also call these “tests.” A sand dollar that’s still living is closer to a grayish-purple color, and is covered with lots of little teeny spines and hairs. They have a velvety texture, and sometimes you can even see the hairs moving if you pick them up.

If you encounter a living sand dollar, let it live! You can place it quickly and gently under the water in the sand in the hopes that it will survive.

But because sand dollars can’t live very long without water, you’ll most likely find them on the beach already dead. In this case, they’ll look anywhere from the light grayish-purple, to brown or tan, to a mossy green, to a bleached white. Finding a bleached white one is pretty rare.

How to Clean Sand Dollars

After we did the research to know which sand dollars were safe to bring home, we ended up with over 200 of them. Can you even believe that? And that was with me cutting the kids off and telling them we already had too many.

We have big plans to make some crafts and projects with these, but they were smelly and messy so I did some research on how to clean sand dollars.

Soak. First, soak your sand dollars in a tub of fresh water, changing the water every few hours for a total of about 2 days. This soaks off any spines that might still be attached, and helps remove any fishy smell.

Bleach. Next, make a mixture of 4 parts water and 1 part bleach in a large tub. Submerge your sand dollars in the mixture, agitating them every few minutes so that they’re equally soaking in the mixture. Leave them in the mixture for up to 30 minutes.

Rinse. Remove the sand dollars from the bleach mixture and rinse with fresh water. I recommend allowing the shells to rest for a few hours at this point, as they’ll continue to whiten even after you remove them from the bleach. Too much time in the bleach can weaken or begin to dissolve them.

Repeat if Necessary. If you’d like your sand dollars whiter, repeat the bleach process.

Sun Bleach. This was a final step that I didn’t see much in online tutorials of how to clean sand dollars, but it made all the difference! Lay your sand dollars out on a towel in the sun for a day or two. It equalizes their color and helps rid them of any bleachy smell.

how to clean sand dollars
how to clean sand dollars

Sand Dollar Craft Ideas

Now we have a whole bunch of beautiful, clean sand dollars just waiting for crafts and projects! I have a few ideas in my head (wall hangings, kids crafts, etc.) but I’d love to know if you have any great shell craft ideas too! Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you would do with a big batch of sand dollars. xoxo

how to clean sand dollars
how to clean sand dollars

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Yield: Clean Sand Dollars

How to Clean Sand Dollars

how to clean sand dollars

Cleaning sand dollars is easy - it just takes a couple of simple household items!

Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $5

Materials

  • Sand dollars collected from the beach
  • Bleach
  • Water

Tools

  • Tub

Instructions

    1. First, soak your sand dollars in a tub of fresh water, changing the water every few hours for a total of about 2 days. This soaks off any spines that might still be attached, and helps remove any fishy smell.
    2. Next, make a mixture of 4 parts water and 1 part bleach in a large tub. Submerge your sand dollars in the mixture, agitating them every few minutes so that they’re equally soaking in the mixture. Leave them in the mixture for up to 30 minutes.
    3. Remove the sand dollars from the bleach mixture and rinse with fresh water. I recommend allowing the shells to rest for a few hours at this point, as they’ll continue to whiten even after you remove them from the bleach. Too much time in the bleach can weaken or begin to dissolve them.
    4. If you’d like your sand dollars whiter, repeat the bleach process.
    5. This was a final step that I didn’t see much in online tutorials of how to clean sand dollars, but it made all the difference! Lay your sand dollars out on a towel in the sun for a day or two. It equalizes their color and helps rid them of any bleachy smell.

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