How To Clean Abalone Shells

1. pressure nozzle  2. breathing mask  3.disposal gloves  4.vaseline  5. stiff wire brush  6.  muriatic acid  7. acetone (fingernail polish remover)  8. soft  cloth or sponge  9. mineral oil  10. dentist pick (not pictured)

*The following tutorial is showing you how I clean my abalone shells. It is extremely important to wear gloves and a protective breathing mask while using muriatic acid on your shells. You do not want to inhale the fumes nor get the acid on your skin; the acid is potent and damage can occur to your lungs and skin. Read the label on the acid before you begin your shell cleaning. 


1. I soak my empty abalone shells in a bucket of water for a couple of days prior to my cleaning procedure. The soak seems to loosen the seaweed and some of the other growths on the shell. After I soak the shells I examine to see if the shells are worth cleaning. If the shell is covered with large boring clams it will be harder to clean and the shell may not be one you want to display or give away.


2. Place the shell on a wooden bench (outside of house) or table that is of standard height. I prefer the height of a table than working at ground level. (simply because when working at ground level you get more fumes from the acid in your face) Make sure you have water available during the cleaning process. I use a garden hose with a jet type sprayer head. This gives plenty of pressure to help clean your shell and rid the area of spent acid.


3. Rub the inside of the shell with vaseline. This protects the mother of pearl sheen on the inside of the shell, should some acid run into this area.


4. Place the outside of the shell in front of you. Sometimes just a using the wire brush on the flaws will do the cleaning without using the acid. If not, pour a couple of tablespoons of acid on the area you selected to begin your clean. Stand back a few feet and let the acid work. After a minute or so take the stiff wire brush in gloved hand and work the selected area. I spray the shell with the high pressure nozzle to remove acid and loose growths. Do this procedure a few times and your shell with begin to look red and clean.


5. Dry the shell. (hair dryer or just let air dry)


6. Clean the vaseline from the inside of the shell using a cloth. The acetone clean may not be necessary if the inside of the shell is glimmering already. If the inside of shell is dull drop a teaspoon of acetone (finergnail remover) . Rub using a circular motion. The mother of pearl will glimmer like a bright star.


7. Lay the shell facedown on newpapers and pour a very generous amount of mineral oil over the top of the shell. Wipe it around so the oil will fill all of the crevices and tiny holes. Hang the shell and let it dry in the ouside air for a few days. You're done, however,  if your shell begins to smell funky you'll have to clean further. Using a dentist tool or something similar with a small hooked end, poke into the small holes that you see. Work the tool to the sides of the holes and lift up. What you are looking for are dead boring clams  that may have survived the acid clean. After you complete the tool process pressure wash each hole. Pour some more mineral on the shell and let dry again...Mission completed!

Above picture is a perfect example of "before and after" cleaning process. This 10 7/16" trophy taken by Dwayne Dinucci was encrusted with a brown sponge.  



Don't expect your shell to grow. (example only)..The shell below is Brandi Easter's 10.5 "moose"..This shell was cleaned by Dwayne Dinucci...



*additional info received from web viewer Dinucci

If you mix mineral oil with paint thinner (approx. 50/50 solution it can be sprayed on the shell. I use an old windex type of bottle to spray the solution. This is a lot less messy and works well. A stainless steel wire brush will not dull a shell being cleaned as much as a steel brush.  I collect Haliotis (abalone) from all over the world. I can not use acid on these shells because it would remove the outer color or even burn clean through the shell. Using a stainless steel brush will not dull these shells.