Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DIY: How to Clean and Preserve Sea Urchins

Sea urchins are fragile but gorgeous members of the starfish family which can be found in almost all oceans, most commonly washed up on the shore. If you are a sea treasure passionate like me and cannot resist to bring a few shells home after those relaxing walks on the beach, this tutorial may surely come in handy to you! When properly cleaned and preserved, sea urchin shells, big or tiny, make a lovely addition to any ocean themed room. They also make stunning centerpieces to nautical craft projects and jewelry!

In this blog post, I'll show you how to clean and preserve sea urchins with just a little effort and care! This is an easy and very cheap proccess, although very time consuming, so give yourself about a week to complete it. Also, make sure the sun will be shining during those days to come because you will need it a lot!

What you'll need:
- alcohol (ethanol)
- a small bucket or bowl
- bleach
- tweezers or pliers
- Mod Podge (alternatively, white glue or epoxy resin)

1. First things first, rinse your sea urchins with freshwater to wash away the salt and let them dry completely.

2. Fill a small bucket or bowl with ethanol, enough to cover your urchins entirely. Allow them to soak for 48h. This will help to disinfect the sea urchins by killing bacteria and removing any dirt or salt accumulations that could cause your urchins to smell.

3. Empty the bucket and let your sea urchins dry under the sun for 2 or 3 days.

4. Your sea urchins' spines should now be a little loose to the touch. With the help of your pliers or using gloved hands, GENTLY pick the spines off. Use tweezers or a needle nose pliers to remove any tissue or flesh remains. This is the most 'patience demanding' part.

5. Dip your sea urchins in a mixture of equal parts water and bleach until you're happy with their aspect (it will depend on the shell's size but it usually takes between 20 minutes and one hour for me). While allowing them to sink, keep checking on your sea urchins every few minutes because they might disintegrate or break if they bleach for too long!

6. Rinse well in cool, clear water. Your shells should now be completely clean but if you find any remaining tissue or spine, gently remove them with your fingers.

7. Let them dry completely under the sun for another couple of days.

8. Finally, seal your sea urchins. For this, you may brush your shells using a soft, clean paintbrush and Mod Podge, or a mixture of one part white glue and one part water, which will give your shells a matte finish. For a shiny finish, you can use a little bit of epoxy resin or, alternatively, clear nail polish. Brush two to three layers of whatever sealer you're using.

Presuming your sea urchins have survived the whole proccess (one of mine did not...sad face), they are now ready to be a part of your room decor as well as featured in your own handmade jewelry!

A sea urchin ring I made last year.

Obs.: Never pick alive sea urchins! Be a friend of Nature and contribute to ecossystem balance. :)
I hope you enjoy this tutorial on how to clean and preserve your sea urchin shells. Feel free to let me know if you try this proccess, or to share your own ideas, by leaving a comment below!

All the best,
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  1. Thanks for this tutorial! I found some beautiful sea urchins washed ashore after a recent cyclone, so I took one home to see if I could clean and preserve it, but I had no idea where to begin! Your tutorial was the most thorough one I've found so far, and the pictures were also very helpful!

    1. Thank you so much Jessica! I hope your sea urchin comes out great and beautiful! :)

  2. In the "what you'll need" list, you've got "alcohol (ethanol)". Do you really mean the kind that you drink or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol)? I'm not being snarky... I really want to know which one I should use. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi, thanks so much for asking! I'm pretty sure any of both will do; I know ethyl alcohol is more found in alcoholic beverages but in my country it's widely used as an antiseptic too, so I always have it around. Isopropyl alcohol isn't common around here but it will work too because it has the same disinfecting effect. Just keep an eye on your sea urchins once in a while. :) I hope this helps. Good luck!

    2. Thank you so much. I got my little urchin cleaned and dried thanks to your advice. Thanks again!

  3. I decided to use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) since I found that type of alcohol listed on a few other shell cleaning sites. I realize this article was from a year ago and really didn't expect you to get back to me immediately but the little urchin started to smell so I needed to do something. :-)
    By the way, I like the dark colored urchin that you show soaking in the bowl (the one in the top left corner).
    Thank you!


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