Cleaning and bleaching animal bones for display - Skull Bliss (2023)

Cleaning and bleaching animal bones for display - Skull Bliss (1)

Down and dirty: How to clean animal bones

May 05, 2021

🕐 10 minutes of reading time

Have you ever wondered how they prepare bones and skulls for decoration? Get your gloves on, we're about to dive into the art of taxidermy and how to safely clean and bleach animal bones at home!

how to clean bones

We've all seen the shiny white bone of a decorative skull.onerustic roomoadmired the soft gleam of white bone in a Taxidermy art exhibition. aThis organic material is dynamic and attractive while reflecting the fragility of life. But the soft, shiny, white stuff we think of never happens naturally. Taxidermists, like those who prepare bones for display in museums like the Smithsonian, need to clean and prepare the bones so they look attractive and don't smell or rot. Whether you want to help with your nature studies or try taxidermy, bone cleaning can make for a unique and eye-catching display.

Bleaching and cleaning animal bones is easier than you think! Bones not only have a smoother, whiter surface after proper cleaning, but they are also less greasy and odorless. In a few simple steps, learn how to clean bones and turn them from cruel to beautiful.

Cleaning the bones is a simple process and quite easy for small bones. However, it may take some time and patience if the animal is fresh or still has soft tissues. Before we get into bone cleaning, you'll need some supplies:

  • Gloves (this is very important as we will be using harsh chemicals that can make your hands rough)
  • Bowl, bucket or trash can (Be sure to choose one that is large enough to allow you to completely submerge the bones. Small animal bones will easily fit in a bowl or bucket, but for larger bones, read the instructions on how to clean a cow to get skull)
  • detergent
  • scrubbing brushes
  • hydrogen peroxide h2o2

Depending on the condition and type of bones, you may need additional accessories such as:

  • high pressure cleaner
  • Forceps (to extract teeth)
  • Ammonia (to degrease)
(Video) Whitening a skull; How to "bleach" bones

Choosing the Right Hydrogen Peroxide

Some online articles recommend bone bleaching. NEVER use bleach on bones to make them white. Why may you ask? Bleach eats away at the structural integrity of bones, so they don't last long. When degreasing bones, try not to use cleaners or detergents that may contain bleach. (We'll talk about how to properly degrease the bones a little later).

How do I get my bones clear and white?, you may be asking. the answer is h2o2or hydrogen peroxide. This daily chemical works safely and efficiently to whiten bones. There are many types of hydrogen peroxide, the most common one you'll find at your local pharmacy is 3% and it's not strong enough to make your bones clean and white. For best results, you need 12% or more hydrogen peroxide.

Fortunately, hydrogen peroxide hides in another common product: hair developer. Who knew your peroxide blonde would come in handy for DIY! Hair developers are available in higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and are excellent for cleaning bones. Hair developers sell hard by volume, but it's not as simple as 10V equals 10%. You need at least 12% hydrogen peroxide, so keep an eye out for one.40vhair developer If you're not sure, be sure to check the active ingredients.

Strength isn't the only thing you need to consider when choosing the right hydrogen peroxide to clean your bones. Clear and cream are the two most common types of hair developer, and both can be used to clean the bones. The clear developer is a liquid and it bubbles well, leaving your bones shiny and white. Cream developer, as it says on the tin, is a cream emulsifier. Because of this, it will not bubble up like a clear developer and will not be able to remove deep bone stains. However, it's great for painting directly onto bones in all those hard-to-reach places. You can find both types of hair developer in larger sizes at beauty supply stores or online.

"We all have stardust in our bones..."

-Ben Harper-

(Video) How to clean natural bones | DIY

Step 1: Remove soft tissue

Depending on where you find your animal bones, they can be pretty gross. Regardless of whether they are fully or partially decomposed, most bones must be completely cleaned before we can begin bone bleaching. If your sample still contains a lot of soft tissue, there are a few ways to remove it. The first method is to soak the bones in water for several weeks (or months). Over time, the water and the microbes it contains will eat away at the fabric. This is a very effective way to remove tissue without damaging the bones.

The second method of soft tissue removal is to bury the bones, either directly in the ground or in a box. If you choose to bury your bones in a box, be sure to leave holes so microbes in the soil can get to the bones and do their job: devouring the soft tissue. If your swatch has a lot of fabric debris, you can boil or steam it. This will loosen the soft tissue so you can scrape it off. DO NOT COOK THE BONES. As with bleaching, cooking bones erodes their structural integrity. Also, the cooking process traps fat in them, causing them to rot and smell bad.

Step 2: Clean and degrease the animal bones

Cleaning and degreasing bones is one of the most important steps in learning how to clean animal bones. Why do your bones need to be degreased? Degreasing bones not only gives better bone cleaning results, but also helps them last longer without the risk of leaching odors or oily residue. Some bones require more degreasing than others. Certain animals, such as pigs, wild boar, bears or skunks, naturally produce more oil and probably need to be degreased. If your bones smell bad even after you've removed all the tissue, or if they're yellow, transparent, or shiny, you probably need to degrease them. The fat drains away slowly, so repeat the process below until you are satisfied and the bones are completely degreased.

Fill a container with water and detergent. Use a brush to gently clean the bones. When working with smaller bones, a toothbrush works well. The cleaner the bones are, the better results you'll get, so scrub well. Depending on the condition of your bones, small teeth or other parts may fall out. Save them as you can stick them when they dry. Soak the bones in a bowl of cold water and dishwashing liquid for 24 hours. If a lot of fat accumulates on the surface, change the water and let the bones soak until they are completely degreased.

Step 3 – Discolor the bones with hydrogen peroxide

Now that you know how to clean them, it's time to whiten the bones. Remember to NEVER use bleach when cleaning animal bones as this will destroy the bones, making them flaky and brittle. In this example, we use of course40vhair developer who has12% hydrogen peroxideinside. Be sure to wear gloves and clothing that you don't mind getting dirty or discolored. Let's see how to clean animal bones with hydrogen peroxide in few easy steps to make them shiny and white.

First, place the clean, degreased bones in the container. Make sure you choose one big enough to support your bones. We'll discuss options for dipping larger bones like cow skulls below. Once you're sure your bones will fit in the container, you can start dipping them in aMix hydrogen peroxide 1:3 in water🇧🇷 You'll know it's working when you see the bones start bubbling, foaming and generating a little heat. It means H2o2does its job and cleans the bones thoroughly. Cover the bones loosely and soak them for up to 24 hours. Check your bones after a 24-hour dip in the hydrogen peroxide pool. You can repeat the process until the bones reach the desired color and you are done.

Authentic hand carved animal skulls.


Cleaning and bleaching animal bones for display - Skull Bliss (2)

At Skull Bliss, we believe in authenticity and respect for traditions.


Cleaning and bleaching animal bones for display - Skull Bliss (3)

Our mission is to provide authentic hand-carved skulls while giving back to local communities.


(Video) Water Maceration to clean animal skulls and bones part 1

Cleaning and bleaching animal bones for display - Skull Bliss (4)


How to Clean a Cow Skull

Small taxidermy displays can be cleverly created, but if you want to use your bones as a centerpieceomural,You'll probably want to look for a larger specimen, like a cow skull. Once you know how to clean a skull, you can mount it directly on the wall or give it the finishing touch by decorating it like orfrom tocarved skullsodecorated skulls.

You might be wondering how to cleanonecow skull. tuUnlike smaller bones, it can be difficult to find a container large enough to submerge the skull. If you can find a large enough container, you'll probably need a LOT of hydrogen peroxide to completely submerge the skull. Without fear! There are some nifty tricks to make your skull glow white.

Option 1: Paint H2O2 directly onto the skull

One method you can use when trying to learn how to clean a cow's skull is to paint a mixture of hydrogen peroxide directly onto the skull. You can do this in two ways. The first (and easiest) way is to use a 40-volt cream hair developer. As we mentioned earlier, the cream hair developer is an emulsifier, so it already has a consistency similar to paste or varnish. This means you can spread it directly onto the cow's skull, even into the hard-to-reach cavities inside the skull. Make sure your skull is completely clean and free of tissue or debris before applying the cream developer. After applying the cream, wrap the skull in plastic wrap. This will prevent the cream developer from drying out and being less effective. As with the dipping method, you may need to repeat this process to get the desired effect.

If you don't have a developer cream, you can make your own hydrogen peroxide paste. I like2o2Baking soda is also a natural cleaning agent. You can mix liquid hydrogen peroxide with baking soda until it has the consistency of toothpaste. Use a brush to apply the paste liberally to the skull. When you see the dough start to foam, you know the H2o2does its job. This method may take several rounds to allow you to apply the hydrogen peroxide paste to both sides of the skull.

Option 2: The Trash Bag Trick

If you don't want the hassle of removing the hydrogen peroxide and don't want to spend a lot on H2o2, there is another way to clean a skull. This nifty trick uses water to fill in the negative space, so you don't need an excessive amount of H2o2to sink your skull. First, find a large container, such as a garbage can, and fill it with water. Place your skull in a sturdy plastic bag and place it in water. Be careful not to put water in the pocket with the skull! Then pour your solutionHydrogen peroxide to water 1:3in the pocket. The water in the trash can fills the empty space around the skull, allowing you to use less hydrogen peroxide. Tie your bag and let the skull soak for 24 hours. After 24 hours of soaking, you can examine your skull and repeat the process until the bones reach your preferred color and finish.

Now that you know how to clean a skull, you can create your own stuffed animal art. Display your DIY creation by hanging it on the wall, or create a display with interesting rocks, other clean bones, crystals, and dried flowers. Whether you want to createoneatmospheric gothichumor or response to acontemporary bohemianAesthetically, a touch of skull adds personality to your home decor. For a simple look, browse our collection ofcarved skulls🇧🇷 We have a wide range of sculptures anddecorative skullsto perfectly complement your home.


(Video) Masterclass Cleaning and Bleaching Bones


How do you clean animal bones for display? ›

The answer is H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide. This everyday chemical works to safely and efficiently whiten the bones. There are many types of hydrogen peroxide out there, the most common that you'll find in your local drug store is 3% and not strong enough to get the bones clean and white.

How do you clean and bleach animal bones? ›

Use 5–10% hydrogen peroxide. Remember to use gloves and protective goggles. Leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide until it has reached the desired whiteness. For a deer skull, this usually takes 24 hours.

Can you use bleach to whiten animal bones? ›

Never Use Bleach for Whitening Bones

Bleach will destroy the structural integrity of the bones. Likewise, you don't want to use any laundry detergents for cleaning or degreasing the bones. These detergents often contain bleach or other harsh chemicals which can destroy the bone.

What is the fastest way to clean animal bones? ›

Soak overnight in a soapy bath, using a degreasing detergent such as Dawn. Rinse, then soak in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution for several hours, removing the bones as soon as they have achieved your desired shade of white. Rinse thoroughly, let dry, and glue any escaped teeth back in.

Can you clean animal bones with baking soda? ›

Create a peroxide and baking soda paste to clean really big bones. Sometimes you might come across a bone that just isn't going to fit into any container you have. When this happens, get a large plastic bowl and put in 1 cup (160 grams) of baking soda. Add just enough hydrogen peroxide to create a thick paste.

Can you bleach bones with hydrogen peroxide? ›

We'll be using a highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide to clean and whiten the bones. Cleaning the bones with hydrogen peroxide will sanitize them and kill any harmful bacteria while also whitening them.

Can you mix bleach and hydrogen peroxide? ›

Bleach plus hydrogen peroxide creates oxygen gas so violently, it can cause an explosion. “One should not mix household cleaners as a general rule,” Langerman says.

How do you bleach your skull with peroxide? ›

Pour your peroxide in a plastic bowl or container large enough for the skull to fit in. Place the bowl somewhere you can safely leave it for about a day. Submerse the skull in the peroxide mixture. Now all you have to do is wait until the skull whitened to the color you want.

How long does it take hydrogen peroxide to whiten bones? ›

Keep in mind hydrogen peroxide is deactivated by light. Leave bones in peroxide for about 24–48 hours, then remove and let them dry for several hours. Bone can appear much darker than expected just from being wet.

What happens when you soak a bone in bleach? ›

strong base that breaks apart the collagen proteins. When the bone was soaked in bleach, what was left was calcium and the bones became brittle.

How long does it take for bones to bleach? ›

Exposure of large portions of the skeleton usually does not occur until four to six months after death. Bleaching and exfoliation of bone--the beginning stages of destruction of the skeletal elements--begins at about nine months' exposure.

Can vinegar clean animal bones? ›

NOT Recommended for Sterilizing Bones

And, while some people do boil bones to get soft tissue off, it generally isn't recommended. The high temperatures can soften and destroy the bones, especially smaller bones. Vinegar: Vinegar will dissolve and soften bones. Plus, it isn't even a good disinfectant.

What does vinegar do to bones? ›

In Experiment #1 Vinegar dissolves the calcium, or apatite, in the bone, leaving only the protein, or collagen, so you can bend the bone. After a few days of soaking in vinegar, almost all the calcium in the first experimental bone is gone. The bone become soft and rubbery.

Can you clean bones with Dawn dish soap? ›

Method 1: Soapy Water

This is by far the easiest and cheapest method of getting fat out of bones – especially for amateurs. Dawn dish soap works really well. Don't use powdered dishwashing detergent meant for machines. Also don't try to use chemical degreasers, like stove degreaser.

Will 3% hydrogen peroxide bleach bones? ›

Some bleaching is probably best, but not enough to make them completely white. Air-dried skulls may be bleached by soaking them in an approximately 3% to 6% solution of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide solutions that are used to bleach hair can be purchased from beauty supply stores.

What can I use to bleach bones? ›

Whitening Method 2: Creme Developer Peroxide

The application is pretty easy, either soak your skull/bones in the developer, or apply it to the outside of the skull. If you want to make a whitening “paste” to apply to the outside, you can mix developer with some Basic White Powder until you get the consistency you want.

How much bleach do I use to clean my bones? ›

After the skull is as clean as you can get it, soak it in an enzyme-bleach powder (such as Biz) using about ¾ cup to a gallon of water. Don't use liquid bleach, it is harsher to the bone and does not have the enzyme action that is needed to break down residual tissue.

What should never be mixed with bleach? ›

Don't mix bleach with ammonia, acids, or other cleaners.

Mixing bleach with common cleaning products can cause serious injuries. Be sure to always read the product label before using a cleaning product.

What happens if you mix bleach vinegar and hydrogen peroxide? ›

This combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide is potentially toxic and corrosive, which can break down or damage the surface it is applied to. It can also cause skin and eye irritation as well as issues with the respiratory system.

Can I use household bleach instead of hydrogen peroxide? ›

Bleach is an economical, all-round disinfectant, but it requires careful handling and dilution for effective use. Hydrogen peroxide has a kinder environmental footprint and for effective disinfectant and water treatment, stabilised hydrogen peroxide will work against a wide variety of bacteria.

Can you use oxiclean to bleach a skull? ›

Turn off heat and remove from burner, place skull in hot water, add Oxiclean 1 tablespoon at a time. It only takes a small amount. For the deer skull, I used about 1/4 cup. NOTE: Adding the Oxiclean begins an immediate enzymatic process.

Can you use Clorox bleach for a skull? ›

Bleach can remove any excess tissue from bone without a doubt, but it will damage the skull itself in a very permanent way. Skulls treated with bleach become chalky and porous because the bleach has broken down the structure of it, this means the bone will eventually deteriorate into dust.

Can you use borax to whiten a skull? ›

Cut off the most easily accessed large chunks of flesh including jowls and tongue. Mix a saturate solution of borax in cold water in a sufficiently large plastic bucket or trash can and soak the head for three or four days and no more than a week.

What is the best degreaser for deer skulls? ›

Degrease the skull by soaking in a good degreaser such as Van Clean, Eliminator, or Super Safety Solvent. Twenty-four to forty-eight hours will usually be long enough on most skulls, although some may take a little longer. At this point wash in Dawn dish soap and rinse.

Can you reuse hydrogen peroxide for bones? ›

A: Yes, you can. Every time you use it, some of the oxidation potential of the peroxide will be used up. In fact, the more “work” the peroxide does cleaning a batch of bones, the more if it's power is used up. So, the solution will get weaker and weaker, the more you use it.

How long to soak deer skull in bleach? ›

Being careful not to include the antlers, you can soak the skull for two days in one part bleach per 10 parts water.

How do you clean a deer skull without boiling it? ›

Once you've removed as much of the outer muscle tissue and inner brain tissue as you can, rinse out the skull with cold water. Try to remove any stubborn pieces of flesh that may have been too difficult to remove with a knife. Soak the skull in an enzyme-bleach powder for 3 days.

Does the sun bleach bones? ›

Bleaching. Sun bleaching occurs when a bone is left on the surface of the ground or is only partially buried. Bone that is exposed to sunlight will undergo discoloration, taking on a bleached or whitened or whitened appearance.

How do you clean bones before carving? ›

The inside and outside of the bones need to be scraped with a knife to get rid of the attached meat and tendons. After that, they must be soaked in a mixture of about 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of bleach, and 1 cup of laundry detergent overnight. This helps clean the bones and prevent oil stains from setting in.

How do you prepare bones for carving? ›

Simmer the bones for about two hours to remove the meat and sinew; don't boil it, she says, as the heat will make the bone brittle. Then, soak it in bleach and water for several hours to kill off the bacteria. Rinse and dry.

How do you clean animal bones from roadkill? ›

Once you have mostly bone, put the bones in a bucket of water or a glass jar, close it—but not too tightly, as a lack of oxygen will slow down the process—put it in the sun, and leave it. This is called maceration, which is a sped-up rotting process whereby the bones are cleaned by bacteria.

How do you clean animal carcass? ›

You'll want to put the carcass or skull into the water and then bring it to a simmer. After about 10-15 minutes, remove the carcass and scrape away as much tissue as you can. You'll also need to scramble and remove the brain at this point. Some people leave it simmering for up to an hour before scraping.

How do taxidermists clean bones? ›

Some taxidermists or folks interested in cleaning skulls keep colonies of beetles that will eat the tissue and leave the bone, doing most of the work. This is an option if you can contact someone with beetles. Cleaning a skull is an easy process and can be no more unpleasant than pulling meat off a cooked soup bone.

How long to soak bones in hydrogen peroxide? ›

Keep in mind hydrogen peroxide is deactivated by light. Leave bones in peroxide for about 24–48 hours, then remove and let them dry for several hours. Bone can appear much darker than expected just from being wet.

How long to soak skull in peroxide? ›

If your goal is to bleach the skull, then soak the skull in 3% peroxide (like the stuff you get from the drug store) for several hours, checking on it from time to time. A pig skull can take around six hours, while a deer skull can take up to 24 hours.

What does vinegar do to the bone? ›

In Experiment #1 Vinegar dissolves the calcium, or apatite, in the bone, leaving only the protein, or collagen, so you can bend the bone. After a few days of soaking in vinegar, almost all the calcium in the first experimental bone is gone. The bone become soft and rubbery. You can even tie it in a knot!

How do you clean bones for crafting? ›

  1. 1 Wash Bones. Wash your animal bones with slightly soapy warm water, rinse, and set it aside.
  2. 2 Add Water to Container. Fill the plastic container with enough water to submerge the bone, but leave enough room that you can put your hands in without spilling.
  3. 3 Add Cream Peroxide. ...
  4. 4 Stir. ...
  5. 5 Soak. ...
  6. 6 Brush Lightly. ...
  7. 7 Dry Bones.
Nov 23, 2020

What does bleach do to bones? ›

Bleach can remove any excess tissue from bone without a doubt, but it will damage the skull itself in a very permanent way. Skulls treated with bleach become chalky and porous because the bleach has broken down the structure of it, this means the bone will eventually deteriorate into dust.

What is the best way to clean a skull? ›

Cold water maceration is a long process that involves letting the skull soak in room temperature water with a small amount of cold-water laundry detergent. These detergents have enzymes that will break down organic matter. This is the safest way to clean the skull and leave it intact.

How do you preserve dead animal bones? ›

You'll want to submerge the bones in hydrogen peroxide to achieve this effect. Cover the bones completely and soak them in it for a few days, checking every other day to ensure they're not drying out.

How do you preserve animal skulls? ›

After the cleaning and bleaching process, thoroughly dry skulls may be preserved and finished very nicely by complete immersion in, or brushing on, a mixture of ½ clear lacquer and ½ lacquer thinner. Aerosol spray cans of clear polyurethane may also be used to finish skulls.

Do animal bones carry diseases? ›

Raw meat and bones can be contaminated with a number of pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella species, and Listeria. These pathogens may or may not make a dog sick, depending on the dog's health status, but pose a significant health risk to the humans in the household.

How long does it take for animal bones to decompose? ›

Most bones break down when composting animal carcasses, but a few large bones will usually remain. With proper composting, the bones will break down over time. This may take several months for larger livestock bones and as little as 60 days for smaller carcasses such as poultry.


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