How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (2023)

since 2009I wrote a post on how to clean animal bones.🇧🇷 For the last three years, this has always been my most popular post on the site, but I've learned a lot since then, so in October 2012 I wrote this new page on bone cleaning.

You don't have to clean every bone you find.If it's outside, has no soft cloth, and doesn't smell, it's pretty clean. It is rare to get a disease of any type of bone like this. The bone has an odor, so I wear rubber gloves to handle it until it's clean.

This is my personal guide.I discovered it in five years of collecting bones. Other people may have other ideas, but these are the ones that work for me.

There are eight good and two bad techniques for cleaning bones, but I missed one of the good ones because it was told to me as a secret. A lot depends on what condition the bones are in to begin with. I prefer to leave the bones in until there is no soft tissue left, but this is not always possible, especially with a small animal where the bones are small and can be lost.

First of all, what state are the bones in already? Are they dry with no soft tissue, do they have meat, or has the animal recently died? Choose from the top row, then look down the column to see what great ways to clean bones. There is more about each method below.

Meaning of the symbols:

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (1)This means that this is a good way to clean the bones.
How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (2)That means it might work but it might not work, or it might work but it's messy or smelly.
How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (3)This means that I do not recommend it at all.

Cleaning bones with organic detergent

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (4)

Organic powdered detergent is available in supermarkets and is used to wash clothes in the washing machine. That's pretty cheap. Some people recommend Biotex but I have never used it.

Organic washing powder contains enzymes, which are tiny organisms that break down fat and soft tissue. You put the powder in hot or lukewarm water (not boiling water, see below) and let the bones soak for a few days. It helps if the water stays hot during this time. when you finishwash the bones wellOtherwise, the enzymes will continue to eat away at the bone. Then dry them using the following method.

This method is recommended to me by museums. It is cheap and easy to perform as long as little or no soft tissue remains.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012:now i use thoseInvented Super SuperbI Skull and Skeleton Sterilization Systembut some people use a slow cooker.

Clean the bones with hydrogen peroxide

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (5)

(Video) Cleaning and Articulating Animal Bones

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical that whitens bones without harming them. It can be hard to get it in bulk. Even for a small skull, you may need a pint or two. Pharmacies sell it in very small bottles, but I buy it at hair supply stores. Hard to buy in bulk because you can make bombs out of them. I can't buy the highest concentration now (12%), but I can still buy the 9% and 6%. 12% hydrogen peroxide is also known as "40 strength." The liter costs about 4 euros. The liquid version is much better than the cream version as the cream version foams and boils after a while.

Be very careful with hydrogen peroxide.Ask a responsible adult for help. (I don't have one, so I ask dad to make it.) Wear gloves and don't touch your hands. If you don't have enough, you can usually add the same amount of water again. Wash the bones or skull with water to remove any dirt or insects. Then put the bones or skull in a transparent plastic box, pour in the hydrogen peroxide and fill it with water. Cover the top to prevent hydrogen peroxide from escaping. Make sure all the bones are underneath with no air bubbles. Then for a few days, sometimes a week. Do not put peroxide on the horns because it looks like garbage.

When removing the bonesWash them well in a bucket of cold water.Otherwise you will get white powdery residue on your bones. You can reuse the peroxide several times. It seems to be more reusable if it hasn't been exposed to too much air. When it's hotter, peroxide works better.

Peroxidewill not dissolve soft tissue or meatbut you can soften the fabric to make it easier to remove. It also sterilizes the bone.

cleaning bones with leather beetles

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (6)

Dermest beetles are insects that eat dead flesh.🇧🇷 They are kept in special tanks, heated and constantly fed with dead things. They are tiny, smaller than a fingernail, but they can eat a lot of meat in a short time, leaving the bone nice and clean.

Very few places have dermestid beetle ponds andIt's not a good idea to create one yourself.Unless you have to rot a lot of things over a long period of time.I was invited to use this by CAHID and have written about it herebut this is not open to the public. Dermested beetles are great at cleaning bones, but meat should be fresh for best results. I tried a mummified dog and it took a long time and it didn't turn out very well. but i tried toowith my bat skeleton and the results were amazing!

Beetles are really good for very small animals because they leave enough meat that the skeleton is still attached. In larger animals, much of the meat should be removed to prevent the middle parts from rotting when the beetles get to them. The temperature has to be just right because if it's too cold the bugs won't eat, but if it's too hot the meat will decompose very quickly.

cleaning of bones for burial

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (7)

Burying a dead body may seem obvious, butit's not as good as leaving bones on the ground🇧🇷 If you need to bury it, leave the body on the ground for about a day in warm weather to allow flies to lay eggs that produce flesh-eating maggots.

I have buriedthis fox,my squirrelmia deer head🇧🇷 The hard thing is knowing when to dig up. The deer head was not well done and needed lots and lots of cleaning afterwards. It would have been better to leave it a few more months.

I wrapped the fox in the wire mesh to keep the bones together and prevent other animals from digging it up (they didn't). For small animals, you can wrap them in a muslin bag, which is a thin material.

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

If you bury it in the wrong type of soil, like sand or very wet soil, you may actually preserve the body!

Leave the bones on the ground to clean them.

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (8)

Carcasses left on the surface rot very well. The red deer above is in my collection and is called Dixie. It was shot in April and three months later he was bone white.Nature is much better at cleaning bones than we are.

The problem with leaving dead bodies in the open is that they can be carried away by animals or humans. Dead animals on the side of the road are usually removed by the community. Foxes can move carcasses, even skeletal ones, great distances and tear them to pieces. A good option is to leave them on a wire mesh or in a cage.I tried this otter (before the police caught me!)

I left my badger Emily trampled in a net and hid in a wood. II left it for eight months and it still hadn't completely broken down., but I had to move it quickly. after i did itI boiled the bones in water with organic detergent.

My friend Mrs. Powell puts small animals under an inverted pot with small openings for only flies to get in, and this rots the animal but protects the bones from predators and water.

Cleaning bones in cold water (maszeration)

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (9)

Soft tissue disintegrating in water is horrible and it stinks. I do not recommend doing this if you are around someone who can smell it.

I have used cold water immersion when the body is skeletal but the tendons are still attached, as shown in the image above. The water softens the tendons and makes them easier to cut.

Clean the bones in hot water

If someone shoots a deer there with a ranger, the ranger usually offers to put the skull together as a gift. To do this quickly (usually the next day), he cuts off the skin and most of the meat and cooks (without boiling) in a large saucepan until the meat falls off.

WARNING: If you are doing this in a Le Creuset pan, your motherOyell at you and youObe groundedforever.

(Video) How to clean natural bones | DIY

This is generally not the best route for most people. It's dirty and it stinks, but it's fast. Adding organic powdered detergent can also help.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2012:now i use thoseInvented Super SuperbI Skull and Skeleton Sterilization Systembut some people use a slow cooker.

UPDATE, DECEMBER 2013:This is now the method I use most frequently. I use a slow cooker and add organic detergent. I usually leave it on "high" overnight when my mom is out because that little bit of organic laundry detergent is no good.

WARNING: I had a juvenile red deer skull that turned to dust after being cooked a second time. I'm not sure what I did wrong, was it too long (it was 13 hours), too much organic detergent, was the water too hot, or did I add cold water too quickly. I recommend doing this on medium-high heat for about six hours and then letting it cool down slowly.

DICA PRO:If your mom doesn't know you use her slow cooker to clean the bones,Try not to mention it on live TV in prime time.

Boiling Bone Cleaning

NEVER PUT BONES IN BOILING WATER.This thins out the existing fat so it can seep into the actual bone and trap the fat in the bone as it cools. The fat will surface over time and make your bones look bad and hideous.

If you've already cooked the bones, try using organic laundry detergent to get rid of the grease.

cleaning bones with bleach

DO NOT CLEAN THE BONES WITH BLEACH.Damages the surface of the bone. Use hydrogen peroxide instead.

How to dry the bones after cleaning.

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (10)X

Regardless of how you cleaned your bones, give them a good rinse. Then I let them air dry for a few days. Then I put it on a tray covered with newspaper and let it dry near a heater. DO NOT PLACE THEM ON A RADIATOR OR RADIATOR OR ANYWHERE HOT PLACE AS THEY MAY BREAK. Leave the bones out for two to three days, even if they look dry enough.

If dirt remains, I use a toothbrush to remove it. It should come off easily.

Wet bones often look dirty, but don't panic!Look how these badger bones dried up brown but gray in the water! Nothing was done to them between these two images, they just dried up:

(Video) Bone Cleaning Guide

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (11)

Special tip: soft tissue and fat residues

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (12)

Sometimes after cleaning the bone, small amounts of soft tissue remain. You can tell by the terrible smell. this is bad and hard to fix

You can try removing it from a hose with pliers, wire, or high pressure water. Insects don't usually eat it after soaking it in hydrogen peroxide or organic detergent, but you can let it dry and fall off.

In this fallow deer jaw, there was hard-to-reach soft tissue in the root canal. I pressed down on a paper clip and used it to "floss" the dead meat. I then used high pressure water from a hose to get the bits out.

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (13)

Special Tip: Rotten Fish

How to Clean Animal Bones: The Complete Guide (14)

Do not do. Just no.

If necessary, try boiling them.

Special Tip: Mummified Corpses

Mummified bodies are rare. I had to remove the bones of two of them. They are rarely found outdoors, but are sometimes found on beaches due to the salt and sun.

The mummified meat is dehydrated and looks like papier-mâché. Once the water is removed, it stops rotting. It seems fragile, but it is almost impossible to remove from the bone. It is difficult to care for a mummified body, as it absorbs moisture from the air and begins to rot again.

The best way I have found is to add water again and let it soak for a few days.THE SMELL WILL BE DISGUSTING.Then use another technique (burial is fine) to get rid of the meat.


Special Tip: Green Bones and Horns

These are easy. First soak in warm water with organic detergent for about a day, then leave it in the daylight. Green usually disappears. If not, try the same thing again.


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.

How do you clean animal bones completely? ›

Fill a bowl with water and dish soap and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub and clean your bones. The cleaner the better. If you're cleaning a skull, small teeth may fall out in the process. Just hang onto them and glue them back on at the end once everything is dry.

How long do you leave 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.

Can you use hydrogen peroxide on animal bones? ›

Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Whiten Bones

Hydrogen peroxide (H2o2) is the safest and most effective way to whiten bones. This is what taxidermists use, including the ones at the Smithsonian and other prestigious institutions.

How do you clean bones without boiling them? ›

Soaking bones in water will soften the tissue and allow you to scrape it off. There are also lots of microorganisms in the water which will eat away at the tissue. So, you end up with very clean bones. This method is especially good at getting rid of tissue in tiny crevices in skulls.

How long to soak deer skull in 3% peroxide? ›

Leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide until it has reached the desired whiteness. For a deer skull, this usually takes 24 hours. Be careful not to leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide for too long.

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.

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 does Dawn dish soap clean bones? ›

Mix a solution of water and undyed dish soap, and let your bones soak for several days. Still gross? Repeat the process. It's important that your dish soap does not have dye, or your bones may become stained that color.

Is hydrogen peroxide bleach? ›

Hydrogen peroxide is also an oxidising disinfectant that is capable of killing bacteria, viruses, mould, fungi and more. Although not commonly referred to as “bleach” hydrogen peroxide is one of the most common bleaching agents.

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.

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.

What happens if you use hydrogen peroxide for too long? ›

Hydrogen peroxide can cause skin irritation and blistering. It can even cause burns at concentrations over 10%. Using too much hydrogen peroxide can irritate the skin inside the ear, leading to inflammation and earaches.

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.

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.

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.

What can I soak my dogs bones in? ›

Soaking the Nylabone in beef or chicken broth for 20 minutes or dabing a little peanut butter or honey on rawhide bones and kong toys will make a special treat for your pet.

What does boiling do to bones? ›

But why the bones are so thought to be so beneficial is because when they are boiled long enough, they start to disintegrate and release nutrients and proteins -- like calcium phosphate and collagen -- in higher quantities than what's found in regular broths, or most food, for that matter.

Should you boil bones? ›

The best way to release the nutrients found in bones is to make a bone broth. This is done by boiling bones in water for long periods of time (6-24 hours), until most of the nourishing compounds have been extracted into the water, creating a nutrient-dense broth.

What is the best way to clean bones? ›

Fill a container with water and dish soap. Use a scrub brush to gently clean your bones. If you're working with smaller bones a toothbrush works well. The cleaner the bones, the better results you'll have, so scrub well.

What does borax do to deer skull? ›

The quickest option of preserving deer antler skull caps is to clean off the tissue and then simply apply some borax. Let it dry thoroughly. In most cases, this option is plenty adequate for a lifetime of zero issues, but you do need to be careful of humidity levels and exposure to bugs.

What happens if you boil a deer skull too long? ›

Do not boil the skull or simmer longer than necessary; too long as this can crack the teeth and soften the bone. It is best to remove the meat and brain tissue while they are still quite warm. Once cooled and dry, thorough removal of tissue is more difficult. The muscle, if cooked sufficiently, comes off in hunks.

What does baking soda do to bones? ›

Bicarbonate helps boost alkali levels in the body, offsetting the effects of acidity from protein and cereal grains that lead to a significant reduction in bone loss through calcium excretion and bone resorption.

What does soaking a bone in vinegar do? ›

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!

What does vinegar do to animals? ›

Vinegar can be a natural remedy for diminishing your pet's discomfort when it comes to muscle soreness, ear infections, itchiness, fleas, or other skin conditions, such as hot spots. Additionally, dogs usually tolerate vinegar well as a topical remedy for certain ailments.

What does peroxide and Dawn dish soap do? ›

The de-griming magic you're looking for happens when you combine it with soap. “When you add peroxide to dish soap, it breaks down into oxygen and water. The soapy water then traps that oxygen, creating bubbles, making your dish soap extra foamy.”

What does Dawn dish soap and vinegar do? ›

First, both ingredients are excellent at dissolving tough grime. However, vinegar alone will simply run off of most surfaces, while dish soap is too thick to use as a spray. But when you mix them together, you get an effective, sprayable cleaner that sticks to any surface!


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