Cleaning and Whitening Skulls

Not everyone has a colony of dermestid beetles to clean a skull, and many who do quickly realize that they still have to feed them whether they have skulls that need cleaning or not! What to do, then, if you have a skull you want cleaned?

You could boil it, but that weakens the bone and stinks up your kitchen. You could bury it and dig it up the next year, but in my experience it takes a long time and the skull can take on a color depending on the minerals in the soil—which might be desirable.

The skull on the left was buried in soil high in iron creating an orange color cast. The skull on the right was soaked in water and whitened with magnesium carbonate and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.

The skull on the left was buried in soil high in iron creating an orange color cast. The skull on the right was soaked in water and whitened with magnesium carbonate and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.

An alternative method is to simply put it in a bucket of water and let the microorganisms do their work. Don’t use chlorinated or treated city water, as it might not have the microorganisms in it. Instead, use surface water like from a pond or stream.

Yes, it’s going to stink and you will have to whiten the skull after, but simply letting a skull soak in surface water will remove all of the meat.

Yes, it’s going to stink and you will have to whiten the skull after, but simply letting a skull soak in surface water will remove all of the meat.

Mechanically (and carefully) remove the eyes, brain, skin and as much meat as possible, and then cover the skull with the water and let it rot. It will stink, so I’m not sure it’s something I’d do on an apartment patio or in a townhouse neighborhood, but in a few months you’ll have a clean skull.

You don’t need a colony of dermestid beetles to clean a skull.

You don’t need a colony of dermestid beetles to clean a skull.

You’ll want to whiten the skull, but don’t use bleach, as that will also weaken the bone. Instead, get some magnesium carbonate from Van Dykes or other online taxidermy supply store and use it with 3 percent peroxide according to the directions. You’ll end up with a very clean and white skull with almost no effort on your part.

 

 

 

Scott Mayer

www.tacticaltshirts.com

www.john1911.com

“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

 

Scott Mayer

Scott Mayer

Writer at John1911
Mayer began his outdoor industry career in 1993 on the NRA Technical Staff where he became American Rifleman magazine first Shooting Editor. Mayer left NRA and entered the business end of publishing in 2003 as Advertising Account Executive for Safari Club International SAFARI Magazine and Safari Times newspaper. In 2006, Mayer was named Publisher of Shooting Times magazine where he was also tasked with launching and leading Personal Defense TV, the first television show of its kind.

In 2008, Mayer returned to the editorial side of publishing, this time in the digital field, as Editorial Director for Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handguns and Rifleshooter online magazines. After a brief stint in 2011 as the Digital Media Director for an ABC TV affiliate, Mayer returned to the outdoors industry and Safari Club International where he is currently Assistant Publisher and Multi-Media Communications Editor.
Scott Mayer

Latest posts by Scott Mayer (see all)

  • David

    Hey Scott! How was the trip to SA?

    • Scott Mayer

      It was Namibia, and it was incredible! Thanks for asking.

      • David

        Right on, glad you made it there and back in one piece. That zebra will make a nice rug 🙂

    • He had a great time.

      Without us.

      Again.

      Just say’n.

      You know.

      Christmas is coming.

      But no pressure.

      😉

      Marky

  • Brennen Munro

    I had seen this method used before, but it was something that I only thought “country boys” knew about! Thanks for always sharing such cool tips and knowledge with us.
    I am glad your trip to Namibia went well, and a big thank you for supporting the locals!

    Munro