a collection of abalone shells ready to be cleaned

How to Clean Abalone Shells

Abalone shells, with their iridescent interiors and intricate patterns, are a popular collectible and are often used in jewelry, decorations, and various crafts. Sourced from the sea, these shells can accumulate dirt, grime, and sometimes even a lingering odor. To ensure Abalone shells maintain their natural beauty and shine, cleaning them is essential.

To clean abalone shells, use a gentle soaking technique with salt water. Alternatively apply a baking soda scrub for deeper cleaning, or employ a vinegar solution for mineral deposits and odor neutralization.

This guide will walk you through these three tried-and-true methods to clean abalone shells.

Natural Soaking Technique for Cleaning Abalone Shells

Using salt and water offers a gentle approach that resembles the Abalone shell’s ocean habitat. This method respects the environment and ensures a thorough cleaning without causing har

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Prepare a Salt Solution: Combine 2 tablespoons of sea salt with 1 liter of lukewarm water until fully dissolved.
  2. Soak the Shell: Place the abalone shell in the mixture, allowing it to immerse for 12-24 hours. This helps loosen any accumulated dirt or grime.
  3. Agitate the Water: Occasionally swirl the water around to promote the cleaning process.
  4. Check the Shell: After 12 hours, inspect the shell for any remaining dirt. If needed, let it soak for an extended period.
  5. Brush Gently: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub the shell’s surface. Pay attention to crevices and rough spots where dirt might cling.
  6. Rinse Thoroughly: Wash the abalone shell under a stream of cool water to wash away any salt or debris.
  7. Dry Properly: Pat the shell with a soft cloth, ensuring it’s free of moisture, and then let it air dry in a shaded spot.

Cleaning Abalone Shells With a Baking Soda Scrub

Baking soda stands out as a mild abrasive, effective for tackling stubborn residues on your abalone shells. This method also addresses unwanted odors, leaving the shell refreshed.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Mix Baking Soda and Water: Blend equal parts of baking soda and water until a consistent paste forms.
  2. Apply the Paste: With care, spread the baking soda mixture onto the surface of the abalone shell using a soft cloth.
  3. Allow to Sit: Let the paste sit on the shell for 10-15 minutes. This helps break down tough stains.
  4. Brush Thoughtfully: Employing a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently go over the shell, focusing on areas that exhibit stains or debris.
  5. Check for Residues: Hold your abalone shell under a light to ensure all stains have been addressed. Reapply the paste if necessary.
  6. Rinse with Care: Under a gentle stream of cool water, rinse off the baking soda mixture from the abalone shell.
  7. Pat Dry: Using a different soft cloth, dab the shell to remove excess water. Position it in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight, to allow for complete drying.

Cleaning Abalone Shells With Vinegar Solution

Vinegar offers a mildly acidic touch, making it adept at dissolving mineral deposits and neutralizing odors. This approach ensures a vibrant shine without compromising the abalone shell’s integrity.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Create a Vinegar Mix: Blend one part white vinegar with two parts lukewarm water in a bowl or basin.
  2. Submerge the Shell: Gently place the abalone shell into the solution, ensuring it’s fully covered.
  3. Allow Soaking: Let the shell rest in the solution for up to 30 minutes to ensure optimal cleaning.
  4. Agitate Occasionally: Swirl the solution intermittently to optimize the cleaning process.
  5. Inspect for Cleanliness: After soaking, hold the shell up and assess its surface. Any remaining spots can be addressed with a brief additional soak.
  6. Gentle Brushing: With a soft-bristled brush, go over the abalone shell, paying special attention to any areas with persistent deposits.
  7. Rinse Effectively: Under a stream of cool water, wash away the vinegar solution from the shell.
  8. Dry the Shell: Lay the abalone shell on a soft towel, allowing air to circulate around it for complete drying. Avoid direct sunlight to maintain its natural shine.


Can I use bleach to clean abalone shells?

While bleach can effectively remove stains and whiten the shells, it’s quite harsh and may damage the shell’s iridescence. If you opt to use bleach, always dilute it with water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) and limit the soaking time to no more than 30 minutes.

How do I polish the abalone shell?

To polish an abalone shell, start by cleaning it thoroughly. Once dry, use a soft cloth and a dab of mineral oil or baby oil. Rub the oil over the shell in circular motions until you achieve the desired shine.

What is the best way to store abalone shells?

Store abalone shells in a dry, cool place, away from direct sunlight. Placing them in a display case or storing them in cloth bags can protect them from dust and potential damage.

How do I remove the smell from the abalone shell?

Odor removal can be achieved through the baking soda scrub or vinegar solution methods mentioned above. Both techniques help neutralize odors. Leaving the shell in a well-ventilated area for a few days can also help dissipate any lingering smells.

How do I polish an abalone shell?

The polishing method involves using mineral oil or baby oil. After cleaning and drying the shell, take a soft cloth and a small amount of your chosen oil, then gently rub the shell in circular motions to bring out its natural luster.


Abalone shells, with their unique beauty, deserve proper care and cleaning. Whether you choose the Natural Soaking Technique, Baking Soda Scrub, or Vinegar Solution, always handle the shells gently and avoid harsh chemicals. With regular care and proper storage, these marine treasures can maintain their shine and charm for years to come.