Friday, September 2, 2011

How to Preserve Sand Dollars

Did I ever tell you that I wanted to be a marine biologist for most of my childhood, adolescence and even early college years until I realized that calculus and organic chemistry would be the death of me? True story.

I love the ocean, and I try to incorporate that love into my decorating (without using ship shower curtains or porcelain seagulls). I also love to beachcomb when I'm lucky enough to be at the ocean, so over the years I've gathered a nice collection of shells, rocks, driftwood and agates to display.

When we were in California this past summer visiting family, my brother-in-law was lucky enough to stumble onto a group of intact sand dollars on the beach and we each took a few home. It was such a treat because if you're a beachcomber then you know that finding intact sand dollars is like stumbling onto a treasure chest.

A quick warning though, if in your beachcombing you happen to find a sand dollar that looks like this...
...leave it alone, because the fuzzy purpleness factor of it means that it's still alive.

However, if you find one that's already dead, you should take a few simple steps to preserve it so that it lasts, and also so it doesn't smell and attract your family dog. Not that I know anything about dogs eating things like starfish or sand dollars off of carefully created bedside table vignettes. My dog is perfectly behaved and never chews up anything. Not.

Anyway. The first thing you'll want to do is place the sand dollars in a container or bucket of fresh water. The water will cloud up, turn murky, and probably start to smell. I figured we didn't need photos of that, right? Keep changing the water until it stays clear and the sand dollar is cleaned out.

Next, soak the sand dollar in a solution of bleach and water. I've heard people use 3 parts water to 1 part bleach for 10-15 minutes, but I was lazy and I used closer to 10 parts water to 1 part bleach and left it overnight because we went out of town. My sand dollar didn't start to crumble or anything, so it  must have been okay. After you soak it in the bleach solution, make sure to rinse it really well.

Here are my sand dollars going into the bleach-water solution:

And here they are the next day:

Finally, let your sand dollars dry really well. Then you have the option of brushing on something like mod podge or a glue-water mix to help harden and protect the sand dollar if you would like. Otherwise, you're good to go.

Now go on and decorate with those bad boys and cross your fingers that your dumb dog doesn't find them.

Sharing at Just a Girl, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Home Stories A to Z


  1. How interesting--and what a great find! I found a half-dollar sized piece of the middle of a sand dollar this year and counted myself lucky. You really are lucky!!

    1. They are extremely easy to find dozens of them just walk out to the sandbar at the beach!!

    2. They are extremely easy to find dozens of them just walk out to the sandbar at the beach!!

  2. Perfect for this gal from Oregon. Come see the Ferris Bueller chairs.

  3. Hi there- found you through the hop and am a new follower. What a coincidence! I was just looking up how to wash seashells for my Seashell Garland (just posted). I hope you have time to follow my life in South Africa by

    I hope you have a great week!

  4. What a great tutorial. Finding sand dollars is like finding treasure and preserving them is a great idea. I would love for you to share this project on my Inspiration Board {link party}. I know my readers would really enjoy it.
    Hope to see you there.
    carolyn | homework

  5. I've also boiled them to get rid of the nasty factor. a bit of bleach in the water did the trick then too. I have a BUNCH of dead ones we found off the WA coast this summer (saw too many to count live ones, it was really neat!) still sitting in a bag in my garage. I can only image what the smell will be like LOL (I'll be boiling them on the BBQ's side burner in a thrift store pot!)

  6. You can find a whole bunch a sand dollars on Coronado beach in California. I brought home about twenty after scoping the beach out for an hour. I found about five that were still alive and put them back gently into the sea.

  7. We found a bunch of sand dollars on the OR coast this past weekend. I didn't know to preserve them, as I really wasn't sure what makes them. Now, I feel better about keeping them in the house. Thanks for the info.

  8. I also found a bunch a Coronado beach in California! I guess I
    was lucky to have been there this spring. : )

  9. where on the oregon coast?

  10. My husband and I took our first trip to cuba after 24 yrs and we found 2 while snorkeling i did not realize i had to do anything to them so after a week i will try and soak in clear water then bleach hoping it is not to late and i can save them

  11. i founds buckets full in moro bay california last july

  12. Thank you for your comments on not taking them alive. I just watched a YouTube video on preserving them by someone who had picked up sand dollars that had obviously been alive (brownish in our area) when she got them. Sad, and there was no place to leave comments on that site. :(

  13. I was at the Oregon Coast last weekend, Cannon Beach, and found 50 of them! There were sooo many!!

  14. I was at the Oregon Coast last weekend, Cannon Beach, and found 50 of them! There were sooo many!!

  15. @teacherbarb , what a coincidence, we were also there that same week and found about 50! I've only ever seen broken pieces on the Gulf Coast so it was so exiting finding that many intact, within a couple of hours! Now we are back home in colorado and have completed the cleaning/soaking process! Next we will add paint and glue to preserve these beauties! Great memories with my family!

  16. Just found 3 in Fort Myers beach this week!


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