How to Preserve a Turtle Shell

It is not easy saying goodbye to a dear pet. But what distinguishes turtles is that their shells can be preserved as keepsakes. Turtle shells have been used in a variety of ways throughout history. Turtle shells have been used in medicine, divination, jewelry production, an even decorative items. Whether you want to preserve your pets shell, or just found a random shell on the road, this article will explain how to preserve a turtle shell.

What You’ll Need:

  • Toothbrush
  • Cleaning Gloves
  • Knife (optional)
  • Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol
  • Borax
  • Bowl
  • Salt
  • Glue (school glue or super glue)
  • Polyurethane or Varnish

How to Preserve a Turtle Shell

To preserve a turtle shell, remove all organic mater, clean the shell, and then apply lacquer, polyurethane, or varnish.

Take out any organic matter from the shell

The first step is to ensure that you remove all of the carcass form the shell. If you found the shell outside, there is a chance bugs or insects already ate the decomposed carcass.

If there is still a carcass in the shell, place it in an area where insects can consume the carcass. An ant bed is an example of this. You could also bury the shell for a month.

If you don’t have time, you can use a knife to remove any carcass from inside the shell and scrub it out with a toothbrush and water. Allow it to dry for an entire day after rinsing it. It is important that you get rid of as much of the flesh as possible.

If you chose to dispose of the remaining flesh by burying it or by putting it in an ant bed, afterwards I recommend gently scrubbing the edges and inside of the shell with a toothbrush and water to remove any remaining organic material. Allow the shell to dry for at least 24 hours. This ensures that any moisture present is expelled from the shell.

Removing all organic material not only helps with smell, but it also helps prevent the shell from decomposing faster.

Clean the shell

Your job is not over once you take out the organic material. To properly preserve the shell, you will also need to clean it. The best way to clean the shell is with a solution of water, borax, and salt. You can put this solution into a bowl, and after you mix it together you should let the shell sit in it for around an hour.

After an hour in the solution, you should put the shell in a water and vinegar solution. The best ratio is to put the same amount of water and vinegar in a bowl, and then let the shell sit in it for an hour. After the shell has sat in the water and vinegar for an hour, you should rinse it with water and then dry it with a towel.

If you don’t have vinegar, you can disinfect the shell with alcohol (isopropyl rubbing alcohol). This will help keep mold and bacteria away from the shell.

Apply lacquer, polyurethane, or varnish

The last step is to apply a preservation solution. However, before you apply the solution, make sure to glue back on any scutes that may have fallen of in earlier steps. Superglue or even school glue can be used.

Then, it is time to coat the shell with lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane. A clear varnish is ideal. It guards against flaking, scratching, and other damages to the shell. It also gives it a nice, clean appearance.

If you decide to use varnish, make sure to do so in a well-ventilated area. Even though most of the inside of the shell will not be seen, it is still important that you apply a coat on it. This is to help prevent decay and bacteria buildup.

Make sure that you air dry the shell after you put on the finisher.

How does a turtle shell decompose?

The turtle’s organs, skin, and other limbs decompose within a couple days. While the rest of the turtle decomposes, the hard shell remains intact. The scutes will eventually fall off, and the shell will decompose completely.

How long does it take for a turtle shell to decompose?

On average, it takes about 50 years for a turtle’s shell to decompose. That is roughly the time it takes for human bones to decay. Turtle shells are anatomically and chemically distinct from the rest of the body. You can extend the life of your turtle’s shell by preserving it.


If you’ve ever wondered how to preserve a turtle shell, this article should have been able to assist you. Those who do not wish to say goodbye to their reptilian companions can keep their shells. The shell might serve as a cool memento that you can keep on a bookshelf or something.

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