How To Remove Barnacles From a Conch Shell

Barnacle Conch Shell

Barnacle Conch Shell

Have you ever caught a glimpse of a conch shell laying in the sand or surf at a far away distance only to discover it was covered in barnacles once you got close to it? It's a somewhat depressing sight to see an otherwise perfectly intact conch shell covered with these unsightly formations. In fact, most people would simply pass over the shell without even picking it up. Well, you might be surprised to hear that barnacles can be removed from conch shells. It may take some work a little bit of your time, but you can remove the barnacles and give the conch shell a fresh, new look.

Of course, some conch shells will be too old, covered and worn to even attempt cleaning the barnacles off them. The next time you see a conch shell covered in barnacles, pick it up and do a quick preliminary inspection to determine whether or not it's worth cleaning. If the shell is broken, brittle and completely discolored, then you should probably pass and look for a different one. On the other hand, a fresh-looking shell that's intact can easily be cleaned up with the barnacles removed. Keep this in mind and only pick up shells that you believe can be properly cleaned up.



What Are Barnacles?

The term barnacles (class Cirripedia) refer to a wide variety of ocean-dwelling arthropods that attach and live on hard surfaces in shallow water. It's not uncommon to find them stuck on the sides of ships, large rocks, buoys, piers and other similar structures found in the ocean. Typically, most barnacles refer shallow waters with a depth of less than 300 feet, although there are reports of certain specimens living in depths of 1500+ feet.

While the exact number is unknown, some scientists estimate there are over 1,220 barnacles in the world. The most common species, acorn barnacles (Sessilia), are a monophyletic group of barnacles which attache themselves to salt-water structures without the use of stalks. Goose barnacles (order Pedunculata) are another common species, but unlike the acorn barnacles, these rely on stalks for attaching themselves to structures.

No matter what type of barnacles are covering your conch shells, you'll want to clean them off to avoid further damage. The cleaning process is the same for all types of barnacles, so don't stress too much about trying to identify the particular type covering your conchs.

Cleaning Conch Shells

Cleaning Conch Shells

What You'll Need To Clean Off Barnacles

Before we can begin, you'll first need to acquire some basic supplies. Contrary to what some people may believe, you don't need any special cleaning chemicals. Just pick up the basic supplies listed below and you'll be well on your way to having clean, barnacle-free conch shells.

  • Jug of unscented bleach.
  • Hard bristle toothbrush.
  • Flathead screwdriver.
  • Roll of paper towels.
  • Medium-sized bucket or bowl.

Soaking Your Barnacle-Covered Conch Shells

Now that you have all of the necessary supplies, it's time to get to work. Instead of trying to pick off each hardened barnacle on your conch shell, a better approach is to loosen it up by soaking the conch shell in diluted bleach beforehand. This will directly remove some of the barnacles while loosening up the remaining ones. You can purchase a jug of basic kitchen bleach from most home improvement stores for as little as $1-$2 bucks per gallon.

Barnacle-Free Conch Shell

Barnacle-Free Conch Shell

It's best to perform this step outside to prevent any accidental bleach spills inside the house. Even though it's diluted with water, it will still ruin just about any fabric it touches, so take your shells outside to clean them. Just fill up a large bucket or bowl about 3/4 of the way full with water. Next, pour in about 1/2 - 1 cup of bleach and mix it around. Be extremely careful anytime you stir or otherwise mess with diluted bleach, as it can cause serious eye irritation if it splashes up in your face. Now gently place the conch shells into the diluted solution, allowing them to sit for approximately 15-20 minutes before removing.

Removing The Barnacles

After your conch shells have soaked in the solution of diluted bleach for at least 15 minutes, take them out and dry them with some clean paper towels. Most average-sized conchs will dry up in no time at all on a warm, sunny day. Just line them out on your porch or patio with some clean paper towels underneath them and wait a little while for the sun and air to do the rest.  When there's no remaining bleach water on them, move on to the next step.

The diluted bleach should make removing barnacles a breeze. Just scrape and pick the barnacles using a flat-head screwdriver. The trick is to get underneath the barnacle and gently pry it off without placing too much force on the actual shell. Gently push and work the screwdriver around the various barnacles until they fall off. If you come upon a stubborn barnacle (which is bound to happen), place the screwdriver head in position and hit the back of it with a hammer.

When all of the barnacles are removed, dip your conch shell back in the diluted bleach one last time to help clean off any excess debris. Allow it to dry once again and then you're free to bring your conch shells back inside.


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