Content of the material
- Scrape out and rinse
- Can I keep an animal skull I found?
- Can you clean a skull with bleach?
- Step 4: Whitening and De-Greasing Your Skull
- In Parting
- Removing Brains from Skulls
- Here’s how to remove a brain from a skull:
- Place in hydrogen peroxide
- 4. The Whitening Process
- What does your site do for my search of How To Clean An Animal Skull?
- How To Clean An Animal Skull Details
- Step 1: Aquire Your Skull
- What about Boiling Bones to Clean Them?
- Boiling Traps Fat in Bones
- Fat from Tissues Get in the Bone Too
- Boiling Traps Tissue in Skulls
- Boiling Damages Fragile Bones
Scrape out and rinse
Keep the skull intact or cut it in two if you wish. Scrape out as much flesh, blood and brain matter as possible. Also remove the fine bone structure inside the nose, which will allow you to reach the material behind it. If you wish to keep the skull intact, rinse it via the spinal opening to remove brain matter. You can also push a stick or tweezers around inside the skull to remove this. Put the cleaned skull in a bucket of water for 48 hours.
Can I keep an animal skull I found?
The path to the answer might be complicated, but generally the answer is simple: Yes, you can keep this or no, you can’t. Animals in Alaska, and Alaska waters, are managed by different state and federal agencies, and each agency has rules about picking up and keeping parts of the animals they manage.
Can you clean a skull with bleach?
After the skull is as clean as you can get it, soak it in an enzyme-bleach powder (such as Biz) using about ¾ cup to a gallon of water. Don’t use liquid bleach, it is harsher to the bone and does not have the enzyme action that is needed to break down residual tissue.
Step 4: Whitening and De-Greasing Your Skull
Now that the worst part is behind you, the rest should be easy. For this step you will need a small plastic tub or container as well as several bottles of 3% hydrogen peroxide ($0.99 per bottle at your local drug store). 1. Place your skull into the tub and pour in the bottles of hydrogen peroxide. You will want to make sure you use enough peroxide to completely cover the skull. Do NOT dilute the peroxide. 3% is very low strength but it is the cheapest and easiest to to get your hands on.2. The peroxide will fizz like crazy. Allow the skull to soak over night, and the check to see the progress. You skull should begin to whiten nicely. Leave it in the solution until you reach you desired whiteness, but I would not leave it in for more than about 48 hours, as the peroxide will eventually begin to weaken the bone just enough so that it gets a few hairline cracks.3. Once your skull has whitened nicely, remove it and wash it thoroughly under running water. If there are still small bits of flesh or cartilage on it, they should have turned a light yellow color by now and should come off easily during the final rinse. Allow your skull to dry for 24-48 hours.4. If your skull develops any greasy dark stains, contact a taxidermist to purchase a professional de-greaser. I have herd that ammonia can be used, but I have never used it myself. The peroxide works as a de-greaser as well as a whitener, but some species have greasier bones than others.*** I NEVER recommend using a bleach mix for whitening. This can seriously damage a skull. If you wish to use something stronger than drug-store peroxide, you can purchase 40% peroxide from a taxidermist supplier. Follow the instructions on the bottle.
I hope that this walkthrough helped some fledgling taxidermists out there. This is a topic I am very much passionate about and I am happy to engage any fellows in the ways of such an amazingly fulfilling hobby. Skulls can be used for decoration, jewelry, costume design, and reference material, but above all else, they are works of art and should be treated as such.
Now that you have finished your skull, I'm sure you must feel proud! Share your story and your projects with me, I'd love to hear and see what everyone is doing with my information! Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have as well if they aren't answered in the FAQ section.
Removing Brains from Skulls
This is gross. Really gross. I’m still pretty squeamish, so I will avoid doing this at all costs. With the burial, insect, and “corpse in a box” methods, you can leave the brain in the skull. Microbes will eat it away for you.
However, if you want to use simmering or maceration to remove tissue, you’ll have to remove the brain. Brains are really fatty and rubbery, so won’t come out so easily on their own.
Here’s how to remove a brain from a skull:
- Soak the skull to get the brain tissue soft (or give the skull a quick simmer)
- Take a wire/coat hanger and start jamming it into the skull. The goal is to “scramble” the brains. This is something the ancient Egyptians mastered thousands of years ago. ?
- Get a power washer and blast into the back of the skull. Brains will shoot out of the nose. WEAR GOGGLES unless you don’t mind getting pieces of brain in your eyes.
- Or use a saw to cut off part of the back of the skull and scoop out the brains. Some skulls (like deer skulls) sit better on their mount when the back is flat anyway.
Place in hydrogen peroxide
Place the cooled skull in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide. Use 5–10% hydrogen peroxide. Remember to use gloves and protective goggles. Leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide until it has reached the desired whiteness. For a deer skull, this usually takes 24 hours. Be careful not to leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide for too long.
4. The Whitening Process
Standard Hydrogen peroxide (3%) has the power to transform skulls that are yellowed, mottled antiques into beautiful, milky white works of art which do not tarnish over time.
When preparing your skull to be whitened, locate a suitable container that will be able to comfortably fit your skull pieces but will not be wasting a lot of space. For example: a raccoon- or cat-sized skull will typically be able to fit loosely into a thermos-sized container. A smaller container like this (as opposed to the simmering pot or a standard 5 gallon bucket) will allow you to use less hydrogen peroxide and will make it easier for you to store.
If your skull has antlers, wrap each antler from the burr upward with a plastic trash bag and then tape each bag tightly in place to prevent any of the hydrogen peroxide from touching any part of the antler (whitened antlers are not standard practice and can make your skull look unpresentable).
- Once you are finished with the Degreasing Process, thouroughly and completely wash your skull under warm sink water, making sure to remove all soapy residue from the surface and within the brain case and sinuses of your skull.
- Set the skull into a bath of Hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for 12-24 hours. I have never had to soak a skull for longer than 24 hours, and with skulls that are not very greasy or are quite small (deer, rabbits), 12 hours may be fine. Check your skull at the 12 hour mark to see if the color is to your liking. If not, another 12 should do it.
- The teeth that you still have placed in the compartment box should also be whitened with hydrogen peroxide at this time. Simply pour the H202 gently into each compartment containing a tooth and then close the lid. I like to cover both my teeth and skull containers with a dark towel or make sure that they are kept in a dark room until I am ready to take them out.
- At the 12 or 24 hour mark, check your skull and teeth. If the color is to your liking, take the skull out of the solution and rinse thuroughly. Any H202 residue on a skull can show up as chalky white dust once it is dried, so be sure to clean it fully. Hydrogen peroxide's effervescent quality provides some mechanical benefit in loosening any remaining flesh still sticking to parts of your skull, particularly in the nasal cavity, so don't be surprised if you see fleshy bits sloughing off.
- It is at this point that you should check your skull from snout to brain case. Make sure all the flesh you want to be gone is gone. If there are still pieces here and there, the Hydrogen peroxide will have softened them enough for you to easily tweeze them out by gently using your tools or by using the faucet on full power. Once the skull is to your satisfaction, let it sit somewhere to dry completely. Some people like to sit their skulls out under the sun, others may simply set them in a warm, dry room.
- Hold the lid of your compartment box closed tightly and hold it upside down over the sink so that the Hydrogen peroxide can seep out through the corners but all of the teeth remain in their specific compartments. Once the Hydrogen peroxide is drained out, fill the compartments up with plain tap water, and repeat the process of holding the lid closed and draining out the water. You can repeat this process a few times before individually washing each tooth under the sink to make sure there is no H202 residue or flesh remaining on the tooth roots. But be careful! I recommend putting a rubber stopper in the sink just in case you drop a tooth. Once each tooth is cleaned, return it to its respectful compartment and let them all dry completely in the container with the lid open.
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How To Clean An Animal Skull Details
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Step 1: Aquire Your Skull
Of course you will first need to find a nice skull for this project. I highly recommend finding a predator skull; I find they are more interesting because of the sharp teeth. There are several places where you can find skulls. 1. Check your local taxidermist. Many times they will have small animal skulls in the freezer, such as coyote, beaver, fox, raccoon, bobcat ect. depending on where you live. They may charge you a few bucks for one, or they may even just give you a skull or two at no charge. 2. You can occasionally find raw skulls on eBay. This has the potential to get a little pricey and possibly a bit smelly, because the skull will have to be shipped to you. When searching for a specimen on eBay, type in “taxidermy skull” and search in “all categories”. 3. Road kill. Use this as a last resort, as the skull will most likely be rotten and very possibly damaged.
– a container large enough for your skull or bones – something to cover the container – 40v hair developer (12% hydrogen peroxide) – old toothbrush – dish soap – rubber gloves – animal skull or bones
What about Boiling Bones to Clean Them?
In many forums and websites, people recommend boiling bones to remove the tissue. Yes, this works very well. It only takes about 2 hours of boiling for most of the tissue to fall right off.
But boiling is a terrible way of cleaning bones. It can turn them yellow, make them start rotting, and damage fragile bones.
Here’s why you should NEVER clean bones with boiling.
Boiling Traps Fat in Bones
Our bones are very much alive. They have their own blood vessels and nerves. Bones are also little “factories” in that they produce blood cells in their marrow. Guess what marrow contains? Lots of fat!
If you boil bones, the heat will seal the fat into the bones. They will turn a gross shiny yellow color.
Not only does this look terrible, but the fat trapped inside can start to rot. As it deteriorates, it can destroy the solid bone tissue. The bones will end up smell really bad. And, over time, the bone can crack.
Check out this pig skull which was boiled. The gross yellow spots are fat!
*It is possible to remove trapped fat with a process called degreasing, but it’s a major pain and takes forever. The pig skull above took MONTHS to degrease! More on degreasing in my book.
Fat from Tissues Get in the Bone Too
Not only do the bones themselves contain a lot of fat, but there is tons of fat in the hide and tissues of an animal. Brains, for example, are about 29% fat. The human brain is even fattier at about 60% fat.
When preparing bones for cleaning, you should remove the skin, brain (which is a pretty gross process), and as much tissue as possible.
If you skip this step and boil an entire corpse, he fat from tissues will get in the water. This fat then gets absorbed into the bone where it becomes trapped. The bones will end up even more fatty and gross.
Check out how nasty the boil water is. The bones will absorb all the gunk.
Boiling Traps Tissue in Skulls
As bone enthusiasts know, skulls have so many little nooks and crannies. When the animal is alive, these nooks are filled with nerves, blood vessels, and other tissues.
If you boil a skull, all of these tissues will get trapped in the nooks. It is really difficult to remove the tissue afterwards!
It is especially bad in the foramina. A foramen (plural foramina) is a little hole in bones where nerves or blood vessels go through.
You can try to remove the tissue by poking a wire inside the foramina. However, this is actually hard to do. Instead of removing the tissue, the bits of nerve and blood vessels often just get pushed further up inside.
All this nasty tissue was still stuck in the boiled pig skull. It started to come out during the degreasing process.
Boiling Damages Fragile Bones
Some bones are particularly fragile and won’t withstand boiling well. One example is juvenile animals. Their skull bones haven’t completely fused together yet.
Boiling will dissolve the connective tissue holding the skull together and ruin your beautiful skull.
This juvenile fox skull fell apart after being boiled. ?