How to Clean Bones Tutorial part 1 of 4, how to clean animal skulls and skeletons

how to clean bones tutorial step 1

How to Clean Bones Tutorial

How to clean bones tutorial will walk you through a few ways of how to clean bones. There is no exact science, so don’t sweat the small stuff… unless you do decide to sweat the small stuff. More on sweating later.

The first step to getting a clean bone or skull is getting the meat off of it. However, the cleaning process doesn’t end there; see the next part for what comes next.

Know Your Laws

First, it is important to know the laws of your state and what animals you can and cannot work with. I highly recommend Lupas Animal Parts Laws to get started. Now, get to cleaning!

How to Clean Bones Tutorial: your options

Your options for this first step are as follows:

• macerating
• simmering
• bugs
• range cleaning
• sweating

Maceration to Clean Bones

Macerating means soaking in water. Put the corpse or filthy bones in warm water and let them soak. The time doesn’t matter. Just let them soak until the meat has fallen off the bones. This could take days to weeks in warm or hot water. Do not boil or simmer for long periods of time.

You may want to change out half the water every week or so.  However, I have had the most luck in not changing the water at all. Not changing the water keeps a healthy and active bacteria party in the water which is what helps the flesh rot. You do not need to add any other cleaner to this mixture; the bacteria party is enough.

If you are macerating several skulls it would help to put them in bags or jars inside the same bucket, so you can keep all the teeth that happen to fall out with their own skull.

Skinning and gutting before macerating helps keep the smell down, but it also takes longer for it to work since this will lessen the bacteria you have in the bucket. Rotting guts have the best bacteria parties.

Simmering to Clean Bones

Simmering means just that: a soft simmer, not a boil. Just dunk the bones in there until the meat falls off and let them simmer no longer than that.

You should note that many people will tell you that simmering will make de-greasing (the next step) that much harder as the extreme heat from simmering can “cook” the grease right into the skull. This is why you should keep a close eye on it and only use it to strip the meat off, and then let the bones cool.

A note on boiling: boiling will weaken the bone and cook the grease right into the bone.  This is according to many fellow bone cleaners. I have also heard of people boiling with bleach. One should never use bleach on bone as bleach will de-calcify bone (weaken it) and within months it will be chalky and start falling apart.

Bugs to Clean Bones

Some bone collectors use flesh-eating bugs called dermestid beetles, and keep colonies in their homes. For skulls that are broken or weak or very tiny this method is easier than soaking in water for a few reasons. Water will get in cracks and takes weak or young skulls apart. With beetles you can pull the skull out before the bugs break the skull apart.

These bugs are easy to care for but you should still put in some research before deciding if they are for you. I have never tried bugs in captivity myself, but I have done a lot of reading on them. Some folks say they can be kept in large storage tubs, they like dried meat best, don’t react well to cold or light, and can be fed hotdogs when dead flesh is hard to come by.

Range Cleaning to Clean Bones

The simplest form of Step 1… if you have the space to do it. This is how I started out cleaning bones and why I decided to write this how to clean bones tutorial. Put the corpse outside for rodents and bugs to eat the flesh off of it. If you’re lucky you will also have wild dermestids pay you a visit. The ideal invitation for wild rodents and bugs is an opaque bucket or tub; it will be nice and dark under there.

I lay the body, sometimes skinned and sometimes whole, on the ground and then place a tub over it. Then I check on it every few days. Sometimes nothing has changed so I prop up one end of the tub about half an inch and this seems to help!

Sweating Bones to Clean Bones

This method I discovered by accident during the late winter/early spring of 2010. I put 5 coyotes outside under black trash bags. I thought the trash bags would just contain them and the smell for a short.  However, by the time I checked on them I found that the flesh was falling right off the bones. I expected them to be mummified!

What happened was the dark bags invited beetles. The black bags were in the sun, plus they had rotting action going on under them. This made it moist and humid under the bags and essentially rotted the coyote bodies with just heated moisture.

Sweating is used when cleaning a horned animal; you need to get the horn sheath off before cleaning it. If you leave the horn sheaths on they are harder to clean.

Come Back For The Next Step of How to Clean Bones Tutorial!

Cleaning bones is a multi-step process and you have just gotten started. For some, this step suffices. However, if you want white bones without fat or grease discoloring them then there are a few more steps. So please check out part 2 soon!

As well, if you’ve found this article helpful please consider supporting us here at Root Inspirations by buying a $1 coloring page or perhaps some bone or gourd art at our store! Thank you.

Author: Colleen

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