How to Clean Bones Tutorial part 2 of 4, degreasing

how to clean bones tutorial part 2

How to Clean Bones Tutorial part 2 of 4, degreasing

How to Clean Bones Tutorial part 2 will walk you through a few ways to give those bones a deeper clean. Once you’ve completed part 1 and your bones are free of meat it is time to go ahead to part 2: getting the bones free of grease.

This step will take the average collector months to do. If you’re only doing it for a few weeks then they are not done. Grease is a sly fox and while your bones might initially look very pretty the brown grease will eventually show itself. So do it right from day one and have patience. Myself, I enjoy the smell as the bones become cleaner and cleaner with each change of water. It is an indescribable smell like no other.

How to Clean Bones Tutorial part 2: options for de-greasing:

• dawn dish soap
• acetone
• ammonia

Important Note on Bleach

: it is NOT a choice here. I made this mistake once and I can tell you from experience it de-calcifies bone and makes them flakey, soft and mushy. And the grease? It stays there. Here is a skull I used bleach on in practice and regretted ruining.
how to clean bones tutorial part 2 do not use bleach bones

Dawn Dishsoap

You need warm or hot water. Ideally you want it between 95 and 120 degrees F. Any hotter and I have been told you can cook the grease right into the bone. Any colder and some fats and grease types just sit in the bone pores and don’t move.

Squeeze dish soap into a tub of water, like you are doing a tub full of dishes, put the bones in and close the lid. You can use many things to keep the water warm. What I have used with success is the hot New Mexico summer sun. I put my buckets of bones out in a field where they would get sun all the time. I also used a titanium fish tank heater for some buckets in my shop. Change the water only when it becomes cloudy. It should get cloudy every few days. I dump the water out and use a strainer to catch any bones trying to escape. Then refill with fresh soap.

When Are My Bones Done?

When the water stops becoming a bit cloudy and it has been several months they might be done. So take the bones out and let them dry a while. You can speed the drying with open air or a fan running in the room.

Drying fully can take weeks or months depending on the skull. Common places to watch for grease spots to surface are on the top of the head and the jaw. Watch these areas for any darkening spots. If spots show then put them back in soapy water to de-grease for another month or two or three.

One skull I had that was being particularly slow in de-greasing I added just a splash of peroxide during two changes of the dish soap water and it was finally ready within a few more changes. If you have a finicky skull that is giving you a hard time in de-greasing, try adding just a splash of peroxide for one or two changes of the soapy water.

Note that the “bleach alternative” in some bottles of Dawn dish soap is actually just a whitening agent much like peroxide; it is not actually bleach.


Some people use it diluted in water, others use it full strength, and some use with their Dawn baths. It is a harsh chemical and more than likely will cause damage. I notice that the bones I used it on feel dry and fragile and start to crumble if not sealed soon. Some even start to turn a yellow color.

While I do not use it anymore, many people do so I will share what I know.

Use it like you would Dawn; changing it when it becomes cloudy. Once fully de-greased you can try soaking the bones in several changes of warm water to leach out the chemicals but that didn’t seem to help my bone projects at all.

The damage I have seen and have created from ammonia-soaked bones is like bleached bones but slower and not as drastic. The bones start to look frayed and porous and honeycombed in some areas like at the joint ends and the growth sutures in younger bones.

From personal experience I would not recommend ammonia.


This requires a container that will hold acetone safely. The orange 3-5 gallon buckets at Home Depot and glass pickle jars and the yellow buckets that you can buy cat litter in all seem to work fine.

Put the bones in the acetone, seal the lid, and store in room temperature. Most people say this can take several months. It is also a very gentle way of degreasing and is recommended for fragile bones.

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

Cleaning bones is a multi-step process and you are half way there. For some, these first two parts suffice. However, if you want whiter than white bones then there are a few more steps. So please check out part 3 soon!

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

Author: Colleen

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