Bleaching Turtle shells

Submitted by Jeremy on 06/06/2004 at 16:25. ( )

I have a box turtle shell And I set it up on a shelf where I keep all sorts of skulls, bones, and teeth, ect. And there was a small leak in the tin roof above the shelf and it dripped on that shell for about 3 or 4 months. All that dripping caused the outer coloring to flake off, but it left the edges, and some of the side left firmly attached. I was wondering how I could take the rest of this off so that I could bleach the entire shell to make it pure white, for a good decoration piece.

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wont happen

This response submitted by wetnwild on 06/06/2004 at 18:19. ( )

There are a few layers of scutes on each shell and the color from my limited experience with them is the color goes all the way through. You will never be able to bleach it any color than what it is. You can probably lighten it a small amount, but do not think it can be done.I could be wrong!

i dunno

This response submitted by Jeremy on 06/06/2004 at 22:43. ( )

Well The layers that have flaked off left behind a white shell so Im guessing that I can get the rest of the flakes off and leave a white shell.

Im guessing

This response submitted by wetnwild on 06/07/2004 at 06:50. ( )

That ALL the scutes have over time flaked off as well and you are down to the bone, that may be why it sems white.

To remove the rest of the scutes...

This response submitted by PA on 06/07/2004 at 13:41. ( )

First off, there is only one layer of scutes - under them is the bone itself. What you did was allow the remaining tissue, generally holding the scutes on, to decompose by allowing water access to under the scutes and bacterial maceration occurred, resulting in the scutes falling off. What you need to do, in my opinion, is to allow the rest of the shell to macerate enough to free the rest of the scutes. Place the shell in a plastic bag with a small amount of water (maybe only a teaspoon) and close up tight. Wait a couple days to see if the scutes are loose yet, and if they are, remove them and proceed to the next step. If only a few are loose, remove them and allow it to "stew" a couple more days. There will be a lot of strong unpleasant odor coming from the bag - especially if the inside of the shell was not thoroughly clean to begin with. Repeat until all scutes are free, then immediately quit maceration. Any further maceration risks the individual parts of the shell to fall apart into individual pieces which can be very difficult to glue back together.

Place the freshly un-scuted shell into full strength grocery store ammonia for a few days, then change again and again every few days into fresh ammonia until color quits coming out and darkening the color of the fluid. At this point you can take out, rince it for a couple hours in water, and dry and see if it is light enough for you (it will dry whiter than what it looks when you remove it). If not, you can bleach it with hydrogen peroxide, or let it set in the windowsill and let the sun change the color. My guess is that since your shell already looks white under the scutes, it will be fine without the bleaching.

Beautiful shells can be made by removing the scutes and the variety of shapes and patterns make an attractive disply, beside being of use for scietists studying scute pattern versus underlying bone structure. I recently prepared a 24 inch Alligator Snapping Turtle with loose scutes. Because the scutes are quite thick, the complete shell makes a great 3-D jigzaw puzzle.

Thanks Alot

This response submitted by Jeremy on 06/07/2004 at 23:54. ( )


Thanks Alot For Your Info On The Shell, What Are You An Osteologist? Your Definitions sound Do You Know ALot About Bone And Skull Preservation, And Hide Tanning, Ect.? If You Do I'd Love To get Your Email Address So If I Have Any Questions On These Matters, I Can Ask You. Thaks.


This response submitted by wetnwild on 06/08/2004 at 08:11. ( )

As usual you are right on the money and i stand corrected. BUT! I do have a question for ya. I have two leopard tortoises here that I am preparing for somebody. The outer scutes already peeled off months ago when it was in their possesion. Since then i have already peeled off another set, and it appears after drying, that their remains one more layer to get to the bone of the shell. Are tortoises different. I have had the same thing happen on red-eared sliders?

Scutes are one layer in a healthy animal

This response submitted by PA on 06/08/2004 at 11:40. ( )

They are chitenous - similar to fingernails. A fingernail is composed of one "layer", but can be split into various thicknesses, similar to a hoof of a deer or claws on a hawk. Captive animals operate different than in the wild and no fixed rule can be applied to them. Tortoises keep the same scutes throughout life and for many species are a fairly accurate method of aging the animals (again this applies to wild tortoises). Box Turtles for example, have been marked on the plastron with a dremal, the ridges on the scutes counted, then followed for many years, and the scutes re-counted to verify aging. This only works where there is a difference in growth at different times of the year due to environmental factors - i.e. warm and cold season, wet and dry season, or similar. There are areas where tree rings, or fish scales, or scutes aren't able to be used in aging.

My hypothesis on your leopard tortoises and Trachemys underwent some factor which caused this abnormality - disease?, traumatic event?, mineral deficiency, lack of sun or suitable replacement for fixation of minerals, etc.? I have seen some very sickly animals come from zoos where the underlying bone structure is almost non-existent.

Jeremy, post any questions you have here - assuming they are not already covered in the archives. Wetnwild or I ,or others will answer them for you and anyone else who would pose the question in the future.


This response submitted by Jeremy on 06/08/2004 at 22:52. ( )

Will Do PA If I Have A Question On Anything I'll Post It Up. MAN I LOVE THIS WEBSITE! Everything I've ever wanted to know and has taken me years to figure out I Found It Out Here In A Day! Thanks ALot.

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