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Starting a Skeleton Cleaning Lab: need help with degreaser

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by SUNYfishhead, Mar 27, 2007.

  1. SUNYfishhead

    SUNYfishhead New Member

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    I'm a Fish and wildlife technician at a New York State University and I'm starting a skull cleaning/skeleton preparation lab. I currently have a 50 gallon aquarium set up as a beetle box that has been going for 3 months and is working out beautifully. My question starts after the beetles have finished.

    I have been doing small skeleotons (squirrels, rats, fish, deer jaws) for a while now with no problems but with numerous students prepareing to work on larger fare (particularly a full skeketon of a mute swan) i'm haveing trouble getting the bones white. I'm useing 35% hydrogen peroxide as a whitening agent (ive been diluting to 3-5% should I be doing this?) but I don't use anything for degreasing. My question really is a two parter 1) what should I be useing that I can get in bulk for relatively cheap? and 2) where is a good place to find said degreaser?
     
  2. wacbravo

    wacbravo TEAM WAC

    The cheapest degreaser to use would be ammonia cut for 50% with distilled water. At the university here, though, we have access to large amounts of reagent grade acetone and that works just as well.
     

  3. RedWolf7

    RedWolf7 Member

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    I have reagent grade waste solvents that work really well. Acetone, dichloromethane, hexane, etc., work wonderfully. I have a coyote and a caracal skull that I've soaked in a large beaker overnight with foil taped to seal it. In the morning I poured off all the now bright yellow solvent and replaced it with fresh. Usually only one solvent replacement is needed, sometimes more if the bones are greasy. When it pours clear I'm done. I set it on a rack under the fume hood for a couple of hours to evaporate the solvent. It's usually quite a bit whiter at that point - rancid fat blackens and darkens bones. Turpentine works well and is cheap, but it STINKS! The skulls will have to air out at least a week to make sure it all evaporates. Varsol works even better and is available at any auto supply store. It smells solventy, but it evaporates faster.

    If I'm degreasing a thicker bone, such as a femur, I drill a couple of small holes in inconspicuous places so the solvent can penetrate and dissolve out the fat in the bone marrow.

    3% hydrogen peroxide works just fine. I use the peroxide before drying the skull for the degreasing. The peroxide soak seems to bring more fat to the surface than going straight to the solvent.
     
  4. SUNYfishhead

    SUNYfishhead New Member

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    My university is pretty small and I don't have access to any of those solvents in quantities that would suit the volume of skeletons that I need to clean. Looks like I'm sticking with good ol' NH3. Thanks for the help guys.
     
  5. RStanton

    RStanton New Member

    be sure to peruse the old archives for a variety of options, and a lot of discussion of the environmental and ecological implications for their use.