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Cold Water Maceration - Advice?

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Morbid, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. Morbid

    Morbid New Member

    Hi so I am new to the forums, and I am looking to macerate a dog skull. Doing this properly to me is important because it is my dead pet dogs skull. I have wanted to macerate or find a way to clean his skull for years before he died, so no judging please it's a already made decision. I have been doing all the reading up online I can, but nobody seems to be macerating for the same reasons as me. I can't really mess up and then just wait until I obtain a new skull to try again. My ex-boyfrined used to macerate small/medium animals he found dead so I watched him to it many times... to coyotes, dogs, mice... ect. I am 99% sure cold water maceration is the best method. I have read how hot water can often discolor the skull and deteriorate it and ruin it. I have also read cold water maceration is the best for keeping the skull white.

    I went out and tried to get the best materials. I have a 10 gallon fish tank and a 100 watt heater. I read that a tank is best and a tank heater is the best form of heat. The tank because it cant discolor the skull and the heater because you can protect it from touching the skull and keep track of the temps. I have read that hot water maceration is boiling of the skull and cold water maceration is still getting the water hot just not boiling, I read keeping it around 90 degrees is best for cold water maceration. I read about how long it can take. I have read its good to use a little hydrogen peroxide and/or enzyme laundry detergent in the water. My ex never did and his skulls turned out very white and nice and I don't want to risk the integrity of the skull... especially because he was a very very small special needs dog with two soft spots on his head. Do you guys think this is necessary?

    I was also thinking about keeping the tank in the house, possibly in my bathroom. I hear it smells really bad but I want to be able to keep and eye on it and my husband it cool with it. Is it really that horrible or just icky? I can keep it on the back porch but I am worried about animals getting to it. Also his skull is incredibly small, smaller than an apple so I can't see it taking too long.

    I have done all the research I can on I feel like I found pretty good instructions here http://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/natresources/az1144.pdf.

    Do you guys have any advice? Different ways to do anything? Any links to good sites/directions for cold water maceration or would you recommend doing it a different way? Thank you so much!
  2. Morbid

    Morbid New Member

    Oh also I was wondering if the removing of the fur/skin was necessary? Like I said I watched my ex do Cold Water Maceration successfully quite a few times and he never removed the fur/skin. It just took longer from what I have read and he needed to do a lot more water changes. He would dump almost all the water out and fill it up instead of just keeping it toped off. So he could pour all the flesh and stuff out. I mean I can do it either way but I would rather not skin my old pet dog... but it's not a big deal if I have to.

  3. BabyGirl

    BabyGirl Member

    Well thats interesting....I put my skulls in a bucket of water and I have a aquarium heater that doesnt get much higher than 80. I mix a little yeast in the water to get the bacteria going. And getting as much meat and skin off will make it go a lot faster. And yes it can get very stinky.
  4. lizardguts

    lizardguts skull collector

    If your dog was tiny and fragile, it might be better to send the skull off to someone to be beetle cleaned. If you really want to do it yourself though, it'd be a really good idea to buy a couple raw wild animal skulls to practice on first.

    Anyway, cold water maceration is leaving a skull in unheated water to rot, which is extremely slow. What you're referring to is regular maceration. There's no such thing as hot water maceration, that's more simmering or boiling territory. You really don't need a container anywhere near the size of a 10 gallon aquarium for an apple-sized skull, all that's going to do is make it more difficult to heat the water and find the teeth that are going to fall out. If you could get something more along the size of a 5 gallon heavy duty plastic bucket and hook up a submersible aquarium heater, that would work out better. I'd also put the skull inside either a ziploc baggie filled with water or inside pantyhose to help contain the small teeth.

    -Don't add in any chemicals whatsoever, they will kill off bacteria and make the process take longer - all you need is un-chlorinated water.

    -You can just put the head in there whole, but you'll have to deal with all the extra gunk when you sort through it for teeth. Most people remove the fur, tongue, eyes, brain, and extra meat.

    - I reeeally don't recommend keeping it inside the house. The smell is otherworldly and it will cling to everything. I have to change my clothes and take a shower after messing around with the rot buckets for even 5 minutes because of the way it lingers.
  5. Excellent, concise summary by lizardguts. If you want to read more about masceration, I recommend these links:
    Do an advanced search in the Skulls & Skeletons section of the forum for even more info and answers.
  6. joeym

    joeym Jeannette & Joey @ Dunn's Falls

    Skin the head, remove all meat possible, and freeze til hot weather arrives. This summer, place it in a sealed plastic container full of water only. Place where other critters can't get to it, and check it every few days. In hot weather, it should macerate rapidly.

    PS: Remove the bottom jaw and place in one container, and the skull in another. This keeps the teeth from getting mixed up.
  7. Morbid

    Morbid New Member

    Thanks for all the advice. you guys have all been very helpful. His head is already in the freezer now (We cremated the body ourselves). I am in no hurry for the time it takes. I actually work at a animal hospital and they are going to donate a few skulls to me to practice on! They want the macerated skulls back to use for demonstrations though... well if they turn out. I oddly have not heard anybody say the just macerate there skulls all the research I have done points to either hot or cold water... thanks for that info. We have decided if we go through with the cold water maceration process we will wait until summer and do it in a safe place outside. Also the tip for removing the jaw is awesome. I was wondering how long it would take to identify the teeth.

    Also thanks for the links I will read them and look around in the skulls and skeletons section.

    I have also decide to do some research on buying some Dermestid Beetles now and seeing how that goes. What ever I do, I want to do myself. I need to do more research but I initially though/assumed that the beetles would not completely clean the skull. If they don't though I could always macerate it after they do there work or just look up some good clean up methods. I have not really started my research on the beetles but I read bleach can help cleanup there leftovers, I just don't think I want to bleach the skull...

    Anyway thanks again for all your helpful advice!
  8. androidlime

    androidlime New Member

    i'd go with dermisted beetles, i got some for free from a Natural Science research center, phone your local museum and speak to one of the curators. even cold water maceration can make skulls pretty weak, your skull could break apart. i once left a giraffe skull in a bucket of water for way to long and it made some of the bone on the snout area very weak.
  9. Morbid

    Morbid New Member

    I decide to try the Dermestid Beetles first. Also it might be cool to have a colony around anyway, I have always been interested in skulls, skeletons and taxidermy it might start a new hobby. I am going to buy some from a member on this site as soon as I get home from work.

    Where do you guys get these awesome skulls from? Giraffe? I read somebody had a Zebra... thats AWESOME! I hope aside from the snout the giraffe turned out well!
  10. Hey; I am just chiming in with a related question. Can you really leave the skull in a completely sealed container (like a baggie?) inside a larger container of water? I was under the impression that the container had to be vented. Thinking that maybe it's meant that the skull is placed into the baggie while keeping the baggie open, and then floated inside the larger container that's heated? If it could be completely sealed, it'd cut down on odor, but wouldn't the bag explode.
  11. joeym

    joeym Jeannette & Joey @ Dunn's Falls

    Venting not required. The bacteria used for digesting the proteins and lipids in meat are mostly anaerobic (non-oxygen using bacteria).
  12. Jen, A pinhole will suffice in venting the gasses created during maceration out of a baggie. Bags are great for durable specimens, but the can damage fragile things, they also can easily get a larger hole which can cause lost teeth. I personally use 1 quart Yogurt/cottage cheese contains, plastic peanut butter jars to macerate in. They vent just enough but also keep the smell in. Plus you can write on them and use them for peroxide/whitening as the plastic will not react. Containers with secure lids like the peanut butter jars, can be floated on top of a larger tub with other skulls, but keep in mind the outside will get nasty...

    to the original poster...

    Boiling is Boiling, Not maceration. Cold water maceration is done at ambient temps (outdoors or indoors, unheated) Warm water masceration can be done with an in-water heater, Under tank heater, or heat lamp. OR just in a sunny window will help. To whiten, In a open topped glass jar in a sunny window is perfect for the home cleaner.
  13. lizardguts

    lizardguts skull collector

    Check out this site for some good beetle information, and he sells them too - http://www.bonesandbugs.com/dermestid-beetles-faqs.html

    Don't use bleach or anything with bleach in it, it breaks down the bone and makes it flake. To sanitize and whiten it after the beetles are done you can soak it in 3% peroxide for a day or two
  14. androidlime

    androidlime New Member

    Yeah i have 5 giraffe skulls!!!! also have a zebra, hyena, baboon, . i live in South Africa so get hold of all kinds weird stuff.

    i just started a blog thing, i havent uploaded many photos yet but will be soon.
  15. justin_b

    justin_b Just sayin...

    All good info in these replies. You can go with the dermestids if you want, but I've used both in the past and was happier using the maceration method. The main reason, was the fact the degreasing process seemed to take less time with macerated skulls as opposed to beetle cleaned skulls.

    Do not add peroxide to the maceration water, as you will kill off the bacteria that is cleaning the skull.

    My son shot his first squirrel 3 years ago, and I simply put the skull in a glass jar with a lid on it. It was cold outside, so I just set the jar inside my furnace room near the boiler, and within a week or so that skull was as clean as a whistle and since it had a lid there were no odors. Just make sure to not open it in the house as it will knock you flat.

    I degreased it for a day or so in a sealed jar with acetone, dried it, then did a couple hour soak in Baquacil Oxidizer. Sealed it with acetone / paraloid b52 mix and it turned out great.

    On a small skull like you are dealing with, I would recommend getting as much meat and fat off as possible, getting yourself one of the gallon sized pickle jars, put the skull in there, and seal the lid on top. Just find somewhere secure and warm to put it, and let nature do the work for you.

    Beetles work for many people, but for me the fun wore off quickly when they turned into a chore to have around. Especially when trying to keep them healthy and warm in the sub zero temps here in WI.
  16. Thanks for the info.