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Skull Whitening

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Marissa Boettcher, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. Marissa Boettcher

    Marissa Boettcher New Member

    Hi everybody!

    Would anybody mind sharing their skull cleaning/whitening protocol and the chemicals you typically use (if any)? I manage a research lab at NC State University and the chemicals we get through the school are crazy expensive so I'd like to try alternative methods. Thanks in advance for any advice!
  2. Try a search of this forum and you will find a lot of information- but generally the hydrogen peroxide that is used for whitening is the 27% sold via pool companies. One brand is Baquacil and runs around $20 per gallon.
    joeym and The Nugget Company like this.

  3. Strong ammonia from hardware stores. Grocery store for extra strength Dawn.
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    There is a ton of free info on here going back to at least 2006. Here is a link to the "Advanced Search" https://www.taxidermy.net/search/ . Select just the Skulls and Skeletons section. Use terms like skull cleaning, skull whitening, bone whitening .. cleaning etc. Good search terms will give better results. Make a pot of coffee and start reading. Best results for museum quality work would be to macerate clean, degrease the bones in a heated detergent solution, then whiten with peroxide. Many museums do not degrease, just clean, but those specimens are going into a drawer somewhere not really for show/display. After whitening, I seal all bone with Paraloid B-72 which you might be familiar with. We have folks on here from Carnegie Museum, Penn State and other surprising places. They will probably chip in as well. Use the Search though and start reading. Some pages are set up as tutorials, many have pictures. Many of the folks on here are trying to earn a living at this so, spending huge amounts of $$$ on materials isn't cost productive. Things make take a bit longer but the results are well worth it.
  5. msestak

    msestak Well-Known Member

  6. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Someone from a university may want to preserve skulls for study or for a collection. MP's method deliberately damages a skull by breaking off parts of it because they are inconvenient to clean. Someone working on a scientific collection would have to alter that method in several areas to preserve the bone that his process destroys.

    It's a good tutorial for someone who wants to knock out a fast trophy for someone to stick on their brag wall. Hopefully he will log back on someday and restore the pictures.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
    msestak likes this.
  7. PA

    PA Well-Known Member

    Greetings Marissa,
    Research specimens in museums are not usually prepared for display but instead for scientific study. Pay absolutely NO Attention to the post on the 5 hours skull mentioned. Assuming you are prepping primates or other mammal for Adam, the standard method is use of a dermestid beetle colony which certainly should be at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. If you do all the prep, the person who manages the colony can simply pop in the prepped skulls of skeletons and run them for you. There is no better way to prepare museum material (aside for extremely stinky maceration which I avoid at every opportunity I can). Light degreasing/washing off of frass is all that is usually necessary. Removing all the grease can be done by long term soaking in dish detergent with slightly elevated temperatures or soaking in ammonia for extended times but there is more risk to the specimen by removing deep seated grease than leaving it there.
    msestak likes this.
  8. msestak

    msestak Well-Known Member

    FYI: she never said what she was doing with the skulls. all she asked was...

    "Would anybody mind sharing their skull cleaning/whitening protocol and the chemicals you typically use (if any)? I manage a research lab at NC State University and the chemicals we get through the school are crazy expensive so I'd like to try alternative methods."

    if thats all she wanted, there is nothing wrong with the 5 hour method.
    if she wanted to clean them for scientific purposes then your methods are better :)
  9. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Best guess is that she is working for a University lab. Universities want stuff for their collections and they need to be perfect. Mikes process deliberately damages a skull, and without the owners permission to do so. He says they don't care and they don't notice that he broke it. I bet plenty do. They are not free of grease and have to be spray painted to cover it, look fair initially but I would be willing to bet that in 5 years or so the internal grease has come to the surface, bubbled the paint and they look like crap. The process is good for knocking out something fast for someone in a hurry to slap on a garage wall and not really care about it. If you want to see Pro quality work, look at what The Dog does .. though he changed his user name now and I can't remember it. :)
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  10. landdepot

    landdepot Active Member

    Paraloid B-72

    I'm unfamiliar with this,..what type of finish/sheen does it leave on the bone? What is the advantage of using it ? Thanks -Aaron
  11. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Paraloid B-72 is a product I have been using for years. I was put onto this from the staff at Harvard Museum in Massachusetts. The coating you get is 100% dependent on you. You can have a coating that is barely seen to something that resembles glass. There are many converts on here that use it now. The biggest advantages are there is no waste. If you use an acrylic spray, most of that spray ends up everyplace else except the target. The paraloid is a dip. Dunk, submerge it, pull it out and let it drip dry. All drips and material that runs off of it is returned to your container to be dissolved and used again. If you have a skull that someone boiled and ruined it, it will stop the bone from powdering and flaking apart as well as stabilize the damaged bone and strengthen it. If you find the solution you have is a little to thick, you add more solvent. If it is too thin, you can either add a bit more resin or allow some of the solvent to evaporate. It is crystal clear, has no color and will not yellow. If a skull gets dirty from sitting on a shelf or from being handled by someones kid with chocolate fingers it is easily washed with soap and water. If you use it and note that some of the more dense areas of bone have a slight sheen, a light rub with a clean rag dampened with the solvent removes the shine.
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  12. landdepot

    landdepot Active Member

    Thanks for the response,.....I'll check it out on a future project.
    msestak likes this.
  13. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    BTW, that horse skull in the above picture is also sealed with it.
  14. landdepot

    landdepot Active Member

    Thanks,..thats good. I don't like shiny,..that looks just right for my eye.
  15. Devin Stephen

    Devin Stephen New Member

    What type of container do you keep your mixture in?
  16. 13 point

    13 point Well-Known Member

    Where can you get this B-72 that you speak of ? Please and thank you
  17. YetisburgAddress

    YetisburgAddress New Member

    Sometimes it's listed by its old name, "Acryloid B-72".
    I use it in the Natural History collection I help care for at a small museum. It's honestly fantastic; Connecting to Collections Care and the AAM have consistently mentioned it in their texts and approve of its usage for its archival properties.
    It's reversible and the least intrusive method for labeling, making small repairs, affixing, etc. We typically purchase it in the bottle with applicator for ease of use, either from University Products or Gaylord.

  18. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Google search for Paraloid B72 or B 72. You will find more than one place. Compare prices with shipping. I highly recommend that you do NOT purchase the already made up liquid. Not only is it ridiculously expensive, it is now considered hazardous/explosive and will be a nightmare to ship. Get the kilo of crystals and you will be set for skull work for over a year. I believe the last bag I bought was from http://www.museumservicescorporation.com/scat/co.html but, check prices and you may find a better deal.

    Very easy to keep in a Home Depot 5 gallon bucket. Any paint bucket should do. Make sure there is a 2 in the triangle on the bottom. You can use acetone or denatured alcohol to dissolve it in. There are lots of posts on this stuff in the archives.
    Devin Stephen likes this.