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Degreasing Help

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by sharkey, Jan 28, 2022.

  1. sharkey

    sharkey New Member

    I am an artist and I purchased a bunch of skulls from a couple of new suppliers (I needed skulls fast for an art show and my regular guy was out) and they are all really greasy. I have 6 raccoons, 2 foxes and two coyotes and a bunch of coyote toe bones. I can't paint these with the grease there. Jokes on me now because I won't have what I needed for my art show, but I still need to get these degreased to where I can use them eventually.

    These were all supposedly degreased when I bought them according to the sellers but there's translucent yellow areas all around the backs and bottoms and jaws and the toe bones are yellow translucent and super waxy feeling.

    Anyway I'm super allergic to dawn dish soap because of the fragrance and I can't find any that's fragrance free. I've been using fragrance free seventh generation dish soap but these have been soaking for over a month in buckets with an aquarium heater. It's cold and snowy here, so the buckets are inside my house (I don't have a garage). I don't know if I'm actually making real progress with the 7th gen. The water gets cloudy almost every day so I swap it out for new hot water and dish soap but the oily areas are only slightly improving. I know degreasing takes a long time but I'm sure I could be doing this better and more efficiently.

    I have recently tried adding some lipase (purchased capsules on Amazon meant for digestion issues and I open them and empty into the buckets) which I think might be helping slightly. I'm interested in trying ammonia but I am not sure that's going to be ok in my bathroom where the buckets are. Nothing in here is well ventilated. I'm searching for a container I can seal and then seal the skulls in there with ammonia until it warms up outside. maybe a home depot 5 gal with a lid? will that contain the ammonia fumes safely?

    I'm open to any other suggestions for degreasers which are fragrance free and safe for me to have in my house. Has anyone tried any taxidermy degreasers?
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Stop throwing out your water for one. The cloudiness is not grease. If your water isn't heated to 115 degrees you are not doing much. Add several cups of plain ammonia to your container and set a lid on it. A little bit of a gap isn't going to matter and you won't be smelling anything. Chances are your bones were boiled and the grease will be very difficult to remove. It will never warm up outside enough for you to do this properly so find a way to get the temp up. The ammonia will help some as you are probably not far off from room temp. Ammonia works at lower temperatures. Use the Search feature on here and read up on degreasing. There are a lot of posts on it.
    J.N.L likes this.

  3. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    Ammonia is pungent and not good to inhale. Keep it outside OR inside a bathroom WITH A VENT RUNNING CONTINUOUSLY. I little bit of negative pressure is all you need to keep the fumes from escaping into the living area. If you need this done fast you can try a technique I’ve used with success. Ammonia works at room temp but I’ve found heat accelerates the process. seal the skulls in quality ziplock bags (double or triple bag them) and microwave them just long enough to heat the ammonia to around 100-120 F. Shake the bag vigorously at least 10 minutes and reheat as necessary to keep the temp consistent. Repeat this process for an hour and you’ll have some seriously yellow liquid in the bag. A couple hours will save you weeks of soaking in room temp ammonia.
    1) Watch out not to over heat the ammonia. It can melt the ziplock and then you might have a divorce on your hands.
    2) wait to spouse is asleep to microwave skulls.
    3) wear a Carbon-impgregnated mask to cut the odor. Best to work outside or in a well ventilated space
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Not true if your containers are covered. I currently have two, 5 gallon buckets of ammonia in the kitchen and there is no odor at all. A simple cover on the container is all that is needed. Ammonia does not produce gas that has to escape if pressure builds up. It just sits there.

    Microwaving ammonia is very unwise as well as dangerous. When ammonia is heated, it emits toxic fumes and nitrogen oxides. The potential to superheat the ammonia is very real. If you have melted a ziplock bag doing this you have already left it in there long enough to heat the ammonia past the boiling point.

    Ammonia added to a water and Dawn detergent solution works just fine if heated to 115 degrees in a bucket. There is no odor and it is very easy to put a lid on the container. Even a container of 50/50 ammonia heated does not produce any noticeable odor in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid that is on loose enough to allow a heater cord to exit over the top rim of the container. And heating an ammonia solution this way is not only safe, it doesn't create any issues with other people.
  5. sharkey

    sharkey New Member

    Thank you Sea Wolf and Vulpes for your advice and safety warnings.

    Taking everything into consideration I went out last weekend to get ammonia and a 5 gallon lidded bucket. For some reason ammonia was sold out everywhere - I finally found 2 bottles at wal mart that was the clear version. I was not ready to invest in a better heater yet.

    So with the limited amount of ammonia I got, I did take an idea from the ziploc bags.
    I put the aquarium heater (90 degrees - not ideal, but better than room temp) and water in the 5 gallon bucket. I put the skulls in gallon ziploc bags with ammonia and added a bit of water and dish soap just to cover (about 90:10 ammonia to water) and I floated the bags in the water in the bucket. That way they get heated by the warm water, and I had enough ammonia to go around. There was an added benefit, too since I can then check on each one individually by pulling out the bag to look and I don't have to take them out of the ammonia.
    Then I fit the lid back on loosely.

    I use a respirator, gloves and goggles when dealing with open ammonia containers.

    So it's been a full week and I just pulled out the bags to check on everything.
    I AM AN AMMONIA CONVERT! This was amazing!
    Some of the ammonia in the bags were a deep yellow orange color - I changed out the ammonia in those. I can visibly see the improvement on the greasy areas.
    Some were a little cloudy but I could see theres still a bit to go with the grease. I am leaving those alone.
    There were a few raccoons in just slightly cloudy solution that look like they could be done! These just had minor grease spots that I was trying for over a month to get rid of with soapy water and the spots appear to be completely gone. I pulled those out and am soaking them in just plain water for a bit and then I will let them dry and have a look to see if they are done.
    So far so good!
    Vulpes Vulpes likes this.
  6. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Might want to blame Covid and everyone in a cleaning frenzy. Also possibly the new "supply chain" shortages and the USA becoming Venezuela.

    Take a look at your heater. What type is it? If it is a submersible one, you might well be able to tweak it higher just a little. If the ammonia solution turns yellow, don't toss it out. It will still work until saturated. I would keep letting it work until you don't see any further change in the skull, then change it.