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Cleaning mould and varnish off sea shell
10-05-2016, 08:16 AM,
Cleaning mould and varnish off sea shell

I purchased a beautiful Triton's trumpet about 1.5 years ago from a local in Fiji who had covered the shell in some kind of clear varnish. I've just taken a look at the shell and discovered that there are spots of black mould growing under the varnish, and the varnish is chipping off in many places.

Does anyone have any suggestions about what I should do to restore the shell? I'm worried that the mould and flaking varnish will damage the shell.

Thanks for your advice!

02-10-2017, 07:50 AM, (This post was last modified: 02-11-2017, 02:43 PM by paul monfils.)
RE: Cleaning mould and varnish off sea shell
Hi Charlene,

A shell can be soaked in paint thinner, or in a similar organic solvent like xylene or toluene, without damage. That will remove the varnish. It may not remove the mold. If not, let the shell dry thoroughly, then soak in a bleach solution (1 part Chlorox to 9 parts water), which will remove the mold quickly. Then rinse well with water.

However: If the shell is dull looking after removal of the varnish, it is not because the solvents damaged the shell. It is because the shell was originally dead collected and dull, which is why the collector varnished it in the first place. I suspect this is likely the case. There would be no reason to varnish a fresh collected triton specimen, because it would already be more glossy and bright than the varnish could possibly make it.

If the shell does turn out to be dead collected and dull, you can improve its appearance after removing the varnish and thoroughly drying the shell, by applying a light coating or two of aerosol acrylic spray. This will bring out the color and give the shell some gloss without the ugly appearance and gradual yellowing you get with varnish.

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