The exoskeletons of sand dollars can be found washed up on beaches along the American coasts. These familiar shells are white, 3-inch-round objects with a beautiful five-pointed star shape on the top of the shell. While alive, sand dollars are covered in small, dark purple spines which help them move along the ocean floor and stir up food like crab larvae, which sand dollars eat. While they are alive, their well-known five-pointed stars are hidden by the spines. Sometimes, sand dollars are off-white or brown from lying on the beach. A bleach-water solution can whiten up a sand dollar for display.
Items you will need
- 5-gallon bucket
- Clean water
- Rubber gloves
- Paper towels
Fill a 5-gallon bucket with clean, clear tap water. Place collected sand dollars in the bucket. Let the sand dollars soak for one hour. Observe the water; carefully remove sand dollars and dump out cloudy water. Refill the bucket with fresh, clean water and soak sand dollars again for another hour.
Remove sand dollars from bucket. Dump out the water. Fill the bucket with 3 1/2 gallons of fresh, clean water and 1 1/2 gallons of bleach so that you create a solution that is 30 percent bleach and 70 percent water. Let the solution stand for 15 minutes.
Put on a pair of rubber gloves and carefully place sand dollars in the bleach-water solution. Allow the sand dollars to soak for 10 minutes. Remove them from the the bleach water and let them air-dry on clean paper towels.
Spray sand dollars with clear acrylic preservative spray, if desired, to keep the sand dollars white and protect them from decomposing over time.
Tips & Warnings
- If you notice a sand dollar that appears pink or purple in color and has small hairs covering it, place it back into the ocean and do not collect it as it is still alive. Collect and clean dead sand dollars only.
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