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bluejay's avatar

Is there any way to tell how long one should sun bleach bones to preserve them?

Asked by bluejay (1009points) September 4th, 2012

Okay I’ve read that bones need to be sun bleached for one year to get rid of all the grease, but when I found this raccoon skeleton it had already started bleaching, so is there any way to tell how much longer it needs to sun bleach for? Also would it hurt it to bleach for more than a year?

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6 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Ive found a couple skulls while in the woods. Some old others looked retty recent. I’ve always just soaked them in bleach to clean them then left them in the sun for a couple days. Mine seem to be holding up well.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have skulls, jaw bones etc. from assorted animals. I don’t know how long they had been lying in the sun before I found them but they were clean and white. I have never done anything to them since I found them.

syz's avatar

Ant mounds are fantastic for cleaning any non-bone remnants, but you have to place them (the bones) in a screened “cage” so that they don’t drag off the tiny bones.

I don’t know for sure, but my guess would be when they are uniformly bleached in appearance.

fundevogel's avatar

@uberbatman Personally I’d stay away from store bought bleach. I used to use it when I was young to clean bones, but they’ll be more brittle and they certainly won’t have that nice polish naturally bleached bones can get. And @syz I kinda doubt ants would be very interested bones that aren’t attached to some sort of flesh.

I definitely had more than my share of animals rotting in the backyard as a kid and I certainly let the ants and maggots do the heavy lifting at the front end, but ultimately they always left a somewhat sinewy pile of bones, fur or feathers. It seems to me that’s the sort of condition @bluejay‘s bones are already in. I can’t speak to times, but at this point, faced with that collection of bones I would probably try this:

1. Get a five gallon bucket and drill a shit ton of holes in the bottom for drainage. If you want to be fancy you could use a big flower pot.

2. Fill it up with dirt, preferably dirt from the ground in all it’s microby goodness. Store bought will be cleaner dirt so people don’t have to worry about getting their plants sick. You’re not worried about plants. You want things to digest all those random bits of organic matter on your bones. It should be noted that some dirt can have a reddish pigment and can stain bones. It won’t damage them, just color them a bit. If you’re concerned about this stay away from reddish dirt.

3. Bury your bones in the pot! Maybe put them in a mesh bag first to make it easier to find them all when you dig them up.

4. At that point I’d just leave the bucket outside and out of the way. Make sure that it will drain as you don’t want to encourage mold or fungus growth. I’d give it three months and then check in on the bones and either give them a quick rinse and scrub with an old tooth brush before proudly adding them to my shelf or rebury them for more pleasing results.

Hope this helps :)

bluejay's avatar

I didn’t really explain the condition of the bones good enough. It was just the bones, and a little dirt. I cleaned the dirt off them, and boiled them, and now I’m letting them sun bleach. They are looking amazing. I found out it has to sun bleach for a year before it’ll be ready for reconstruction!

fundevogel's avatar

yay! I hope it all goes well :)

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