How to clean and bleach animal skulls safely

Thorough cleaning before bleaching is the key to attractive white hunting trophies that will stand the test of time. Here are some instructions on how to clean and bleach a skull without using strong concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.

Scrape out and rinse

Keep the skull intact or cut it in two if you wish. Scrape out as much flesh, blood and brain matter as possible. Also remove the fine bone structure inside the nose, which will allow you to reach the material behind it. If you wish to keep the skull intact, rinse it via the spinal opening to remove brain matter. You can also push a stick or tweezers around inside the skull to remove this. Put the cleaned skull in a bucket of water for 48 hours.

Boil the skull clean

Put the skull in a big pan and boil steadily until all the fat and flesh comes away. Be careful not to boil it for too long, otherwise the bones will start falling apart. The boiling time varies, but a deer skull takes between two and three hours. Make sure you remove all the fat and flesh from the skull. When you have finished boiling the skull and it is completely clean, leave it to cool.

Place in hydrogen peroxide

Place the cooled skull in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide. Use 5–10% hydrogen peroxide. Remember to use gloves and protective goggles. Leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide until it has reached the desired whiteness. For a deer skull, this usually takes 24 hours. Be careful not to leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide for too long.

Rinse well in clean water

Then rinse the skull well under running water. It is important to do this thoroughly, otherwise the hydrogen peroxide will continue to act. The skull would then gradually crumble away. Leave the skull somewhere cool to dry. When the skull is dry, you can glue back any bones that have come loose using wood glue. This is transparent when it dries, so you won't be able to see it.

Step by step guide to bleaching skulls:

  • Cut the skull or keep it whole
  • Wash out flesh, blood and brain matter. Rinse with warm water
  • Leave the cleaned skull in a bucket of water for 48 hours
  • Boil the skull carefully until all the fat and flesh comes away
  • Place the cleaned and cooled skull in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide (5–10%)
  • When the skull has reached the desired whiteness, rinse it thoroughly under running water and leave somewhere cool to dry