How To Preserve Turtle Shell – Everything You Need To Know

How To Preserve Turtle Shell - Everything You Need To Know
Written by Emma Watson

There can be two most possible situations when someone wants to preserve a turtle’s shell. It can be the moment when you find a nice turtle shell during your hike and want to keep it for good. And for all the other times, it is the worst moment for all the pet owners… the death of their pet!

Turtle’s have one of the greatest lifespans in pet amphibians and reptiles. They can even outlive you. However, if, unfortunately, your best pet friend left you alone, you can still keep it with you. Turtles shells can be preserved for hundreds of years if done correctly. Also, you can do the same with its skull.

However, if you are skittish and don’t like the idea, this article might not be for you.

Being said that, let us begin.

Decompose The Remains

You do not start with preserving the shell as soon as the turtle dies. If the shell still has the body inside, you need to wait for it to decompose.

Leave the turtle in the wild open air or bury it in your backyard having moisture. Remember where you left your turtle. Some people may recommend using acid to remove away the turtle’s body. However, that can be super dangerous and difficult to handle. The best practice is to let it decompose in a natural way.

Also, you need to keep check on it. Although the process can be time taking and depends mainly on the size of the body, you can start checking after one to two weeks.

Clean The Remain

Now, if you see all the organic matter is eaten away, you can carry on with the next step. Cleaning is the most crucial part in preserving a turtle’s shell. Make sure you clean every bit from the inside.

These are the important steps you can follow while cleaning a shell

  1. Start by brushing off the dirt. You may locate some bones and remain in the shell too.
  2. Use a toothbrush to reach the inner part of the shell and clean every corner. Make sure everything is out of the shell. Remove all the insects, grease, or diet.
  3. If anything is hard to come out, do not use some severe agents or bleach. Use borax in a liter of water. Submerge it in this solution for half an hour and then try to remove it. Everything will come off easily.
  4. You can then proceed by boiling the shell in hot water. This will remove the leftovers, if any, and kill the bacteria. However, this step will emit a pretty bad odor. So, make sure to do it in a well-ventilated place.
  5. Leave the shell in hot water for 2-4 hours.
  6. Do not add bleach in the water. It will destroy the remaining colors and parts of the shell.
  7. End up submerging the shell in the vinegar solution for half an hour.
  8. Now, dry the shell completely. Your shell is now ready for the next step.


If you still fear there are harmful microbes in or on the shell, you can caryy on with this step. I will not say the fear is unreal. Turtles have multiple harmful bacterias on them. Moreover, the decomposition increase the impact.


So, it will be great to clean the shell with any alcohol based disinfectant. However, use one that is specified for amphibians and reptiles.

F10SC Veterinary Disinfectant (200ml) by F10 SC is one of the best disinfectants you can use in this process. It will not harm internal structures and colors. You can Find It On Amazon and get it delivered to your doorstep.

Glue It

If some of the scales and scutes start falling off, that’s completely normal. You can easily glue it back using super glue. Make sure everything is nice and secure.

Final Coat

The final coat of varnish or Polyurethane is one that protects the shell from damage for a long time. Also, it protects it from any scratch and gives it that extra shine. Some people coat the shell with lacquer. It gives it a nice shine for some time. However, it is not very protective against scratch.

If you want to make the shell flake and scratch resistant, Polyurethane will do the magic. Spay this coat and let it dry completely to get the best results.

Felt Underneath

When you place your turtle’s shell on an item of furniture or hang it on the wall, it will get damaged. The damage is suspected not only to the furniture but also to the shell. So, to prevent this and preserve every bit of the shell, you can add a felt underneath. This will make your shell easily placable, slip-proof, and also damage-proof.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How Do You Clean And Preserve A Turtle Shell?

You can clean the shell using a brush. Also, the borax and vinegar solution helps to remove the remains. Soak in any for more than half an hour to get the best result. Also, the hot water bath for 1-2 hours helps to clean every bit.

  • How Do You Keep A Turtle’s Shell Healthy?

A dead turtle’s shell does not decay. It remains in its 1st-day condition. However, if you are worried about maintaining the health of your living turtle’s shell, you need to focus on your diet. Use a high calcium food (supplement added). Also, add other essential vitamins and minerals to make sure the diet is well balanced. Only then will the shell remain healthy and free of any damage.

  • How Do You Keep A Turtle’s Shell From Getting Soft?

The lack of calcium and vitamin D in the diet of the turtle makes its shell soft and corrode away. To avoid this make sure you feed a well-balanced diet to your turtle. If your pet’s shell is too soft, you will not be able to preserve it. So, take care of this from the very beginning.

  • Is Acid Treatment Necessary?

No acid treatment is not recommended in preserving a turtle’s shell, especially when you are not professional. If you fear you cannot remove the remains or can damage the shell in the process, seek professional help.

  • My Turtle’s Shell Is Peeling. Is It A Disease?

No, turtles normally shed their shells. The scutes are removed to prevent any kind of block among them, which can lead to severe infection.

  • Can We Preserve The Shed Turtle’s Scutes?

Yes, you can preserve the turtle’s scutes the same way as preserving the whole shell.

Final Thoughts

I tried to cover each and every aspect related to preserving a turtle’s shell in this article. Whether to preserve your turtle or not? This can be difficult to decide. However, doing this needs some courage. Also, your turtle will not be affected even a bit if you do this. Just it’s a nice way to keep your lovely friend with you till the very end.

If you fear you cannot handle all this process, you can contact professionals to assist you in the process. In case of any further queries, you may drop down the comment. We would be happy to help.