One of my favorite things to do is walk along the beach and collect shells, sea glass, water worn rocks and sand dollars. These treasures can be found all over our house, tucked on a shelf or piled in a jar. But, no lava from Hawaii; it's bad luck to bring back lava rocks from there. Rumor has it the post office receives hundreds of pounds in the mail each year from tourists claiming their luck went south after they snuck some in their luggage.
We just got back from California and the beaches were littered with sand dollars. I came home with oodles of them - two pounds to be exact. Hopefully many of you brought back a sand dollar or two to remind you of your summer and want to preserve them. Personally, I would love to leave them as I find them; they have such rich colors. Unfortunately, they start to smell over time if you leave them untreated.
Start by soaking your sand dollars in water. I've read online about changing the water until it runs clean. Sand dollars hold a tremendous amount of sand and it is importent to get out as much as you can. I loaded mine into a bucket of water and ran my fingers through them to agitate them. You will be amazed at how much sand comes out of these! Be very gentle while doing this; these are fragile creatures and can break easily.
Once you feel confident you have removed the sand (you can fool yourself into thinking you got it all, but you didn't!) place them into a container with four parts water and one part bleach. Gently shake the container to make sure the sand dollars are completely covered. Let them soak for between 7 - 15 minutes. Don't let them soak longer; the bleach weakens the shell. You might notice I left a few before they became completely bleached. I like the little bit of contrast, but if you want them all white go ahead and remove the ones that are bleached and leave the others in the bleach water for a few more minutes.
You can see them starting to lighten in this photo. Isn't it a cool picture? They look like they are shrouded in the mist.
To truly preserve them just paint them with a mixture of equal parts craft glue and water. If your sand dollar will be regularly handled, or if you just have a few, I recommend this. Mine are going into a large hurricane glass, so I left them uncoated. They probably won't last as many years, but that just means I'll need to go back to the beach to re-stock!
Here they are displayed in my bath; a beautiful reminder of the ocean.