After visiting the Caribbean, many tourist are surprised to find an foul odor developing from their purchased conch shell. The sharp stench is almost always attributed to small bits and pieces of the shell’s previous inhabitant beginning to decompose and develop high bacterial levels.
There are fortunately several things that can be done to deodorize the shell. By following some of the below household solutions, you can be sure that your conch shell will be sterilized, deodorized and a positive part of your home’s decor.
This is an unconventional method, but many people swear by it's effectiveness. Fin a location within the yard where many bugs or ant congregate. Out of all possible areas, ant hills are the most idea location. Place the conch shell down on the ground and leave it there for 3-4 weeks. During this time, ants and other scavenger bugs will go to work in cleaning meaty bits and residues out of the conch shell. Upon completion of this time period, bring the shell in the home and wash it.
The solution of boiling will do several things to help remove the odor of decomposing remains within the conch shell. It will work to kill any bacteria living on the organic bit. Bacteria is usually based within the rotting meat of shell and often represents the source of the smell. As a secondary function, boiling the shell will have the effect of loosening the meaty bits attached to the interior walls of the shell. As a rule of thumb, you will want to boil the shell for 30-60 minutes for best results.
In a similar function to boiling, freezing will also kill the bacteria and loosen any organic bits within the shell. The cold temperature of the freezer has the effect of killing the bacteria due to it's inability to survive in such cold temperatures. Place the smelly conch shell within a sealed trash bag and place this bag within the freezer. Allow for it to remain within the freezer for 2-3 days before retrieving it and removing the shell from the bag to air outside within the yard.
Using this method requires several months to deodorize, but it remains an effective solution. Find a nice dirt spot within the yard and dig a 2 foot deep hole. Place the conch shell in the hole and fill the dirt in behind it. Additionally, it's important place a small stake in the dirt to serve as a reminder of where the conch shell is buried. Allow the conch shell to rest in the dirt for 3-4 months before returning to dig it out. As a final precaution, be careful not to chip the shell with a shovel while digging it up.
This powerful form of household alcohol can work to kill all of the bacteria that may be living off the microbial organics within the conch shell. Fill a large bucket with one part rubbing alcohol to four parts water and proceed to submerge the conch shell within the mixture. Allow the conch shell to soak within the solution for 24 to 48 hours before removing the shell and preforming a thorough rinse of it.
As a final solution, you can simply decide that you are going to wait the smell out. You can do this by placing the shell in the most remote corner of your property and provide 1-2 months for the organic bits to naturally dry out and decompose.
Photo credit: Craig Dennis