enter image description hereenter image description here My grandpa found this deer skull way out in the back of a golf course (he works there) and brought it home for me. I don't mind leaving the color the way it is, I just wonder, what is the best way to clean/disinfect the skull? I want it to be nice and clean (worried about bugs eating away at the bone) before I coat it with polyurethane. Does soaking it in a hydrogen peroxide & water mixture for a few hours clean up any bugs, without altering the color too much? Thank you for your input.

  • 2
    H2O2 or hydrogen peroxide is what is used for bleaching hair - it will kill bacteria etc very effectively and probably whiten bone, but shouldn't chemically attack the bone like bleach (hypochlorite) will.
    – bob1
    Dec 7, 2019 at 0:23
  • Vinegar can be used to clean off certain but not all bacteria/fungi - however if you find a way to clean it up and keep the colour a clear coat of a lightweight varnish will help preserve it if you feel inclined to do so. My brother in law boiled up one of his deer skulls from a hunt and that was it (cleaned off the remaining flesh).
    – Aravona
    Dec 9, 2019 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


I have a fair little collection of bones and skulls at home, which I have gathered since I was a kid on countless hikes and vacations in the great outdoors.

What I normally do:

  • If the skull doesn't stink that generally means there is no longer any decomposing flesh on it - and the odours would also the main problem for me when taking it indoors. From the looks of your photo this might be the case here, as the shown discolourations generally take a while to form during witch all the organic parts will be eaten away by your helpful woodland friends such as ants, etc.

    So what I do is generally just cleaning the skulls with some warm water and little dish soap. If there is some dirt I might use some mechanical way of cleaning, i.e. an old toothbrush / hand brush. The soap should get rid of most bacteria on the surface, and, at least in my experience, was completely sufficient if your just planning to place the skull on the mantlepiece or some shelf. (I'm guessing you're not planning to create a skull chalice to drink wine from, are you? ;))

  • Now, if the skull still has a strong odour and/or you still see bits of flesh/skin/... then you will have to find a stronger/more agressive way of cleaning it - otherwise the stench will certainly prevent you from keeping it as a souvenir. There are multiple ways to go about this (aggressive chemicals, ants, ...), I suggest having a look at some Youtube videos.


I like the answer by @fgysin and agree that is the current condition, soap and water is all you need.

If there there was still meat on the bone AND if you live out in country, take the skull to an ant nest and let them clean the meat off. Leave the skull next to the nest for a few weeks until it is all clean. When it is clean move it a few feet away for a day or so, this will give any ants on it a chance to get back to their home. Then take it to your home for a cleaning with soap and water.

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