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How to Clean and Whiten a Deer Skull

The Best Way to Whiten a Deer Skull | European Skull Mounts

There is something special about seeing an unblemished European mount on the wall. Deer shoulder mounts and even full mounts have their place, but the allure and simplicity of a skull mount cannot be denied. The problem that many people run into, however, is that they do not take the time to properly prepare their mount and often use the wrong whitening methods. Such problems can have unfortunate results down the road. Here is the best way to clean and whiten a deer skull.

How to Clean a Deer Skull

The first step in the process is to clean the skull for shipment. Cleaning a deer skull does not take much time, and it will save some shipping expenses if it’s being sent in for beetle cleaning. Once we receive the skull, it will be placed into the dermestid beetle colonies for them to work their magic. After they have thoroughly cleaned the skull of all its remaining tissue, it is degreased accordingly for the species. Some animals take longer to do this step than others because their skulls are naturally greasier, but deer skulls usually only take three to five days to finish the degreasing process. After drying, it is finally time for the deer skull whitening process.

How to Whiten a Deer Skull

There are several skull whitening products to use when whitening a deer skull. Most people are familiar with whitening a deer skull with bleach, but there are a few problems with this approach. Bleach is a strong chemical that can quickly cause a deer skull to deteriorate if not mixed properly or left in for too long. In time the deer skull mount will become brittle, which is largely because the bleach removed collagen and weakened it.

Beetle Juice Skull Works uses a safe, two-step whitening process to ensure a beautiful looking mount that will be strong for years to come. We start by painting on a generous amount of the skull whitening paste, starting on the back of the skull and working forward. In order to completely whiten a deer skull, the solution needs to be worked into every small crevice and joint area to ensure nothing is left un-whitened. This includes completely coating the teeth, which are often very dark in appearance. Then the back of the eye sockets are painted with the solution to ensure a uniform coat. We make sure to not paint any of the whitening solution on the antlers, or they could be unnaturally lightened. Finally, we liberally smear the solution into the nasal cavity area, which contains several delicate bones. After drying for a week, the skull mount is examined for any other blemishes that might need more whitening. If necessary, we will whiten a deer skull again to ensure a clean product.

 

Like a good bear skull, a deer skull is a trophy to be proud of. They seem to command more respect than smaller animal skulls (especially if they’re sporting a great set of antlers). If you want to make a recent deer harvest into a fun and lasting memory, consider getting a European mount whitened the right way.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Skull?

European Mounting | The Best Way To Clean a Skull

After days (or even weeks) in the field, you finally managed to put your hit-list buck, or bucket-list moose, elk, or bear on the ground. It’s a great feeling holding the trophy in your hands and you can already see that beautiful European mount up on the wall in your living room. But then you start to wonder about the best way to clean a skull for that kind of a mount. We’ve all heard horror stories of others who have tried and ruined their European mounts. You definitely don’t want to join that club!

Questions are probably swarming through your mind. “What fancy taxidermy equipment do I need? Do I bleach my deer skull or is that bad? Could I even do this all at home?”

There are several methods to clean a skull and finish a European mount, but only one that seems to consistently be the best way to clean a skull. And if you’re going for a trophy you’d be proud to hang on the living room wall, you need to do it right. Otherwise, it will be quickly downgraded to the garage wall. So if you’re wondering how to clean a deer skull (or any other species), this post discusses the pitfalls and drawbacks to the other approaches of cleaning a skull, and then discusses the dermestid beetle method.

Different Ways of Cleaning a Skull 

As mentioned, there are a few options to produce a European deer mount or any type of European skull mount.

what is the best way to clean a skull featureThe first and oldest option of doing it is to simply hang it up somewhere out of sight or bury it in the ground until nature takes its course. While this is the most hands-off approach and does effectively clean the skull, it has a few unpleasant outcomes. First, it can take several months or more to get a mostly-clean skull. Second, burying the skull may cause yellowing as dirt and other chemical reactions in the soil tarnish the naturally white color. Sometimes leaving it out may even turn the skull a greenish color, which isn’t appealing unless it’s part of a camouflage paint job. Strike one.

Another option is to simply submerge the skull into a pot of boiling water, which produces a soup of unpleasant-looking materials. This may work somewhat well, but the hot water leaches minerals out of the bone and softens it, which could cause it to become brittle much sooner than it should. Even submerging it in simmering water for a longer time period can do swell the bones and leach minerals. Plus, you still have to scrape the skull to remove some of the unpleasantness when it’s done. Definitely not the best way to clean a skull. Strike two.

After cleaning it, you may consider bleaching a deer skull to whiten it further and make it look more striking against the dark antlers. Unfortunately, using chlorine bleach on the bone will also break down the bone structure and make it extremely brittle. A deer mount that crumbles within a few years is a pity. Strike three. So where does that leave you?

How to Do a European Mount with Beetles

Now that you know the potential problems with the other methods, here’s why you should consider the Beetle Juice Skull Works method. Though we’re heavily discussing deer skulls here, you can apply the same principles to almost any other species. Dermestid beetles are a type of beetle that eats the flesh of dead animals. Obviously, that makes them very useful for this exercise. Since they are small, they can completely eat (i.e., clean) flesh from the smallest nooks and crannies, including cleaning the nasal cavity of a deer skull. This also makes it the most hands-off and best way to clean a skull.

what is the best way to clean a skull featureThe first step in the process is to skin the skull and remove as much flesh as you can, which will reduce the amount of material to be removed. The lower jaw, eyes, nose, and neck should all be removed to save you money on shipping, but they can be removed by the company as well. The brain will usually also be removed before placing the skull into the colony since these can break down into juicy problems for the beetles. Check out the step-by-step video tutorial below to prepare your skull.

The skull is then placed into the beetle colony, where the bugs begin to feast. A deer skull can be completely stripped of flesh within 24 hours of being placed in a colony, while larger skulls (i.e., moose, elk, etc.) may take a few days. What’s best about this approach is that the bone remains intact and strong, including the thin nasal cavity bones. That’s very hard to accomplish with the other methods, which is another reason this is the best way to clean a skull.

After the bugs have finished their dinner, the skulls are dipped into a special chemical solution to kill any remaining bugs or their larvae and eggs. Then the process of degreasing bones can happen, which will occur for varying durations (depending on the species). Deer skulls will typically take three to five days, while bears or hogs, which tend to be more oily, can take up to a month.

Why Beetle Juice Skull Works?

You could theoretically raise dermestid beetles on your own for this purpose, but you’d have to be very dedicated. A healthy colony will require a lot of attention, which can be hard for the average consumer to keep up with throughout the year. And since you’ll likely only need this kind of beetle colony a time or two in the fall, shipping your skull to this service just makes more sense. Unless your kids are looking for some new and exotic pets to add to the family.

So if decorating with deer mounts is your thing, you should strongly consider the beetle approach for doing a European mount. As you can see, it’s easily the best way to clean a skull and it will produce the best-looking European mount you can get, regardless of what animal you chase.