Sitka Gear
Degreasing Deer Skull
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
Whitetail123 30-Aug-21
Whitetail123 30-Aug-21
ohiohunter 30-Aug-21
Habitat 30-Aug-21
Whitetail123 30-Aug-21
smarba 30-Aug-21
smarba 30-Aug-21
Whitetail123 30-Aug-21
t-roy 30-Aug-21
Stoneman 30-Aug-21
t-roy 30-Aug-21
Stoneman 30-Aug-21
skull 30-Aug-21
skull 30-Aug-21
Pete-pec 30-Aug-21
Pete-pec 30-Aug-21
skull 30-Aug-21
30-Aug-21
I have a deer skull that had been left with the skin on for 6 months and dried out. A few weeks ago I put it in water and tried the maceration method. Almost all of the flesh is gone now. There is some staining by the teeth, and the surrounding area. Is degreasing absolutely necessary? Is it alright if I try to whiten it and skip the degreasing process? I understand that during the six months the grease has set, and the staining might not leave. Any feedback would be appreciated.

30-Aug-21
I have a deer skull that had been left with the skin on for 6 months and dried out. A few weeks ago I put it in water and tried the maceration method. Almost all of the flesh is gone now. There is some staining by the teeth, and the surrounding area. Is degreasing absolutely necessary? Is it alright if I try to whiten it and skip the degreasing process? I understand that during the six months the grease has set, and the staining might not leave. Any feedback would be appreciated.

From: ohiohunter
30-Aug-21
You’ve waited this long. If it’s free of all flesh just soak it in dawn dish soap.. or simmer it. Either way it’s best to apply your whitening agent when the skull is still damp. Then end result is entirely up to you.

From: Habitat
30-Aug-21
You can buy a whitening kit from van dykes which is the easiest

30-Aug-21
I have a whitening kit with some degreasing solution, and whitening solution. I’m just hesitant on simmering because I’m concerned I may mess up the antlers or over do it and weaken the skull. Any tips on how to keep the antlers above the water?

From: smarba
30-Aug-21
A soak for several days in warm water with something like Dawn dish soap or other degreaser will work wonders. Then pressure wash. Then paint with Sally Beauty Supply 30, 40 or 50 Volume (a peroxide whitener) with a couple tablespoons of Sally Quick White powder mixed in and let sit for a day or few. Wash off and you'll be pleased.

Deer skulls typically don't have a lot of grease, but I think it'll turn out cleaner and have less long-term leaching if you do soak with dish soap.

From: smarba
30-Aug-21
Keep antlers near surface. Impossible to get skull fully immersed and yet have antlers fully out. The base of antlers will sometimes get a little cleaned/bleached by the simmering but often it's not much. Most times I don't even do anything, but sometimes I'll use stain or plain old dirt to rub on the bases to blend it in.

30-Aug-21
Alrighty, thanks for the tips, I’ll try and see how it goes.

From: t-roy
30-Aug-21
I watched a “how to” video of a guy using a sous vide immersion circulator to do an antelope euro. Seemed to work great. Anybody else ever try this?

BTW…the video was in an email that I received from, of all places, Wyoming Game & Fish.

From: Stoneman
30-Aug-21
Seems to me you would need to bag the skull or the sous vide could be compromised during the process. Was that the case? I have used an aquarium heater with good results.

From: t-roy
30-Aug-21
Stoneman….he put the immersion circulator in a pot big enough for the skull and used some laundry detergent in the water as well. First round, he set it in enough solution to cover the skull and the bottoms of the horn sheaths were submerged a few inches, as well. Temperature setting was around 155 degrees I believe. Cooked at that temperature for awhile, then he twisted and pulled the loosened sheaths off. Dumped that solution and made a fresh batch. Submerged the entire skull and set the temp to 145. Power washed it off a couple of times, as well. Can you get an aquarium heater that warm, or do you even need to? I’ve never done a euro before, so I’m not familiar with what works and what doesn’t.

I looked online, and it looks like you can buy just the immersion circulator for around $60. I haven’t tried using the sous vide method to cook anything yet, but I think I’d dedicate that particular circulator strictly to doing euros, and not doing any meal prep with it! ;-)

From: Stoneman
30-Aug-21
t-roy, I agree, not a multi use tool, ha. I think the aquarium heater keeps it around 100 degrees. Works great, meat and all tissue just falls off after about 2 weeks. Just hose it off, degrease and whiten.

The sous vide may be faster?

From: skull
30-Aug-21
Arguably the easiest and cheapest method of degreasing involves some water, dish soap (Dawn recommended), and heat (recommended.) This is the method that most beginners will use at first, as the materials are easy to find around your house. All you need to do is mix some Dawn (For my international readers: Dawn is a name brand of dish soap in the US. “Fairy Liquid” is another name for it overseas- just find a dish soap that removes oils) with water (there’s no set ratio of dawn to water, just make it bubbly), place your bones in, and keep it hot. There are several ways to keep the container hot, such as using a heater– link to the one I recommend for 5gal buckets. The heater is a bit pricey ($50-60), but they last a very long time (I never had one burn out) and work very well. Ideally you want the temperature anywhere between 80-115F (26.6-46C) If you forget that the thermostat is in Celcius and accidentally set it to 80-115C you will melt your bucket and potentially start a fire.), aquarium heater (you’ll have to bypass the temperature controls to get it hot enough), placing the container outside on a hot day, or placing the container near something that will keep it warm. Different animals’ fats break down at different temperatures, but keeping it around or below 115F (46C) will cover most fats. 115F is not too hot for bones (we will cover the effects of higher temperatures in another article), but if you’re not able to get it quite that hot it’ll still work. Room temperature is not recommended for the dish soap method, as heat will thin the grease and speed up the process. It’ll still work at room temperature, it’ll just be much slower.

Clear dawn is best to use, as it will allow you to see the bones better, easily show if yellow grease is coming out, and you have a 0% chance of staining the bones. I know several people who have ended up with blue bones from using blue Dawn to degrease. You may also use other brands of soap, though Dawn is known as one of the better dish soaps to use. Avoid using detergent of any kind (including borax, baking soda, oxyclean, or anything similar) as they are not effective degreasers or can damage the bone.

When your soap water mixture turns cloudy or yellow, its time to change it out (roughly once a week.) Simply pour it out, wash off the bones, and refill with fresh Dawn and water. Repeat the process until the bones no longer appear greasy

From: skull
30-Aug-21
Why/When to Whiten Bones Whitening is not a necessary step when cleaning bones, but it does sanitize them and give them a nice clean-looking white finish. If you prefer the natural color of bone but still would like to sanitize them, you can put them in low percentage peroxide for an hour or less.

Even with whitening, you will never end up with perfectly white bones if they are not properly degreased

How Long Does Whitening Take? The period of time that you should leave your bones in peroxide depends entirely on how white you want them and what percentage of peroxide you’re using. If you’re using higher strength peroxide you can get a very white skull in an hour or two. If you’re using 3% from the generic brown bottles you may want to leave your bones in for a day or two. Overall, whitening is probably the shortest step of Processing Bones and you should be able to achieve the degree of whiteness you want in only a few days as long as the skull was properly cleaned beforehand and does not have any staining (such as from soil, but sometimes even soil staining comes out with peroxide)

Liquid Hydrogen Peroxide By far the most common method of whitening bones due to its usual occurrence in homes, regular hydrogen peroxide from the brown bottle under your sink! At only $1 for a quart size bottle, this 3% peroxide will get the job done for cheap if you’re working on something small. Can be used straight or diluted (though I recommend straight when using 3%), simply cover the skull or bones in the peroxide and wait until it becomes as white as you want it. If your skull is dirty or has a lot of bacteria in/on it it may begin to bubble, but it’s completely fine if you don’t see any bubbles- it doesn’t mean it’s not working. I recommend using Mesh Bags to make sure you don’t lose any teeth or small bones that may float in the peroxide. These bags come with a lifetime warranty.

The next step up is higher percentage liquid peroxide. Here in the United States the absolute highest percentage peroxide that a citizen can get is 50% I believe. This is EXTREMELY strong. Like, bomb-making strong (hence why it’s so hard to get). Peroxide is an oxidizer, and strong peroxide will react very very violently with metals. Even the smallest bullet fragment can make 50% peroxide extremely hot and uncontrollable and can result in a very serious fire. The next step down from 50% is 27-35%, which is much easier to get. This can be bought at most pool supply stores (I get a gallon of 27% called “Aqua Silk” from Ace Hardware) or online. It goes by many names, so go to a pool store and ask for “chlorine-free shock”. Make sure to read the ingredients label! You ONLY want peroxide in there. Any other chemicals or stabilizers may damage the bones.

When using strong peroxide, you may dilute it or use it straight. Anything over 12% is pretty strong, so I personally always dilute mine. I don’t have a set percentage or ratio that I use to dilute it, I just pour some peroxide in whatever container I’m using and then fill the rest up with water. Strong peroxide carries some safety hazards! You absolutely want to wear Gloves when working with strong peroxide, as it will burn your skin and turn it white for a few hours if any gets on you. I’ve gotten 27% peroxide on me many times, and it burns quite a bit. Best thing I’ve found to relieve the burn is to run very hot water over the affected area. The heat will speed up the reaction and stop it from burning you any further. You absolutely do not want any to get into your eyes! I have read strong peroxide can cause instant blindness, so make sure to wear proper eye protection when working

From: Pete-pec
30-Aug-21
Soak it in acetone. The specific gravity of fat versus acetone, will allow the grease to leave the porous bone. Simmering in dish soap will help, but ultimately losing that greasy forehead will take acetone, and every bit of 30 days.

From: Pete-pec
30-Aug-21
Two things. The guy above talking about 50% is not available for you and I. 34.5% is what we can get, provided you don't want to be inspected by the ATF at any time they wish. Anything greater must be caged, and locked under lock and key. Secondly, the stuff he's referring to as pool shock, is called bacquacil. It is 27%, and plenty strong to whiten a skull. I buy my acetone and 34.5% peroxide from Viking Chemical out of Rockford Illinois.

From: skull
30-Aug-21
Degreasing with : Acetone This is the most expensive, but least labor intensive method. This is not a method for beginners, as special equipment is needed to work with acetone, and it has negative health effects and is a safety hazard. You will need airtight acetone-safe containers to keep the acetone in. Acetone dissolves many plastics, so you’re safest using glass containers. If you’re using a plastic container, make sure that it says HDPE on the bottom- HDPE plastic is acetone-safe. The container has to be airtight, as acetone evaporates very very easily. You’ll also need acetone-safe gloves (Butyl Gloves are the most common) and a respirator for organic vapors. Regular nitrile or latex gloves will quickly fall apart when exposed to acetone. Acetone will dry out your skin, and is not good to breathe. It’s also extremely flammable, so it will need to be kept in a cool place, far far away from any source of heat or spark. The fumes travel easily and can very easily ignite with a small spark. Only work with acetone in a very ventilated space.

Now that the safety aspect is covered, we can move on to the usage. Using acetone to degrease bones is very simple. Simply place the bones in it and wait. You cannot dilute acetone, and at roughly $14.65 a gallon (at Walmart) it makes it quite expensive to use to degrease larger things. Do not heat the acetone, it works just fine at room temperature. Acetone does not need to be changed out near as often as the other two methods, as it can be reused many many times until it turns a dark orange color, at which point it will no longer dissolve any grease. I usually have to retire acetone after about 3-5 months of use

Another negative part of using acetone is you cannot pour it down your drain like you can Dawn or ammonia. Acetone needs to be taken to a proper disposal place (places that accept grey water usually accept it), so you’ll have to find a place near you to dispose of it when you’re done using it. Make sure to let any bones that were in acetone COMPLETELY DRY before whitening them. Acetone reacts very violently with peroxide, so make sure they never come in contact with each other.

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