Here’s a nice little tutorial on how to clean bones you may have collected to use for making runes, dice, divination tools or for other magickal purposes.
Use a very sharp boning knife to remove the bones you need from the limb. Be sure to remove any excess cartilage or shreds of flesh. Always practice basic knife and kitchen safety.
The bones can be cleaned a number of different ways:
- Boil in water for between 15 minutes and half an hour.
- Soak overnight in bleach (bones will smell like bleach for some time afterwards).
- Pour hydrogen peroxide over the bones and watch it foam. Continue to pour until foaming ceases.
- The natural method:
Place in a safe area outside (safe from wandering domestic and wild animals) where ants or other carrion-eating insects can reach the bones. A glass jar with large holes in the lid is recommended. Let the insects clean the bones for you. This is a time-consuming yet very effective method.
- A modification of the above (natural) method:
You might be able to find information on ordering special beetles to clean the bones. I don’t really know anything about them, but, there are supposed to be beetles that eat flesh off any sort of skeleton that are used within the medical/taxidermy professions. Supposedly, that’s how anatomical human and animal skeletons are cleaned.
A butcher/taxidermy worker suggested boiling the bones in something called “sal soda”.Apparently, that is what they use in his taxidermy shop in order to clean skeletons for hunters. It is supposed to dissolve tissue and cartiliage into a gel that can be rinsed off. He gave me a large bag for free, and it worked quite well on the first batch of bones I used it on.
After doing any of these methods, you may have to remove extra “shreds” of flesh. I tried a combination of the above methods, and found that bleaching the bones overnight, then boiling them in sal soda for about twenty minutes was the best method to get clean, white bones. If you overboil the bones, they will dry out, and the outer calcium covering will flake away. They are still usuable if this occurs.
What is sal soda?
Sal soda is sodium carbonate, the same chemical as washing soda. Sodium carbonate typically comes in three forms – washing soda is the decahydrate, which is usually in the form of colorless crystals that look a bit like crushed ice. If left in the open air, these lose water and become the powdery white monohydrate (the sal soda mentioned above). Soda ash is the anhydrous (waterless) compound.
Sodium carbonate an alkali, so it will be good for stripping away greasy substances such as fat and marrow. Don’t use it with aluminium vessels or cutlery, and try to keep it off your hands, though it’s not as nasty as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) which is often used for unblocking drains.
Be careful when using caustic substances – be sure you read and follow the safety instructions that come with them.