3 Easy Ways to Whiten Deer Antlers (Skulls)

There are several ways to clean and whiten deer antlers and skulls. In this article, I’ll cover 3 easy methods so you can enjoy and preserve your antlers for display, crafts or other projects.

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How To Whiten Deer Antlers

So you just killed a buck or found a skull in the bush and want to clean it up to mount.

There are several ways to remove the hide and flesh from the skull and whiten it up for display. Usually, when people are looking into whitening deer antlers, they are referring to whitening the skull while protecting the natural color of the antlers.

In this article, we will discuss how to whiten deer skulls for display while protecting the antlers.

If your aim is to actually whiten the antlers, these tactics should work just the same; just apply the same method to the antler themselves!

3 Ways to Whiten Deer Skull and Antlers

Once your skull is completely cleaned of any tissue and your antlers are clean, it is time to start the whitening process.

Here are three easy methods to whiten your deer skull that will also work for whitening antlers. 

3 Easy Ways to Whiten Deer Antlers

*It is important to never use chlorine-based bleach to whiten your skull or antlers as this will damage the bone.*

Boil in Water and Hydrogen Peroxide

An easy, albeit time-consuming method for whitening antlers, is to boil them in a water and hydrogen peroxide solution.

Most hydrogen peroxide is 3% concentration. You’ll want something a little stronger, at least 12% but you can use a 30% solution, you’ll be diluting it anyway.

Add some hydrogen peroxide to water in a pot. Like in cleaning, wrap the antlers in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and secure them with tape.

Rest the antlers on the edge of a pot big enough to allow the skull to fully submerge. Boil for an hour and check the whiteness. Let it dry fully.

If you want the skull white, you can simply repeat the process. You’ll likely lose a little bit off of the edges of the skull from all of this boiling. Not a significant amount but more than the other methods. 

You’ll want to do this outside.

Brush on Whitening Paste

You can create a whitening paste by adding basic white powder to salon 40 cream (a hydrogen peroxide-based hair bleaching cream). There is a great video that walks you through the process:

Mix the bleaching paste together and use a paintbrush to generously coat all surfaces that you want to whiten. Again, protect the base of the antlers using plastic wrap and some tape.

Once the entire skull is covered, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap to prevent the paste from drying out and let it sit for 1-3 days. 

When ready, remove the plastic wrap and rinse the bleach off thoroughly with water and let it dry completely. You can repeat the process if you miss some spots or want it whiter.

You can add a bit of shine by adding a thin coat of Mop ‘n Glo or another floor-shining cleaner.

Bleach in the Sun

Another simple way to whiten your deer antlers is to let them sit in the sun. You’ll want to find a way to protect the skull from critters and if you don’t want to bleach the antlers you can wrap them up to protect them from UV exposure.

Simply let the skull sit in the sun until it is bleached to your liking.

How to Clean Deer Antlers

The deer antlers often don’t need much cleaning beyond a wipe with a cloth. If you need to clean them a bit more, just let them soak in a bath of warm water and a mild detergent and give them a good scrub. 

You can preserve the natural color of antlers by applying a coating when they are fresh and clean. There are several coatings you can use, and everyone has their preference.

Linseed oil is a good place to start as it will keep the natural color and won’t make the antlers look unnaturally shiny. Remember, multiple thin coatings are better than one thick coating.

How to Restore the Color in Deer Antlers

On the flip side, if your deer antlers have lost their natural color and you want to restore them, here are some steps you can take.

This process only really works for antlers that still have some of their natural colors and aren’t too cracked or damaged.

  1. Collect a pile of used coffee grounds.
  2. Rub the coffee grounds all over the antlers, you only have to leave it on for about a minute.
  3. Clean off the coffee grounds. Use a soft brush to get the grounds out of the ridges and hard-to-reach places.
  4. Use steel wool to scrub the surface of the antlers and give them a more natural look.
  5. Repeat as needed until it looks right to you.
  6. Spray on a clear coat of paint to give it a shiny finish. Use the steel wool to scuff up the shine until it looks natural. 

How to Clean a Deer Skull

The first step to preparing a skull and antlers for display is of course to clean the skull down to the bone.

Ideally, you’ll want to do this as soon after killing the deer as possible, as removing the brain and hide will get progressively more difficult the longer they sit. 

Remove the brain by pulling it out of the foramen magnum–the hole in the skull for the spinal cord. This process is pretty tricky and may take a while but you’ll definitely want to do it while the meat is fresh.

Remove the eyes, hide, and flesh as much as you can using a sharp knife, pry tool like a flathead screwdriver, and a set of pliers.

If you are dealing with just a skull cap, you can put off dealing with the hide a lot longer. If you do wait, boiling the skull cap in water for a couple of hours will help make it easier to pry the hide off.

Once you’ve gotten the hide and most of the meat off of the skull it’s time to get it completely clean. Rather than toiling away for ages, there are a few methods that will make your life a lot easier.

  • Use a pressure washer (on a light setting*) to remove all of the remaining little pieces. Boiling the skull can help loosen up the tissue.
  • Boil the skull in a mixture of water and sodium carbonate (aka sal soda, washing soda, or soda ash). Use about ¼ cup of sal soda per gallon of water, wrap the base of the antlers in aluminum foil secured with tape, and perch the antlers over the edge of a pot so that just the skull is submerged. Boil for about an hour and repeat as needed. Do this outside.
  • Soak the skull in a saturated solution of borax. Or boil it in a pot of water with a couple of cups of borax for 20 minutes. Again try to seal off the antlers to protect them from any decoloring.
  • Use natural decomposers like dermestid beetles or bury the skull in the ground for a few months

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now know how to whiten deer antlers. With the right tools, some patience, and some elbow grease, you’ll have a great-looking wall mount.

If your antlers have an unpleasant scent to them, check out our article on removing any smells from your antlers to further improve your mount. 

Thanks for reading!