How to Find and Preserve Sand Dollars for Use in Crafts

Updated on April 11, 2016

 If you’re a beach lover, you’ve probably seen sand dollars at the shore. Maybe you’ve found the occasional one at the water’s edge, or even stepped on one in the shallows. You’ve doubtless seen tons of the white echinoderms in souvenir shops, where they’re often in the form of earrings and necklaces, or painted with beach scenes.

If you want to find sand dollars, you don’t have to wait for fate to lend a hand. By learning about the dollar’s habits, you can find lots of them!

First of all, you need to know that the greenish brown sand dollars are probably still alive. If you find one this color, turn it over and look at the underside. If the tiny spines are moving, the specimen is still alive. You might want to return this one to the surf after sharing it with the kids. If the spines aren’t moving, or if the sand dollar appears white, tan, or gray, it’s dead.

Many sand dollars can be found right at the edge of the surf. Just walk the beach and carefully watch the sand under retreating waves. You’ll need to be quick. If the dollar is alive, it will dig itself under the sand in a matter of seconds, leaving you wondering where in the heck it went. The best time to search is at low tide, but I’ve found them at all different stages of the tides.

You can also find sand dollars higher up on the beach, but you’ll have to dig for them. Look for a slight irregular hump in the sand that has a hole or two in it, especially at the bottom. Using your toe or a small shovel, dig down about three or four inches to find your treasure. I must warn you that this is a lot of exercise for your calf muscles. After digging up several hundred sand dollars one afternoon, I could hardly walk for the next couple of days!

Sometimes when the water is exceptionally muddy because of a storm or rough surf, you’ll often find loads of sand dollars in the water. Just walk through the waves slowly, inching your toes along the bottom, feeling for the creatures. Usually, where you find one, you’ll find a lot more.

If you decide to keep some of the brown sand dollars, soak them in cool water until the water turns brown. Discard the water and add fresh water. Continue doing this until the water remains clear.

Next, soak your sand dollars for about twenty minutes in a solution of half water and half household bleach. Remove them from the bleach water and place them in the sun to dry.

To harden the sand dollars, mix together white glue, like Elmer’s, and water – in equal portions. Paint the sand dollars with the glue mixture and let dry completely. You can also purchase a commercial hardener made just for sand dollars. This is usually found at beach shops or in craft stores.

Now your sand dollars are ready to be turned into craft items. Use the small ones for earrings by adding earring holders purchased from Walmart or from craft supply stores. The dollars in the two-three-inch size make nice pendants for necklaces. You might want to “bling” them up a little by embellishing the edge of the sand dollars with gold paint. If you choose this option, forego the glue bath. Instead, paint the sand dollars with several coats of white acrylic paint. The gold leaf or gold paint will adhere to this finish much better than it will to the glue surface.

Those with beach-themed living rooms sometimes decorate their entire Christmas tree with sand dollars. Just add a red or green ribbon to the preserved sand dollars and hang. You might want to completely gild some of these by covering the entire surface with gold leaf or with gold acrylic paint.

Larger sand dollars – the ones in the five-six-inch size, make wonderful little displays for your paintings. I’ve sold lots of these! I usually painted sand dunes, seagulls, sailboats, palm trees, or other beach scenes on them. To make painting easier, apply a coat or two of white acrylic paint before adding your artistic touches. After painting is complete, allow it to dry completely, then spray the sand dollar with a matte-finish polyurethane. Find a small easel at the dollar store on which to display your painting.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Hannah 

        2 years ago

        How can i paint a sand dollar to pretty?

      • Cindy Franklin profile image

        Cindy Franklin 

        3 years ago

        Sounds like fun!

      • profile image

        HC 

        5 years ago

        You should NEVER kill living sand dollars just to make crafts as described in this post

      • profile image

        Chantelle 

        6 years ago

        I once went to a beach in Nova Scotia, and found 25 sand dollars as I walked down the beach, I didn't have to look they were all just laying there, must have just collected there over the winter!!

      • profile image

        Cheryl 

        6 years ago

        I have collected shells for 40 years. Here's one for you guys...

        With broken sand dollars or chipped ones...carefully open and you will find the 5 angels inside. You can find and print legend of sand dollar online.

        On back of sand dollar...carefully tap away from hole in center to make hole large enogh to shake out your angels.

        Any type of shell gift you give attach an angel in safe place so won't brake off...and give copy of legend. Guaranteed gift your recipient will treasure! :-)

      • ThePelton profile image

        ThePelton 

        6 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

        That was fascinating. I remember seeing them when I lived in San Diego, although I think the west coast variety was closer to round.

      • profile image

        Patatie 

        6 years ago

        Has anyone ever tried to preserve sand dollars using an artist's medium known as "gesso?"

      • profile image

        Arman Azmi 

        6 years ago

        sand dollars liveunder ground in the ocean

      • profile image

        Cherryl from Arizona 

        6 years ago

        I haven't been to any beaches where picking up dead shells is illegal. Picking up live shells though is illegal. You should check carefully to make sure there is no little critter living in the shell.

      • profile image

        Gary 

        6 years ago

        I am trying to make sand dollar ornaments painted with two fish on it as a wedding favors..I outlines the fish with permanent marker and painted the fish with acrylic paint...I tried spraying them with glitter spray and the permanent maker ran all over the place ruining them (50)

        any suggestions?

      • profile image

        Jessica 

        7 years ago

        I got a bunch of dead sand dollars and made bracelets out of them

        -thank to you I have lots of fun

      • profile image

        Nancy from Arizona 

        7 years ago

        I love to make seashell trees. They are absolutely beautiful when combined with inexpensive crystals. Use

        foam trees that you find in craft stores and have fun. Warning, I did not know that you are not supposed to pick them up off of beaches and we were warned that we could be fined. Has anyone else had this experience?

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        I have some of those, too!

      • Dorsi profile image

        Dorsi Diaz 

        8 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

        Great hub! I have a handpainted sand dollar that's a Christmas ornament and it's my favorite ornament!! Every year when it comes out I get excited.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        Granny, we love the fishing down here!

      • Granny's House profile image

        Granny's House 

        8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

        I don't know. I was going to ask you if you knew. lol

        I have asked my husband if we can come there and do some fishing because of your hubs

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        Granny, can you find them up your way?

      • Granny's House profile image

        Granny's House 

        8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

        Great hub. This is the first time I have learned anything about sand dollars. The video was GREAT!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        I've made all kinds of jewelry from seashells! Glad you stopped by for a read, Polly!

      • Pollyannalana profile image

        Pollyannalana 

        8 years ago from US

        Sounds like fun, I had a ton of sea shells I was gonna make something out of for years, don't know where they went, but I still collect sea shells from yard sales, knowing an idea would one day hit me. I love sea shell earrings and I haven't seen any of those for years, guess that's not an easy project tho. Good hub, makes me remember when, which I love to do.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        Cool, LArry! Thanks!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        Hi, PEggy. Sand dollars are easy to find if you know what you're looking for, but I don't think you can find them everywhere. Cool idea for a wreath!

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        8 years ago from Houston, Texas

        I love collecting shells when I am at a beach. Have made some shell wreaths and given them away as gifts. Of course I use an assortment of colorful shells and then when finished gluing, spray everything with a clear acrylic spray. Makes the shells keep that beautiful wet look. Have not found too many sand dollars. My uncle in Florida likes to collect sharks teeth.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        I guess you don't have them in the UK? Thanks for reading!

      • Hello, hello, profile image

        Hello, hello, 

        8 years ago from London, UK

        I never heard of it and found yout hub so interesting. Thank you for all these information.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        Thanks, Suziecat. Yep, they'll do that if you don't preserve them. Better luck next time. Thanks for visiting!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://feltmagnet.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)