The Best Souvenirs of Your Beach Vacation: How to Preserve Sand Dollars

By:Kerry Egan

Date:3/4/2015

Find sand dollars on Hilton Head Island.
Beautiful sand dollars can be the best souvenirs of your beach vacation.

Sand dollars have always been a treasure among shells. Bulbous clamshells and swirling snails can be a dime a dozen, but not the smooth, understated sand dollar. Luckily, Hilton Head Island usually has a trove of sand dollars on its beaches.

Unlike most animals whose shells you find on the beach, the sand dollar is not a mollusk. Instead, it's most closely related to sea urchins and starfish. The creature doesn't live in its shell. Instead, it is the shell.

Once you learn to recognize the telltale signs of sand dollars on the beach, you'll start to discover them all over Hilton Head Island. But just know, if you look for a picture-perfect, bright white, sun-bleached sand dollar lying perfectly on the dry sand, you probably won't find any. Instead, keep your eyes open for a gray disc that blends in well with the wet sand at low tide. You can also look for a subtle two- or three-inch lump in the otherwise smooth sand where the waves wash in and out, and you might find one buried an inch or so under the sand.

When you find a sand dollar, immediately check to see if it's alive. You can tell by turning it over and looking at its cilia, or hundreds of tiny legs. Lightly brush them and look carefully to see if any are moving, even slightly. If there is any movement at all, gently place the sand dollar back in shallow water. There are plenty that have already died that you can find.

Live sand dollars will have a greenish or reddish brown color with a velvety coating. Dead sand dollars will be gray. If you're unsure, err on the side of caution, and put the sand dollar back in the water. It’s illegal to remove a live sand dollar from the beach.

So now that you've found a sand dollar shell, how do you get your treasure to look like those pure white sand dollars you see in catalogues and home decor magazines? Well, you have two choices: let it bleach in the hot sun on the sand for a few months, or take matters into your own hands.

To speed up Mother Nature's process, place your sand dollar in a bowl of clear water and let it soak. The water will turn brown and murky. Change the water every few hours until it remains clear after a few hours of soaking.

Once the water is clear, add one part bleach to three parts water. Let your sand dollar soak in this bleach water for 15 minutes. Don't let it stay in there any longer, because the bleach can cause the sand dollar to become weak and even crumble.

You can leave the sand dollar outside for a few more days and let the sun really bleach it out.

Now you'll have a gorgeous souvenir from one of the prettiest beaches in the world.

Related Content

Explore Hilton Head Island’s Audubon Newhall Preserve
Soak in the beauty of the nature at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina's Audubon Newhall Preserve.
Hilton Head Offers More than Golf
People all over the world look to Hilton Head Island for its golf courses, especially when the RBC Heritage tournament comes to town, but the island is also home to some of the most picturesque waterways, marshes and rivers you'll see.
Enjoy Chaplin Park for More Secluded Hilton Head Beach
Sit back and relax away from the crowds in Chaplin Park, a quieter part of Hilton Head Island.

Featured Products

Town of Hilton Head Island
Coast

Hilton Head Island

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Hilton Head Island is famous for its 12-mile stretch of glistening sands. But a visit to Hilton Head is more than just a day at the beach. The island has some of the best ...
Outside Hilton Head
Coast

Hilton Head Island

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
The area's most complete outdoor outfitter offering a multitude of excellent programs: guided kayak tours, stand up paddleboarding, dolphin watching tours, fishing, activ ...
ZipLine Hilton Head & Aerial Adventure Hilton Head
Coast

Hilton Head Island

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Located in the heart of Hilton Head, we've made the Lowcountry high these 2 two hours adventures plus a bungee trampoline and rock climbing wall! Soar on ZipLine HH, ...

Featured products and attractions in "The Best Souvenirs of Your Beach Vacation: How to Preserve Sand Dollars"

Nearby Attractions

  • {{item.name}}

You might also like:

Wild Dunes Resort/Isle of Palms
Coast

Isle of Palms

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Nestled on the northern tip of Isle of Palms, a lush barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, Wild Dunes Resort is located less than 30 minutes from the charm and ...
Vancouver Motel
Coast

Myrtle Beach

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Oceanfront location near fishing pier and area amusements; Efficiencies available. Property is Pet Friendly. ...
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
Coast

Hilton Head Island

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is a 2,000-acre resort destination located in the middle of Hilton Head Island, bounded by three miles of Atlantic Ocean beach on one sid ...
Wild Dunes Resort - Links Course
Coast

Isle of Palms

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
This Tom Fazio-designed course is highly regarded and regularly ranked in the Top 100 in the U.S. by both Golf and Golf Digest. Rolling fairways. Rustling palms. Challeng ...
Kingfisher Inn
Coast

Garden City

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Oeanfront condos, six different styles, full kitchens, daily housekeeping, next to the Garden City Fishing Pier, fishing discounts. ...
Windsurfer
Coast

Myrtle Beach

Coast

Coast

The
Coast Region

Learn More
Oceanfront location near area amusements; Children's pool; AAA member, jacuzzi suites ...