SOCIAL MEDIA

28 June 2017

HOW TO DRY SMALL SPECIMENS WITH SALT & BORAX

About a year ago Megan found an evening bat in the museum we work at. The little creature appeared to have died of natural causes and she made the right decision in putting the bat aside for me to get later. The moment she told me about it I started researching a natural way to mummify specimens. Finally, after some hardcore searching, I came across this amazing site called Wolftea.

To my surprise, it was pretty easy. All it entailed was borax, pickling salt and some knowledge (and maybe a strong stomach). Being the documenter that I am, I wanted to share the information here, for my records. And who knows, maybe it will help some of you out there who are wanting to do the same thing! Please keep in mind that this works with smaller specimens and the actual mummification time could take longer for larger ones.

HOW TO DRY SMALL SPECIMENS WITH SALT & BORAX

ITEMS NEEDED:
  • Borax Detergent Booster
  • Morton Pickling Salt
  • Tupperware container
  • Rosemary sprigs
DIRECTIONS:
Make a mixture of borax and salt, using a ration of one to one. Add aromatic herbs if wanted.

Take salt/borax mixture and pour a layer to the bottom of the container, about half an inch. Place the specimen inside.

Pour in the rest of the salt/borax mixture until they are completely submerged.

It is extremely important that the container you use is able to breath - don't put an air tight lid on it. I placed some loose clingwrap over the top.

Leave to dry in a well ventilated space for a few weeks. For wings and smaller items, it takes 3-4 weeks. Small bird heads take up to 5 weeks.

Exchange the mixture around the 2nd week to keep it fresh – however, it isn’t fully necessary.

If you’re salting anything for longer than 3 weeks, you'll need to exchange the salt/borax mixture. This is so NO odor sets in. For humid areas: it could take a little longer.

Once the specimens are dry (they will be firm, with no moisture) you can brush off any salt/borax with an old toothbrush.

If you notice ANY odor, allow it to air dry in a well ventilated space for a few days.

Then soak it in a dry bath of aromatic herbs (cedar, clove, flower petals, mint… etc). You can also use smoke to help with odor, all you do is allow any smoke or fumes to further dry/absorb into your specimen by burning cedar, incense or other good smelling things nearby.

Tips: If you're removing organs and you've made an incision, be sure to rub borax or salt solution under as much of the skin as you can.

The goal is to wait until ALL the moisture is gone and item is no longer flexible. The longer it’s cured, the better. For odors, mix in rosemary sprigs.

Luna, My Little Evening Bat

As you can see, this natural mummification process did an excellent job at preserving her. The fur is still soft and pretty and if you look close enough in the first photo you can see her little fangs. This is something that I am very proud of and thoroughly impressed with how it turned out. Especially for my first time.


If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave me a message below. I will do my best to give you an answer.


Original source: Wolftea

44 comments :

  1. Well, this is information I will never use, but I did find it interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there, im currently in the process of doing my rats. You mentioned that the fur kept, but i like the fur less natural mummies ive found i have a bat and a squirrel, do you know why they have lost the hair in natural mummy process and kept the hair the way you have done it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello! Thank you so much for reaching out...

      The reason the salt/borax mixture doesn't remove the fur is because it's a more gentle way of preserving the animal and fur. The salt naturally draws out all of the moisture, which results in the finished specimen that is dry.

      Which process do you use? I'm curious in knowing.

      I hope this helps to answer your question!

      Delete
  3. Where did you keep your bat while she was drying? I'm concerned about odor, but I'm not actually sure how much a little bat will smell while mummifying. I have a back porch that's enclosed but not ventilated in the slightest and is adjacent to the kitchen (*gag*). I also considered enclosing his mummification tub in a cat carrier on our covered front porch which has direct sun (lots of heat) and lots of ventilation, but I imagine bugs would get in easily and the smell will waft into the living room through the window unit AC. Halp, please. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Sorry for the late reply.

      While the bat was drying, I kept her in a covered tupperware-type container - I kept it in the laundry room where it doesn't get too hot. I honestly didn't smell anything while she was drying in there. Direct sun would definitely make it worse.

      I hope you have fun with yours. Please let me know how it goes!

      Delete
    2. Im at the 4 week mark with my bat and i have had no odor whats so ever

      Delete
    3. I'm so glad to hear that this has worked for you!

      Delete
  4. Im using your method to preseve a bat that was killed by a ceiling fan id live to send you pictures. I preserved him in full wing extension and hes GORGEOUS. I just reburied him for the last half of preservation. I cant wait until he's fully mummified.... also we named him Bruce the bat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is incredible. I'd love to see a photo of him. Can you email me at danielle@unspokenspells.com? Looking forward to seeing them.

      Delete
  5. When you say rub mixture under skin what do you mean? Are you cutting the animal open and gutting it? Or do you leave it in tact.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would depend on how big the item is. For things like squirrel paws and tails, or bird legs and wings, no need. He may just mean to rub it into the fur kinda so if can get closer to the skin. For full bodies, you gut it and remove the brains. Then put some borax and salt in the empty tummy to speed up the process.

      Delete
    2. I leave the animal intact. Renegade is correct, to rub into the fur so it gets closer to the skin.

      Thanks Renegade. I appreciate your input. :)

      Delete
  6. When you opened the container did it have a bad smell?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the first few days it did have a smell, however it eventually subsided.

      Delete
  7. Is it possible to substitute pickling salt for kosher salt, or other kinds of salt?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pickling salt has a higher salt content so it would be better for absorbing smells and liquids faster. Kosher salt might need to be removed and re-added.

      Delete
  8. Wow this was super interesting. I’ll be using this method to preserve a bat that flew into my uncles truck window and died.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi. Do you think this would work well on a 4 day old deceased bunny? I would prefer not to try to remove the organs as they are so tiny and I'm not familiar with doing any preserving of anything this delicate. Appreciate any input. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! I'm SO sorry for the late reply. I hope you were able to find some information. From my knowledge you would have to remove the organs as a rabbit would be too big for the process I've shared.

      Delete
  10. Hello! I found a little brown bat today on a walk with my dog and am planning on using your method to preserve it. I am waiting on Borax in the mail now because none of the stores around me have any in stock, but I have it mounted to a popsicle stick and submerged in morton salt in a tubberware with a loose layer of plastic wrap. Should I top it off with a layer of baking soda/essential oil mix while I wait for the borax? Do you think under a bathroom sink is an OK storage spot for the little guy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi - so sorry for the late reply. I hope it all worked out. What did you end up doing? I would have done what you did but used fresh herbs instead of the essential oils only because I don't have any experience with using those during the mummification process. I'd love to see a photo if you have one!

      Delete
  11. Do you have any advice when it comes to putting the specimen in a display, like in the first photo? I'm going to be working on some mice and I'm not really sure how to display them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Leon! As far as display for a small mouse . . . I know there are people who set them up in open display boxes. I've seen some where they actually dressed them up in outfits and displayed them in interesting scenes (like eating dinner at a table, etc). Did you decide on anything specific? I'd love to hear about it.

      Delete
  12. I have a small bird my cat caught and I am planning to mummify. Your documentation is excellent. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

    Btw, Miss Luna is simply BEAUTIFUL <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Ash! So sorry for the late reply. Thank you so much for your comment! How did the small bird work out for you? I'd love to see the finished product!

      Delete
  13. Hi, I know I'm late to the party but I was wondering if you knew of a borax substitute? It's illegal where I am so I'd need something else

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rubbing alcohol is another option. Please know that I haven't attempted to use that before. However Google should surely have information. Thank you for reaching out and so sorry for the late reply. Motherhood has kept me busy!

      Delete
  14. hello! i have a frozen preserved bird that i want to mummify. she is in near perfect condition so i want to mummify and preserve her because i have never done taxidermy on a bird before.
    do i have to worry about the brain and eyes when i remover her organs? or do those dry up naturally?
    i greatly appreciate the information you have provided! it will be very helpful!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How large is the bird? You can try the natural mummification route and continue to check for smell. I honestly think you should be okay though.

      Delete
  15. hello! i have a frozen preserved bird that i want to mummify. she is in near perfect condition so i want to mummify and preserve her because i have never done taxidermy on a bird before.
    do i have to worry about the brain and eyes when i remover her organs? or do those dry up naturally?
    i greatly appreciate the information you have provided! it will be very helpful!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a hatchling tortoise that passed. He is maybe the size of a half dollar coin. Do I need to gut him or is he small enough to skip that? I wanted to put him in resin but I am reading that they will just rot within the resin. And I can't get his head out for positioning. He is in the fridge, just died this morning. Should I freeze and then thaw to be able to position him? Thanks

      Delete
    2. He should be small enough. I would try thawing him in the borax/salt mixture as well making sure to use fresh herbs in case there is any smell.

      Delete
  16. I have the same question - a poor tiny finch flew into my window today. I wonder if I could preserve her whole?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You DEFINITELY can. How exciting. Please share photos if you can.

      Delete
  17. I was wondering if you have any other tips for this kind of thing like what's the best way to extract organs in one piece or the best way to preserve them as well???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best way to extract . . . from what I've read (I've never tried) is to use a very small incision in a area that isn't visible, to put the salt and borax mixture into the incision area, try and remove as much as the organs as you can (maybe using teeny, tiny tweezers). You can also sew up the area when you're done (after you've removed what you can). I hope this works. Sorry for the late reply.

      Delete
  18. DO I HAVE TO TAKE THE ORGANS AND SUCH OUT BEFORE I MUMMIFY IT?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It depends on WHAT you are going to mummify. The bigger the animal, yes you will need to. If it's smaller than a small bird - you don't need to.

      Delete
  19. Thanks for this! A young warbler hit the window today and didn't make it. I'm excited to use this method to preserve him. I'm using some dry patchouli and hyssop for the herbal mix ☺️

    How long did it take to mummify your bat?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh lovely! I hope the warbler works out for you. :) It took me maybe four weeks. It was during a particular humid summer so I had to change out the mixture often. I'd love to find out how your warbler goes. Good luck!

      Delete
  20. Hi there friend. I'm trying to mummify my pet bird. It's been in borax for a while but I'm a bit worried. He smells a bit musty. Did I do something wrong? Should I have removed the organs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you been changing the mixture? Also, how long has it been? What size is the bird?

      Delete