Turtle and tortoise shells are made from dense fibrous tissue, similar to that in a horn or hoof. The top of the shell, called a carapace, consists of plated rows adorned with complex and colourful designs. On the underside is a hard yellow plate which protects the belly. While the turtle is alive, the shell serves as a barrier against predators and helps to keep the animal cool. Once the turtle's life has ended, the shell remains as a decorative item which can be cleaned and polished.
Fill a plastic bowl halfway with warm water. Add several drops of mild hand soap to the water and stir to create a sudsy solution.
Submerge the shell under the water and hold it there for several minutes to loosen any dried dirt, algae or tissue on the carapace.
Scrub the entire carapace clean with a plastic bristled brush. Use a quick circular motion when scrubbing for best results. Turn the shell over and scrub the belly plate clean.
Rinse the shell under a cool running tap. Dry the shell completely with a soft cloth.
Apply a light amount of turtle shell conditioner to a polishing cloth. Rub the conditioner onto the shell and allow it to penetrate for 30 minutes, or for the time suggested on the container.
Buff off the conditioner with your polishing cloth, using a rapid circular motion. Continue buffing until the desired sheen has been achieved.
Turtle shell conditioner replenishes the fibres which make up the shell. It can be purchased at your local pet supply store. Preserve the shell's sheen by polishing with turtle shell conditioner monthly.
Never use any type of soap or detergent on your turtle's shell if the animal is still living. This may make it sick or cause a skin infection.