See cleaning page for the following topics: 
Skull Prep
Ear Bone Removal
Removing Pronghorn Sheaths (Horns)
Pressure Spraying / Power Washing


Disclaimer: Few professionals would recommend this method. However, for someone with limited time and space (like me), this works great when done right. There are a lot of people posting videos about how to do this, and can be a great help. However, proceed with caution if you hear these words: boil and bleach. These terms are used loosely, but neither is recommended by professionals because both can work...but they can quickly damage skulls permanently.

Types of soaps, temperature, and heating methods vary so much skull to skull that the following are merely suggestions. Practice and personal preference will dictate what you do more than a stopwatch. Using a couple doe skulls, or buck/bull skulls you don't care a whole lot about for your first couple test runs would be very advantageous before you tackle a trophy.

This requires a metal pot big enough to hold the skull, and some kind of heating element (turkey fryer , hot plate, etc) that can bring the water to a simmer. It is important to have gotten the eyes (and surrounding fat) and as much of brain removed as possible because they release large amounts of grease into the skull, which will discolor. Immerse skull in pot of water, and mix in any or all of the following: a heavy squirt of dawn dish detergent (blue or clear….other brands and colors can stain skull), a big spoonful of Cascade (or non brand) white colored dishwasher detergent, a heaping spoonful of baking soda or sodium carbonate (often called sal-soda) and a handful of borax. Borax can be found in boxes labeled Mule, a laundry detergent additive in the laundry detergent isle at the store. The baking soda helps to break down the meat tissue faster. Sodium carbonate works much better, but can discolor antler bases. Van Dykes taxidermy recommends 1/4 cup per gallon. Let pot reach a light simmer. Boiling causes temperatures that are high enough to damage the skull and bakes grease into the bone. Don't stress out if you accidentally let water hit a boil for a short bit, just bring the temp back down and be more vigilant. In cold or windy temps, tinfoil over pot can help with the temperature maintenance. This is best done away from the house (or at least downwind), and not inside garage as the smell can “stick” to things. If you need to do in garage, you may want to wait until the second water fill so the nastiest water and smell stays outside!

Periodically you can check the progress of your skull...primarily check to make sure water doesn't reach boiling temp! If it does quickly reduce temp. Don't freak out unless this happens for a long time or many times! You can help skull along by scraping, scrubbing, or spraying it off sometimes when you check it. I'd recommend only doing this when you do the first dirty water change, and then towards the end. Use caution when scraping the inside of the nose as the nasals are very delicate….or you can bust them up if you don’t want to keep them and prefer a more hollow nose. You will see what these nasals look like as the tissue cooks off. Every skull varies, but you can usually check it once an hour or two depending on how fast it is cooking, also make sure the water level stays above the skull. Don't get carried away. Too much scraping is a waste of time. You shouldn't have to scrape or cut too much. Eventually you should be able to find a happy medium where you only have to cut a few things off, and then you can spray the rest off with a hose. Every time your remove skull from water long enough that it cools off, you basically have to re-start cooking it when you drop it back into the pot. Therefore minimize your intrusive activities!

Here is another perspective: cook the skull until you can shake or spray off everything from skull with only a little scraping/cutting (only if you don't have high pressure sprayer or no degreaser). Or cook it until it is kind of clean and then pressure spray, or degrease to remove the rest (recommended!).

Antlers usually should not permanently discolor during this process. If it does, a little touch up paint can fix it. 

Sal Soda works much better than baking soda. However it can discolor the bases of antlers and damage the bone.

Do NOT use bleach or strong peroxide (higher concentrations than drug store or hair salon products) in the simmer pot. Bleach can disintegrate the bone, and sometimes can continue to do so even after the skull is on the wall. High percentage peroxide in a heated solution can become volatile. 

After a period of time (30 minutes to 2 hours), your pot water will likely be extremely murky and dirty (depends of bloodiness of head etc) and need to be changed to avoid bone discoloration. Make sure you don’t lose the two bones that form the end of the nose, as well as any teeth. The end bones can be fitted back on the nose before both dry out when you’re done, or you can use zip ties to keep them in place. Empty the pot, and refill with clean water (if the water is heated from another pot from the stove in the house, it will speed up the time it takes for your skull pot to reach simmer temp). Also add the various degreasing products mentioned earlier to the water. Continue monitoring your skull. You can take a Phillips screw driver, and pop out the ear bones at this time. You find them toward the back of the skull at the base of where the ears should be. The ear hole is just big enough for a screw driver, and the bone is around ½ inch by 1 inch. By removing this, it makes it a lot easier to remove tissue in this region. See below for pictures showing how to do it.  A powerful spray nozzle on hose will help to blast off small tough pieces of tissue etc that stick around the rear of skull, or are lodged in nooks and crannies. If you are going to do an extended degreasing of the skull after simmering, then you don’t have to get as much tissue removed, as it will come off while it degreases. If you are going to do a speed degreasing, then you will want to get as much of the tissue off as possible, although anything left will just dry up like jerky and shouldn’t be bothered by bugs since it is cooked. When satisfied with how cleaned off your skull has become, scrub off with Dawn soap and spray it off.

I think it works better to have your water already pre-heated before dropping skull into the pot.

You shouldn't have to work too hard to remove the tissue. If you cook the skull long enough, most of it should slough off, brush off, peel off, or fall off with a couple good shakes or with some spraying from the hose. 

With all that being said, you can decrease bone degredation and cooking time with "power." A pressure washer can speed up the process at this point - big time. For instance, 2-3 hours in the pot at a simmer, and a deer skull is ready to spray. See Pressure Spraying section on Cleaning Page.

If you want to watch some videos that show another take on cleaning, simmering, and whitening skulls, then check out these great videos by WhiteboneCreations. Then, read this post mentioning the Whitebone skulls and how they won't stay white in the long run. Not recommended for professional results.

November 2014 Update:

I don't simmer very long anymore, and avoid boiling temps at all costs. I also just usually use a heavy shot of Dawn and sometimes some baking soda. Since I degrease all my skulls, I simmer them until most of the meat and tissue is off the upper and sides of skull, but don't worry too much about the tough stuff in nasals and back of skull. Those come off in degreaser and I save time in the long run by not baking grease into skull, or damaging surface by keeping skull in excessive heat for long periods of time. I scrape, cut, and scrub off quite a bit, remove and save loose teeth, and then add head to my skull tank.

October 2016 Update:

See cleaning page for pressure spraying update

November 2016 Update:

I got a propane jet burner! What would have taken about 15 hours, only took 45 minutes when I worked on a big bull. It changed my life! Then I used pressure sprayer to clean it off.

December 2017 Update:

New pot! 21 quart stainless steel for $15 at local dollar store. Fit two whitetails, and a pronghorn on first use.

Cleaning Rusty Pot:
My barrel pot gets a film of rust on the inside because I don't treat it with oil. I used to use steel wool to clean it, but it was a pain. This year I used sand, a little water, and a stiff scrubbing brush to clean my pot. It worked VERY well. 
Picture: removing rust by scrubbing with wet sand
Picture: Pot and hot plate for deer and pronghorn etc:
Picture - Simmering elk using hot plate (takes FOREVER):
Picture: Simmering elk using new King Kooker 100 BTU Jet Burner: Insanely fast!!
Picture: Skulls often looks like this after removing from simmering pot (often it looks less clean than this, and I use pressure sprayer to do the rest):

Modifications for elk:
You will need a much large pot for elk if you are simmering. I simmer mine by using a small steel drum cut in half, on my hot plate (or two hot plates!) or propane burner. I sometimes cover the giant pot with tinfoil, and once I also inserted a bucket heater when I was using a hot plate(couldn't have been the smartest thing). This takes a long time since the pot takes forever to heat up. As in 6-8 hours to heat up to simmer temp. Propane burner can reach it in 15 minutes. A powerwasher can help with stubborn elk, as well as waiting for a good degreasing to clean up the smaller stubborn tissues after the big stuff is simmered off.

Here is a super fast method for elk skulls on It looks like an awesome way to get the job done fast. But it also goes against many things I've learned from the professionals. Someday I'll try it, but for now I can neither recommend nor condemn it!

Modifications for pronghorn:
Get your pot to simmering temp, and then insert head with the horns submerged. After about 25 minutes, remove and with thick gloves, try to pull and twist inwards the sheaths off the cores. If they don't come off, simmer for another 15 minutes. Inserting a knife into the base of the sheaths can help pop them off by removing the "vacuum like seal" that the inner tissues create. Once the sheaths are off, saw the top 1/3 of the core off, and drill a couple holes down into the cores. This will help the grease come out of this area of the skull. tutorial link for removing the sheaths.

Remove sheaths using microwave?! Mentioned on a post on Proceed with caution so you don't get kicked out of house or ruin sheaths.

Modifications for velvet antlers:
Don't handle them, and get them to a freezer! 
Freeze Dry: Freeze and get to the taxidermist!
Artificial: Strip velvet, clean, buy flocking spray, or get to the taxidermist!
Preserve: Various methods exist with varying success, but when I shot my velvet buck, I froze the head, and ordered velvet preserve and syringes.  Then I caped, cut the skull cap, and proceeded to follow the directions. My velvet was too far along for it to work well, and I eventually also soaked it in borax water to bug proof it. But it still stunk for about 6 months, so it stayed in the garage until it didn't smell. Glued the skull cap onto cleaned skull. Used wire-wheel to clean skull cap.

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