Search for shells at low tide in coves, along sandy beaches, or in other calm shore areas. Take along a small garden cultivator or similar tool for combing through seaweed and debris and a container for your finds. Wear shoes and gloves.
If you intend to become a serious collector, take a notebook too. Record the day, time, and place that you found each shell and note any special circumstances; also write a short identifying description of the shell.
Number each entry. Later, number the shells accordingly and use the notebook and a shell guide to make labels. As you search, protect the shoreline by replacing seaweed clumps after sifting through them.
To clean scrub your shells in soapy water with a stiff brush and rinse them thoroughly. If they are encrusted with hard material, scrape them carefully with a knife or soak them in equal parts household bleach and warm water. Check often during soaking because the bleach can dull the surfaces. Wash and rinse again after soaking. (Some collectors prefer to leave encrustations intact for their scientific interest.)
If you wish to enhance the color and luster of your shells for display, dampen a lint-free cloth with mineral oil or baby oil and rub it over the shells. Buff with a clean, dry cloth.