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Never select clams that are chipped, broken, or damaged in any way. Never choose a clam that is open. Clams should be tightly closed and stored in a cool area where they can breathe. When you are buying clams, immediately unwrap them at home so they can breathe, otherwise they may die before you cook them.
Just before cooking, soak the clams for twenty minutes in fresh water. As the clams breathe, they filter water. When the fresh water is filtered, the clam pushes salt water and sand out of their shells. After twenty minutes, the clams will have cleaned themselves of a lot of the salt and sand they have collected. Pull the clams up and out of the water. Do not pour the clams and water into a straining device because the expelled sand has sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Pouring the clams and water into a straining device would cause you to pour the sand back over the clams.
Once the clams have been soaked, use a firm brush and scrub off any additional sand, barnacles, or other oceanic attachments. This is the same final method used when cleaning mussels.