How to clean fresh eggs was something that didn’t concern me for years.
We were the only ones eating them, so if there was a spot on them or a bit of dirt, it didn’t bother me. Besides egg cleaning wasn’t on my to-do list.
Eggshells automatically have something called a “bloom” which is a natural coating on the shell that helps keep out bacteria. Washing them for your own use isn’t really necessary (unless they’re super dirty).
Egg shells are naturally porous to allow for an exchange of oxygen as the chick grows. The purpose of the bloom is to keep bacteria out of the egg. In nature, this is so the chick embryo can have a safe environment to grow. Learn more about the insides of chicken eggs.
Because of this, washing fresh chicken eggs isn’t always advised.
In fact, it can actually be harmful. This is because when you wash chicken eggs, you simultaneously remove that protective barrier. In doing so you also push some bacteria in through the pores of the shell, potentially contaminating your eggs.
Once we decided to buffer our homestead income by selling farm-fresh eggs we started worrying about unwashed eggs and contamination. And that’s how washing fresh eggs became quite the priority.
Our state allows us to sell fresh eggs from our homestead to other families. Since not everyone appreciates feathers and dirt, we had to figure out how to clean fresh eggs.
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How to clean fresh eggs
If your chicken eggs are not really dirty (there’s no poop or other gross stuff on them) then just wipe them with a dry cloth. This method leaves the protective coating (or bloom) intact.
If there’s manure on your eggs and you want to make them happy, then you need to make sure you wash them at a temperature that is similar to their temperature.
If they are at room temperature, then use room temperature water. This prevents cracking.
If the eggs are cold, use cold water. Use warm water if it’s hot out (or they were just laid), and the eggs are warm.
If it’s winter and you only want to use warm water to cut down on potential bacteria, then put your eggs on your kitchen counter until they’re at room temperature.
To wash the fresh eggs, simply dampen a rag and wipe the egg until it’s clean. It will then need to be refrigerated because the bloom (the protective layer) is gone, and bacteria can easily get inside it.
If you would like to go with something more involved, you can use a commercial egg washing solution.
If you don’t want to actually wash your eggs but still want to remove manure, you can try using a very fine grain sandpaper.
Gently scrub the manure off, but don’t do it for too long or you might remove part of the egg shell accidentally.
The bloom will still be removed in those spots, so you will have to store them in the fridge.
When it comes to eggs, the best thing to do is make sure they don’t get dirty in the first place.
Make sure you keep your nesting boxes clean, using shavings and/or straw to keep them fresh, and change the bedding frequently. This will also cut down on diseases and potential pathogens. Learn more about nesting herbs here.
Another way to prevent dirty eggs is to put your nesting boxes lower in the coop than your roosting bars and to keep the nesting boxes away from your roosting bars.
Chickens like to rest on the highest point in a coop, so if your nesting boxes are the highest spot, guess where they’ll roost?
Also, if your nesting boxes are kept under the roosting bar in the chicken coop, then your chickens will likely poop all over them.
Chickens don’t have bladders like mammals, so they poop whenever and wherever they get the urge – avoid gnarly eggs by encouraging your hens to only lay eggs in their nesting boxes and to not use them as a bathroom.
Check your nesting boxes at least daily, if possible, and remove any eggs. The more frequently you check them, the less likely they will be pooped on. In extreme weather, this is especially important.
Embryo development starts to happen when the internal egg temperature is 99.5 degrees, making leaving eggs out in summer heat a cause for concern.
In very cold weather, your eggs can freeze and crack.
Storing your fresh eggs
To properly store eggs, after you’ve washed them, place them in egg cartons with the pointy side down.
I store my eggs in a carton and not in the egg holders built into the refrigerator. Since opening and closing the door means the temperature fluctuates frequently, this can cause bacterial growth in your eggs. Just store them in a carton on a main shelf in your fridge.
If you don’t plan to use the eggs soon, write the date you stored them on the carton so you don’t forget how old the eggs are. Then make sure to use the oldest eggs first.
If you’re not sure how old the eggs are, or if they’re good to eat, you can do the egg float test.
Dangers of Dirty Eggs
If bacteria contaminate your eggs, that will lead to contamination of your meal. This can be dangerous so it’s important to know the risks. As stated earlier in this article, if you keep your nesting boxes clean then your eggs will also have a better chance of staying clean. That’s the most important thing to remember.
However, if your eggs do get dirty – it can be dangerous if you don’t wash them.
- Compromised eggs can cause foodborne illness
- Feces can enter the shell when you crack them open and, in turn, be in your food
- Salmonella is a common risk if eggs are not cleaned and bacteria gets inside the egg
- If you sell eggs you should be extra cautious and clean dirty eggs so as to ensure the safety of your customers
If you keep your nesting boxes clean and, in turn, your eggs are clean – then you have no worries. Your eggs will last a long time unrefrigerated. However, if you have dirty eggs OR you are selling eggs – then it’s best to wash and refrigerate your eggs. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Right?
Additional Articles About Eggs
- Egg Float Test: Are These Eggs Still Good?
- How To Tell If Eggs Are Good (5 Best Ways)
- Can You Freeze Eggs?
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.