If you are new to keeping chickens for the eggs they produce, you might be wondering how to clean those eggs before eating them. If you're also planning to sell those eggs at the farmers market or direct to consumers, you will need to be quite sure that they're clean, safe, and attractive to buyers.
The obvious thought would be to simply wash them with water, but hold off before you submerge the freshly collected eggs in ice water! Cold water actually causes the pores in an eggshell to suck bacteria from the surface and into the egg where you don't want it. What's more, unwashed eggs have a natural antibacterial coating called bloom. Washing the eggs in a traditional manner removes the bloom and actually encourages bacteria.
If possible, dry clean your eggs—to do this, use something dry and slightly abrasive to rub off any dirt or feces until the egg is clean. This method preserves most of the bloom intact. Use a sanding sponge, loofah, fine sandpaper, or abrasive sponge of some kind to dry-clean the eggs. You should periodically sanitize the sponge or loofah, or discard the old one in favor of a brand new one.
Sometimes eggs are just too grimy or unpleasant to dry clean (if feces or the egg yolk from a broken egg dry on them, it can be almost impossible to clean them dry). In this case, wet-washing is the best option. Make sure to use water that is warmer than the egg temperature. Keep it at medium warmth, i.e. not hot but not tepid.
Do not immerse the eggs in water or let them stand in water. The best method is to wash the eggs under running water from the faucet. Another method is to spray the eggs in washer flats or wire baskets with warm water, let them sit, then wipe them dry with a dry paper towel one at a time. Place clean eggs in another basket or flat. Follow this step with a sanitizing spray—using bleach diluted in water for the spray mixture—and allow the eggs to dry on a rack or in a basket or washer flat. If the water and sanitizing spray are not enough, particularly stubborn stains may be removed by dipping the eggs in warm vinegar.
If you are preparing eggs for sale, make sure to check with your County Extension Office to find out the proper procedures for your state's regulations regarding washing eggs for sale.
After washing, make sure to store your eggs in clean cartons or racks. Unwashed eggs can be stored on the countertop for several weeks, then washed immediately before they are cooked. A cloth moistened with cooking oil can give the eggs an appealing shine while also prolonging the shelf-life of unrefrigerated eggs by sealing the pores. Store eggs pointed-side down to keep them fresh longer. Some people find unrefrigerated eggs to taste better, but once you have washed them, refrigerate your eggs immediately if you're not cooking them right away.