How to Safely Clean Eggs From Your Hens

Here's how to have clean, healthful, safe chicken eggs

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If you are new to keeping chickens for the eggs they produce, how to clean those eggs before eating them or offering them for sale is probably a big question on your mind. And if you're going to sell those eggs at the farmers market or direct to consumers, you will need to be sure they're clean, safe, and attractive to buyers.

The automatic response is sometimes to just wash them But before you submerge the freshly collected eggs in ice water, wait! Cold water actually causes the pores in an eggshell to pull bacteria from the surface in through the shell 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 

Dry Cleaning Eggs

If possible, dry clean your eggs. This means using 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 new one. 

Wet Cleaning

If your 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). In this case, wet-washing is the option. Make sure to use water that is warmer than the egg temperature: medium warmth—not hot, but not tepid, either.

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. Then allow the eggs to dry on a rack or in a basket or washer flat.

If you are preparing eggs for sale, check with your County Extension Office to find out the proper procedures for your state's regulations regarding washing eggs for sale.

Tips for Cleaning and Storing Your Eggs

  • Stubborn stains may be removed by dipping the eggs in warm vinegar.
  • A cloth moistened with cooking oil may clean eggshells and it also gives them an appealing shine. It also prolongs the shelf-life of unrefrigerated eggs by sealing the pores.
  • Store eggs pointed-side down to keep them fresh longer. 

Storing Eggs

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. Some people find unrefrigerated eggs to taste better. However, once you have washed them, refrigerate your eggs immediately if you're not cooking them right away.