Washing Chicken Eggs With Soap & Water…

“An article you had earlier, about not damaging a film on the egg if you want to hatch them, has caused another concern in my mind. I clean all my eggs under cool water and soap before storing them. Is this the proper way to do it, or am I causing the storage life span of the stored egg to be shortened? Thanks” ~ Charlie

Charlie,

You have the same thing on your mind that so many people seem to lately; what is the best way to wash an egg?

I’ve been trying to get an answer our of a large egg producing company but can’t seem to get through to someone who will tell me how they clean their eggs.

So I’ll tell you how we wash our eggs and the reasoning behind why we do it this way. If there is anyone out there who disagrees with me, and feels there is folly in our practice, please write back with the reasons why and I will publish as an addendum next week.

Okay, a quick review of the “bloom” for those who are new to keeping chickens.

Just before an egg is laid, a protective membrane is applied to the outside of the shell. This membrane is called the bloom. The bloom is a thin protein coating that protects the egg from the entrance of harmful bacteria through it’s porous shell.

Once the bloom encounters water, it is quickly washed away and therefore cannot protect the contents of the egg any longer.

So, onto the actual washing of eggs and whether it’s even necessary to do so before storing them in the refrigerator.

If an egg is clean, meaning not soiled with manure or mud, I gently brush off any dust or straw and put it in the refrigerator. I use the word gently because I want to keep the bloom intact and a lot of handling of the egg can wear away the bloom.

An unwashed egg placed under refrigeration shortly after being laid will stay fresh for up to six months or more.

When I take an egg out or the refrigerator, I run it under cool water to remove the bloom before cooking.

If the bloom is intact, I could conceivably leave the egg out on the counter for a few weeks without refrigeration – remember, mama hen sits on her eggs for 3 weeks and a rotten chick does not hatch.

If for some reason I don’t get the eggs right into the refrigerator, I’ll only leave them out for a few days and only if the weather is not really hot. I tend to be a little more conservative in this regard.

Besides, refrigeration further slows down the aging process and the eggs will stay fresher longer in the refrigerator.

If the egg is very slightly soiled, like a speck of poo, flick it off!

If the area beneath is clean, put it with your other unwashed eggs in the refrigerator.

Remember that the bloom is still intact and protecting the contents of the egg.

Give it a good rinse before you cook it.

Sometimes an egg is not heavily soiled but a “flick” won’t do the job. A very gently rub with very fine sandpaper is commonly recommended.

Again, exercise common sense here; once the soil is removed you come into contact with the bloom underneath. If you rub away the bloom and there is any manure residue on the sandpaper, you can compromise the contents of the egg.

If an egg is heavily soiled, it must be washed. Do not put a manured egg in the refrigerator with your other food.

Once an egg has come into contact with water, it must be refrigerated shortly there after.

The safest way to wash eggs (in my opinion) is under cool, running water.

Do not immerse your eggs in a sink full of water. The bloom is removed leaving the eggs surrounded by water that contains manure. I think you can see the problem here.

I am a big fan of hot water, I think everything gets cleaner in hot water. My daughters don’t even want to help with the dishes if I’m the one whose filled the sink because it burns their hands. For me, hot = clean. EXCEPT – When it comes to washing eggs.

Hot, or even warm water will cause expansion in the egg.

As the egg cools, it will contract. It seems to me that the contraction would likely pull anything on the outside of the egg shell through the pours and into the inside of the egg. Therefore, we always wash our eggs in cool water to avoid the expansion and contraction all together.

If the manure does not come off from water running over it, I use a dish scrubber to gently brush away the manure. (Did I mention that it is a scrubber we use exclusively for this purpose and it never touches our dishes? Just wanted to make that clear.) It’s important to always push the dirt away from the egg rather than scrubbing down onto the egg. You will likely push harmful bacteria right into the porous shell.

We always thoroughly scrub and sanitize the sink we’ve used to clean soiled eggs. Salmonella is a bacteria found in chicken manure and we are cautious of it coming into contact with food or dishes.

Just a quick side note; if a egg has been soiled and has even a small crack in it, throw it away. That crack provides ample opportunity for the contents of the egg to be harmed.

As I read back through what I’ve written, it sounds a little scary – all this potential contamination stuff. The point I’m really trying to make is to use common sense when handling your food.

Charlie, as for using soap, I don’t think I would do that although I completely understand your thought process. But I would be hesitant because the soap will likely transfer through the shell. It’s not going to hurt you but for a clean egg especially, it isn’t necessary.

Also, your eggs will stay fresh longer if the bloom is intact. Use the eggs you’ve had to wash first and the unwashed eggs second.

So for you Charlie and the other 34 people who’ve written recently about how to clean eggs, I hope this has been of help.