Different cultures treat egg washing in different ways – many cultures frown on washing fresh eggs whereas many places in the US require it if the eggs are to be sold. So the question arises – is it best to wash the eggs after collecting them or leave them unwashed? And the answer is, it’s generally best to leave the egg unwashed. The great thing is that with your own eggs, you can decide, and do what works best for your situation.
Just before laying an egg, the hen adds a protective layer called “bloom” or cuticle to the outside of the egg. This coating seals the shell pores, prevents bacteria from getting inside the shell, and reduces moisture loss from the egg – all designed to make the egg last longer. Washing the eggs removes this protective layer, and does reduce the time that the egg will remain fresh.
So, eggs that are removed from the nest box that are clean, are best left unwashed until just before use. However, eggs that have dirt, feathers, or chicken droppings attached when removed from the nest box should be washed in warm water (eggs should not be washed in cool water as this pushes bacteria into the shell pores), and used first. Obviously then, if you don’t intend to wash your eggs, it’s best to keep nest boxes nice and clean so that as many eggs as possible remain clean.
If you sell your eggs, then it’s important to check the rules in your state concerning whether they need to be washed. Consumers are also accustomed to washed eggs (the ones in the supermarket are generally required to be washed), so that’s also a consideration in deciding whether to wash. Just make sure to let your customers know whether they need to wash the eggs before use. To wash eggs, just rinse them under very warm tap water. It’s not necessary to use any soaps or detergents.
Unwashed eggs will last at least two weeks unrefrigerated, and three months if refrigerated. Washed eggs should be refrigerated, and will last at least two months, but won’t taste as fresh as an unwashed egg of the same age.