Should Fresh Eggs Be Washed?
Different cultures treat egg washing in different ways – many cultures (such as all the EU countries) prohibit washing fresh eggs that are to be sold whereas most places in the US require them to be washed.
So the question arises – is it best to wash the eggs after collecting them or leave them unwashed?
Despite what regulations in much of the US say, the answer is, it’s generally better to leave the egg unwashed. The great thing about having your own chickens providing eggs is that you can decide, and do what works best for your situation.
Why Not Washing May Be Better
Just before laying an egg, the hen adds a protective layer called “bloom” or cuticle (see Understanding Egg Bloom) 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.
What If You Sell Eggs?
If you sell your eggs, then it’s important to check the rules in your state concerning whether they need to be washed. In general, the USDA requires that eggs that are to be sold be washed (see this link).
The USDA requires producers to wash eggs with warm water at least 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the eggs and at a minimum of 90°F. A detergent that won’t impart any foreign odors to the eggs must also be used. After washing, the eggs must be rinsed with a warm water spray containing a chemical sanitizer to remove any remaining bacteria. They are then dried to remove excess moisture.
Individual state regulations for smaller egg operations may exempt some egg producers from the above egg washing rule in the US so it’s important to make sure you’re in compliance with whatever rules apply in your state.
United States 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 they purchase from you before use.
To wash homestead 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.
i received unwashed eggs that have been refrigerated, can they still be water glassed?
Hi Joy, I use fresh, unwashed, unrefrigerated eggs for water glassing. Since those have been refrigerated, I wouldn’t use them.
I’ve heard that fresh eggs are not good for making hard boiled eggs as the shells do not come off easily and you end up mutilating the egg trying to get the shell off. Ones that are at least 2 weeks old are better for hard boiling. If they stand on end in water they are good for boiling if they lay flat they are not. If they float they are bad.
Hi Don, It’s very true that it’s nearly impossible to peel a very hardboiled egg unless you use my method for cooking them: https://www.betterhensandgardens.com/easy-peel-hardboiled-fresh-eggs/
Debbie Sheegog says
This is a very helpful place where I have learned most of what I know about chickens! One question around how to handle and keep newly gathered eggs leaves me wondering if eggs rinsed briefly without soap are also in the “washed” egg category ? Thanks for everything.
Arvid Wilson says
I’m wondering the same question!!
A ”water glassed” egg is actually sitting in a water/hydrated lime solution! Doesn’t the bloom on the egg eventually break down?
I think that’s what is trying to be prevented by “washing” the egg, isn’t it?
Keeping the bloom intact on the egg until actual use.
Arvid Wilson says
I float tested all of my eggs in water to cull out the floaters. I also used my thumb to lightly scrub off particles from the egg. I then put the eggs in the hydrated lime solution.
Is the float testing and light scrubbing ruining the bloom on the egg?
The eggs were also refrigerated prior to water glassing. Is that wrong?
Hi Arvid & Debbie, you want to use the freshest, unwashed, unrinsed, unrefrigerated eggs that you have for water glassing. No washing, no scrubbing, no float testing, no refrigeration! Preserve that egg bloom 🙂
Christina Proctor says
Is there anywhere in Michigan or Ohio where I can purchase unwashed eggs? Preferably in Michigan.
I would like to preserve them through waterglassing. Do you know how to do this?
Hi Christina, I don’t know of specific farms that offer unwashed eggs, but I suggest you find a small farm selling eggs near you and get to know the farmer. Then you can request unwashed eggs – most small farmers selling their eggs will likely be happy to comply. Maybe a farmer’s market near you would be a good place to find a local farmer. I haven’t done waterglassing.
Iron Oaks Farm in Hartland, Michigan sells unwashed eggs. The owner of the farm is author of a book about eggs.
Hello! Great article! Quick question for you, I washed my eggs last night and did not refrigerate until this morning. Are they still good? Would you be worried to sell them? Any insight would be very appreciated!
Hi Patrick, Your eggs should be fine since they went un-refrigerated for such a short period of time. I would feel comfortable eating them (fully cooked) but would not feel comfortable selling them. Just wouldn’t want to risk any liability in seling them.
Fantastic reply thank you that is what my wife was thinking too. Thank you for your insight and sharing your wealth of knowledge!
You can tell if an egg is still good or not by placing them in a container of water. If they float, they are bad. Good eggs should sink to the bottom of the container.
Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for the tip on how to tell if eggs are still good!
This info. found on Purina Mills website:
Difference between good egg/ fresh egg and good egg/ safe to eat egg.
You might have come across articles about the “egg float test.” This is not a “freshness” test to determine if your eggs are still safe to eat. Rather, the egg float test simply gives you an approximation of how old an egg is. It does not tell you whether the eggs are safe to eat.
I wasn’t sure how to wash fresh eggs we got for watching our friend’s chickens so I refrigerated them before washing them. Is this ok or did I let bacteria enter by chilling them? Can I wash them now that they’re cold?
Hi Anne, Yes it should be ok that you refrigerated them – I’d let them warm up to room temperature, wash them in warm tap water as described above and then put them back in the refrigerator.
Thank you, I was hoping you’d say that!
I washed my eggs, but not sure if I used warm or cool water. I know I used cool water on 2-3. I also refrigerated them. Will they still be safe to eat? Or should I feed them to my chickens? I have Buff Orpingtons.
They should be fine, just keep them refrigerated, use these first and remember to use warm water in the future 🙂
Lisa G says
Can you store washed and unwashed eggs in a bowl together?
Hi Lisa, You really shouldn’t store the unwashed eggs with the washed eggs for sanitary reasons. The washed ones no longer have their protective coating and should be stored separately.
We have 8 chickens how many eggs do you think we will have a week?
Hi Michelle, the number of eggs you get will depend on what breed of chickens you have. If you have egg-layers like Golden Buffs (and they are young) they will lay an egg nearly every day. However, if you chose a dual-purpose breed (like a Rhode Island Red) then they will lay an egg more like every other day.
April springer says
Hello! I put eggs that have not been washed in the refrigerator, can I take them out and leave them out?
Hi April, Yes you can take them out and leave them out. They should last for about 2 weeks unrefrigerated.
Kristi Wheeler says
I agree with the no wash method. Keeping the nesting boxes clean helps to cut down on the poopy eggs. Usually, if I have poopy eggs I try to use them up, or wash them, hard boil them, and then give them back to the chickens along with some dried eggshells to give them back some calcium! Thanks for the great info! So happy for like-minded friends!
I was told that if you refrigerate unwashed eggs that the cold will suck bacteria and bloom into egg??? Thank-you.
Hi Lisa, My understanding is that the bloom on unwashed eggs protects them from the bacteria even in refrigerated conditions.
Julie Albrecht says
i GET EGGS from a local farmer, and request they not be washed (which surprised them.). If they are dirty, I wash just before I crack it open.
It is more than 90 degrees today, in fact, all week. Can I still leave them on the counter?
Hi Julie, yes I believe it is ok to leave them on the counter in 90 degree weather. If you travel to a warm weather region like Mexico, you will find that they leave unwashed eggs out in those temperatures all the time with no problems.
We get fresh eggs from a wonderful friend, and they don’t wash them, which is great. I usually put dirty ones by themselves, to use first, and just wash then before I use them. Is that ok, or should I wash the dirty ones right away?
Hi Hill, Yes, we find that it’s fine to do what you describe as long as you’re comfortable with it.