When it comes to what you put in your mouth, the cleaner the better, right?
The irony is, for some foods like eggs, washing can do more harm than good.
Here is the reason why;
Right before an egg is laid, the chicken coats the eggshell with a protective coating called the “bloom”, which helps keep bacteria, moisture, and gases out of the egg. Have you ever touched a freshly laid egg? It feels a little wet; that is the bloom.
The coating also keeps the egg fresher longer and unwashed eggs with the bloom still intact can stay on your kitchen counter at room temperature for a couple of weeks without going bad.
Eggshells are porous (meaning they are full of tiny pores/openings) where bacteria can get through. Washing removes the bloom, making it a potential for bacteria to form on the surface of the egg and this poses a far bigger risk of contaminating the part of the egg that is eaten.
Even with that knowledge, though, you might still feel inclined to give fresh-farm eggs a quick wash – after all, eggs with a bit of dry chicken poop, shavings or feathers stuck on them can be quite disgusting and unappealing. Your other concern might be exposure to Salmonella due to contact of eggs with chicken feces that might be contaminated with the bacteria.
If you must wash your eggs, rinse them under warm, running water. The water ought to be warmer than the egg. Warm water causes the contents of the egg to expand against the shell, helping to prevent bacteria to enter through the shell. On the other hand, cool water causes the contents of the egg to shrink, creating a vacuum that can pull bacteria into the egg through the porous shell.
When washing, you should not put eggs in a bowl of water and then start washing them. Use running water so that the eggs are not sitting in the dirty water. It is recommended to moisten the eggs until the dirty spots soften then wipe, let them to dry and refrigerate.
An option of cleaning eggs without water is dry cleaning using a fine grit sandpaper, emery cloth, or brush to gently remove any soiled areas of the egg. While this still damages some of the bloom coating, it keeps the egg dry, helping to prevent the “vacuum” effect.
The easiest solutions that farmers can use to prevent dirty eggs in the first place include;
- Placing your roosting areas higher than the nesting boxes. Since chickens like to roost in the highest part of the coop, build roosting areas that are higher than your nesting area to discourage them from roosting in and soiling the boxes
- Ensuring that nesting boxes are cleaned often. Keeping a constant supply of fresh shavings or bedding in each box goes a long way in keeping the eggs clean (though, I’ll freely admit that even with the cleanest boxes, you will still end up with a dirty egg from time to time)
- Collecting eggs at least a couple of times a day will help to ensure cleanliness if the chickens are scratching around inside the coop
In conclusion, to answer the question whether you should wash eggs or not, the short answer is: only if absolutely necessary and with great caution.