Should you wash eggs or not?

The United States is one of only a hand full of countries in the world that gets a little squeamish when chicken eggs are stored on the kitchen counter instead of in the fridge.

Lisa Steele’s family has been raising chickens for five-generations. She has a popular blog and Facebook page to share poultry tips. A question she’s often asked is if eggs should be washed after being collected from the hen house. The short answer is “No”. Eggs are laid with a natural coating on the shell called the “bloom” or “cuticle”. This coating is the first line of defense in keeping air and bacteria out of the egg. Eggshells are porous, so when you wash them you’re removing that natural barrier.

Unwashed eggs can sit on your kitchen counter at room temperature for a couple of weeks and they’ll still be edible. But once they’ve touched water, they need to be refrigerated. Store-bought eggs have been cleaned so they need to go in the fridge.

If you plan to sell your eggs, Steele says your state will dictate whether they should be washed or not.

"Each state has different laws about handling the eggs, how they have to be stored, whether or not they have to be washed. Like in Virginia, if you’re going to be selling them, you have to leave them unwashed," says Steele. "Other states you have to wash them, you have to use a certain solution."

When Steele washes her eggs, she rinses them under warm, running water.

"You want the water to be warmer than the egg so it doesn’t suck the bacteria in, and you want to do it under running water. You don’t want to put them in a bowl of water and then start washing them. It should be running water so they’re not sitting in the dirty water," she says. "Then, just let them dry and refrigerate them. Personally, I don’t wash my eggs until just before we eat them."

Clean nesting boxes will go a long way in keeping the eggs clean. Check them every morning and change out the bedding every couple of days or so.

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