by Daisy

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In discussions of what sets fresh eggs apart from their factory counterparts, you’ll likely hear the word “bloom.”

What exactly is “bloom” and what is it for?

In short, it’s a coating, courtesy of the hen herself, deposited on the outer surface of the shell, which helps protect the contents of the egg from contamination.

Another name for it is “cuticle.”  It is a protein, a mucous secretion of the hen’s cackleberry chute, to get scientific.

It’s necessary because eggshell is permeable, with about 80,000 microscopic pores on the surface of one egg.   Bloom blocks bacteria, etc., from entering the egg and keeps the egg fresh longer.

Factory eggs, among their other issues, have been washed to make them palatable for the public and this removes the bloom.  A coating of mineral oil is substituted to prolong their shelf-life.  Like most man-made interferences, it is unequal to nature’s own.

Now our own homegrown hens’ eggs get dirty sometimes and need to be washed, which leaves us with a sort of Catch-22:  leave the bloom and the surface contaminants can’t penetrate the egg, but they are still there on the outside, looking gross, getting into the egg when you crack it open, getting on your hands when you handle it, and looking really not cool at all sitting on your counter or in the fridge.  Heaven forbid one should present a poopy egg to a friend, family member, or customer.

But, see, the bloom is there, protecting the egg inside . . . You explain and point and nod authoritatively but no, the horror is still frozen on their faces.  And understandably so.

What to do?

The general consensus is that washing dirty eggs is indeed fine.  Best to do it soon before using the eggs to take advantage of the natural protection of bloom for as long as you can, but a washed egg is a lovely egg as well, and much more presentable to the general population.

Use water that is 20 degrees F. warmer than the temperature of the egg itself.  This will prevent thermal cracks from developing in the shell which would shorten the fresh life of the egg.  A vinegar solution or a mild soap followed by a dry towel is fine.  You’re really not trying to get an absolutely aseptic shell, just remove the exterior contaminants that gross people out and might fly into your food when you crack the egg.

Speaking of cracking, chefs and foodies recommend cracking eggs on a flat (or nearly flat) surface for the best, most shell-free result.

Prevention is even better.  Collect eggs soon after they are laid if possible.  Maintain clean bedding and make it nice and deep.  Straw is one good one.  Keep roosting areas up and away from the nesting sites.

And remember, if in doubt, place a suspect egg in a glass of water.  If it floats, it’s past its prime.  If it sinks, it’s likely a good’n.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tanya Walton August 26, 2010 at 10:56 am

I think if I had my own chickens i would go for the leave it natural look and wash it just before I used it…to hell with what the friends think…if they don’t like it they can buy those crappy eggs from the supermarket!!!

Interesting stuff to know so thanks….i will always tell people who are offering my eggs now NOT to wash them!!

Joan August 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

My dad doesn’t want any of my hen’s eggs after he learned about that. I also made the mistake of telling dad that my hens eat spiders, lizards, small snakes and other critters. He was grossed out!!! LOL

Lara August 26, 2010 at 7:43 pm

You cleared up a great question that I had yet to research. My hens have not started to lay (oh boy am I anxious) but I truly didn’t know what I was going to do. To wash or not to wash? The mental picture of chicken poo flying into my morning scramble was the clencher. Thanks.

Melissa August 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm

They say you can learn something new every day. I did! I have at one time raised chickens and did not know this. It still amazes me how God provided the best for us in every thing. And we think we can outdo Him. Thank you for all the wonderful information you provide.

Bee August 27, 2010 at 1:06 am

Thank you, as Melissa, said, you learn something new everyday. Now I understand why we have all those problems with commercial eggs but you don’t hear about it with backyard chickens. When I finally get chickens I will make sure I don’t destroy the bloom.

Phyllis August 27, 2010 at 7:30 am

Cackleberry chute ;-0 Good one!

Kathy August 27, 2010 at 10:34 am

I wash them as soon as I bring them in, but we use them pretty quickly. I had no idea mineral oil was used on store eggs. Gross!

My hens kick all the straw out of the laying boxes for some reason, so I gave up on it. LOL

Corinne August 27, 2010 at 11:22 am


Nicki August 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I was just given some fresh eggs this week by the owner who wasn’t sure if they were still good. She couldn’t remember if it was good:float or bad: float, so you cleared that up for me. Thank you! I’m going to go float some eggs!

jan August 28, 2010 at 6:38 am

Thanks for all the useful information! When this whole egg recall thing started, I realized how glad I was that I purchased our eggs from a local farmer. I don’t care if there is a bit of “dirt”, on my eggs. I wash them right before using. The difference between store bought eggs and fresh farm bought eggs is so clear when you taste them. Also when you see the farmer’s hens running about the yard, picking at critters in the grass and generally, doing what hens are supposed to do. It is fun to watch. He does close them in the hen house at night though, for their own safety.

Lorena August 29, 2010 at 11:55 am

The first time I went to Fresh and Easy to shop, I bought their organic, free-range eggs. I opened the carton at the store to check for breakage, and to my delight, I saw some of the eggs had the poop still on them. Yeah, I’m weird, but I remembered the eggs laid by my grandma’s chickens, and since I’ve always known “where food comes from” it doesn’t startle me to see a bit of poop. Still, I didn’t know about the cuticle; as Melissa said, it’s wonderful to think that God has taken care of everything. 😀

This is my first time posting, although I’ve been a fan of your site for a couple of years, ever since my husband found it and sent me a link. I really enjoy your tips and hope to have one of my own to add soon!

megpop August 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Your blog always makes me laugh. Thanks for the smiles.

Tomato Lady August 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

Thanks for all your comments, everybody. Welcome, Lorena, glad to hear from you! Here’s to knowing where food comes from!

Brittany August 31, 2010 at 12:56 pm

If our eggs get a little bit dirty in the nesting box I just take a damp towel and gently wipe the dirty spots until the egg looks “presentable”. That way the bloom is not completely removed but we don’t have a poopy egg sitting in our basket on the kitchen counter. That being said, I always give the eggs a good rinse under hot water just before using them and suggest the same to friends. Very informative post, definitely something that I had to read up on as a new chicken owner!

Sherri September 16, 2010 at 1:28 am

Great post… seems to me that you could leave them dirty (well give them a little brush off if they are really poopy or something) and then wash them RIGHT before you use them, if you’re worried about getting a little flake of dried barnyard stuff in your breakfast. After all, if you’re gonna break them, what does it matter if you washed off the bloom? Just saying…. 🙂

Darci January 3, 2011 at 1:47 am

A baby brush works really well for getting the yuckies off. It’s nice & soft, so little danger of breaking the egg, but stiff enough to get off the worst.

Diana September 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Will buffing with a dry and clean washcloth take off the bloom or is it just rinsing that removes it?

Tomato Lady September 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Diana–Wiping with a dry cloth won’t remove a significant amount of the bloom. If you really go to town on it it might sort of “sand” it off, but you’d have to be pretty energetic.

Corrina June 22, 2012 at 1:34 am

I’m glad I read this! We’ve hatched chicks with our incubator once (batch of about 30) but had a couple die on us. I wonder if those might have been the washed eggs? Well today I started setting aside eggs for hatching again and washed them because a few of them were quite poopy…who knows why with all that area to poop they do it on the eggs LOL. Anyway, for the ones I washed today, they’ll become breakfast. I’ll start my little pile anew 🙂 Thanks for the info!

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