What is the proper way to manually wash fresh farm eggs?

Answer: Methods that use spraying, pouring, or dipping reduce the time of contact between water and egg. Soaking eggs is generally not recommended because it may allow microbes to enter the shell.

If you have just a few eggs, use a brush and wash them in a sink with hot running water and then dip them in a sanitizer (Bigbee and Froning, 1997). The water should be warmer than the egg. Pre-wetting and using a detergent will help. Brushes that can be sanitized are helpful. For example, surgical brushes, which are small nylon brushes packed with micro bristles, are made to clean hands and under nails and are useful in egg cleaning because they can easily be sanitized in the dishwasher or bleach water.

Dip washing
To wash several dozen eggs, make up separate basins of detergent, rinse water and sanitizer solutions. Wash each egg separately and do not soak. Dip the egg in rinse water, and then dip it in sanitizer. Using an egg basket or colander to rinse and sanitize many eggs at once will save time. Set eggs aside to dry. It is important to remember to change the detergent and rinse water after every three to four dozen eggs. Use gloves to protect hands from hot water, detergent, and sanitizer (Bigbee and Froning, 1997). Sinks with three basins are ideal for this method and can usually be found through bar and restaurant equipment suppliers. Also available through similar sources are brushes atop a suction base that will attach to the bottom of the sink and can be used under wash water, freeing up a hand in the scrubbing process. Be cautious of disposing wash water on the farm because the detergents and sanitizers may be highly caustic or chlorinated and your septic will suffer if fed the mix (Davis, 2005).

Spray or pour washing
Robert Plamondon, a small-scale producer in Oregon, provides the following recommendation:

“While the eggs are in wire baskets or plastic egg crates, shower them generously with the use of a watering can with 100 degrees water that contains detergent and enough chlorine to bring the level to 100 to 200 ppm. Allow the wash water to run away from the eggs by sitting the basket atop a drain. After standing a few minutes the eggs may need to be watered again. Then wipe the eggs individually with a paper towel. Replace the paper towel often during the process. A cloth towel should not be used because it may continue to be used long after it has become dirty. Clean eggs should then be placed in a clean wire basket or plastic flat. Clean eggs are then sanitized by generously showering them with 100-degree water that is 100 to 200 ppm chlorine. You can dry the eggs manually or let them air dry. Drying racks can be made with half-inch hardware cloth on a wooden frame. The eggs will also dry if put into the refrigerator while still in the basket or crates. Wet eggs should not be placed in cartons because they will stick” (Plamondon, 2001).

Ready to learn more? Check out the ATTRA publication Small-Scale Egg Handling, which addresses egg collection, cleaning, candling, grading, storage, distribution, and much more.

References:
Bigbee, D. E. and G. W. Froning. 1997. Egg Cleaning Procedure for the Household Flock. NebGuide. G79-66-A. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, Lincoln, Neb.

Davis, Jim. 2005. Re: Kenmore Egg Washer Test. E-mail posting to PasturePoultry listserve. Sept. 13.

Plamondon, Robert. 2001. Re: Washing Eggs. Yahoo Pasture Poultry Listserver. May 23.