Let me preface this post by saying as a general rule, we don't wash our eggs until just before using them. I have found that by keeping the nesting boxes clean and collecting the eggs often, our eggs are pretty clean when they arrive in the kitchen. By not wetting the eggshells, we rely on the natural 'bloom' that covers each eggshell to keep the egg fresh and prevent air and bacteria from entering through the pores in the shell.
However, there is that random dirty egg from time to time, and I know some of you do wash your eggs right after you collect them ... so I have developed an all natural antibacterial egg rinse to wash any eggs caked with mud or manure, followed by a natural preservative that can be safely applied to replace the 'bloom' that has been washed off.
Convention wisdom recommends first rinsing your eggs in water at least 20 degrees warmer than the eggs (cool water will actually cause the egg to draw any debris or bacteria on the shell or in the water INTO the egg, which you clearly don't want) then rinsing the eggs in a bleach/water solution and allowing them to air dry before refrigerating them. Coating with mineral oil is also recommended for even longer-lasing eggs. Eggs treated this way (which is basically how commercial egg farms handle their eggs) should last for 8 weeks or longer.
Note: The USDA recommends not letting eggs sit or soak in water, so washing them under running water is recommended.
I don't know about you but bleach? Mineral oil? Blech! I'll stick with natural substances on our fresh eggs, thank you very much. So here's how I clean eggs (when I do clean them, which isn't very often, although I admit our duck eggs are muddy more often than not!)
My Natural Method
Instead of rinsing your eggs in plain water, which itself can have traces of bacteria in it, why not use vinegar as your main cleaning agent? White vinegar kills most bacteria and germs, so why not combine two steps in one and rinse your eggs in a warmed vinegar solution? And better yet, why not add some herbs which also have antibacterial properties?
1 part white vinegar
1 part water
Handful of fresh herbs with antibacterial properties (list below) crushed with fingers to release oils
In a mason jar or covered glass container, add the herbs of your choice (fill jar about halfway). Fill jar with white vinegar to cover leaving 1/4" headroom at top of jar.
Infuse the herbs into the vinegar by leaving the jar sit overnight or longer. When you are ready to wash your eggs, strain your vinegar into a heat-safe container, add the one part water and then heat the liquid to warm it.
Spray your vinegar mixture onto the egg and use a rough sponge or your fingers to remove any debris. Wipe each egg with a paper towel or let your eggs air dry and then either refrigerate as is ... or try my coconut oil preservative coating for longer-lasting freshness.
Herbs with Antibacterial Properties
Basil Bee Balm Calendula Cinnamon Stick Echinacea
Lemon Balm Rose Petals Thyme Yarrow
My favorite combination is rose petals, yarrow and cinnamon stick, but feel free to use what you have available and experiment.Coconut Oil Preservative
Preserving your eggs with some kind of oil after washing helps to build a barrier against air and bacteria similar to what the natural 'bloom' does on an unwashed egg.
You want to coat only very fresh eggs (i.e. those laid within the last 24 hours). Heat your coconut oil to 180 degrees and maintain that heat for twenty minutes. Add dried crush herbs (use list above) if desired, then strain once oil is to temperature. Let oil cool so it's comfortable to the touch but still liquid. Carefully dip each egg into the liquefied oil and let cool and dry. Refrigerate as soon as the oil has solidified.
Eggs treated this way should last you for a god many months. I haven't figured out exactly how long an egg will keep like this but by all accounts, eggs dipped in oil should last for at least two months LONGER than untreated eggs. You can even leave your eggs out unrefrigerated in a coolish (50-70 degree) area that is dry, not humid, and they will last for 2-4 months.
I have rinsed and preserved some eggs as described above. Check back with me around Christmas to find how the eggs hold up. Regardless of how long they actually last, I feel good knowing that I've used all natural products to clean and preserve them!
And p.s. the cinnamon rose spray makes a wonderful antibacterial bathroom spray cleaner too!