Clean Eggs Bring More Money

Clean Eggs Bring More Money

by Wendell Earle & H.E. Botsford, Cornell Extension Bulletin 863, May 1953

At the time this material was authored new chemistry was the unquestioned king of agriculture. Today, thankfully, we are sensitive to the unquestioned use of chemicals. The “accepted detergent sanitizer” mentioned in this information went unnamed and we caution you to think about the fact that egg shell is a permeable membrane and “stuff” can get through. Stay well on the side of caution when it comes to cleaning solvents on eggs, or better yet don’t use them. – LRM

Your egg buyer will pay you more for clean eggs than for dirty eggs. A few dirty eggs in a case not only detract from its appearance but reduce the value of the entire case.

Most buyers and handlers have no equipment to clean eggs, and thus sell the eggs as dirties at 5 to 35 cents less a dozen. You always get higher prices for clean eggs, regardless of whether your buyer pays you on a graded or ungraded basis.

Produce Clean Eggs

A dirty egg, regardless of how it is cleaned is not so good as a clean one unwashed.

To produce clean eggs, provide conditions that keep eggs clean:

Deep Nests

Build the nests 15 inches high, with a 7- to 8-inch board along the front to keep the nesting material inside, or use community nests with deep litter.

Clean Nests

Fill the nests with 4 to 5 inches of fine, clean, absorbent material, such as shavings; oat, buckwheat, or peanut hulls; or cut straw. Long straw is not absorbent. Add nest material as needed to prevent bare-bottom nests. Keep the birds from roosting on the edge of the nests at night.

Nest Space

Allow 1 square foot of nest space for each 5 to 6 hens.


Collect the eggs three or four times daily at intervals that reduce breakage to a minimum and maintain quality.

Dry Floors

Prevent wet floor litter by proper air movement, by preventing storms from blowing into open windows, and by keeping the birds from throwing water on the litter while drinking. Flat chicken wire suspended over the waterers helps to keep the floor dry.

Cleaning Dirty Eggs

A separate room in which to clean and size the eggs is best. Keep the temperature of this room no more than 10 to 12 degrees warmer than that of the egg-holding room, to prevent moisture from forming on the shell surface while the eggs are being handled.

Cleaning by Hand


Place the dirty eggs in a wire basket. Let warm water flow into the palm of your hand and sprinkle the eggs until all are wet. This prevents cracking the eggs. Move the basket from under the faucet and rinse off any dirt by holding and washing each egg under running water. Place the eggs in the separate basket to dry. Never leave eggs in water to soak.

Clean Eggs Bring More Money
“Dunk and Sozzle” method.


Lower each basket of eggs for a few seconds into a hot-water bath, 150 degrees to 160 degrees F., that contains an accepted detergent sanitizer. After all the eggs have been put through the bath, repeat the process; begin with the basket that was dipped first. To rinse the eggs, dip the basket into hot water or spray the eggs with hot water from a hose. Use fresh water frequently.

Palm Dry Clean

A palm cleaner fits into the palm of the hand and removes small spots or stains. It does not interfere with the use of the hands while grading and packing.


Use the buffer the same way as you use the palm dry cleaner. A buffer is not so convenient since you have to pick it up each time you use it.

Cleaning by Machine

A good cleaning machine should:

  1. Thoroughly clean dirty eggs of all sizes and shapes.
  2. Cause no damage to the shell or contents of the egg while cleaning.
  3. Clean faster than by hand.
  4. Be low enough in both purchase and operation cost for the small flock owner.

Dry Cleaning

A number of different types of egg dry-cleaning machines are on the market. Most of these machines clean with rotating abrasive discs or strips. Some machines require more attention to operate than others. With one type, it is necessary to hold and rotate the eggs against a disc or pad. Other machines are fully automatic.

Caution: Never leave eggs on the machine too long. Continued scouring may weaken the shells, increase breakage, and result in rapid loss of quality.

Wet Cleaning

Wet cleaning has always been frowned upon by egg handlers. Washing clean eggs lowers the interior quality, therefore clean eggs should not be washed. Bacteria in the dirt on the eggs, if allowed to enter the eggs, lowers quality. Poor washing methods can cause contamination. Eggs washed with a wet dirty cloth, in dirty water, or in water colder than the eggs, may be damaged. A wet cloth smears the bacteria over the eggs. Washing an egg in cold water causes the contents of the eggs to contract and draws the bacteria into the egg. The water should be warmer than the eggs at all times.


  1. Gather eggs in wire baskets.
  2. Size clean eggs and place dirty eggs in separate baskets.
  3. Wash the dirty eggs only.
  4. Dry promptly.
Clean Eggs Bring More Money
Immersion-type washer.

By Immersion

Place the dirty and soiled eggs in a wire basket and lower the basket into water usually containing a detergent sanitizer. The temperature of the water should be maintained between 100 degrees and 130 degrees F. Either the basket is revolved or the water is circulated by compressed air. It takes from 3 to 5 minutes to clean a basket of eggs. When the eggs are clean, remove the basket from the machine and dry as rapidly as possible.


  1. Keep the water temperature at least 110 degrees F. and not more than 130 degrees F.
  2. Remove the eggs promptly after 3 to 5 minutes to prevent partial cooking.
  3. Use fresh water in the machine after each washing or oftener if the machine is used continuously.
  4. Dry promptly.
  5. Allow eggs to cool before packing.
  6. Clean the washing equipment thoroughly every day.
Clean Eggs Bring More Money
Spray-type washer.

By Spray

With the spray-type cleaner, eggs move through a fine spray of water and are brushed with discs, pads, or brushes. Water temperature of 100 degrees to 130 degrees F. is generally recommended for the spray or brush type, as the eggs are in the machine only a short time. Use a thermostatically controlled electric heater to maintain water temperature. A forced-air blast on some machines dries the eggs after they are washed. On others, the eggs need to be placed on a rack to dry before packing. It is important that the eggs be dried promptly after cleaning.