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Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Egg Shells, Cartons, and Disposals…and hopefully a good old fashioned debate!

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good, old-fashioned debate here on the blog. I think the best one ever was Milk on the Rocks. For the record, I will never be swayed from my belief that ice in milk is awesome.

Today’s topic of debate? Broken egg shells in the egg carton.

I firmly stand by the adage that you should never put broken egg shells back in the carton with unused eggs. I always thought this was a truth based on scientific fact. I mean, we’re supposed to be super careful about washing our hands after handling raw eggs. So, it would stand to reason that putting broken, open shells in with the unused eggs ups the chances of spreading food-borne bacteria, right? Well, when I sat down to write this post, I tried to find an expert to back me up. A quick Internet search yielded a bunch of useless discussion boards. The Egg Safety Center doesn’t even mention it in their list of dos and don’ts. Hmmmm….I still think I’m right. Putting broken shells back in the carton just doesn’t seem clean or safe. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Hence, the debate. What do you think you should do with broken shells? Back in the carton? Into the trash? Perfect for composting? Bad for composting? Throw them in the disposal? Look at all the debates we’ve opened up! It’s awesome!

For the record, I put my egg shells in the trash. And, when we get our compost game on, I’ll probably put them there instead. (I know some people who compost think the shells take too long to break down, I’ll have to research it more.)

I will say this, in addition to not putting broken egg shells back in the carton, I alsoΒ never put them down the disposal. This really, truly is a no-no that any maintenance person or plumber will back me up on.Β The egg shells probably won’t hurt the disposal itself, but you are definitely asking for your sink to back up at some point if you throw egg shells in there. Other items that shouldn’t go down the kitchen drain:

  • Peelings (not great for the disposal, can also back up the drain)
  • Grease (it gets cold and hard, causing build up in the drain, similar to a clogged heart artery)
  • Bones (duh. totally not good for the disposal)
  • Rice and pasta (I didn’t know that one, learned about it on Rice and pasta are too small for the disposal to break down and they expand when wet, which can back up the drain. Fascinating stuff, eh?)

And, since I always love sharing my kitchen neuroses with you, when I take eggs out of the carton, I always make sure the carton is balanced evenly. I’m pretty sure I picked this up from my mom. It’s totally OCD, but I will tell you it is nice to take the carton out of the fridge and never have to worry about the weight being distributed unevenly. Okay, now that I’ve put that down on paper I know it sounds crazy. But I’m still going to balance out my eggs!


  1. 1

    I do the same thing…make the carton balanced with the remaining eggs! And I think putting the shells back in the carton is gross. I did used to do that, and can’t count the number of times the “slime” spilled into an adjacent compartment, dried to a good egg, and when I went to take it out at some later time the good egg broke right in the carton! Thanks for the tips on the disposal, too…

  2. 2

    I also balance the carton with the remaining eggs, from the outside in. I have just started doing this in the last year or two. I read somewhere to do it this way and it made sense at the time, but now I cannot remember the reason! Senior moment (again). I throw the empty shells always in the trash. No, they are not good for the disposal and I don’t compost. I also keep the eggs in the carton inside the frig, unlike my Mom who always took hers out and put them on the frig door in those little plastic egg holder things that came with the frig. (Do they still come like that?) Finally, why would anyone put used egg shells back in the carton with the eggs? Yuck.

  3. 3

    You are crazy and a bit OCD/neurotic – but like you said… the apple does not fall far from the tree!

    Balanced cartons – YES

    Slime covered empty eggshells back in the clean, well balanced egg carton – NOOOOOOOO

  4. I hate broken eggs in the carton. I’m not so worried about germs, but my OCD tendencies don’t allow for broken egg shells anywhere but the trash! And I totally balance the carton too πŸ™‚

  5. 5

    Totally have to have a balanced carton!! I don’t put broken/used egg shells back in the carton, but that was mostly because I keep a flat for 2 1/2 dozen in my fridge and load it from the carton I buy at the store. This is left over from the days when we had our own chickens and I have kept it up since we had to give the hens to my parents (boo for home owners restrictions in new neighborhood). As for how I throw away shells, I sometimes do put them in the disposal. I didn’t know it was bad! I have never had any problems with my disposal caused by anything other than some buttery cooking liquid that my hubby poured down the sink. Since then, we do periodically take out the u-bend and make sure there isn’t anything in there. We have also disassembled the disposal unit and cleaned it out (thanks to an aquarium rock!) to help it last a little longer.

  6. 6

    I have bumped an egg carton, resting on top of a leftover container, and had it tip over and break eggs because it wasn’t balanced.
    I always balance out my remaining eggs in the carton too…it just makes sense!

  7. i balance the carton from the outside in! and i never put egg shells back in with unused eggs. ewww!

  8. 8

    I had never even heard of putting the shells back in the carton until I saw a friend do it recently. It just seems yucky to get the egg slime everywhere! I didn’t know about eggs, rice or pasta in the disposal – thanks for letting me know!

  9. I am so obsessed with balanced eggs that I did a blog post about it it 2009.

  10. 10
    Jane Maynard

    I AM SO LOVING all these comments – I am not alone in this world! πŸ™‚

  11. 11

    Jane I completely agree with you on everything. Never broken egg shells in the carton and I can’t believe I’ve known you this long and just discovered the balance of the egg carton thing. I guess it’s a common practice. Glad to know I’m not so OCD after all:)

  12. 12
    Janna M

    I never put the broken shells back into the carton. That seems completely absurd to me. I do compost them though. My mother-in-law crushes them up and puts them into her garden. I’m not a gardener so I don’t know why she does this.
    I don’t balance the eggs in the carton but I always seem to remove them from right to left.

  13. 13

    I never put broken eggs back in the carton.

    I think you are all crazy for balancing the carton out.

    I put all of my eggs in the disposal even though the last time I had the disposal replaced I was told not to do that.

  14. 14

    always balance the eggs in the carton! Never put broken shells back in the carton though I do put them down the disposal –

  15. 15

    Well, I have chickens…so I microwave the used eggshell for a minute and that “cooks” the membrane and also makes them really brittle so they crumble up beautifully, then they can go into the compost or out to the chickens to replenish their calcium. I don’t worry about balancing the cartons, because I just fill up empty spaces with my new chicken eggs. Everyone should have a couple of chickens.

    • Jane Maynard

      I am jealous of your eggs…not so much the chickens, but definitely the eggs! wish we were neighbors so I could poach from you…

      thanks for that great microwave tip!

  16. 16

    I always thought I was the only one that had to balance the egg carton. I do not put the shells back in the carton either. They go in the trash and never in the garbage disposal. ( I learned this the hard way.)


  17. 17
    Melissa M

    I always balance my cartons! My husband (who eats WAY more eggs than me) never does this. Drives me crazy and have been known to take the carton out and balance it for him. He thinks Im crazy for doing this, btw. I don’t buy the eggs either if they are not perfect. No broken ones, all beautifully white and clean and I check to make sure they all come out of their spaces. Yep I’m in the egg dept for a little while and did I mention I don’t even eat eggs? Also I wash my hands like 5 times when dealing with them. A touch OCD? Maybe but my stomach is not the best, so I wash hands a million times when I cook- not just eggs, any meat chicken or seafood too. Also, I thought if you cooked the eggs enough the bacteria would die? Not true?

  18. 18
    Erin O.

    When I was newly married (a million years ago) and living in a tiny apartment, I peeled a crap-ton of potatoes and put all the peelings down the disposal. That sucker backed up like you wouldn’t BELIEVE. My husband had to pull all the plumbing apart.

    I didn’t know about the balance-the-egg-carton trick! I love it! I’m slightly OCD so now it will always bug me if it’s unbalanced.

    • Jane Maynard

      glad he decided to stay married to you! πŸ˜‰

      and glad I could bring a little more OCD into your life…

  19. While I have never balanced my egg carton, I am sooo going to start doing that. I am a little disappointed that I didn’t think of it myself. I never put the eggs shells back in the carton unless all the rest of the eggs are going to be used and it is going into the garbage. After we discovered my son’s egg allergy I am super paranoid about any egg slime anywhere. I do compost and we have had some huge gardens. I compost most of the time, but not during the winter (I am just not that committed). The egg shells always go to the compost because they provide great nutrition for the garden. One of the biggest nutrients that egg shells provide is calcium that plants need to grow. The fast growing plants especially need the calcium because they quickly deplete the calcium from the soil around them. Another great thing for the compost and garden is coffee grounds because they provide nitrogen. I always wanted a garbage disposal, but my Dad said that it is really horrible for the sewer system. He is a Hydro-geologist and works for an engineering firm that drills wells and deals with waste water systems and things. I am not sure why the vegetables and things are bad, I probably tuned that out. I will have to ask him though, now I am curious. I can still remember bring your daughter to work days involved touring the waste water treatment centers. Ewwww

    • Jane Maynard

      I have to admit I’ve often wondered about putting food down the disposal in terms of the waste water system…maybe I don’t want to know, my food disposing days might end, which would be SAD πŸ™‚

    • Tricia

      Hi I was just reading your post and read that your son has egg allergies… My son also has egg allergies and I was a little bit worried about putting eggshells in my compost…is it safe? I’ve been surfing the net to try and find answers…I’m hoping you can help me, to reassure me that its safe for my son

  20. 20
    Kim 2

    I have never even given thought to balancing my eggs or putting the egg shells back in the carton.

    After reading this blog and comments, I think I may be missing out on something! I’ll attempt egg balancing and see if it enhances my whole egg-loving experience πŸ™‚

    • Jane Maynard

      it’s kind of fun, actually…I know, I”m weird. just wait until it’s an uneven number of eggs, it will drive you nuts!

      I’ve always taken eggs from each side, but it sounds like others are taking from the center and moving out…think I might have to try that!

  21. 21

    I have an egg container in my fridge so I never have to worry about the balancing thing but before I had that I never balanced. Really, never had time to think of these things. I don’t usually put egg shells back in the carton because, well, as I mentioned they are not in the carton, but if they were it would seem silly to since I will just have to remove them again to put in the garbage. BUT, I do not wash my hands when handling eggs, I eat raw dough and Ceaser dressing and as they say in the Monty Python movie…”I’m not dead yet.”
    I will tell you what not to put in your disposal, a whole baked potato. When I was in Weight Watchers they said, “Make your garbage disposal fat, not you! Get rid of the food.” I took it too literally and put a whole potato in the disposal…let’s just say my poor husband had plumbing work all weekend after that. He told me to make the trash can fat and leave the disposal alone…ha ha.

    • Jane Maynard

      totally with you on the cookie dough….

      and I will try to remember about the whole baked potato πŸ˜‰ SO funny!

  22. 22

    My husband taught me to balance an egg carton. Back in the days when we would throw out an empty egg carton it made perfect sense to leave the empty shells in there until they were all gone. It helped with balance. πŸ™‚

    Now we have chickens AND a compost, so we recycle our egg cartons and the empty shells go directly into the compost, without a trip through the microwave. Sometimes I crush them with my hand as they go in, but others not. I guess it depends on whether or not I already have gooey egg on my hand.

    The chickens like to scratch through the compost pile in the garden and they eat their own egg shells, which is a whole level of weirdness in itself.

    Oh and like Denise we also eat cookie dough and live on the edge. We’re not dead yet either.

  23. 23

    Wow, I would never admit to balancing the egg carton before I read this post, but now I know I am not alone. Never put the shells back in the carton.

  24. 24
    Jane Maynard

    andrea and denise…if I could live off of cookie dough and brownie batter, I would! πŸ˜‰

  25. 25

    Farmor put her eggshells in a mason jar, filled it with water, let it stand, then watered her flowers.

    As far as balance goes. Huh?

  26. 26

    I’ve never consciously balanced my egg cartons but I realize now that I do it all the time.
    I NEVER put the broken shells back in the carton because I recycle the cartons and leaving an eggy mess in the carton would stink up our garage. πŸ™‚

  27. 27

    I have chickens, and put the eggs into the carton from right to left, so I always know which are the newest, so balancing the carton would only upset the *balance*, as it were. Do not put shells back into the carton – they go in the compost. I do not have a disposal, and actually had one removed from our last house, because I hate them. I always wash my hands after handling my Girls’ fresh eggs, but don’t usually bother after touching supermarket eggs – they have already been washed, sterilized, bleached – whatever it is they do. But I don’t even handle supermarket eggs at all now, since I have my Girls.

  28. 28

    I leave my broken shells in the carton. I think it looks so pretty!

  29. I compost my eggs shells, and I ALWAYS balance my egg carton. It totally bugs me when someone else takes out an egg and then the carton isn’t balanced. πŸ™‚ OCD or not, that’s the way thing are πŸ™‚

  30. 30

    My husband just told me that he has never, in 37 years of marriage, noticed that I balance the eggs in the egg carton…. I am speechless! It’s tough being the OCD torchbearer around here πŸ˜‰

    • Jane Maynard

      when dad made his comment “balance eggs, what?” or something like that, I thought he was just making a joke, which was actually a funny joke. your comment is so funny, I can’t believe he really, truly had no clue! ha ha!

  31. 31

    I usually put the shells in the garbage, but there are times when they go in the disposal – depends on how hurried I am. And, I am also OCD so of course I balance my carton. However, my quirky younger sister has a *thing* about an uneven number of eggs in a carton so not only does she distribute the weight evenly, she also won’t allow an odd number of eggs. Instead, she takes out the odd numbered egg and puts it in a safe place in the fridge until it’s possible for the egg to rejoin the carton in a “even” manner. Get my drift? Different strokes for different folks! πŸ˜‰

  32. 32

    The carton absolutely has to be balanced. If I’m cooking up eggs for breakfast I have even cooked an extra egg just to make it an even number. I either toss the shells into the sink to go down the disposal or trash but I will refrain from using the disposal now! We only put them in the carton if they will all get used up, otherwise that is just ick.

  33. I have actually heard the exact opposite about egg shells down the garbage disposal. I was told it was great for it. Because the shells are hard, but brittle they break apart easily down the disposal but the sharp, hard edges scrape away other things that might have stuck to the inside of the disposal. I always do it, and it seems to work great!

    • Jane Maynard

      I read that as well, but I have heard MANY fix-it people say that, while it’s fine on the disposal, it really can get stuck easily in the drain and cause back-ups. my mom threw them down the drain for YEARS and we didn’t have a problem, but I think that was luck! the plumbers and maintenance people list that as the number one thing to not put down the drain, along with grease. πŸ™‚

  34. 34

    My plumber said NOT to put egg shells down the disposal as well. I also don’t put peelings down the disposal. I think it’s just as easy to scoop them up and throw them away, as try to jab them down the disposal. I also feel I use less water this way. With regard to the egg shells, my grandmother always used to break them up a bit and spread them at the base of her rose bushes and she had beautiful bushes! Also, can’t the egg cartons be recycled if they are clean? I’ve been putting mine in our recycle bin. I vote in favor of a balanced egg carton! πŸ™‚

  35. 35

    Just discovered your blog via notwithoutsalt >> Martha’s circle >> here! I am definitely going to enjoy reading through your blog!

    This debate is really interesting. I used to chuck the shells and balance the cart. But we’ve been composting for a while now, and have chickens as a few other commenters. For me, it’s easiest to do a combo of leaving the cracked eggshells in the carton and balanced – so it requires a tiny bit of forethought, ha! We go through eggs like mad, so it just makes sense to leave them in there and then throw everything in the compost, or crush all the shells for the garden.

    As far as chickens eating eggshells, it is kinda weird, but a lot of urban farmers do it b/c it’s a free source of calcium for your birds – so they can give you more eggs!

  36. 36
    Katie A.

    I didn’t read through all the comments but for those who want and inexpensive way to get rid of snails sprinkle dried out or microwaved egg shells around your precious plants and snails won’t touch them (so I’ve heard) I don’t store used shells and have yet to do the balancing act, my eggs keep me on my toes.

  37. 37

    Eggshells can be used for lots of things rather than going into the garbage. I am talking mostly organic here, humanely raised. So…if you have chickens you already know that eggshells are good sources of calcium for theme..break them up. For those that feel that they take too long to compost…break them into smaller pieces, help the compost work!!, they are also pretty darn cool for toddler art work: break them into slightly smaller pieces, dye them, and then have the kids glue them onto sheets of construction paper, my daughter loved doing this with her grandmother!, also, if you can’t have coffee because it gives you heartburn or you are trying to reduce acid in your diet, add broken and cleaned/dried egg shells to your coffee grinds and it naturally reduces the acid in your coffee :).

  38. 38
    jason roberts

    if the egg slime is so yucky, then why are you eating eggs ? i have always put the broken shell back in the carton . this is more efficient and consolidates the broken shells into the future throw away carton . the broken shells end up back in the refrigerator . if it is unsafe that way then all manner of refrigerated items would be unsafe . i was searching for a scientific answer to this issue but all i find is dogmatic opinions .

  39. 39
    Aisling Cadmus

    This is a response to a question about an egg allergy above. An egg allergy like all allergies can be severe. We found out my son was allergic to eggs and had to make a trip to the emergency room after I gave him eggs for the first time. He was covered head to toe in hives. The allergist told us that we couldn’t give him anything that contained eggs. We have talked to a few older people with egg allergies and they say that they could have eggs as long as it is an ingredient in a baked good, but not as straight eggs. As far as the compost goes, I doubt there is any of the egg antigen in the fruits and veggies that would be growing in the soil with the eggs. Most people who are allergic to eggs are actually allergic to the egg white and not the other parts of the eggs, although I never thought I would be able to get all the white off the yokes to use them. By the time the eggs get into the soil and start to break down there really isn’t much left of the actual egg itself, but rather the egg shell which is what provides the nutrients to the soil. If your son is severely allergic to eggs the biggest problem that I would see would be if he was in the garden with the egg shells, but again at that point I don’t know how much of that antigen would be there to cause a problem. It depends on the severity of the allergy and if he is sensitive to touching the eggs or if they have to be ingested. My son can touch them with no problem, but if he ingested them we saw the hives and reactions. Talk to the allergist and see what they have to say. I would say it shouldn’t be a problem, but I am not a doctor qualified to make that judgement based on your situation. The compost was never something we even considered even with the egg allergy. It does get better. Our son is now five and has just tested negative to the egg allergy, but he is still to scared to try them again. I have to say that I am not eager to see another reaction either. You are your son’s best advocate and only you can decide what will be best for you. I hope this helps some.

  40. 40

    I put egg shells back. I dont want them all over my counter top. In the sink.I also spend time picking my eggs at the store. None are broken or cracked. No one has gotten sick in my home. I am not OCD.I have worked in all type’s of restaurants.I see it a lot.

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