Egg shells

A reader has asked what can be done with egg shells. We put that question to our oily rag research team and they came up with a surprisingly large number of uses and some interesting facts.

An egg shell accounts for about 10% of its weight and is about 95% calcium carbonate? For years scientists have been looking at ways to use the calcium properties in egg shell. It has many commercial uses, including in paper making to improve brightness, opacity and strength in paper (those oily raggers making their own paper may want to try adding crushed shell to their paper making recipe). It is also used as a nutritional supplement in animal feed and more recently engineers at Ohio State University have found a way to use the high calcium content in the hydrogen fuel process.

But it also has many uses around the home and in the garden. Here are some of the more common (or interesting) uses.

• Finely crush the shells and tip a small quantity down your drain. It will sit in the elbows and scour away grease and grime and as they flow to waste, and prevent future blocking.

• As a stain remover. Place finely crushed shell into a damp tea pot or thermos. Let it sit overnight, then add water, swirl around then rinse out.

• Some people use the shell as a filter. Crack open the top of an egg, poke a small hole in the other end, and pour in whatever is to be strained. The liquid will seep from the bottom. (Big jobs may require Ostrich sized eggs!).

• Use near whole shells to plant seedlings; crack a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Place them in anold egg carton. When the seedlings are large enough to plant out crack the shells and plant. This can add a bit of fun to a children’s garden.

• Surround plants with crashed egg shells to deter slugs and snails. It acts like a barrier because these garden pests do not like crossing over sharp objects. Add crushed shell into your compost bin or directly into the soil of plants like tomatoes and roses. You could also make a liquid fertilizer by placing crushed egg shells into a jug of warm water and leave for two days. Apply the water directly onto indoor or outdoor plants.

• For those with chickens, add crushed shell to their food. The calcium in their diet helps build strong shells and give them grit to help them digest their food. The trick here is to crush the shells up in tiny pieces. Place them in a plastic bag and run-over it with a rolling pin or something similar (like the family car!).

• Use as a health supplement for you and your pets. Shells are full of calcium. Crush dried egg shells (preferably in a warm over) into a powder and sprinkle over your food. Half an egg shell would provide the daily intact for most people. Add it with the dog and cat food too… they need calcium for strong bones and healthy white teeth.

• A traditional oily ragger now in her 80s recalls with humour playing practical jokes on her school mates. They would fill an empty egg shell with confetti and break them over someone’s head (and we thought kids today were bad!).

• Another oily ragger said they hide little home-made treats inside eggs and open them up at kids parties – a little like the Christmas-egg-cracker.

• Make egg candles. Remove the top from an empty shell, add a central wick then melt candle scraps into the egg. Place in an egg cup and light.

• Egg baubles are interesting decorations on a Christmas tree.

• Egg faces. Paint a happy egg face. Mom, dad, bothers and sisters… all sitting on a humpty dumpty wall. Or what about Russian eggs? Cut each egg in half… hinge and have a smaller one onside.

• To make mosaics from egg shells, paint the shells before crushing, and gluing to a solid surface. Another method is to spread hobby glue over the surface of something sturdy or a box, can, a mat, books, etc and sprinkle the egg shell over to give texture. Paint the image when dry and spray with several coats of sealer. Small prices can be used like glitter.