I was cleaning out my dad’s garage last summer, and I came across a container of crushed eggshells.
Now, my dad was a borderline hoarder. He called himself a “collector” but that’s really a soft way of saying he just didn’t throw anything away. Newspapers, old stamps, coins (he had coins of all kinds stashed all over the house; in vases, glasses, envelopes stuffed in boxes, you name it), model cars, empty coffee cans, empty soap buckets, shot glasses… You get my point. He “collected” many things. But so did my mom. After they both passed, my sister, my cousins and I were tasked with cleaning out their house and allocating their many belongings (a really terrible thing to have to do, actually; root through your parents’ things). Picture a small two bedroom home stuffed with items acquired over the 30 or so years they had lived there. It was an interesting challenge, to say the least.
The bulk of my dad’s things were crammed into the single car garage, which was also his wood shop. Wooden crates full of tools, old cassette and 8 Track tapes, his Conan comic book collection, plastic bins crammed full of old coffee stained receipts.
And this container of crushed eggshells.
I don’t know why I took a pause with the eggshells. Maybe it was because they looked oddly enough like old, crushed bones. Maybe it was the weirdness of finding them among all the other things in the garage. But I did pause before throwing the container in the trash. And the thought of those eggshells has been with me ever since. I mean, what a silly thing to hold on to, right?
Since we’re planning on adding chickens to the farmstead this spring, and since we already eat a lot of eggs (when you have a family of 7 living under the same roof, you can’t get away with just buying a dozen eggs to make it through the week), I did a little research on how to better utilize this abundant resource that usually just goes in the trash. And it turns out dad was on to something. I’m not sure what he was using those crushed eggshells for (I suspect he was using them to kill the slugs; he was always waging war against the slimy things), but his little coffee can of eggshells led me to discover how useful they actually are.
- Put ’em in the compost. This is something we did religiously in Oregon. Throw them in the compost bin and forget about them. Each eggshell contains roughly 750 mgs of calcium, which will help to make your garden and potting soil nice and rich. I’m sure many of you already do this.
- Supplement your tomato plants. Tomatoes are prone to blossem-end rot, a common skin disorder that comes from a calcium deficiency. Cucumbers, peppers and squash are also susceptible to this problem. Use crushed eggshells when you plant these vegetables in the ground to give them a good, sustainable boost of calcium.
- Pest deterrent. If you live in an area where slugs and snails run amuck, then crushed eggshells might be your best friend. I remember my dad used to do this when I was a kid. Sprinkle eggshells around your garden, or around the plants themselves, and these pests won’t cross over them. I’ve even heard that they will keep deer away, although I can’t swear to that personally.
- They make your morning cup of coffee less bitter. I like bitter coffee, but if you don’t then try mixing crushed eggshells in with your coffee grounds. They’ll make your cup of joe a little more tolerable. Then just throw the grounds and eggshells in the compost bin afterwards.
- Homemade cleanser. Eggshells are naturally abrasive (duh). Crush them up and mix them with soapy water and you have yourself a great non-toxic cleanser. Use this concoction to scrub your pots and pans, or scrape paint off old paint.
- Canine mineral supplement. Bake your eggshells in the oven at a low temperature for 20-25 minutes. Then grind them down with a rolling-pin to a fine powder. Sprinkle a little at a time over your dog’s food each night as a calcium supplement. If your dog has diarrhea, eggshell powder will also help settle their stomach. The calcium carbonate in them acts as a natural antacid (good for humans too!).
- Make your own sidewalk chalk. Add crushed eggshells with flour, hot water and food coloring, and you can make your own sidewalk chalk. The kids love chalk, and if I don’t have to buy it at the store then it’s a win for everyone.
- Sharpen your blender blades. Mix with water and run some crushed eggshells through your blender to keep those blades sharp. I’ve been told this works well for the garbage disposal too.
- Feed them to the birds. The extra boost of calcium is great for birds in the spring when they are laying their own eggs. You need to sterilize the shells, so bake them in the oven and then crush them up, then mix in with your wild bird seed.
- Cats supposedly don’t like them. We used to struggle with the neighbor’s cats using our raised garden beds as litter boxes. I’ve been told that if you sprinkle a good amount of egg shells in the garden boxes, this will deter cats from making it their own. Wish I would have known them back in Oregon!
So maybe my dad was on to something. And yes, I’ve even started my own container of crushed eggshells. The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree after all.
What about you? What do you do with your eggshells?
Share with us what you would add to this list.