ArrowrIcon Home icon

Preserving Food the Old Way


How waterglass was used to preserve eggs

eggs for preserving

Water glass is a sodium silicate solution that supposedly sealed the pores in the egg shells to stop them going bad. This page explains how it was used in the past when there were no fridges.


By the webmaster, based on firsthand contributions and talking to older people

What waterglass is

Water glass - the sodium silicate solution that supposedly sealed the pores in the egg shells - is not to be confused with isinglass which can also be used to preserve eggs and has its own page.

How to spell waterglass

Three spellings seem accepted: 'water glass', 'water-glass' and 'waterglass'. Although waterglass is still available on line or from specialist shops, you may have to try these alternative spellings.

Tin of Water glass, also spelled as waterglass, for preserving eggs

Tin of water glass for preserving eggs, here spelled with a hyphen between the two words. Photographed at Llanerchaeron House.

How eggs were preserved using waterglass

We used to preserve eggs with waterglass in the war.

We bought the waterglass as a powder in a packet similar to that of a 2lb cardboard castor sugar packet. We poured the powder into a bucket and mixed in water until it reached the right consistency. It then looked rather like a cloudy grey and very liquid polycell wallpaper paste.

My mother had a large stoneware container with a lid. When she had any eggs to preserve, she simply poured the waterglass into it and lowered the eggs in one by one. Then she put the lid back on again.

I don't really know how long they could be kept, but at least a couple of months I think.

Dick Hibberd

We didn't leave our eggs in the waterglass liquid but just painted each one and left it to dry before storing. Sometimes it was a few months before we ate any.

Chris Phillips

We had a stoneware jar of waterglass in the pantry. We didn't use it much, though, because we would really have needed to have a good source of eggs to make it worthwhile, and that meant keeping hens.

Norman Groocock

When I was a child in Fife in the 1950s, my grandparents kept poultry on a small commercial scale.

Over the winter months eggs production was lower so my Grandmother preserved eggs for winter using waterglass in internally glazed earthenware jars which held 10 to 15 Litres.

The eggs were first cleaned with dry steel wool, then rubbed with lard to 'seal the pores' and then added to the jars in layers to just below the level of the liquid. The last task was to put the lids on the jars. These varied from custom-made wooden lids with handles to thick china plates, and in one case an enamelled pot lid. So insulation seems not to have been an essential requirement - just to keep free of dust and insects.

When the eggs were required they were used in rotation, jar after jar. We only used them for baking, never for boiling, scrambling or frying, as I understood that the consistency of the egg white might be altered after storage and would not cook well.

Preserved this way, the eggs could last the whole winter in a cold outhouse. Over the months a secondary white 'shell' of waterglass could build up over the egg shells but this was harmless and was ignored. Very rarely did an egg 'go off' but it didn't affect the others.

Sheila C MacIsaac

For many years I wondered what waterglass was because I had wondered if it was some old term that my mother made up. Then when I finally checked online, I found your site.

My mother was born in in 1911, and her family kept chickens. She told me how, as a small girl, she hated most of anything in her life having to go to the dark, cold cellar in the winter to get eggs from the crock of waterglass. It was not so bad getting the ones toward the top of the crock, but as time wore on she had to reach into the cold stuff up to her little shoulder. That made quite a lasting impression on her.

Arlene (Bodmer) Harouff

How we used the eggs preserved in waterglass

One of the following contributions mentions dried egg. This was available on ration during the war, imported from America. It was not something that UK householders could make.

The eggs came out of water glass feeling slimy but as far as I can remember they were OK boiled. I preferred the dried egg for omelettes.

Norman Groocock

There were a few failures I remember, but most of the waterglass eggs tasted OK.

Chris Phillips

When we needed an egg, it was simply lifted from the liquid, washed, and used in the normal way. I don't remember that the eggs tasted any different from fresh ones.

Dick Hibberd

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.

sources: early 20th century material      sources: ww2 home front and other material     contact
the webmaster/author/researcher/editor     privacy policy

linkedin icon icon facebook icon