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Vinegar eggs and salty osmosis

By , 18 April 2019

Hand holding a transparent egg shape orb.Here are two egg experiments in one! Turn your eggs rubbery by dissolving their shells, and then make one grow and the other shrink with the power of salt water.

You will need

  • 2 eggs
  • 1L vinegar
  • 2 small jars or bowls
  • Large bowl
  • Jug
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Ruler

What to do

Day one:

  1. Put the eggs in the large bowl.
  2. Piuring liquid from a bottle into a metal bowl containing two eggs.Pour vinegar into the bowl until the eggs are completely covered. The eggs will start to bubble.
  3. Egg in liquid with tiny bubbles on the egg shell.Leave eggs overnight.
  4. While you’re waiting, create a saturated salt solution in a jug by dissolving as much salt as you can into 500mL water. Keep adding salt until a few salt crystals are left on the bottom that will not go away, no matter how long you stir.

Day two:

  1. Hand holding and egg.The eggs should be soft and squidgy. Remove from the vinegar and gently rub any remaining shell off the egg with your fingertips until you can see the yolk through the membrane (clear covering).
  2. Measure each egg.
  3. Half fill one jar with fresh water.
  4. Half fill the other jar with salt solution from the jug.
  5. Two jars labelled fresh and salty each containing liquid and and egg.Add one egg to each jar, then top up the salty one with salt water and the fresh with fresh water. Label each jar.
  6. Two shell-less eggs, one transparent.Leave both eggs overnight. Measure the eggs. Have they changed size?

What’s happening?

Egg shells contain calcium carbonate (CaCO3), and vinegar’s active ingredient is acetic acid (CH3COOH). When these chemicals react together you end up with a salt called calcium ethanoate, some water, and bubbly carbon dioxide gas. The reaction for this equation looks like this:

CaCO3 + 2CH3COOH → Ca(CH3COO) 2 + CO2 + H2O

Once an egg’s shell is dissolved by this reaction its membrane is revealed. This membrane is ‘selectively permeable’ which means it will let some things through but not others. An egg’s membrane will allow small molecules like water to pass through, but not large ones like salt.

The egg left in water looked very different to the one in salt water due to a process called osmosis. Osmosis occurs when two solutions are separated by a selectively permeable membrane. Water moves by osmosis from a weak (dilute) solution to a strong (concentrated) solution, such as the solution inside the egg. So when you put an egg in water only, water flows in through the membrane making the egg expand.

The egg in the salt water shrunk. This is because the solution outside the egg is more concentrated, so the water flowed out from the dilute solution to the concentrated solution.

Real-life science

Osmosis is a vital process in cells. All living things use osmosis to move water into and out of their cells.

Cells are similar to eggs in that they are surrounded by a selectively permeable membrane. This is called a ‘cell membrane’.

If you put a cell in a solution that is too salty, it can lose water to the environment, shrivel and die. If the solution is not salty enough, water rushes in and cells can expand until they burst. It is important that cells balance their water content in order to survive.

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  1. Wow, the results are so cool!

  2. Oh it didn’t work and the eggs are the same size – the fresh water and the salt water. Did I not make the salt water salty enough?


    1. To work well, the water needs to be really really salty.

      Even then, it only shrinks a little. But the plain water one should grow quite a lot. You could also try leaving it for a bit longer – 8 hours should still be hygenic…

      Sorry that it didnt work for you!

  3. I did this experiment using the salt and fresh water. The salt was not concentrated enough and, though the egg in salt gained *less* weight than that in fresh water, it was unsatisfying. So we made a concentrated sugar syrup and that was amazing. The sugar syrup egg looked like a deflated balloon around a hard yolk. We then put the egg back in fresh water and watched it balloon up again. Lots of fun and a big “ooooh!” factor.

    1. Ooh! That sounds really interesting – I might have to re-do it!

  4. I’ve had some success packing deshelled eggs in dry salt – carefully! Deionised water (sometimes sold as “distilled” water for filling irons or are batteries) may work better than tap water – if left for long enough they can grow quite large.

  5. This egg experiment is so cool! Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.


    1. Please don’t eat it! Once you’ve removed the shell, there’s really nothing stopping bacteria and other nasties from getting into the egg. Plus it’s still raw so there is a risk of salmonella.


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