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Natural Products

Periodic graphics: Dyeing Easter eggs

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning explains the chemistry behind the tradition

by Andy Brunning
April 10, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 15


To download a pdf of this article, visit

References used to create this graphic:

Eggs to Dye For

The Chemistry of Egg Dyeing - Bytesize Science

The Science Behind a Perfectly Dyed Easter Egg

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit

This article has been translated into Spanish by and can be found here.



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Alicja Koprianiuk (April 14, 2017 7:47 PM)
We use onion skin to colour the eggs deep brown. This is popular in Eastern Europe.
J Unikowski (April 28, 2017 7:33 AM)
That's certainly true. Also carrot peelings & mint leaves are popularly used to dye the eggs orange & green, respectively.
Robert Buntrock (March 28, 2018 4:29 PM)
Boling eggs with onion skins and vinegar is a German custom as well, practiced by immigrant grandparents and first-generation parents as well (I never had dyed eggs growing up). My wife and I have continued the custom in addition to dyed eggs and I just collected some onion skins at the market today to color a few this year.
A. Anderson (March 28, 2018 3:04 PM)
To get an even more intense color, add 3 drops of conc. HCl to a cup along with the usual amount of acetic acid, but don't overdo it, or the acid will attack the calcium carbonate in the shell. If you dip the egg into each of the dyes, it will be colored black. It's always fun to draw a skull and crossbones on the egg first using a crayon and label it "pirate's egg". The kids always got a kick out of watching me eat that egg.
Robert Buntrock (March 28, 2018 4:30 PM)
Thanks, I'll stick with vinegar, more likely to be edible.

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