Traditional “white” pysanky were created neither by bleaching nor by using soaps or detergents; rather, a thin outer layer of the shell, that to which the dye was bound, was etched away, revealing a clean white surface. 

This was done by soaking the egg for some length of time, usually hours, in sauerkraut juice or, later, vinegar.  Both are quite dilute solutions of acid, and work slowly to dissolve the eggshell.

Nowadays we have quicker options.  There are a myriad of acid solutions available in the cleaning aisle of your grocery store, or in your hardware store. Most are fairly concentrated solutions of hydrochloric acid.

Note: prior to etching an egg, candle it to check for weak spots.  Eggs with many or large thinned out areas should not be used for etching, as the etching can cause translucencies or even holes if there are thin spots.

VINEGAR ETCHING:  If you wish to etch with vinegar, pour some into a cup or jar, and fully submerge your pysanka in it.  Check on it once in a while, rubbing the surface to see how much of i has come loose.  When you are down to white, submerge the egg into water, and gently rub the surface.  You can use a soft toothbrush or craft brush to do this.

ACID ETCHING:  I use Acid Magic to etch, because it is buffered and neither burns intact skin nor produces noxious fumes.  I pour some into a shallow plastic container, take a big heavy craft brush, and apply the Acid Magic to the surface.  Once it has fizzed, I dunk it into water to stop the reaction, and then brush the surface to remove loose debris.  I will do this three times (on a chicken egg) to get an even white surface and a bit of relief.  Goose eggs have a much thicker shell, and can tolerate more applications of the acid; I’ve used 6-8 in the past.

DO NOT use full eggs for etching.  Use protective gear if you are using strong, unbuffered acids; also make sure you are in a well ventilated area.  Do not use metal vessels, and do not pour the acid into a metal sink.

Etched eggs are not usually meant to be re-dyed. In my experience, the bare etched shell will usually not bind dye well, yielding pastel results. Other pysankarky say they do a vinegar soak and have good success with re-dyeing.

Keep in mind: the bare etched shell will readily absorb wax and soot, and you will have difficulty trying to remove it.  To avoid this problem, before removing the wax (whether with a candle or a heat gun or an oven), pretreat the egg by drenching it in cooking oil.  This will cover the open, porous shell, and prevent it from absorbing the dirty wax.

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Traditional methods