March 31, 2013
The Spectacular Dyeing Egg-Stravanganza
Last weekend, I went with my bestie to shop for goodies to go into her kids’ Easter baskets. We bought candies and stickers and arts and crafts and little toys all to go into a cool storage container that they could reuse. It was really fun. Then we bought the stuff necessary for them to dye the eggs. Shortly after that, I heard about a new American Chemical Society (ACS) video about the chemistry of egg dyeing. If you’ll remember, for St. Patrick’s Day I wrote about their video showing the dangers of too much booze, and now they are at it again with Easter. That American Chemical Society is one cool group.
In their press release, the ACS grabs viewer’s attention with the following: “With millions of eggs about to have their annual encounter with red, green, blue and other dyes this holiday weekend, our newest video helps uncover the chemistry behind this ‘egg-cellent’ tradition.”
The video explains that the key ingredients for dyeing Easter eggs are water, dye, and vinegar. I know, vinegar sounds weird, but Dr. Diane Bunce, professor of chemistry at Catholic University of America and feature presenter in the ACS video, explains why vinegar is so important in egg dying.
Apparently, an egg shell has a protein cuticle, which is a protein on the surface of the egg that allows eggs to be dyed when vinegar is present. It has an amine end consisting of a nitrogen with two hydrogens all bonded to each other with the third bond being to the protein, in this case the protein cuticle on the egg’s shell. The nitrogen also has an unshared pair of electrons, which becomes useful in allowing the vinegar to connect.
Vinegar is an acid, and acids release hydrogen ions. The hydrogen ions needs a pair of electrons, so they protenate to the unshared pair of electrons from the amine end. This allows the cuticle to have a positive charge, and a dye molecule has a negative charge. And viola! Thus enter pretty dyed eggs because of vinegar. Who knew!?!
The other factor to consider when dyeing eggs is the water. Many people use tap water. It is convenient, but this is a not the best water choice for dyeing eggs because tap water has some acid in it, which affects the dyeing process.
Distilled water is the best for the brightest and prettiest dyed eggs. Obviously, distilled water is pretty pure and without any acid, so it helps to create the prettiest dyed eggs possible.
When we understand how a process works (even for something as fun as dyeing eggs), we can better proceed in our activities. We know the root of what we are doing, thus we know the method for creating the best possible outcome. In this case, that outcome is bright colored eggs for the Easter egg hunt or even just for part of the Easter munching.
Dyeing eggs is fun and messy, two qualities any kid loves. Heck, two qualities any adult loves. This year, thanks to the ACS, we may go forth and dye those eggs with a better understanding of how to come out with the brightest eggs. Isn’t science grand!?!
Image Credit: Sergey Lavrentev / Shutterstock