What’s a morning routine without putting the kettle on for a cuppa? An electric kettle is a wonderful invention, boiling water in a fraction of the time it would take on a stovetop or a microwave (tea? In a microwave?). That constant use means the electric kettle is one of our most hardworking appliances, which means every so often it needs a good cleaning.
Wait — do we even need to clean a kettle? Don’t we just put water in there? The short answer is yes, you do. And if you’re at a loss on how to clean this all-important kitchen staple, here’s a handy guide for how to clean a kettle!
Why clean a kettle?
As with any appliance, electric kettles need regular cleaning to help maintain its functionality and prevent any damage. If your pipes run hard water, then limescale builds up over time. This affects the quality of the water you boil, and causes the kettle to take longer to boil, consuming more electricity.
Other minerals and debris can accumulate in your kettle over time, even if you’re bougie enough to use purely filtered water. It’ll alter the taste of your water — and therefore your tea or coffee — and shorten the lifespan of your appliance. And if you live in an area with hard water, you’ll need to be extra careful. Cleaning your kettle is important — for your brew, your health, and your kettle itself!
How to clean a kettle
Ideally, you should clean your kettle — or descale a kettle, which is the process of cleaning limescale build-up off metal — regularly: wipe down the exterior once a week to remove stains, and descale your kettle every two to three months. Any filter or cartridge should be cleaned according to manufacturer guidelines.
In order to descale your kettle, you’ll need to get at all the parts, inside and outside. Fortunately, kettle cleaning is very straightforward, and needs just four simple steps.
1. Remove any loose parts
If your kettle has a water filter or cartridge, take it out first to clean separately! Check your kettle’s manual to see the cleaning instructions. If you’ve misplaced the manual (happens to the best of us), you can soak it in hot water and vinegar for five minutes, then scrub with a bottle brush or old toothbrush and rinse.
2. Descaling inside of the kettle
Anything you need to clean inside the kettle is right in your kitchen! Choose which method you prefer, or which cleaning agent is handy. They’ll get the job done. You can clean a kettle with vinegar, or lemons, or a few other things in between — and yep, that includes a stainless steel kettle too!
Fill the kettle with equal parts water and white vinegar, up to half capacity. Let the electric kettle run until the water boils, and the kettle switches itself off. Unplug the kettle and leave the vinegar solution to sit for at least 20 minutes. Discard afterwards. Boil another round of plain water once or twice to remove the vinegar taste.
You have two options for this one! The first is to mix a teaspoon of bicarb soda with water poured into your kettle, then allow it to boil. Rinse the inside thoroughly with fresh water.
The second method is to create a paste of bicarb soda and water, then apply to the inside of the kettle. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes with the kettle unplugged, then carefully scrub the limescale off with a toothbrush. Rinse several times, then boil some water again to check the quality and cleanliness.
Fill the kettle to half capacity with cold water, then add two tablespoons of citric acid powder. Again, bring the solution to a boil, until the kettle switches off. Unplug, then let the solution sit for at least 20 minutes before discarding.
Cut a lemon in half, then squeeze the juice into the kettle. You can rub the lemon halves along the interior to clean your kettle of hard water stains. Then slice them up and add them into cold water, and — you guessed it! — bring the whole thing to a boil. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes (unplugged!), then pour out. Boil another round of plain water once or twice to remove the lemon taste.
When you’ve finished boiling and discarding your cleaning solution, it’s time to scrub! Use a soft sponge, an old toothbrush, or a soft-bristled bottle brush to scrub the limescale off the interior (remember to keep your kettle unplugged!). Be extra thorough around any seams, ridges, and spouts. You can dip the brush in some vinegar or bicarb soda for more thorough cleaning — just rinse again after!
4. Cleaning outside of the kettle
Since the outside of the kettle comes into contact with water much less, there’s no limescale build-up, so it needs much lighter cleaning! You can wipe down the exterior with a soft cloth or sponge dipped in hot water and dish soap to remove stains or splatters. For harder-to-remove spots, try vinegar and water, extra lemon, or a toothbrush dipped in bicarb soda.
Rinse the kettle after, but don’t submerge, since you could ruin the heating element. Then wipe it dry with a microfibre cloth (no streaks!) for a fully clean kettle.
Regular maintenance tips
Besides thorough cleaning, there are regular steps you can take to keep a kettle clean! Follow through on the upkeep, and you’ll need to descale a kettle less and have great-tasting coffee more.
1. Empty after use
The longer you leave water in a kettle, the more limescale and other debris is able to accumulate along the interior. You can opt to only heat as much water as you need every time, or store the excess inside an insulating thermos. (Just remember to wash that thermos, too!)
2. Never scrub the heating element
Scrubbing or even getting it wet can damage the special coating and cause your kettle to malfunction. Instead, wipe it down gently with a damp cloth to get rid of any dirt along the surface. You can also dust it lightly with a soft brush.
3. Get a pro
If you want to be extra-sure that your kettle is descaled, or just aren’t sure how to clean a kettle, leave it to a professional house cleaner! They can do the housekeeping for you, so you can rest assured that your kettle (and the rest of your kitchen) is clean and ready for use the next morning — just in time for another perfect cuppa to get you through the day.