How To: Descale a Kettle
Say goodbye to those stubborn limescale deposits in your teakettle with a low-cost DIY solution.
As temperatures chill, who can resist a piping-hot cup of tea? But beware! If you fall into the tea habit, over time you’ll discover that the interior of your kettle will gradually become coated in limescale. These white calcium deposits form on the inside of kettles, both electric and stovetop varieties, when hot water evaporates and leaves solid minerals behind. The results are both unsightly and unsavory. Plus, if neglected too long, limescale can shorten the life of your kettle. While you can certainly use commercial products to descale your kettle, everyday acids are equally effective—and often more affordable.
Safety comes first. Before descaling, make sure to first unplug an electric kettle or turn off the heating element under a stovetop model. When the kettle is cool to the touch, discard any remaining liquid, remove the lid, and rinse the interior under cold water.
In order to remove exterior grime or grease, gently wipe the sides and base of the kettle using a soft sponge saturated with water and dish soap. Because copper and stainless steel kettles tend to scratch easily, use only nonabrasive sponges or cloths to remove caked-on residue. Avoid wire brushes or scouring pads that can damage or discolor the kettle. Dry the kettle with a soft cloth.
When you’re dealing with an electric kettle, exercise caution to avoid exposing the electrical components or the socket to water. Never immerse an electric kettle in water. If your electric kettle is equipped with a built-in water filter, don’t forget to clean grime from the filter itself. Remove the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then rinse it under hot water. Gently wipe the filter with a soft cloth before drying and pressing it back into place.
Fill the kettle halfway with a solution of equal parts cold water and white vinegar, a natural descaling agent. As an alternative, citric acid can also break down limescale; just fill the kettle with the juice of one fresh lemon or lime topped with enough cold water to reach the halfway point of the kettle.
Turn on the stove under the kettle, or plug in your electric kettle, and bring the solution to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, be it a burner or the electric power. (If your electric kettle has an automatic switch-off feature, let it turn off on its own.) Allow the vinegar-water (or citrus) solution to sit in the kettle for 30 minutes to an hour.
TIP: While either diluted vinegar or lemon is gentle enough for most kettles, you should reference the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid exposing your kettle to liquids that could cause damage. If you’re unsure how your kettle will react to an acid, test a drop of the solution on an inconspicuous area before proceeding with the full soak.
With the decalcifying stage complete, you can now pour out the vinegar-water (or citrus) solution. When the kettle’s empty, remove the lid and rinse the interior under cold water. Any lingering limescale can be wiped away with a clean, damp cloth. Because the acetic acid in vinegar is powerful enough to dissolve limescale, vigorous scrubbing is neither needed nor recommended.
Though you may have successfully descaled a kettle, that mean it is ready to boil water for your next beverage. Prevent any vinegary aftertaste from seeping into future cups of tea, fill the kettle halfway with cold water. Turn on the stove or plug in the electric kettle, and boil the water in the kettle to deodorize it. When the odor is gone, discard the water and air-dry the kettle before its next use.
Repeat this routine to descale the kettle once every month or so, depending on how often you use your kettle, and you’ll keep contaminants at bay while your beverages remain fresh and flavorful.