Picture of the Fill Window on the Hamilton Beach 40891 Electric Kettle.

How to Clean an Electric Kettle Safely

We’ve heated gallons upon many gallons of both hard and soft water for tea and hot cocoa making, with many electric kettles.  We find that without routine cleaning, these kettles can get stained brown, especially if you brew the tea directly in it after the water boils.  This can be hard to remove if allowed to build up.  So, wanting to preserve that new look, we looked for ways and practices, that would keep our electric kettle clean and shiny.  The routines and tips for how to to clean a electric kettle discussed next work very well for us.

How to Clean an Electric Kettle: Keep your Kettle Clean to Start With

With minimal periodic cleaning, stainless steel, glass, ceramic, and electric kettles, are easy to keep tea stain free.  Your first defense against accumulated hard water deposits and the need for deep cleaning, is to not allow them to build up in the first place.  Wash your kettle right after every use, and don’t permit any beverage to dry out inside.  Regular dish detergent (for the sink, not the dishwasher) works well for soaking.  But if your teakettle still smells of tea after cleaning (especially if you brew mint teas in it), than you did not clean it thoroughly enough.  In that case, repeat the process again.  Full cleaning may require several tries, or a stronger soap solution too.

Follow Users Guide for How Best to Clean an Electric Kettle

Most electric kettles come with an owners guide, with detailed cleaning instructions.  First and most importantly, follow them, as the manufacturer probably knows best how to clean their products effectively. Their cleaning instructions, in all cases, supersede any tips offered here.  Many suggest nothing stronger than a squeeze of dish detergent.  Do not worry about this creating an aftertaste, for it will definitely not, if you rinse out the kettle and parts thoroughly, to a squeaky cleanness.

Picture of the Hamilton Beach 40891 electric kettle, disassembled, showing the kettle, strainer, lid, and power stand.
Hamilton Beach 40891 kettle, disassembled, showing the kettle, strainer, lid, and power stand.

The picture above displays a typical electric kettle, completely disassembled, showing the lid, strainer, kettle stand with power cord, and the kettle itself.  Each of these pieces can be best cleaned well with the proper cleaning agents and handling, as discussed below.

Clean Hard Water Stains in an Electric Kettle with White Vinegar

For those stains that dish soap (the preferred kettle cleaning agent) will not remove, deep clean the kettle by running a pot of half water and half white vinegar through the heating cycle.  If your water is hard, use distilled water to improve removal of the hard water deposits from the kettle.  Cycling through, with all parts attached, cleans it all.

When it does not, remove the lid and spout strainer. Then, soak these in a sink or bucket filled with hot vinegar water (half and half).  Allow them to marinate for several hours, while periodically checking the descaling progress.

How NOT to Clean an Electric Kettle: Avoid Scouring and Scratching

Stainless steel finishes resist staining as long as you do not scratch or mar them.  So to avoid dulling the surfaces in the electric kettle, strainer, spout, and lid,  and creating lots of binding points on it for stains, avoid scouring with any abrasive cleansers, gritty pot scrubbers, steel wool pads, and bathtub cleaning agents.  Avoid any scrubbing devices made of metal, such as wire brushes or burnishing tools.  Even plastic or Nylon scrubbers should be used sparingly on stainless steel or other metal or plastic parts.  Save these cleaners for the really tough stains, and rely mostly on your dishcloth for routine cleanup.

Throw Out that Old Tea

Also, keep your electric kettle clean by dumping out unwanted, unused tea right away.  Best not to let hot drink stand in a teakettle for long, as this can “bake in” that pesky yellow-brown color.

Picture of the Chef's Choice 6772 Electric Cordless Kettle, removed from the power stand.
Chef’s Choice 6772 Electric Cordless Kettle, Removed from the Power Stand

Clean an Electric Kettle Gently, by Soaking with Hot Soapy Water and Baking Soda

White vinegar may not completely descale your kettle, depending on the amount of and type of the mineral content in your water.  If so, then a couple tablespoons of baking soda added to a kettle full of hot soapy water (dish soap) may do the trick.

Do not boil with soapy water.  This will quickly create a sudsy mess, erupting like a volcano out of the spout and probably the lid as well.

Many report that automatic dishwasher soap (E.g. Cascade) added to a full kettle of boiling water, and then allowed to mellow until the water cools, really lifts those deep brown stains effectively.  Automatic dishwasher soap is designed to be non abrasive and gentle on glassware and china.  So it is safe to use inside most electric kettles.

Picture of the Farberware 104556 water kettle, operating, showing blue LED pilot lamp glowing, and the water gauge adjacent to the handle.
Farberware 104556 kettle, operating, showing blue LED pilot lamp glowing, and the water gauge adjacent to the handle.

An Electric Kettle Need Not Be Sparkling Clean

Some brown staining on the inside does not affect the flavor of the tea brews.  So you need not keep an absolutely spotless teakettle.  As long as you prevent buildup of the loose residues and minerals that build up after even just a single use, your fresh brewed tea and cocoa will taste just fine. Besides, a brown cast on the water handling parts means (to some) a well-seasoned kettle, that brews better tasting beverages than those brand new, stain-less kettles.

How to Clean an Electric Kettle: General Cautions and Warnings

Disconnect the power before cleaning.  Otherwise, you could receive a painful or deadly electric shock.

Also, do not immerse any parts of the kettle unless they’re designated by the manufacturer as submersible (lids and strainers may be dunked, but not the kettle itself or its stand). Just fill the kettle with the cleaning solution of choice, and let it mellow until clean.  Wipe the stand with a damp soapy cloth, and then again with a clean rinsed cloth.  Soak the spout strainer and lid in the sink if these become too soiled.

Note that procedures that work well for an aluminum kettle may be wrong for some electric kettles.  So, apply the right techniques to your particular kettle. Again, consult its users manual for the correct cleaning tips and advice for your brand of electric kettle.

No harsh chemicals.  Avoid using acids, drain cleaners, and any strong smelling or fumy compounds.  Not only can they damage or even soften any plastic parts (handles, knobs, Etc.), but can also discolor finishes and dull their gleam and shine.

When small amounts of vinegar do not work, heat a full-strength load of vinegar in electric kettles.  This often works better than the half-and-half solution with water when you have lots of scale and other hard water deposits.  While this probably will not harm most electric kettles, it smells awful!  If you must boil undiluted vinegar, place your kettle outside, and let it boil where the moving air will carry away that sour vinegar odor.

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References for How to Clean an Electric Kettle

  1. What are Kettles? on Wikipedia

Revision History

  • 2020-05-31: First published.