How to Clean Electric Kettle

We’ve heated gallons upon many gallons of both hard and soft water for tea and hot cocoa making, with our Hamilton Beach electric kettle.   We’ve found that without routine cleaning, this metal kettle, and others like it, can become stained brown or white, especially if you brew the tea directly in it after the water boils.  That unsightliness can be hard to remove if allowed to build up.  So, wanting to preserve that shiny, new look as long as possible, we looked for procedures and practices, that would keep our electric kettle clean and spiffy.  The techniques and tips discussed next, we’ve found quite effective.


Keep the Electric Kettle Clean to Start With

With minimal periodic cleaning, powered kettles, since they’re metal and / or glass, are easy to keep tea stain free.  Your first strategy against accumulated hard water discolorations and the need for deep cleaning, is to not allow them to build up in the first place.  Wash your electric kettle immediately after every use (make sure to unplug it first), and don’t permit any beverage to dry on inside.

Regular dish detergent (for the sink, not the dishwasher) works well for general purpose and mild stain cleaning.

But if your kettle still smells of tea after cleaning (especially if you brew mint teas in it), than you insufficiently cleaned it.  So, repeat the process again.  It may require several tries, or a stronger soap solution too.

You can also try baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid, to effect serious descaling and odor removal.

Picture of a 2 pound box of Arm & Hammer pure baking soda, front view.
Arm & Hammer pure baking soda, 2 pound box, front view.

In the very worst cases of stubborn calcium deposits, we suggest trying Lime-A-Way.  This is a very harsh hard water deposit remover.  So we only apply it as a last resort.  Further, do not use this cleaner unless the kettle’s instruction many says that it won’t harm any internal surfaces or components. Even then, put a drop on a hidden area, wait a few minutes, and then see if the area becomes discolored, rough, or otherwise damaged.  If so, do not use Lime-A-Way.


Follow Users Guide Cleaning Instructions

Most electric kettles come with an owners guide, with detailed cleaning procedures.  First and most importantly, follow them, as the manufacturer probably knows best how to clean their kettles effectively. Their tips and advice, in all circumstances, supersede any tips offered here.  Many recommend 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 electric 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 Electric 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 teakettle itself.  Each of these pieces can be best cleaned well with the proper cleaning agents and handling, as discussed below.


Dissolve Hard Water Stains 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 help maximize removal of the hard water deposits from the pot.  Cycling through, with all parts attached, cleans it all.

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


Avoid Scratching and Rubbing Too Hard

Stainless steel finishes resist staining as long as you do not scratch or mar them.  So to avoid dulling the surfaces in the pot, 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 chrome parts.  Save these for the really tough stains, and rely primarily on your dishcloth for routine cleanup.


Throw Out that Old Beverage

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

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


Try Soaking with Hot Soapy Water and Baking Soda

White vinegar may not completely descale your electric 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 your stainless steel kettle.

Picture of the Farberware 104556 Electric Kettle, operating, showing blue LED pilot lamp glowing, and the water gage adjacent to the handle.
Farberware 104556 Electric Kettle, operating, showing blue LED pilot lamp glowing, and the water gage adjacent to the handle.


Electric Kettles Need Not Be Sparkling Clean

Some brown staining on the interior does not adversely affect the flavor of the tea brews.  So you need not maintain an absolutely spotless electric kettle.  As long as you prevent buildup of the loose residues and minerals that accrue 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 indicates (to some) a well-seasoned kettle; one that brews better tasting beverages than those brand new, stain-less kettles.


General Cautions and Warnings

Disconnect the power before cleaning.  Even in cordless electric teakettles, water and electricity do not mix.  Otherwise, you could receive an injurious 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 the stand). Just fill the kettle pot 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 vessel may be inappropriate for a stainless steel teakettle.  So, apply the right techniques to your particular kettle. Again, consult its users manual for appropriate cleaning tips and advice.

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 components (handles, knobs, Etc.), but can also discolor the stainless steel finish and dull its shine.

When small amounts of vinegar do not work, heat a full-strength load in their electric kettles.  This typically works better than the half-and-half solution with water when you have voluminous amounts of scale and other hard water deposits.  While this probably will not harm the teakettle, it smells horrific!  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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Revision History

  • 2017-02-19: Originally published.
  • 2017-11-03: Updated internal links to https.