How to Clean An Electric Kettle

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Dear Home-Ec 101:

I have an electric water kettle that I’ve used for years. Since it can’t go in the dishwasher or even really be hand washed other than just rinsing it out, I am always careful to empty any leftover water out before I store it. My parents came to visit in July and apparently when the kettle was put away there was some water left in it which I just discovered last night. I dumped it out and wiped it out with soapy water and a sponge but there is still some residue on the bottom. I used it to boil water for instant gravy last night and the gravy tasted funny, not sure if it was the water or the gravy mix. What is the best product to use to get this residue out? Could I use a limescale remover (CLR, limeaway, etc.) or is that not safe? Normal soap & water scrubbing is not touching it.

Signed,

Tail Over Teakettle

Heather says:

Rest assured, it was the gravy mix.

I kid, of course.

In this case, I’d reach for Bar Keeper’s Friend. It’s acidic like limescale removers, but it’s safe for contact with food surfaces. I know long time readers are probably tired of hearing of this product, but it’s cheap, easy to find (think Walmart near the Comet). I was once in one of those fancy cooking stores and I saw they had a small can of BKF and some sponges for $14.  I nearly spit out my latte -when in Rome. . .  Seriously, skip the fancy cooking store, and grab a big can for usually less than $3 or $4.

That should do the trick.

If you don’t want to wait until you have BKF on hand, fill the reservoir with white vinegar and allow it to soak for a while, then add some baking soda for the entertainment value -look a volcano! Actually, dump out the vinegar and rinse out the kettle. Really you don’t need the science experiment part, but that’s some quality entertainment right there. If there is still some residue try scrubbing with a damp sponge and a paste of baking soda and salt (this has an alkaline pH which may work where the vinegar failed).

Edited to add – Please remember to unplug and let the electric kettle cool before cleaning.

Good luck!

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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Comments

  1. KeterMagick says

    I have an electric hot pot, which is probably similar to your kettle. It can’t be immersed, but washing in the sink without immersing is fine. I set the pot aside after washing at least overnight just in case some dampness got inside. It’s important to know what the inside of your pot is like before selecting a cleaning method. Mine is aluminum (and I actually heat water in a pyrex cup inside the hot pot because I avoid aluminum exposure as much as possible), but I’ve seen some that were enamel. I suspect that yours is also aluminum because enamel is not so likely to leave a taste in anything.

    Vinegar, as Heather mentioned, is definitely your first go-to. It’s likely the aluminum is now discolored, and if this bothers you, you will need to scour. Barkeeper’s Friend is a good option, or you can look specifically for an aluminum cleaner. In either case, you will need to thoroughly wash the pot with soap and water after this treatment. CLR and LimeAway can also be used, as can CocaCola, and these too require a thorough followup wash. You can also try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with any of these cleaning solutions; I’ve seen it get off stuff nothing else would touch. If the pot is pitted, there’s really nothing you can do about it. Last resort, if nothing else works (which BTW is technically illegal but no one really will care): sand or file the copper off a very new penny (2-3 years old) until the zinc core is exposed and drop it into your pot. Bring to a boil and let sit for a few hours. The zinc in the penny may draw the oxidation off the aluminum and loosen any remaining scale. It also may darken the aluminum permanently, but this is kind of a good thing because it also hardens it.

    If your pot is enamel, be much more careful with abrasives and strong acids. Minerals may have etched the enamel permanently, and no amount of scouring will restore it, rather it will make it worse. This is just a cosmetic defect, and unless the enamel is actually flaking off, the pot will remain fine to use and should not impart a taste to the water. BTW, if you want to know for sure whether the pot is putting a flavor in the water, fill the pot, pour a little off into a clean glass, boil the pot and let it cool, then use your two samples to compare.

  2. premee says

    My mom usually fills the kettle with half vinegar and half water and boils it a couple of times. The water in our area is hard enough to stick up little old ladies in back alleys, and hot vinegar works a treat. :)