We rarely “decrumb” the toaster, clean the inside of the microwave or fridge.
Electric devices should just work – after all, you paid good money for them.
What we forget, is the fact that cleanliness is not about functionality, it is about hygiene.
It cannot be healthy when the bottom of your toaster develops a flourishing biotope, and the inside of your fridge’s vegetable drawer is starting to grow legs.
Hygiene is especially crucial when water is involved. It is the source of life, but you want your kettle to produce clean water and not some sort of primordial soup.
How to keep your kettle clean?
There are a few things you can and should do:
1. Always use fresh water.
Always discard leftovers from the last boil.
2. Empty the kettle overnight and leave the lid open to dry it out.
Never leave water in the kettle when you go on holidays.
3. Clean and disinfect occasionally.
Wipe the kettle with a cloth dry, for example before you go on holidays.
Disinfect with natural products and never with bleach or harsh chemicals. Suitable, efficient and gentle are lemon and vinegar based cleaners.
The descaling solution given below also works very well to disinfect and clean your electric tea kettle.
For the outside, you can use a regular cleaning spray applied with a damp cloth.
4. Descale your kettle frequently.
More than 85% of American households are supplied with hard water (source and more info here).
Limescale is a mineral deposit (calcium carbonate) abundant in hard water. When the water evaporates, the calcium carbonate crystallizes as a white, hard layer on the inside of kettles, pipes, washing machines, boilers and on your water taps.
Limescale is responsible for the “skin” on tea and coffee caused by high surface tension of the water.
To break the tension, you need more shampoo for your hair or more detergent for the washing machine than in soft water areas.
Rule of thumb:
The softer the water, the better.
Here is another rule of thumb:
The harder the water, the more descaling is needed.
Since limescale is an alkaline salt, you need an acidic solution to dissolve it.
Therefore vinegar, lemon or citric acid work very well (so does cola by the way but not recommended though).
To prevent the build-up of limescale treat your temperature controlled kettle with the following solution:
- Mix 2 parts vinegar (or alternatively lemon juice, citric acid) with 1 part water.
- Fill the kettle only half full and bring to a boil.
- Let the water slightly cool down and discard.
- Re-fill with clean water, boil and discard.
- Rinse and repeat until the kettle smells clean and all traces of limescale have been dissolved.
If you have already a persistent layer of white salt in the kettle, use the following, stronger solution:
- Mix equal amounts (1:1) of vinegar with water.
- Fill kettle and bring to boil.
- Let it stand for a few hours or overnight.
- Empty kettle and boil with water.
- Rinse and repeat until all traces and smell of vinegar are gone.
The hot rinsing water is also very beneficial for your drains.
Sometimes not all limescale is dissolved, and you still have some white stuff at the bottom of your kettle.
Once treated with the acidic solution the limescale gets flaky and you can carefully scrape it off the bottom.
What not to use
Do not use industrial descaler intended for washing machines or dishwashers in your lovely and possibly expensive programmable kettle.
Natural, food-safe products are easy to find.
Bleach is not food-safe and due to its highly alkaline nature would not work anyway.
We also don’t recommend hard, steel brushes to clean the inside.
When cleaning or descaling your kettle, never fill it to the maximum.
When boiled the solution will foam, spill out and leave an unwelcome mess on your kitchen counter.
To prevent limescale in the first place, you could use filtered or bottled water.
Highly recommended for tea, coffee, and (baby) food.
Besides the hygienic reasons, a clean kettle is also more energy efficient. The chalky layer of limescale absorbs energy when heating and therefore you need more electricity to bring the water to the right temperature.
The same applies to all other household devices.
When talking about kettle hygiene, I just want to point out the plastic issue again. The inside of some variable temperature kettles is made from heat resistant plastic, BPA (Bisphenol A, more info here). Research suggests that some small plastic particles can leach into the hot water and might pose a health threat.
Third and last rule of thumb:
The less plastic involved, the better.
You can control the pureness of the water but not what might leak into the water from the plastic.
A cleaner device will lead to cleaner water and better tasting teas and coffees.
Your kettle will thank you. Not with hugs and birthday cards but with clean water and a longer life.
The Kettle Whistler