10 coffee maker cleaning mistakes that you're probably making

Easy mistakes, easy solutions

A graphic with a sponge and a coffee maker, on a background with bubbles
(Image credit: Future)

I hate to break it to you guys, but it's likely you’re making mistakes when cleaning your coffee maker. Obvi, you get total kudos for keeping it shiny in the first place, but because they’re such delicate machines, you have to be real careful about how you scrub them.

Each maker should be cleaned regularly (I spoke to experts to find out how often), but chances are when you do it, you’re making some mega mistakes. When you’re blear-eyed and haven’t had your daily caffeine, you might not be thinking about what chemicals you’re using and how you’re washing them.

I know that feeling — I'll do generally anything to my cup of coffee more quickly. But when you’ve spent a lotta cash on a machine or maker, damaging them is the last thing you want to do.

Screenshot these coffee maker cleaning mistakes, so when you are super sleepy in the morning, you know what not to do when washing your small coffee maker, your easy-to-use single-serve coffee maker, or even your filter coffee maker.

10 coffee maker cleaning mistakes you’re (probably) making and how to fix them

These cleaning mistakes cover a range of makers and machines, such as espresso machines, pod machines, drip coffee makers, stovetop brewers, and French presses. So, no matter what you use to make your cup of joe, you’re gonna go on a li'l learning journey here.

1. Cleaning with scented dish soap

No matter what coffee brewer you have, cleaning the makers and the machine parts with dish soap is a big no-no. This is because those soapy suds can affect the taste of your coffee. Instead, opt for boiling water for soaking parts, as this alone will get plenty of debris off. If you really feel that it needs a good scrub down, use an unscented dish soap, such as this huge Seventh Generation one from Walmart, which will last you a long time.

2. Not rinsing through enough

You may think that rinsing out your pod machine every now and then is enough. I’m here to tell you that it ain’t. You need to be rinsing your machine with water alone both before and after usage. This makes sure that all those nasties are flushed through, and your brewing journey will be fresh AF from start to finish. 

3. Ignoring the cleaning alerts

I’m a huge problem procrastinator myself, so I’m not here to judge. But if your coffee machine has a jazzy light or notification that alerts you how and when you need to clean it, listen to it people! If you put off cleaning it, your machine may clog up and not function properly. Plus, you don’t want to be drinking dirty coffee. Solve the problem now, and drink delicious coffee later. 

4. Not pointing the hot water spout away

Many espresso machines have a hot water spout. If yours has one and you’re looking to give your machine a clean, here’s my hot tip: point it away from you. These makers have a habit of tooting out steam at various intervals, and they might choose to do it right when you’re about to wipe them down. I recommend cleaning the pipe with a microfiber cloth and hot water. By doing this, you won’t risk hurting yourself, as steam can seriously burn. 

5. Not using the right cleaner for your machine

It’s so easy to rifle through the cleaning cupboard, and put just anything into your water filter or within the machine itself to clean it. But, as obvious as this sounds, you’ve gotta read the instructions and see what cleaning products the manufacturer actually suggests. While you don’t always have to use brand-specific options, you can find other machine-specific alternatives, such as these Urnex cleaning tablets, which are Amazon’s Choice for cleaning an espresso machine. Also, be sure to check if the instructions specify cleaners to avoid, as this can void your warranty (eek!).

6. Cleaning with a metal scourer

Trust me, I love using my metal scourer for scrubbing off grimy patches. For coffee machines though, they aren’t so great. These can really scratch the plastic, metal, and glass components of your maker. Instead, go for a softer sponge that still has good scrubbing power. My fave is the TikTok-famous Scrub Daddy, which is just under $4 at Walmart RN. This handily goes softer in warmer water and harder in cooler water — plus, how cute is that li’l smile?

7. Putting everything in the dishwasher

Chucking everything in the dishwasher and calling it a day is fab for dishes and mugs, but for coffee machine parts? Not so much. Some parts are way too important and delicate to be putting in there. Check the instruction manual, as this will tell you which parts can be hand-washed and which parts can be put in the dishwasher. BTW, this just applies for machine parts — I definitely don’t advise putting your French press or stovetop coffee maker in one.

8. Never descaling your machine

Just like when cleaning your tea kettle, you need to remember to descale your coffee machine, too. If all those scaly bits add up, they can damage your machine, and even slow it down — which is exactly what you don’t want when craving your caffeine in the morning. A cheap and effective way to descale your coffee machine is by putting a solution of part water and part white vinegar (Heinz's white vinegar from Amazon is incredible for cleaning) into your water filter. Run a cycle through with this, before running another with just plain water. 

9. Forgetting about your filters

Think about how much water goes through your coffee filter. Yup. That means it's a major breeding ground for bacteria and all that gross stuff. It's an easy area to forget about, but it's seriously important. Use a cloth dipped in hot water and unscented dish soap (yes, the Seventh Generation one is your best bet) to wash them. Paper filters are of course removable and single-use, but remember to clean out the inside of where they’ve been sitting, too.  

10. Not drying after washing

Okay, so you may have actually cleaned your coffee maker properly. Congrats! But if you’ve just washed out your machine parts, coffee pot, or French press and put them away, you've missed a vital step — drying. I can see your logic; they’re gonna get wet again anyway, that’s how coffee works. But water can carry lots of bacteria, so even if you are going to use your maker again right away, dry everything for a fresher cup of coffee. 

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.