How to descale a kettle – clean yours with or without vinegar for pristine results

This is how to descale a kettle properly. Clean yours using natural ingredients or other favorites like Coke for quick results to keep it functioning and prolong its lifespan

how to descale a kettle: red kettle on pink background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's nothing quite like a great cup of tea, that is, until you come to the end of it, expecting to enjoy your last sip, only to find that it's filled with flaky bits of limescale... Not what you were expecting, right? Calcium deposits are the number one reason to descale a kettle regularly, as not only is limescale detrimental to your tea or coffee drinking experience, but if left too long, it can also shorten the lifespan of your best kettle and your best stovetop kettle, and no one wants that.

According to the UK Tea and Infusions association, (opens in new tab) Brits drink 'Approximately 100 million cups daily, which is almost 36 billion per year'. That's a lot of tea, and a lot of limescale... But how many of us actually clean our kettles properly? If you know all too well how little you tend to yours, not to worry as once we've shown you how to clean and descale a kettle thoroughly using vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate of soda and more natural ingredients, you'll stay on top of this easy job going forward.

descale a kettle: pouring coffee

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is limescale?

Limescale (calcium carbonate) is a milky white, tough deposit which clogs up the filaments of your kettle and forms when hot water has evaporated and solidified.  As well as looking unappetising when it appears as flakes floating in your hot drink and giving your boiled water a slightly metallic tang to it, limescale can be stubborn to remove by scrubbing alone.

How often should you descale a kettle?

It’s important to give your kettle a clean every few months. Limescale and other mineral deposits build up inside your kettle over time and this will affect its performance, or even shorten its lifespan, so you’d be wise to pay it some attention occasionally. If you live in a hard water area you may need to descale your kettle more frequently.

We spoke with small kitchen appliances expert brand Smeg (opens in new tab) about the best way to descale a kettle, 'The most straightforward way to descale your kettle is by using a solution of lemon or vinegar mixed with water. Boil this mixture in your kettle and leave it to stand for a while to break down and remove limescale. Opting for a kettle with a removable limescale filter in its spout, like Smeg's, also make for simple cleaning.'

Before you start – some kettle descaling tips and safety notes

  • Remove stubborn limescale: If you find that there are stubborn spots of limescale left behind after you have cleaned the kettle, give the areas a gentle rub with a pan scourer to dislodge the last few bits. Rinse well afterwards. You can also try the baking soda paste method listed below with a toothbrush.
  • Treat stainless steel kettles: If you have a kettle with a stainless steel exterior, dip a soft cloth in olive oil and wipe it over the outside surface. Use a gentle rub and polishing motion to leave the kettle gleaming. Plastic kettles can be wiped over with a cloth dipped in warm, soapy water.
  • Watch electrics: When you're cleaning your kettle, always take extra care to ensure that the base of the kettle and its electrical parts remain dry.
  • Let it cool: If you are cleaning the interior or the exterior of the kettle by hand, check that it has cooled down first and unplug it.

clean a kettle: woman pouring hot water

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to descale a kettle with vinegar

Fill the kettle up to ¾ capacity with a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Bring the kettle to the boil and then turn it off (if it doesn’t do so automatically) and allow the mixture to stay in the kettle for up to 30 minutes. Pour away the liquid after use, rinse out the kettle with fresh water and then boil the kettle once or twice on full capacity to make sure that there is no lingering taste of vinegar. 

How to descale a kettle with lemon juice

Try putting a mixture of 30ml of lemon juice to 500ml of water in your kettle. Leave it to stand for one hour before bringing the liquid to the boil. Pour it away and rinse well before resuming your usual routine.

How to descale a kettle with bicarbonate of soda

You can also use baking soda if this is all you have to hand. Either add a tablespoon of baking/bicarbonate of soda to a full kettle of water before boiling it. Allow it to stand for 15- 30 minutes before pouring it away. Rinse the kettle with fresh water and boil once or twice with new water each time to ensure there is no lingering taste of bicarb. Or, make a paste using half a cup of baking or bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of water, then use a clean toothbrush to scrub off sections of limescale inside and out. Rinse well and boil the kettle a couple of times before next use.

How to descale a kettle with Coke

This world famous fizzy drink has a phosphoric acidity at a pH level of 2.8, which makes it as effective as lemon juice or vinegar for some cleaning tasks. Pour enough Cola into your kettle to fill it and then set it to boil. After it has boiled, leave it to cool down for about 45 minutes before pouring it out. Thoroughly wash and rinse out your kettle afterwards and boil some fresh water in it, discard it and then you’ll be ready to make a cup of tea again. 

How to descale a kettle with citric acid

Ensure that the kettle is half full before bringing it to the boil. Once it has boiled, add one to two tablespoons of citric acid powder to the boiled water. Allow the mixture to do its job for 15 to 20 minutes and then pour it out. Make sure that you rinse out the kettle and boil it at full capacity, throwing away the boiled water afterwards, before you use it to make a hot drink. Citric acid (opens in new tab) is available from Amazon.

Garden Trading Enamel Stove Kettle in Charcoal

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

How to descale a kettle with descaler – our top 3

Using a recommended descaler can be the best option if you want to descale a kettle without vinegar or any of the other methods listen above. Modern descalers are able to clean kettles up nicely, and they are simple and mess free too.

  1. Home Master Kettle Descaler (opens in new tab): Boil half a kettle full of water, unplug, drop the sachet in and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. With a five-star rating and plenty of rave reviews for its results, Home Master Kettle Descaler does the business. You can use it on metal or plastic designs. You don’t even need to open the sachet. Once the fizzing’s over, you can rinse and get back to a fur-free kettle and residue-less brews.
  2. Ivitro CalSolve Kettle Descaler (opens in new tab): Another five-star solution according to its users as well as the team at Real Homes. You’ll get 40 doses in the pack, so you can keep on descaling at low cost. All you need to do? Dissolve the powder in hot water and the limescale will vamoose. Oh, and it’s not smelly either. You can make sure you stay on top of the descaling with this long-lasting pack. It’ll work for most kettles – except galvanised surfaces or enamel appliances – dissolving the accumulated limescale speedily.
  3. Ecozone Kettle & Iron Descaler (opens in new tab): If you're after an eco-friendly solution then go for Ecozone's whose product is made with 100% citric acid. It takes half an hour to do its work, so you won’t be waiting long for a fur-free appliance. Oh, and it’ll sort out the iron for you, too. It’s easy to use and, as it doesn’t take long, you won’t be parched for a hot drink.

How to prevent limescale in a kettle

As well as regularly cleaning yours, another top tip to keep your kettle clean is to empty it completely after each use as leftover water left standing increases the chances of mineral deposits building up inside. To avoid wasting water, try and only fill your kettle with the amount of water you need, whether you're making tea or cooking pasta. The same is true for the filters on the best boiling water taps – change them regularly to avoid build-up.

Time for tea!

Lesley Hannaford Hill is a homes, property and interiors writer of some repute. She started writing on Best magazine back in the 1990s and has since worked for many women's and interiors magazines, writing about everything from property prices to home improvement. She is know for her witty style and broad knowledge. On a personal level, she has renovated flats and houses and has built her own home on the plot where her parents' self-build once stood.