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 like vinegar for quick results to keep it functioning and prolong its lifespan

A modern kitchen with stainless steel electric kettle and matching toaster appliance on kitchen island
(Image credit: Cuisinart)

Learning how to descale a kettle is one of life's essential skills. If not done properly, it will impair the flavor of your morning brews.

Nothing ruins a good cup of tea more than getting to the end, 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 kettle, and no one wants that.

Nescafe's research (opens in new tab) found that worldwide, we consume 400 billion cup of coffee each year! In Europe, these coffees are often made quickly using instant coffee powder, or kettle-boiled water added to a French press. And, 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. Though electric kettles were less common in the US, in recent years their popularity has boomed for those who love a morning tea ritual and making fancy matcha concoctions.

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 descale a kettle thoroughly using vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate of soda, and more natural ingredients.

What is limescale?

Close-up of an electric kettle with limescale in hard water area

(Image credit: Getty / Daisy-Daisy (#128092692))

Limescale (calcium carbonate) is a milky white, tough deposit that clogs up the filaments of your kettle and forms when hot water has evaporated and solidified. As well as looking unappetizing 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.

A furred-up appliance is also more expensive to run, so if you're looking to save money on the cost of boiling a kettle, you'll need to get rid of the plaque-like substance on the base and wall of your vessel.

How often should you descale a kettle?

A modern country kitchen with light grey toaster, electric kettle and cupboard cabinetry

(Image credit: Dunelm)

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. Not to mention, the cream-colored tartar looks super gross, god forbid a family member should take a peek inside your kettle if they've helped themselves to some instant to make coffee without a coffee maker.

If you live in a hard water area you may need to descale your kettle more frequently and, if budget permits, you can go as far as investing in an under-sink water softener (ie: Harvey water softener (opens in new tab)) that will filter out these minerals for you. Alternatively, instead of using water straight out of the kitchen faucet, filter it first in a water filter pitcher (opens in new tab).

We spoke to Debbie McIvor-Main, marketing manager at Dualit Ltd (opens in new tab). She says: 'Understanding what your water hardness type is and how often you should descale your product, will massively improve the taste of your hot drinks and lengthen the lifespan of your appliance.'

McIvor-Main's guidance on when to descale a kettle

  • If you live in a soft water area we recommend you descale your kettle every two months or every 100 cycles. 
  • If you live in a medium water area we recommend you descale your kettle once a month or every 50 cycles.
  • If you live in a hard water area we recommend you descale your kettle at least once a month or every 25 cycles.

How to descale a kettle with vinegar

We spoke with Clare Edwards, head of consumer and retail events at Smeg UK (opens in new tab)about the best way to descale a kettle. She says: 'The most straightforward way to descale your kettle is by using a solution of vinegar or lemon 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.'

Clean with acetic acid couldn't be easier using our step-by-step below...

  1. Fill the kettle up to ¾ capacity with a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar.
  2. 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.
  3. Pour away the liquid after use, rinse out the kettle with fresh water, and then boil the kettle once or twice at full capacity to make sure that there is no lingering taste of vinegar.

How to descale a kettle with lemon juice

A colorful Smeg X Dolce & Gabbana electric kettle in kitchen with orange tree and whole fresh lemons on counter

(Image credit: Harvey Norman)

This method for cleaning your kettle is easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Since the juice of this yellow citrus fruit is so acidic, it will lift those crunchy bits of limescale with ease. If you don't want to use fresh lemons for cleaning, you can use bottled concentrate.

Lynsey Crombie, aka Lynsey Queen of Clean (opens in new tab) says: 'I tend to buy the lemon juice from the cooking aisle (opens in new tab) in the supermarket that can be used for baking,'

'This is a less toxic way of de-scaling your kettle and you know that even if you did end up drinking the solution you are not going to come to any serious harm like I did a few years back [with commercial descaling solution].'

  1. Try putting a mixture of 30ml of lemon juice to 500ml of water in your kettle.
  2. 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.

If you're partial to Asian or Mexican cooking and are more likely to use limes when cooking, you can of course use this smaller green fruit instead. Grab a few from Amazon Fresh and get going within two hours of ordering! (opens in new tab)

How to descale a kettle with bicarbonate of soda

You can also use baking soda to clean if this is all you have to hand. Either add a tablespoon of baking soda (opens in new tab) 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 soda and a few drops of water, then use a clean toothbrush (opens in new tab) to scrub off sections of limescale inside and out. Rinse well and boil the kettle a couple of times before the next use.

How to descale a kettle with cola

If you're wondering how to descale a kettle with Coke, know that it's one of the best options for doing so! 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 (any brand will do) 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

You might have seen citric acid (opens in new tab) in the food or cleaning aisle and wondered what it's for. Well, it's used for adding a sour tang to dishes, preserving canned food, and –you've guessed it – descaling a kettle.

While the term 'acid' might sound scary, this is a non-toxic organic compound that's safe to use around young family members and pets. This four-step guide will take you through using this powdered product, which you can find on Amazon.

  1. Ensure that the kettle is half full before bringing it to the boil.
  2. Once it has boiled, add one to two tablespoons of citric acid powder to the boiled water.
  3. Allow the mixture to do its job for 15 to 20 minutes and then pour it out.
  4. 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.

How to descale a kettle with denture tablets

A person in a green kitchen filling a John Lewis & Partners ANYDAY electric kettle

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Even if your gnashers are all your own, you'll want to pick up some denture tablets from Amazon (opens in new tab) and get your teeth stuck into this kettle descaling hack. Depending on how much time you have on your hands (or your urgency for a brew), you can drop a tab or two in the kettle, fill it with water, leave it overnight and decant the contents in the morning.

Alternatively, boil the kettle straight after dispensing the tablets in the water and discard the solution. You can then proceed to make the perfect cup of tea, just how you like it.

How to descale a kettle with descaler: top three picks

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

Lara Brittain, kitchen expert at Currys (opens in new tab) says that for optimal results, 'make sure that the acid stays in contact with the limescale for an hour or more.'

  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 is 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): This is 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 is dissolve the powder in hot water and the limescale will vanish. 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 galvanized 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 cleaning product then go for Ecozone's product, which 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 your steam iron and coffee maker for you too. It’s easy to use and, as it doesn’t take long, you won’t be parched for a hot drink.

'At Dualit, we recommend the Kilrock K descaler (opens in new tab) which usually takes between 15 minutes and one hour depending on the limescale build-up in the kettle. This solution is a biodegradable, phosphate-free formula suitable for metal and plastic kettles. If you are seeking your own descaling solution, always make sure it is suitable for your appliance.' says McIvor-Main.

How to prevent limescale in a kettle

A modern traditional kitchen with olive green cabinetry, marble splashback, electric stainless steel kettle and toaster set

(Image credit: Cuisinart)

As well as regular cleaning, another top tip to keep your kettle clean is to empty and dry it with a microfiber cleaning cloth (opens in new tab) 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 and hot water dispensers – change them regularly to avoid build-up. Once you help to avoid the problem, the methods for how to descale a kettle are so much easier.

Otherwise, you could also buy a kettle protector (available from Lakeland) (opens in new tab). This is essentially a small stainless steel mesh ball that will help save on energy bills and prolong the life of your kettle by trapping limescale ‘fur’ on its coils. It works by sitting inside the kettle and attracting limescale towards it, rather than the element or edges of your kettle – clever, right?

Kettle descaling tips and safety notes

  • Remove stubborn limescale after: 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 non-scratch pan scourer (opens in new tab) to dislodge the last few bits. Rinse well afterwards. You can also try cleaning with the baking soda paste method listed below with a toothbrush (opens in new tab).
  • Treat stainless steel kettles with olive oil: If you have a kettle with a stainless steel exterior, dip a soft cloth in olive oil (opens in new tab) 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 – it's safest to unplug them altogether.
  • 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.
Christina author photo
Christina Chrysostomou

From English Breakfast to Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Chai, Christina (opens in new tab) loves a tea. When she's not sipping from her favorite cup, she's flipping the switch to tee up her next brew. Builder's brew, no sugar, color-matched to her Asian-Med skin, please and thank you. And by no means should the milk be added first, unless the tea has already been brewed in a teapot.

Having said that, once the working day is done, she likes to make a start on dinner and uses the kettle to fast-track the cooking process for rice and pasta dishes with boiled water (because who has time to wait for cold water to heat up?) In essence – her kettle gets a lot of action, so it's important she keeps it in tip-top condition.

Her descaler du jour is the Oust All Purpose Descaler (opens in new tab) which she uses on her John Lewis and Partners ANYDAY kettle (opens in new tab). The box contains three sachets so she has no excuse for a congested teakettle.

Clare Edwards, Head of consumer and retail events, Smeg UK
Clare Edwards

Clare is Smeg’s UK head of consumer and retail events. With a degree in food and over 20 years’ experience as a home economist and training others in the kitchen, Clare has enormous expertise in cookery and deep knowledge of Smeg as a brand. Combined, Clare provides expert advice and training on how to get the most out of appliances, be that in the food they produce or how to care for them. Having won multiple awards for her training talents, Clare works alongside Smeg’s chef partners and presents the brands’ events and live cook-alongs, passing on her tips and tricks to customers. There’s not any wisdom about the kitchen that Clare doesn’t have readily available to pass on.

Christina Chrysostomou
Ecommerce Editor

Bonjour, Yasou, Hello — I'm Christina, ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Along with my super creative colleagues, I create content to help you create a chic home on a budget. I live in a two-bed maisonette with a garage and garden in Essex. Geographically, it's perfect; I've got the forest on my doorstep, and London is just 15 minutes by tube or car. I specialize in small kitchen appliances so that you can prepare food with ease at home. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket.