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 red tea kettle on pink background
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Learning how to descale a kettle is one of life's essential skills, to guarantee your morning tea and coffee are as perfect as possible.

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.

And while you're at it, take a look at our guide to how to clean a kitchen properly, if you want to tackle your entire space.

person pouring hot water into a coffee mug on a wooden work surface

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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.

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 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 with olive oil: 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 – 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.

woman smiling and pouring hot water from a kettle into a mug, inside a neutral, white stylish kitchen

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How to descale a kettle with vinegar

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 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.'

For more specific instructions, 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. 

Find more ways to clean with vinegar in our guide.

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.

More ways to use lemon for cleaning your home in our guide.

How to descale a kettle with bicarbonate of soda

Or, 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.

And if you have leftover baking soda, we have lots more baking soda cleaning tips in our feature.

How to descale a kettle with Coke

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 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 is available from Amazon.

charcoal stove kettle sat on a marble worktop next to a window and a mug and bottle of milk

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How to descale a kettle with descaler – our top 3 choices

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 listen above, or don't have any of them available. 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): 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 do? 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 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 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 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. Once you help to avoid the problem, the methods for how to descale a kettle are so much easier.

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.