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Homes & Gardens
Homes & Gardens
Chiana Dickson

How to descale a Keurig with vinegar – and why my easy home tip actually works

Keurig K-Slim on a wooden countertop with a hot and an iced coffee.

Staying on top of your coffee maker maintenance can be costly and time-consuming, especially if you forget to order descaling solutions. So, when I learned how to descale a Keurig with vinegar, I was over the moon. 

If you already know how to clean a Keurig coffee maker, you'll be familiar with the process. You'll also know that the commercial descaling cleaner can be costly, especially since you need to use the whole bottle each time you do a deep clean. 

Luckily, I discovered that a Keurig machine is one of many things you can clean with vinegar, making this home staple even more useful. Here's everything you need if you want to know how to descale a Keurig with vinegar.

How to descale a Keurig with vinegar 

(Image credit: Future)

Having been named one of the best single-serve coffee makers, one of the reasons I chose the Keurig machine is how easy it is to clean at home. Cleaning and descaling a Keurig with vinegar is simple and only requires four items to do well:

1. Empty the machine's reservoir

Before beginning the cleaning process it is important to make sure the water reservoir has been emptied of old water and any filters have been removed. It is best to also remove any K-cups from the machine too. 

I left the filter in once by accident and found that the taste of vinegar stuck around for several uses after descaling as the solution soaked into the filter. Taking this out and washing it by hand seems to be a much easier (and better tasting) alternative to cleaning it with vinegar. I guess there are things you should not clean with vinegar after all!

2. Combine equal parts water and vinegar

When it comes to cleaning a kitchen and my appliances, I find that a vinegar-water solution is one of the best all-around cleaners you can make yourself. From cleaning kitchen grease to descaling your Keurig, it does it all!

To descale my Keurig, I pour equal parts water and white vinegar into the now empty reservoir and turn the machine on to a cycle. I always place a large mug underneath the spout to collect this water – the larger the better to prevent overflow.

My Keurig machine has a self-descale function built in. If you have this too, simply set the machine to run and leave until the cycle is complete. If you have a smaller model or your machine does not have a descale function like mine, this method will still work as long as you run several regular cycles through the machine one after the other. Depending on how dirty your Keurig machine is you may need to run this cycle multiple times until the water begins to come through clear. 

Vinegar works so well to descale a Keurig due to its acidic properties as it cuts through calcium build-up and kills any bacteria that is lingering inside the pipes. 

3. Complete a plain water cycle

In order to flush the vinegar residue out of my machine and prevent that lingering vinegar taste I experienced once and never want to taste again, I empty the reservoir of vinegar solution and refill it with plain water. 

I find that completing around three regular machine cycles will help clear this taste out completely.

4. Clean individual components and allow the machine to air dry

While the vinegar solution works wonders to clean the internal mechanisms of my machine, certain removable parts such as the reservoir, lid, pot holder, and drip tray need to be cleaned manually with a soft cloth in warm soapy water before being left to air dry completely and reassembling. 

5. Complete the clean with an exterior wipe down

If my machine's exterior is particularly dirty. I often use the vinegar water solution cleaning tip in spray form to wipe down the outside of my machine too. If my machine has recently been cleaned, I find that a cloth soaked in warm soapy water is sufficient to remove any general kitchen grease build-up or spilled/splashed coffee. 


(Image credit: Future)

How to know if your Keurig needs descaling

If you do not have a Keurig model with a descaling alert light on it such as on the Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker available on Amazon, it can be difficult to know when to descale your Keurig as the calcium deposits form inside of the machine. I find it best to descale my machine at least every three to six months depending on how frequently it has been used.

I consider descaling my Keurig before the light comes on if I find that my coffee is taking longer to brew, the water appears to come out more violently with more splutters, or if the machine appears to be getting increasingly louder as the water flow has to work harder through the machine. 

Is descaling solution better than vinegar?

Both vinegar and descaling solution is equally as effective when it comes to descaling a coffee maker such as a Keurig. While both solutions have their downsides, from a possible lingering taste from vinegar or the chemical makeup of a commercial descaler, neither solution is better than the other for descaling a machine.

Do you remove the filter when descaling Keurig?

If you are descaling a Keurig machine with a removable filter, it is best to remove this part to prevent the solution from saturating the filter and leaving residue behind. This residue may affect the taste of your coffee, so washing it by hand with water is the better approach. 

How long do you need to leave vinegar in a Keurig to work? 

Let the vinegar mixture remain in the machine for roughly half an hour, though it's important not to exceed three hours. Activate your machine, set your cup, and begin brewing until the water tank is completely empty. Afterward, thoroughly rinse the reservoir with fresh water, allowing the vinegar to dissolve any mineral deposits effectively.

Why is the descaling light still flashing after I have descaled my Keurig? 

If the descaling indicator remains lit, this suggests that the machine hasn't been adequately rinsed following the descaling process. You should thoroughly rinse the Keurig again with clean water. Take out the water tank, refill it to the 'max' line using tap water, and initiate the water rinse cycle in your machine's settings. 

Having an inexpensive coffee maker doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the quality of your coffee. Stock up on coffee bar essentials and carve out your own little coffeeshop style nook to take your morning brew to the next level. 

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