Cleaning a Coffee Pot: Vinegar vs. Descaling Solution

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If part of your morning routine involves a fresh cup of coffee, your coffee maker has probably become a trusted friend. However, when the red indicator light  comes on, warning you that it’s time to descale the coffee maker, you may feel betrayed and  unsure of what to do next. Well, don’t start looking for a new breakfast buddy just yet. We have a few simple steps to cleaning a coffee pot that are fast and easy, which will put you and your coffee maker back on the path to being besties again.

Before you begin cleaning a coffee pot, it’s important to distinguish between how to clean a coffee pot and how to descale a coffee maker. Rinsing out the machine with water may remove loose debris, but it’s not enough to tackle any limescale buildup caused by hard water.

Hard water has a higher mineral content than soft water. The dissolved calcium, magnesium, and limestone will start to build up in your coffee machine over time, which means you should clean it out periodically. This mineral buildup won’t hurt you, but it may affect the taste of your morning coffee.

Plus, a buildup of minerals can also block the holes in your coffee pot which triggers the indicator light to turn on if your machine has one. For older coffee makers and those with fewer features, simply look for chalky white residue. This tells you it’s time to descale your coffee maker. But how often should you clean your coffee pot to avoid a buildup of minerals? We’ll explain in more detail below.

How Often Should I Clean My Coffee Pot?

If you are a daily coffee drinker, you should clean your coffee maker once a month, but the more often, the better. Coffee leaves a residue in the brewing basket that can also lead to bacteria growth and water stains.

According to a study, your kitchen sponge and coffee maker could be two of the top 10 germiest items in your home. An NSF International study shows that 50 percent of homes contain a coffee maker with a buildup of yeast and mold in the reservoir.

Because the reservoir in your coffee maker contains the water to make your coffee, any bacteria, mold, or other contaminants will make their way into your cup of coffee. Cleaning a coffee pot regularly not only keeps nasty germs and mold at bay, but it can also make your coffee taste better.

Keeping your coffee maker clean is good for your health and taste buds and will help keep your appliance working properly longer. Cleaning a French press? Check out our handy guide for keeping your coffee press clean and healthy. 

Cleaning a Coffee Pot with Vinegar or Commercial Descaler

The two most popular descaling solutions for ridding your coffee pot of limescale are white vinegar and commercial descaler. Whether you opt for cleaning your coffee pot with vinegar or commercial descaler, follow these steps:

  • Empty and rinse the carafe.
  • Dispose of any coffee grounds left in the machine. Dump the grounds in your compost heap or trash can, not down the sink.
  • Fill the water chamber halfway with white vinegar, and then top it off with water.
  • Set the carafe in place and start a brew cycle. Halfway through, turn off the coffee maker and let it sit for one hour. (If you descale your coffee maker regularly, you may be able to skip the rest period.)
  • Finish the brew cycle. Then, pour out the vinegar/water solution and rinse the carafe in the sink.
  • Fill the water chamber with clean water and let a full cycle run from start to finish. Let the machine cool slightly, and then repeat this two more times to get rid of any residual vinegar taste.

Is a Descaling Solution Better than Vinegar?

Consider the following before you decide which method to use when cleaning your coffee pot:

  • The descaling process is the same, no matter which method you use.
  • Vinegar is readily available and more affordable than commercial descaler.
  • A descaler is specifically formulated for descaling coffee pots and will keep the machine running reliably.
  • The manufacturer may not honor a warranty claim if you regularly use vinegar instead of a descaler to clean your coffee maker.

Tip: To minimize coffee maker maintenance, try brewing with bottled water or filtered water instead of tap water (especially if you know you have hard water).

While commercial descaling formulas are safe and effective, learning how to make a descaling solution can give you the same results. Vinegar is one of the most popular DIY cleaning and descaling solutions, but there are other safe and natural household products that can also be used.

Baking Soda Descaling Solution

Baking soda is an inexpensive natural cleaner, whitener, and descaler. Using baking soda for descaling and cleaning a coffee pot is ideal because it removes buildup without leaving an undesirable aftertaste. All you need is baking soda and water to get the job done in a few simple steps:

  • Remove the filter and pour warm water into the reservoir.
  • Pour ¼ cup of baking soda into the reservoir and let it dissolve.
  • Run a brewing cycle and discard the water in the pot when you're done.
  • Fill the reservoir with clean water and run another brewing cycle.
  • Repeat the last step as needed until the water in your coffee pot is clear.
  • Use a baking soda and water paste to clean the coffee pot, then rinse.

Citric Acid Descaler

Citric acid is derived from citrus fruit, so the compound is safe, natural, and an ideal eco-friendly descaler. Citric acid has a lower PH level than vinegar, so you won't have to contend with lingering odors as you do with vinegar. Here’s how to descale a coffee maker using citric acid:

  • Combine two quarts of water and a teaspoon of citric acid powder in a container.
  • Mix the descaling solution thoroughly and pour it into your coffee maker's reservoir.
  • Run a brewing cycle to allow the citric acid solution to circulate through the coffee maker.
  • Dump the citric acid solution and fill the reservoir with clean water.
  • Repeat the brewing process with clean water until the water in your coffee pot is clear.

Professional Services from Molly Maid Can Keep Your Kitchen Clean

Descaling and cleaning a coffee pot is only one of many tasks that should be on your kitchen cleaning to-do list. If you want to learn how to clean your other kitchen appliances, use our helpful appliance cleaning guide, and when you need help getting it all done, call on Molly Maid! Our kitchen cleaning services are designed to take a load off your shoulders, so you have more time for friends and family and enjoying great cups of coffee!

Molly Maid offers the professional cleaning services you need to keep your house, apartment or condo sparkling. We offer one-time cleaning, recurring cleaning, move-in and move-out cleaning, special event cleaning services, and more!

To request a free in-home estimate for professional house cleaning services near you, please contact your local Molly Maid.