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How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker So Your Morning Brew *Always* Taste Its Best

Pros weigh in on the pros and cons of white vinegar vs a descaling solution

Knowing how to clean a Keurig coffee maker is the key to keeping what is perhaps your hardest-working kitchen appliance in tip-top shape for as long as possible. After all, you don’t want anything to come between you and your first cup of morning joe, right? One problem that can cause your machine to slow down and add an odd flavor to your coffee: limescale. This annoying buildup is a common nuisance, so we asked two appliance experts on how to descale a Keurig and keep it in tip-top shape. Plus, more tips on how to clean every part of your coffee maker so you never have to miss your morning fix.

What causes limescale build-up in a Keurig?

Much like in a shower or bathroom faucet, limescale in a Keurig (Buy on Amazon, $174.80) is caused by hard water. “When you boil hard water in your Keurig, minerals like calcium and magnesium precipitate and deposit inside it, forming limescale,” explains Amna Muqeem, editor-in-chief of appliance review site “This is definitely a bad thing for your Keurig and demands cleaning because the accumulated limescale can restrict the flow of water through the machine and lead to slower brewing.” Plus, limescale can cause your brewed coffee and tea to have a bitter or metallic taste. Yuck!

How do I descale a Keurig?

Keurig recommends descaling your machine every three to six months depending on your water source. Descaling gets rid of limescale buildup and keeps your machine running well.

Most Keurig owners prefer using white vinegar for descaling. As a Keurig descaling solution DIY option, vinegar is an effective and inexpensive way to to neutralize and break down limescale and won’t ever ruin the inside of the machine or leave a chemical taste in your coffee. Muqeem shares the steps to using this household staple:

  1. Empty out the water reservoir and remove the K-Cups. If your Keurig has a water filter, remove it as well.
  2. Fill the water reservoir with equal parts water and white vinegar.
  3. Place the biggest mug you have on the drip tray. (Note: Keurig recommends opting for ceramic mugs).
  4. “Some Keurig models have the descaling feature,” Mugeeum says. “If your model has it then select this option (the “Descale” light will glow) and let the Keurig run until it completes its cycle”. For models without this feature, simply choose the largest cup size and run the cycle. It will likely take several cycles to fully descale, but remember to empty your mug out after each cycle. Repeat until the “Add water” light glows.
  5. Let your Keurig rest for about half an hour so that if there’s any extra descaling solution or vinegar mixture in the machine, it can drip out.
  6. Empty the reservoir out, rinse it, and refill it up to the max line with water. Run the largest cup cycles again until the water reservoir empties out.
  7. Put in your filter and refill the reservoir as normal.

This video shows just how easy it is!

Is descaling solution better than vinegar?

The simple answer for how to clean Keurig without vinegar is to use a descaling solution. While white vinegar is about 97 percent water and 3 percent acetic acid, liquid descaling solutions are mainly made of citric acid. A wide range of descaling solutions for coffee machines are available to purchase, and the descaling process is the same — you simply use the solution instead of vinegar.

If you follow the process above for how to clean a Keurig with vinegar, you shouldn’t need to buy a descaling solution. However, some people find vinegar doesn’t work for them if their Keurig is very blocked. When choosing a Keurig descaling solution, make sure the product is safe to use in Keurig machines and follow the directions on the packaging. Naturally, Keurig recommends using its own descaling solution (Buy at Walmart, $8.98) “Simply empty the entire bottle out into the reservoir,” explains Muqeem. “Refill the solution bottle with water and empty that out into the reservoir too. If you have a mini Keurig, then use only 1/3 of the descaling solution and fill up the rest of the reservoir with water.”

Have citric acid powder at home?

“Once a week, add 2 Tbs. of citric acid powder to the reservoir, fill the rest with water, then run a brew cycle without coffee grounds or pods,” advises Jeff Campbell, founder of “Made from lemons, the natural powder breaks down limescale, so it flushes away.”

How to avoid limescale build-up

Now that you’ve successfully descaled your machine, you’ll want to do what you can to avoid the deposits from clogging up the Keurig again. “The best way to avoid limescale buildup is by using filtered water in your Keurig,” says Muqeem. “Moreover, clean the drip tray and water reservoir often to prevent any limescale buildup on them. Finally, do not leave water inside the reservoir for a long time, this could lead to mineral deposit.”

How to unclog my Keurig

how to clean a keurig
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  1. If your Keurig is clogged, leave the vinegar-water to work its magic overnight.
  2. Press the brew button and let it take in the liquid, but before it starts to drip, switch off the machine until the following morning.
  3. When you turn your Keurig back on, it will finish its brewing cycle.
  4. When the liquid runs clean into your mug, get rid of any remaining liquid in the tank, wash the tank out with warm water and soap, then run the brewing cycle a few more times with only plain water.

How to clean the needle on my Keurig

If you don’t have a Keurig tool to clean your coffee machine’s needle, you can use items you’re likely to have around the home. A good option for how to clean a Keurig needle is with a paperclip. After you partially unbend it, you can put the straight end of the paper clip into the needle’s holes, doing the same as you would with the Keurig tool to remove scale and debris and leave the holes clear. Any other long, slim, pointed object works for Keurig needle maintenance, such as a skewer or toothpick.

How to clean a Keurig water reservoir

The best method for how to clean a Keurig water reservoir is the vinegar descaling process described above. To avoid mold in the water reservoir, you should clean the reservoir with warm water and soap once a week. It’s no big secret how to clean mold in a Keurig water reservoir — it’s simply a case of not giving mold a chance to grow. After you reinsert the clean reservoir, run two hot water cleansing brews before your next coffee brew. 

Want even more handy cleaning tips? Check out our guides on how to clean a toaster, how to clean an oven, how to clean out candle jars, and how to clean a carpet without a steam cleaner!

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