Plus, why this process actually works.
woman making coffee
Credit: Getty / MStudioImages

Descaling is the process of removing limescale, or scale, from the areas of your appliances that come in regular contact with water. It's common to find scale on everything from your shower head to your coffee pot. When it comes to appliances (like said coffee pot), the buildup can alter the way they work—which is why we asked two experts to share their thoughts on the best way to descale appliances and machines around the house.

Understanding Limescale

Environmental toxin expert Tonya Harris explains that limescale happens when minerals and calcium in the water that typically runs through your machine as part of its regular operation (think of the water you add to a steam iron, for example) build up. Over time, these normally small particles accumulate and create a film that can prevent water flow or alter the taste of food products. "On coffee and espresso machines, it can build up on the pumps and heating element," she explains. "This can affect the heat of the coffee, as well as the taste." Unfortunately, if the buildup is not removed, the machine may stop working altogether.

Descaling a Coffee Machine

To descale a coffee maker, Harris suggests filling your machine with approximately a half-pot of vinegar and then running it through a cycle without coffee. "Do this a couple of times, and then run it with just water until you can no longer smell the vinegar." Just make sure your coffee machine's manufacturer doesn't have any rules against using vinegar, as Harris says it may be too harsh for some. "I recommend reading your coffee or espresso machine's care instructions, but personally I've never had a problem with vinegar," she adds.

Descaling Water Faucets and Shower Heads

If you can remove the shower head or faucet, do so—and then place it into a bucket or bowl of vinegar and let it soak for a few hours. If it won't come off, you can get the same effect with an air-tight bag. "I pour vinegar into a plastic sandwich or snack-sized baggie (enough so that it surrounds the faucet head where the water comes out) and put that around the faucet, and then rubber band it in place," she says. "Run water and rinse everything off with a soft sponge."

Descaling Other Major Appliances

For your major appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers, you should use the products recommended in your user manual. "Using a product not meant for appliances can leading to scratching or other damage to the interior, which could lead to further damage down the road—both to the appliance and clothing in the washer or dishes in the dishwasher," explains Joanna Park, the consumer insight analyst at LG Electronics USA. "In general, I would say don't use a product not meant for the appliance. Don't use a general descaler—use one specifically for washers and dishwashers."


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