How to Descale Your Stovetop and Electric Tea Kettles

Plus, learn what scaling is and how to identify it in the first place.

Photo of gray stainless steel kettle on the induction cooktop in the kitchen
Photo: Alexandr Screaghin / GETTY IMAGES

If making a cup of tea is one of your favorite daily rituals, then your stovetop or electric kettle is likely one of the most used tools in your kitchen arsenal. Kettles are also versatile—they allow you to boil water quickly for other beverages, too, from French press coffee to hot chocolate.

Since they're utilized so often, they do require some upkeep—and seeing some scaling on the kettle's interior is a sign that it's time to give yours a deeper clean. We asked the experts for their tips on identifying and removing scaling from your stovetop and electric kettles stat.

What Is Scaling and How Can You Identify It?

Scaling is buildup on the inside of a kettle; it might be brown, gray, or white and appear either as a thin film or a more textured form of debris, says Maria Uspenski, the CEO and founder of The Tea Spot.

Believe it or not, scaling is caused by plain old water. Its mineral content separates and solidifies as water boils and evaporates, says Uspenski. "This may be good news for the flavor of your tea, but if not cleaned, it will eventually reduce the conductivity and speed with which your kettle will bring water to a boil," she says.

Scaling happens most often after boiling unfiltered water. This typically leads to a layer of white powder on the bottom and side of the tea kettle, says Randy Tickle, the product development manager at Chantal. "This white substance will start to get thicker with each boil until you clean the kettle," he says. "This happens mainly in areas with hard water."

How Often to Clean Your Tea Kettle

When determining how often to clean your tea kettle, think about how much you use it, says Kathy Cohoon, the director of franchise operations at Two Maids. "If you rarely use it, you can get away with cleaning it less often, whereas if you use it daily, then aim to clean your kettle weekly," she says.

To keep mineral and limescale buildup at bay, never leave water in it and descale monthly, says Cohoon. "No matter how often you use your tea kettle, be sure to wipe the outside down when you wipe down counters to keep it shiny and smudge-free," she says.

Woman pouring water into kettle in kitchen

How to Descale a Tea Kettle

The descaling process is similar whether you have a stovetop or electric tea kettle—and Uspenski recommends using the same main ingredient to clean both types: lemon juice. "[It] is a strong acid that can break through and remove the scale inside your tea kettle," she says. "Some people use white vinegar instead of lemon juice, but that's not my preference. Even after boiling the kettle a few times, some people can still sense [the vinegar] taste."

Materials You'll Need

  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush

Stovetop Tea Kettle

Follow Uspenski's expert-approved steps to descale a stovetop tea kettle:

  1. Fill the kettle 1/4 full with lemon juice, then top it off with water to 3/4 full.
  2. Slowly bring the lemony mixture to a boil.
  3. When it comes to a boil, take it off the heat and let it cool down.
  4. When the kettle is cool enough to handle, pour the mixture out and finish cleaning the inside with just lemon.
  5. "If you're dealing with a stubborn deposit clinging to your kettle surface, rub it down with baking soda and water paste," says Uspenski. "I use this same paste to clean off accumulated tea residue in my ceramic teapots and mugs."

Electric Tea Kettle

Follow Tickle and Cohoon's best practices to descale an electric tea kettle:

  1. Fill the cleaning solution to below the max water level by one measure and set on boiling.
  2. Repeat the process until mineral deposits are removed.
  3. "If you have a removable filter, put it in a coffee mug and pour some hot cleaning solution until it covers the filter and let it sit until you see the mineral deposits disappear," says Tickle. "You can scrub the filter screen with the toothbrush if needed."

How to Reduce Tea Kettle Scaling

To reduce the amount of scaling in your kettles, use filtered water, since this will reduce mineral deposits, says Tickle. However, scaling can't be avoided entirely: It's a natural process and therefore completely normal, says a spokesperson for Viking Culinary.

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