You typically just boil water in your teapot, so many people wonder if it needs to be cleaned if water is the only substance that comes into contact with it. The short answer is yes, you need to wash your tea kettle, whether it's a stovetop or electric model.
At the very least, you should rinse your teapot with running water and dump out the excess water after each use. Because mineral buildup can occur, you'll need to descale the inside of your kettle on a regular basis.
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If this is the first you're hearing of this and you've never washed yours, here's how to clean a tea kettle and exactly what can happen if you don't.
Why You Should Wash Your Tea Kettle
There are a few reasons why you want to wash your teapot every so often. Doing so can protect you from harmful bacteria and ensure that each cup you brew tastes fresh and smooth.
It Can Negatively Affect the Flavor of Your Tea
Tea kettles are surprisingly versatile. You can use your teapot to boil water for a variety of reasons, but its intended purpose is to make tea. Some models allow you to brew tea leaves inside them, but most tea kettles simply boil water to pour over tea bags and tea leaves.
There are many health benefits of tea, but some tea drinkers enjoy the taste of the beverage. If you're a big tea drinker, you should make cleaning your tea kettle a priority from a flavor perspective.
"Never cleaning your kettle leads to mineral buildup that has the same effect as hard water. Tea brewed with it will have an unpleasant metallic flavor," says Nicole Wilson, a tea educator and founder of the award-winning tea blog Tea for Me Please.
To maximize the flavor of your tea, wash your kettle regularly. If your teapot also brews tea leaves, this is even more important, Wilson adds.
If you haven't washed your tea kettle in a long time, give it a good cleaning and taste the difference it can make.
Mineral Deposits May Build Up
Coffee makers, tea kettles, teapots and any other kitchen appliances that come into contact with large amounts of water all run the risk of mineral deposit buildup, especially when water is left sitting in it. You may have heard that you have to descale your coffee machine, and the same is true for your tea kettle.
Over time, minerals in water, especially calcium carbonate or limescale, can build up in the tea kettle. In regions with hard water, minerals like magnesium can also build up. Check out this map of regions with hard water from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Hard water is defined by the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These minerals will leave a residue on your appliance. Hard water can even leave a slimy film on your tea kettle.
This not only affects the flavor of the tea but also weakens the teapot, shortening its lifespan. If you never wash your tea kettle, you may notice corrosion in some places, which is caused by the buildup of minerals.
Hard water likely isn't a health risk, according to an August 2013 study in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, but it can affect the longevity of your tea kettle.
Leaving Water in Your Kettle Can Cause Bacteria to Grow
Some electric tea kettles have measurement indicators so you can pour the appropriate amount of water into them. Others, such as stovetop varieties, do not. If you accidentally add too much water to your tea kettle, you may be tempted to leave it in there, but this convenient habit could cause bacteria to grow.
When water is stagnant (aka not flowing), harmful germs may grow, according to the CDC. Some water-borne germs can make you sick, so the CDC recommends cleaning devices that use water, such as tea kettles.
How to Clean a Tea Kettle
Cleaning your tea kettle can improve the taste of your tea, minimize mineral buildup and prevent water-borne germs from growing. Luckily, it's just like washing any other small appliance in your kitchen, Wilson says. Most tea kettles aren't dishwasher-safe, though, so you'll have to do this by hand.
The cleaning instructions recommended by the manufacturer may vary, especially for electric models.
Things You'll Need
"Hot soapy water and a soft sponge are the best tools for everyday cleaning, especially for stovetop models that might get splashed with grease from cooking," Wilson says. "You have to be more careful with electric kettles because they aren't able to be fully submerged."
Here's how to do it:
- Add some dish soap to your sponge and wet it with warm water.
- Remove the lid from your tea kettle, and gently use the soapy sponge to wash the inside of the tea kettle.
- Wash the outside of the kettle with the sponge, too.
- Wash the lid of your teapot on both sides.
- Rinse the kettle with warm water, making sure to wash off all of the soap. Leave the lid off and allow the kettle to air dry completely before using it.
Deep cleaning (aka descaling) your tea kettle is also required on a regular basis.
To descale a kettle, Wilson says you should:
- Fill the teapot with equal parts white vinegar and water.
- Allow the mixture to sit overnight and then gently scrub off any limescale that you see.
- Rinse thoroughly and then boil a full kettle of water.
- Discard that water and rinse again before using the teapot.
- You can also wipe down the exterior with a microfiber cloth.
How Often to Wash Your Tea Kettle
To avoid the problems mentioned above, you'll need to wash your tea kettle pretty often.
"If possible, your kettle should be cleaned every time it is used. Clean the outside, empty any water left inside and allow it to dry completely before putting it away," Wilson says. As for descaling your teapot, Wilson recommends doing it at least once per month.
Those who live in an area with very hard water may need to descale their kettle even more frequently.
Easy-to-Clean Tea Kettles
- Electric: Elite Gourmet EKT1001 Glass Electric Tea Kettle ($29.99, Amazon.com)
- Stylish: BUYDEEM K640 Stainless Steel Electric Tea Kettle ($69.99, Amazon.com)
- Budget: Mr. Coffee Flintshire Stainless Steel Whistling Tea Kettle ($17.28, Amazon.com)
- Gooseneck: Chefbar Tea Kettle for Stovetop ($22.99, Amazon.com)
- Stovetop: Cuisinart Aura Stovetop Tea Kettle ($19.95, Amazon.com)