How To Clean And Descale A Keurig

how to clean a keurig

The task can seem quite daunting because of the smaller parts involved, but we’re here to help get you through it.

In this article we will cover cleaning and descaling in depth. This will help you keep your Keurig operating correctly and keep it free of germs and mineral build up.

There are 3 major steps when cleaning a Keurig including removable parts, internal parts, and descaling.

You probably already have the equipment needed, so let’s get started!

The following is an excellent video tutorial by Melissa Maker from cleanmyspace.com :

You Will Need:

  • White vinegar (Optional: Keurig Decaling Solution)
  • Water
  • Kitchen towel or microfiber cloth
  • Paper Towels
  • Keurig 2.0 maintenance accessory (If you have a 2.0 machine)
  • Tooth brush
  • Dish washing liquid
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Paper clip
  • Drinking straw

How To Clean Your Keurig Infographic

How To Clean And Descale A Keurig Infographic

Cleaning Removable Parts

  1. Unplug the machine. Never clean or take apart your Keurig while it’s plugged in. Make sure you are working in a well-lit room that is free of clutter. Safety first!
  2. Remove the lid and water reservoir. You will notice instructions under lid as to how to clean the lid with damp cloth and that the reservoir is dishwasher safe. When removing the water reservoir make sure that you don’t misplace the O-ring otherwise your Keurig will leak the next time you try to use it.
  3. Remove k-cup holder and funnel. Be careful of the sharp needle(s) that puncture the Keurig cups.
  4. Remove drip tray and drip tray cover if applicable.

Most of these items are dishwasher safe, but we recommend adding the items (not the entire machine) to sink fully of warm soapy water and let them soak for 10-15 minutes, rinse and towel dry.

Dishwashers can be harsh on plastic items. We get a lot of complaints about water reservoirs plastic turning cloudy or warping the reservoir. The culprit always seems to be dishwashers (possibly the detergent) and hot water. You should never scrub the reservoir, just a gentle wipe with a soft cloth will do. Acrylic scratches very easily.

Instructions

Step 1 - Clean K-Cup Area With Toothbrush

Use a toothbrush to remove coffee grounds in and around the K-Cup holder space.

Step 2 - Clean K-Cup Area With Paper Clip

Use a paper clip to gently push inside the holes that pierce the K-Cup. These holes easily get clogged with coffee and mineral build up. You may have to wiggle the paper clip inside the holes. If a paper clip does not fit, you will need to find something smaller.

Note: The water line may get clogged at this point during the descaling process, so it’s important to be aware of it. If that happens, simply wiggle the paper clip inside, put the machine back together, and finish the descaling process.

Don’t worry about breaking anything inside the holes, they are simply the water lines with no working parts inside.

You may also try turning the Keurig machine upside down and giving it a “gentle tap” on the bottom to help dislodge anything that may be stuck inside.

Step 3 - Clean Water Line With A Straw

Locate the water line spout and connect the straw to it. You may have to use your fingers to help make a seal.

Blow air through the straw to help try to dislodge any debris inside the water line. You will have to blow extremely hard. If you don’t have the ability to do this don’t worry about this step, it’s not that important.​

Step 4 - Clean With All-Purpose Cleaner

Use microfiber cloth and all-purpose cleaner to clean the outside of the machine. We recommend spraying cleaner on to the cloth instead of directly on the Keurig. This will help prevent cleaner from getting in unwanted areas.

Alternatively you can use soapy water to clean and rinse using a damp cloth. Some areas may need a bit of elbow grease to get clean. Take your time and work on getting things as clean as possible.

Step 5 - Clean Water Reservoir & Mesh

Remove the water reservoir and empty it. Remove the water filter if your Keurig has one. Turn on your tap water full stream and allow it to run over the mesh filter inside. This will help dislodge any debris.

White scaling can appear, especially around the reservoir area. This can be cleaned using white vinegar. We recommend using a paper towel that is damp with vinegar to wipe the area.

You may have to soak the area and let the vinegar penetrate for a minute before wiping with a damp cloth and water. Again, a little elbow grease may be required until it all disappears.

Descaling A Keurig

Brewer descaling is a process which removes mineral buildup, typically limescale. You’ve probably seen it before, a hard white substance that usually builds up in coffee makers.

This can happen quite rapidly if your tap water contains a high level of minerals and is allowed to evaporate.

Tap water that has a large amount of these minerals is often referred to as hard water. Over time this buildup can clog lines or it can break off in small pieces. This is often the reason why the water reservoir and feeding line fail to operate correctly in a Keurig brewer.

Note: You don’t have to clean your Keurig before descaling. However, it is probably a good idea to help the descaling process and remove as much buildup as possible through the whole machine.

Keurig Descaling Instructions

Instructions:

  1. Reassemble your Keurig as if you were ready to brew a fresh cup of coffee. Ensure that all pieces are seated properly. Don’t forget that water reservoir O-ring!
  2. Fill the water reservoir with white vinegar, about half way to make vinegar water.
  3. Run a brewing cycle to make “hot vinegar”
  4. Dispose of the hot vinegar when the cycle completes.
  5. Continue brewing and discarding the vinegar until the reservoir is empty.
  6. Refill the reservoir with water.
  7. Brew hot water and discard until the reservoir is empty. This is to remove all of the vinegar from the system.
  8. Now you’re ready to brew a fresh cup of coffee in your clean Keurig!

Keurig 2.0 Owners

Unfortunately, you will need the maintenance accessory to preform a cleansing brew. If you didn't receive one with your Keurig, you will have to purchase one separately or contact Keurig to see if they will ship one to you.

Some people have a reusable K-Cup that is dedicated for cleaning.​

Vinegar vs Descaling Solution

Earlier we mentioned about descaling solution which comes in liquid form. The main ingredient is usually citric acid whereas white vinegar is about 3% acetic acid and 97% water.

There are a variety of descaling solutions available on the market to clean coffee machines, of course Keurig Descaling Solution is recommended. Other brands can quite harsh compared to vinegar and ruin parts inside your coffee maker.

If you plan on using a descaling solution, see box for directions. Make sure that your descaling solution is safe to use in Keurig machines. The process should be the same but instead of using vinegar you would replace with descaling solution.

Keurig Descaling Solution

While we recommend using plain white vinegar, you may want to try using descaling solution offered by Keurig. There are a few things you need to know about it.

  • The solution is citric acid based and it may leave a chemical taste in your Keurig even after multiple cleansing brews.
  • It may not be as effective as vinegar.
  • It’s expensive compared to vinegar.

But if the vinegar treatment isn’t working for you, you may want to give this a shot. Who knows, it just might fix your clogged Keurig.

Tips To Keep Your Keurig Clean

Tip #1 – Don’t Leave Water Sitting

Don’t leave water sitting in water reservoir for more than a week. Mineral deposits will build up as the water evaporates and you will need to spend more time cleaning and descaling when you decide to use it again.

Depending on a variety of factors, you could also start to grow mold in your coffee maker which could make you sick. We wrote about that in our article​ Mold in Coffee Maker.

Tip #2 – Use Filtered Tap Water

Keurig recommends using distilled water to make coffee and prevent excess mineral buildup. However, there is a debate that drinking distilled water may not be good for your health.

The claim is that because it’s devoid of minerals, it acts like a sponge taking minerals out of your body. The Huffington Post goes in to details about it at the Hidden Dangers of Drinking Water.

We recommend that you use a simple water filtration pitcher, if your Keurig model doesn’t have one, to help remove unwanted chemicals and tastes from your tap water. This will help give you better tasting coffee.

Tip #3 – Clean After Sticky Brews

If you make sticky drinks like hot chocolate, caramel apple cider, or sugar cookie coffee be sure to run a cycle of hot water immediately afterwards. This is also known as a cleansing brew, brewing hot water with no K-cup in the K-cup holder to clean the unit.

The problem with sticky drinks is that sugar crystallizes and clogs the system much like minerals do. Not to mention, you might invite unwanted pests if your Keurig is a sweet sugary mess.

The cleanup is compounded if you are using reusable K-Cups since you will also be needing to clean that unit as well.

That’s all there is to cleaning your Keurig! After you have cleaned and descaled for the first time, the second time will feel easier and go much smoother.

If you have any tips or strategies that we didn’t cover, please let us know in the comments or send us a message so we can update this article and share with other Keurig owners.

13 comments
Juanita Van Every - 11 months ago

My Keurig is approximately 18 months old. I have cleaned it several times and descaled it according to directions. The water still does not pump through. I am very disappointed and definitely will not buy another one.

Reply
    KitchenSanity - 11 months ago

    Hi Juanita! That is disappointing for sure. Have you looked at our Keurig trouble shooting page (https://www.kitchensanity.com/coffee/common-keurig-coffee-maker-problems/)? There have been some success stories in the comments of people who have got their machines working again. There still may be some hope. Cheers!

    Reply
    TxGem - 10 months ago

    Juanita, I’m with you on this. I will NOT be buying another one. I still have my Cuisinart coffeemaker and will be going back to measuring my coffee grinds instead of K-cups for sure ! Not worth the money to be buying a $200/$250 every 12 months! Sorry Keurig!

    Reply
    WG - last month

    We’ve had our Keurig many years and have had success descaling with distilled white vinegar numerous times- until this last time. It had the sound of attempting to pump water from the resevoir with no success. I discovered a micro mesh filer in the bottom of the reservoir that was plugged. I was able to scrape the filer with a long handled flat bladed screwdriver. The Kuerig retuned to as new operation! Before clearing the filter I also noticed I could not see thru it when holding it up to the light. I’m convinced many Kuerigs have been replaced for this plugged filter!

    Reply
Judy Thurston - 11 months ago

I have been having the same problems with mine too, I cleaned and descaled mine last night, and used it and it worked fine,then about 2 to 10 minutes later my husband went to make a cup of coffee and it would just barely pump water thru it? So i went and took it all apart and cleaned all the parts again then put it back together again and it started working again then it stopped working again so i said screw it so i went and got my phone and called customer service and told them what it was doing so they appoligised over and over again and got my info on the old one and told me that they would send me a brand new one to replace the one that was broken? Let me tell you it does get frustating after spending all the money that you spent on it! I tried everything to my old one and it still didnt fix the problem!

Reply
Bob C. - 10 months ago

I should have added that I have used filtered water since the beginning. Occasionally, we would use the gallon jugs of Deer Park water (typically when a new unit and then after descaling). BTW, we never had the light come on with the older models – just this new K550 2.0. I would descale the older models every 3 or 4 months using white vinegar. And we don’t drink any more coffee with the new 2.0 unit than the older units. When I filter my own water, I have a filter on the kitchen sink which allows me to select filtered or non-filtered water. I run the filtered water into a Brita pitcher and and filter again a couple of times (save those Deer Park empties for the job and pitch them when we buy the new jugs).

Reply
Jennifer Helm-Coleman - 7 months ago

Thank you for writing this article! My K-550 is about 4 months old (an upgrade from one of the first models) and has been brewing slowly the last few days. I was about to purchase the descaling solution from Keurig, but decided to do a little investigating before I bought it, I’m glad I did because it brought me here.

Your article was very detailed, informative and easy to follow.

I take my coffee drinking (enjoyment) very seriously (LOL) and if cleaning and descaling is going to preserve the life of my machine and ensure it keeps producing the coffee I enjoy, then I’m happy to make the commitment to clean/descale it thoroughly every three months. I do wonder about how much vinegar to purchase in order to fill the reservoir 2/3rds of the way.

Reply
    KitchenSanity - 7 months ago

    Thanks for the kind words Jennifer! While we recommend about 2/3 vinegar, if you haven’t neglected your Keurig for too long you could probably get away with using a lot less. Perhaps try 500ml of vinegar and top up with water to start. If you notice issues before the next 3 month period is up, try using more vinegar.

    Cheers,
    Tara.

    Reply
GARY SUNDELIUS - 6 months ago

I have a one cup Keurig, which worked great for the first year or so.
I use bottled water only and use only regular coffee k cups.
Now for the last few months it has been making an extremely large hole in the top of the k cup, which allows some of the grounds to get in the brewed cup.
I have cleaned per all instructions I can find and it hasn’t helped.
I called Keurig and the sen me a rubber gasket for around the k cup holder and a hancle that fit over the original handle? (I think for protection from possible burn issue.)
long story short it still makes oversized hole(1/2″) in top of k cup.
help

Reply
Brandon - a couple of months ago

I believe you are mistaken in your interpretation of the article on Huffington Post in regard to distilled water. The Author is actually recommending its’ use and consumption saying that “Yes, both distilled and reverse osmosis water are devoid of minerals, but ingesting mineral-free purified water is not harmful to your body.” and regarding mineral intake, “we get majority of them from eating food, not drinking water.”

Happy Brewing

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RoseMary Tuck - 3 weeks ago

Love the videos – Thanks! I’ve been doing almost everything you showed but I didn’t know about the part that came apart. You just saved me from buying my third Keurig and I’ll be sure to tell the three people who got Keurigs as presents about that.
BTW – we are on our third because we have upgraded, not due to any problems!

One tip that I do & I have found HELPFUL – Canned/Spray air it gets every bit of coffee grounds! I do it first AND last because it gets any dislodged ground or loosened mineral deposit.

Our current Keurig is 4 years old. With proper care I guess I’m going to have to wait awhile before I get to upgrade to a model that does a carafe, but if that was really important we wouldn’t have switched to get a fresh cup every time!

Reply
    KitchenSanity - 3 weeks ago

    Thanks so much RoseMary! The canned air is a great idea! Just be sure to wear eye protection 😉

    Tara

    Reply
Kris - a couple of weeks ago

We have a Keurig that is 1 1/2 yrs old that was sent to us as a replacement for our first Keurig that just died. We do routinely clean and descale it. The brewer starts out good but then it just bogs down and very little water comes out. Frustrating to say the least, this is our second and last Keurig. We have not found it to be a reliable product, seems like the newer models have the most issues. Friends have an older model and use it way more than we do, very rarely descale it and it works find.

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