How to clean a keurig

How to Clean a Keurig So It Will Run as Good as New

There’s a lot to love about the pod life. It makes getting your daily java fix uber-easy and much cheaper than the coffee shop competition.

How to clean a Keurig with vinegar to prevent gross buildup

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Coffee pod machine

  • It’s essential to clean your Keurig regularly to prevent mold, bacteria, and germs.
  • Cleaning your Keurig is known as “descaling.”
  • The descaling process involves running a mix of water and white vinegar through your Keurig.

Keurig coffee machines have been a gamechanger for the at-home barista. And while they have made making our coffee, espressos, lattes, tea, and hot chocolate almost too easy, your Keurig still requires just a smidge of upkeep. They do not clean themselves, but sure would be amazing if they did that too.

Cleaning your Keurig is actually known as “descaling.” No, not like skinning a fish. Rather, descaling is the process of using vinegar to break down calcium deposits that can build up inside a coffee maker over time. Not only does this achieve better-tasting coffee, it also removes harmful bacteria and mineral buildup.

Coffee machines are a breeding ground for molds, bacteria, and germs — not exactly what you want in your coffee. We spoke to the experts to learn how to easily clean your Keurig in a few simple steps with common household items.

What you need

  • White vinegar or Keurig descaling solution
  • Water
  • Cup to catch the drain of the cleaning solution
  • A clean dish sponge or paper towel, soaked in water and mild soap

How to descale your Keurig

  1. Empty the machine’s reservoir. First, turn off your machine. Then, empty your Keurig’s water reservoir and remove any filters. Do not leave a K-cup in the canister during cleaning cycles.
  2. Add water and vinegar solution and run a cycle. Run a mix of equal parts water and white vinegar through the machine. Pour the solution into the reservoir, turn on the machine, press the cycle button, and allow the solution to drain into a cup.

Warning: Never submerge the machine in water. It is, after all, an electronic device.

How often should I clean my Keurig?

Graham Cooke, founder of Cafe Last, recommends the descaling process be done once a week. But in reality, you only need to descale it once every two to three weeks. “We make [the once a week] suggestion because most people don’t descale their coffee makers until they stop working, which has a lasting effect on the machine,” says Cooke. “The idea is that if we tell someone to descale their machine once a week, they will actually do it once every two or three weeks.”

In addition to the descaling process, Lopez recommends cleaning all removable parts, including the water tank and lid, coffee pod holder, drip tray once a month.

If you’re not making coffee every day, it’s crucial to descale your machine at least every quarter, says Cooke. Why? Because mineral build-up in the reservoir can destroy your coffee machine by corroding your machine’s internal seals and clog the machine with hard water buildup.

In general, try to keep the machine as clean as possible by checking the tray and exterior for spillage after each use. If the machine is used repeatedly on a daily basis, follow the wipe-down instructions daily.

Quick tip: If you’re looking for a new Keurig or a similar pod coffee maker, check out our guide to the best ones.

I live in an area that has hard water. Does that change my cleaning frequency?

Hard water areas will naturally need to descale their machine more often. If you live in an area with very hard water and you are making multiple cups per day, Cooke recommends descaling your machine once a week.

Is it okay to use water in my tank that’s been sitting around a while?

Use the water poured in the tank within one week, says Lopez. Never use water that has been sitting still for more than a week as it could grow mold.

Before you store the Keurig away or go on a trip, make sure it is fully empty of water, says Shabbir Nooruddin of Coffee Brewster.

How do I clean my Keurig without vinegar or descaling solution?

Use denture tablets, says cleaning expert Abe Navas, the general manager of Emily’s Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas, Texas.

“Even if I’m not a coffee expert, I am a cleaning expert. I developed a technique for cleaning coffee makers some years ago. It’s easy and it will increase the lifespan of your machine for a long time,” says Navas.

You need a denture tablet and a microfiber cloth. Put half of a denture tablet in the K-cup chamber. This will help clean any gunk build-up. Then run the machine for three to five cycles. Follow with a cycle of just water.

Alternatively, you can use citric acid, says Nooruddin. Use one tablespoon of citric acid crystals to one gallon of water. This makes a mildly strong acid, explains Nooruddin — it’s safer to use a milder acid and descale a couple of times rather than using an excessively strong acid that could corrode the metal parts.

Run your Keurig using several cycles of the citric acid solution, followed by several cycles of plain water. Several cycles really depends on how badly the scaling is, says Nooruddin. For very mild scaling, 2-3 cycles of citric acid solution will do the trick. For a Keurig that’s been sitting in the attic for a couple of years, you’ll have to run multiple cycles, recommends Nooruddin.

“The earlier cycles will probably contain little bits of scale in the mug – ideally, you want to keep going until there is no (or tolerable) scale.”

He suggests flushing with at least 2-3 cycles of water to get any remnants of citric acid out of your brewer.

“It’s always good to err on the side of caution and flush a couple of extra cycles to really get the acid out, otherwise your coffee will be a little bit funky.”

Insider’s takeaway

Even though a Keurig makes coffee in a snap, it is essential to spend a few moments to regularly clean it for the best coffee ever, every day. Descaling it with a simple solution of equal parts water and white vinegar will extend the life of your favorite coffee maker and keep your coffee tasting fresh.

Marisel Salazar is a New York City-based Latinx food writer and cook. She is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Newswomen’s Press Club of New York, and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Salazar is originally from Panama, has lived in Hawaii, Japan and Madrid. She is a host on the Spirits Network, MSG Networks, and more and also runs her own small creative agency Due West.

How to Clean a Keurig So It Will Run as Good as New

Plus, here’s how to know when it’s time to give this quick and easy coffee maker a good scrub.

There’s a lot to love about the pod life. It makes getting your daily java fix uber-easy and much cheaper than the coffee shop competition.

But, brewing the best cup of Keurig coffee does require a little bit of work: Your machine needs to be cleaned regularly to run at full steam and taste as incredible as the first cup you made using it.

Before we dive into how to clean a Keurig, here’s how to tell that it might be time to give the appliance a good scrub:

  • You notice any “off” smells reminiscent of mildew
  • You spy mineral building up on any parts of the coffee maker
  • Your cup is not full
  • Your coffee takes longer to brew

keurig k-classic on blue background

Most of these issues arise as the result of hard water buildup, which can be less of an issue if you follow Keurig website instructions: “We don’t recommend the use of softened water or distilled water. Bottled or spring water works best when brewing with your Keurig.”

This will likely lengthen the timespan between cleanings. Used as an average coffee fan might, it’s best to clean the exterior of your Keurig once each week (or more if it gets splattered on). “Descale,” or eliminate that mineral build-up on the interior, every 3 months or so. There is an indicator light that should notify you when it’s time to spiff up the inside of your Keurig, but you’ll likely be about to tell based on the steps mentioned above. Replace the filter every 2 months.

Keurig K-Select Coffee Maker, Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Brewer

How to Clean a Keurig

Follow these manufacturer instructions for how to clean a Keurig (with a few bonus tips from those of us who have completed this process).


Wipe off all surfaces with a wet soap sudsed cloth. Carefully remove the drip tray, dump it out, wipe it off, and slide it back into position.


  1. Unplug the Keurig machine and allow it to cool if it’s still warm.
  2. Loosen any possible clogs from the needle that pierces the pods and the needle below the pod holder using a clean paperclip.
  3. Remove the parts of the Keurig machine you can take off, including the water reservoir and lid, mug stand, and K-cup holder. Wash these items in warm, soapy water and allow them to dry.
  4. Replace all these now-clean removable parts and plug the machine back in.
  5. Fill the water reservoir halfway full with white distilled vinegar, which is about 10 ounces on most machines. Fill the rest of the reservoir with water.
  6. Place a 12-ounce or larger mug on the mug stand and hit “Brew.” Repeat until the water reservoir is empty, dumping out the mug as needed to avoid overflows.
  7. Allow the empty machine to sit for 30 minutes with the power on.
  8. Rinse the water reservoir well with soapy water, then with clean water. Dry and fill with plain water.
  9. Complete 12 more “cleansing brews” to remove any residual vinegar or descaling solution from the machine.
  10. Brew your next cup as usual.