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How to Descale a Keurig

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Updated August 24, 2022

Do you have the best Keurig coffee maker? Let’s talk about how to descale a Keurig in the most efficient way possible – and why it matters. Is your Keurig running slow, pouring out tiny little cups, or generally misbehaving? Are you wondering, “Why does my Keurig say descale? What does it mean?” You probably have a problem with “scale”, or mineral coatings that precipitate out of hard water and coat the inside of your Keurig, and can cause blockages and slow-downs if left for a long time without a good scrubbing. So, how do you descale a Keurig? Fortunately, all it takes is a little time (and white vinegar), so we’ll show you how. You might also like the best coffee maker grinder.

Get Your Keurig Ready


Start with a little prep work: empty out any remaining water in your Keurig tank, take out any disposable cups, and clean up the surrounding area. This is also a great time to get a brush and scrub at the corners of your Keurig for a full cleaning, but if you don’t have enough time for this process, you can move on to the next step of creating the cleaning mixture. Alternatively, you could just buy a great coffee maker cleaner to make the cleaning process simpler.

Related: Best Coffee Maker with Grinder 2018

Prepare Your Cleaning Mixture

The cleaning mix is a simple recipe: it has an acidic quality that dissolves scale as it passes and pushes the remnants out of your Keurig. Now, the company does sell its own Keurig descaling solution for this very purpose, however, we don’t suggest you use it. For one thing, it’s a lot more expensive than other options, and for another, it uses a citrus mix that tends to get poor reviews as users complain that the smell/taste lingers even after thorough rinsing.

A better idea is to use simple Keurig descaling solution ingredients like white vinegar. Most people have a bottle of white vinegar around somewhere, and if not, you can grab one at the store for a dollar or two (we suggest getting the largest jug possible).

When are ready to descale your Keurig with vinegar, fill up the water tank with a mix of around 2/3 vinegar and 1/3 water. This is a lot of vinegar, so you may want to grab a gallon-sized version of the stuff. It’s also really going to smell when you heat it up, so don’t do this during lunch hour. If you need something a little stronger, make sure to follow our guide on how to use CLR to clean your coffee maker.

Run The Mixture Through

Keurig Cleaning

With your tank filled to the proper level, it’s time to turn your Keurig on and run the mix through. Wait for it to heat up, and as soon as it is ready, pour out a full cup of the mixture. Use a mug that you can quickly empty out, because you’re going to pour out the entire vinegar brew, one cup at a time, and dumb it away until the tank is empty. Wait as little time as possible between pours to maximize the effect. Now keep in mind you won’t see the scale come off since the residue is microscopic, but the acidic vinegar will do the job nonetheless.

After you’ve waved away the clouds of vinegar, consider the state of the pouring process. Has the flow between the tank and the cup become steady, clean, and reliable as it should be? If not, run through a second tank of the vinegar mixture. If a second tank doesn’t show any improvement, your problem probably isn’t scale, but some other obstruction or a serious problem that can’t be fixed with a cleaning run alone. A Keurig clogged with debris, or a Keurig not brewing even after descaling, requires more professional repairs. If your machine is unsalvagable, find a new one with our roundup of the best smart coffee makers.

Rinse Out

Once you have run the mixture through your Keurig, you need to get all that vinegar residue out, along with any bits of scale remaining. To do this, fill the tank with regular, fresh water, and run it all through with another series of poured cups. You may want to try a quick taste/sniff of the last cup to make sure all the essence of vinegar is gone, and this may take several rotations of the tank so don’t get discouraged if the water coming out doesn’t smell perfect after the first time you run it.

Finally, take a look at your instructions and reset your Keurig. If your pour amounts have been out of whack, this should help restore the balance. Also, resetting will typically turn off that Kuerig descale light or notification.

For more great coffee maker tips and tricks, check out our guide on how the strong setting on your coffee maker works.

Maintain, Maintain, Maintain

Keurig Maintenance

Keurig’s official suggestion on this subject is that you descale your Keurig every three to six months. However, you can keep the coffeemaker healthy and happy by properly maintaining it in the meantime. Remember how we mentioned that scale is typically caused by hard water? If you use filtered or distilled water every time you make a fresh cup of Joe, you can drastically reduce the amount of scale that becomes trapped in your Keurig. Don’t just pour directly from the tap if you can avoid it (though this will happen at work, no matter what guidelines are set, so sometimes it can’t be helped), and lastly don’t wait until the last minute to clean away scale – the longer you wait, the worse it gets. For a home unit, you may want to descale every several months. For a busy office unit, you may need to have a descale day once a month. On the other hand, you can also buy a coffee maker for hard water to make it even easier to maintain.

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