How to Clean Your Coffee Maker (And Other Small Kitchen Appliances)

hands cleaning coffee pot
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It seems like a simple question: How do I clean my coffee maker? The answer involves a few right answers, plus covers different types of coffee makers.

There are also other small appliances in your kitchen that deserve the same level of attention. Ok, maybe nothing ranks in importance as highly as coffee, but we’ll put that argument on the back burner for the moment.

What Happens If You Don't Clean Your Coffee Maker?

Buildup is common in coffee makers, but it’s more than just an eyesore. Without sterilization, your coffee maker can grow bacteria that can actually make you sick.

Plus, the oily residue from the coffee beans can make your next cup of Joe taste bitter and unpleasant.

Additionally, regular coffee maker cleanings will improve the function of the machine and extend the lifespan, whereas not cleaning it will result in buildup that can ruin the appliance.

How Often Should You Clean Your Coffee Maker?

The bare minimum is once every six months, but that’s for completely enclosed and automated machines. Plan to swab it out at least every three months. Once a month is ideal if you use your coffee maker on a regular basis.

Having said that, your machine should be emptied and rinsed after each use so the grounds don’t have a chance to mold.

How Do You Deep Clean a Coffee Maker?

Before getting started, find the manual for your type of coffee maker, either in print form or on the internet.

Some manufacturers have special instructions in regards to how to clean the coffee maker based on the specifications of the machine and the materials it’s made from. For example, white vinegar is a common cleaning material for coffee makers, but some manufacturers recommend a weaker water to vinegar ratio.

How Much White Vinegar Do I Use to Clean My Coffee Maker?

white vinegar in dish

When we mention white vinegar mixtures in the tips below, we’re referring to the most common one-to-one ratio of water and vinegar. That means you should use half water and half vinegar.

However, some manufacturers recommend a combination of two parts water to one part vinegar instead.

How to Clean an Automatic Drip Coffee Maker

The glass carafe on your automatic drip coffee maker becomes stained over time. Treat it like any other glass in your kitchen to clean it. You can wash it by hand in the sink or run it through the dishwasher. If the coffee stains won’t release, try filling it partway with white vinegar. Let it soak before washing.

Your removable coffee filter or filter holder can also be popped into the dishwasher for a thorough cleanse.

The automatic drip machine, however, should never be submerged in water or put through the dishwasher. Instead, run white vinegar through the machine as needed. Here’s how.

Step 1 - Remove Coffee Grounds

Start by removing your basket. Dump the grounds into the compost bin and rinse it thoroughly or run it through the washer. Then put the filter back into the machine. Also empty the water reservoir.

Step 2 - Mix Vinegar

Next, mix one part vinegar with one part water. Pour the vinegar mixture into the empty water reservoir.

Step 3 - Make Vinegar Coffee

Turn the machine on and let the vinegar run through the first steps of the process. Stop the machine about halfway through the cycle and allow it to sit for 30-60 minutes. Then complete the cycle.

If you have a clean cycle on your machine, use the vinegar mixture and the clean setting. It will automatically start and stop to optimize the clean.

Step 4 - Rinse the Vinegar Out

When the cycle ends, rinse the carafe out and clean it with soap. Then fill it again with water and dump it into the machine. Run the coffee machine through a complete cycle. Allow the water to cool for several minutes. Then dump it out and repeat the process at least two more times.

If, after three cycles, the water still smells like vinegar, run it through another time or two.

Step 5 - Wipe the Machine

Once again, allow the machine to cool. Use a standard kitchen and appliance spray, or simply a soft sponge with dish soap on it, to wipe down the exterior of the machine. Vinegar works great for wiping down stainless steel coffee makers and also for cleaning the hot plate beneath the carafe.

Step 6 - Repeat

Repeat the cleaning process at least twice annually, or as stains and buildup occurs.

rinsing coffee machine

How to Clean a Percolator

They aren’t as common as they used to be, but it’s still a reliable way to make coffee. Percolators are self-contained units that push boiling water through the coffee grounds inside the device when it reaches the correct temperature over direct heat. They can be electric or used over a stove burner.

The inside of the machine develops build-up from the oils in the coffee and should be cleaned every few months. Empty all coffee grounds out of the device and rinse all parts before beginning.

Option 1 - Use Baking Soda

Every DIY cleaning arsenal includes baking soda because it’s an effective neutralizer. Put a few tablespoons of baking soda in the bottle of the percolator. Then fill with water and run through the coffee-making process. Empty and repeat as necessary.

Option 2 - Use Cream of Tartar

If you don’t have baking soda, try using a few teaspoons of cream of tartar instead. Follow the same technique as option one.

Option 3 - Use White Vinegar

Here we go again. Because it works. Add a one to one ratio of vinegar and water to your percolator and put it through the cycle.

Option 4 - Use Vinegar and Baking Soda

Are you seeing a theme here? The stainless steel finish on percolators may retain stains after cleaning with white vinegar. If it does, add about ½ cup of baking soda to the bottom.

To that, slowly (there will be a science lab reaction here that does the cleaning), slowly add about the same amount of vinegar. When the bubbling starts, swirl the mixture to come into contact with the stained areas. Then shake the percolator gently with the lid on. After all surfaces are cleaned, rinse and wash the percolator.

After any of the three options, take the percolator apart and clean each of the pieces with soap and water.

How to Clean a French Press

cleaning parts of coffee maker

The French press has few parts and is easy to clean in the dishwasher. Typically hand washing or dishwasher care is all that is required.

If your French press does develop stains, or mold from prolonged sitting, vinegar will do the trick here too. Follow the same techniques offered above. Then wash the device.

How to Clean a Ceramic Drip

The ceramic drip isn’t always ceramic. Sometimes it’s plastic or mesh. However, every type will need cleaning now and then. Run them under hot water and wash with soap, or put them in the dishwasher.

How to Clean a Tea Kettle

If you use a French press or a ceramic drip, you’re also using a traditional or electric tea kettle on the regular. Fortunately either type can be descaled with white vinegar. Create a mixture, boil, cool, rinse, and wash.

How to Clean a K-Cup Machine

If you have a Keurig-type machine, you’ll need to do some regular descaling too. Start by taking off all the removable parts to wash by hand. If there’s a K-Cup in the machine, toss it.

Wipe down the open space where the K-Cup sits and use a folded paper towel or a butter knife wrapped with a napkin to get into the crevices all around the machine.

Put the K-Cup holder, water reservoir, lid, and drip tray back on the machine.

Then fill the reservoir partway with vinegar and water. Run a cycle. Then flush clean water through the machine for several cycles.

How Can I Clean a Coffee Maker Without Vinegar?

We mentioned baking soda and Cream of Tartar, but there are other options if you don’t have vinegar or can’t tolerate the smell. You can use lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol too.

How Do I Clean a Toaster?

hands cleaning toaster

We’re finally going to break away from the vinegar on this one, although you can use it to wipe down the outside. Toasters actually need a bit more attention than you might think. Primarily, the crumb tray should be emptied every few weeks.

If you didn’t know there was such a thing, it’s really time.

Note--Before you begin cleaning your toaster, make sure it is unplugged and cool.

All toasters have some sort of tray that catches the crumbs at the bottom. Look around the bottom of the outside of the appliance to locate the tray or trays. Sometimes there is a release button. Other times they simply slide out.

Remove them. Then rinse and wash the trays with dish soap. Next, gently tip the opening where the trays belong to dump the rest of the crumbs.

Not all models have removable trays. Some simply hinge open instead. For this type of model, place the toaster over the garbage, or take it outside, to empty the crumbs.

Other than emptying the crumbs and wiping down the appliance, a toaster doesn’t require a lot of cleaning care. However, if you want to go next level, you can use a soft brush to remove crumbs from the toast slots. Forced air also does a good job of removing debris from the inside of your unit.

How Do I Clean a Toaster Oven?

A toaster oven needs a bit more care than a toaster, since it cooks more than just bread and Poptarts.

Before doing any cleaning, make sure your toaster oven is unplugged and cooled.

After each use, clean the food tray, just as you would pots on the stove or trays in the oven. You can also wipe down and sterilize the cooking rack.

Some toaster ovens are equipped with a removable crumb tray that can be removed for washing. If yours doesn’t, dump the crumbs out instead.

Make a mixture of white vinegar and water with a few added drops of dish soap. Then use a rag, sponge, or plastic scrubber to clean the interior surfaces.

Similarly, wipe down the outside of the appliance.

How Do I Clean a Microwave?

The microwave is an appliance that seems to get dirty every time you turn your back. Fortunately, the glass plate is easy to remove and clean in the sink or the dishwasher.

Before removing it, however, soften the debris on the sides of the microwave interior by warming a few tablespoons of lemon juice for one to two minutes in a glass bowl.

Then remove the lemon juice and wipe down the inside of the microwave. Wipe down the outside with a soapy rag or cleaner.

How Do I Clean a Blender?

A blender has a messy job, so it requires a bit of care in return. For easy cleaning, wash your blender in soapy water immediately after use. If you don’t get to it and the food is dried on, you may need to let it soak overnight. Most blenders are dishwasher safe, but you’ll want to consult with your brand’s owner’s manual to be sure.

One simple way to prewash is to fill the blender halfway with water. Add a few drops of dish soap and place the unit back on the stand. Run the blender, allowing the soapy water to wash the inside of the blender. Then do any additional cleaning at the sink.

Depending on how often you use your blender, you’ll want to perform a deeper clean every so often. Remove the blades from the bottom of the blender frequently for a thorough washing.

Then wipe down the working parts with a covered knife, an old toothbrush, or a cotton swab. Make sure to use a cleaner that will kill bacteria.

Wipe down the outside and underside of the blender with a soapy rag, lemon juice, or vinegar.

How Do I Clean a Mixer?

Clean your mixer by removing the bowl and beaters after each use. Place them in soapy water to soften and remove debris. Most mixer parts are also dishwasher safe.

In addition, give your machine a deeper clean after five to ten uses. Lift the upper unit and clean around the exposed portions. Also wipe down the outside of the appliance.

General Care

hands cleaning sandwich press

Small appliance cleaning and care will keep your kitchen helpers happy and helpful. Plus, it ensures they are safe for food preparation. Read about other types of Small Appliances you might find helpful in your kitchen.

Remember your larger appliances need TLC too, so check out Cleaning Tips for Common Appliances to make the job easier.