There is nothing more frustrating than starting your day off with a steaming pot of tea, preparing to sip on your favorite tisane only to find it has turned into a nasty tannin-filled, sulfurous hot water. It is because tea kettles are prone to limescale. Limescale occurs when minerals are dissolved in water during heating processes, namely boiling. Although most people associate limescale in their boilers with hard water, this is not the only reason limescale forms in tea kettles. So let’s look at limescale formation first, then talk about prevention. Understanding how limescale forms, knowing what causes it, and the best ways to prevent it are essential for preserving the life of your tea kettle.
Tea kettles are so named because they are traditionally made of heat-resistant materials such as cast iron or enamel. They keep the water hot for prolonged periods without any additives, or different energy uses until you decide to use them again. However, this heat resistance is due to the metals in these kettles, which can easily rust if exposed to liquid water. Therefore, even when you’ve taken your kettle off the stove and stored it in a cupboard or countertop, it could still need cleaning.
If you’ve ever noticed the water in your kettle turn cloudy when poured from a height, you know limescale has formed. You can also see limescale on your kettle’s interior and exterior surfaces. Clearwater will not have a film on its surface, while dark water will. It’s best to avoid storing your kettle in an area where it’s exposed to liquids (such as standing in a glass of water) for more than 12 hours since limescale can grow faster there. Limescale is formed at the bottom of your kettle because the hot water heats the bottom-most part of the lead-based kettle. This happens especially when you boil.
How to Clean This Build-up in Tea Kettles?
There are different methods to remove limescale, but we will focus on the most popular for this article. If you’re unsure if your kettle needs cleaning, you can always test your water. Turn your kettle on and pour in half a cup or so of water inside. The aim is to heat the water but not boil it. If there’s a limescale build-up on the bottom, you can then proceed with one of these methods.
The Kosher Salt Method
A lot of people recommend this one for cleaning your kettle. It’s pretty straightforward too! Fill your kettle with half of its capacity with water. Add at least a teaspoon of kosher salt to the water, bring it up to a boil, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, let it cool down completely before running the cold tap until the water is nice and cold. Put the kettle on the stove with the lid open and fill it with cold water. Let it boil until all of the salt has dissolved. Remove the lid, using an oven mitt, and set it aside for around 30 minutes or until all of the salt crystals have completely dissolved. Then wipe down the inside of your kettle with a clean towel, ensuring you’ve removed any leftover salt crystals.
The Vinegar Method
This method uses vinegar to break up limescale which means it’s suitable for cleaning out your kettle. Fill your kettle with cold water and add at least a cup of vinegar. Bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the kettle cool. When the water has cooled completely, remove it from your stove. Set your kettle aside with its lid open for around 15 minutes until all of the vinegar has evaporated. Then pour the now de-scaled water into your sink or washbasin, using an oven mitt to hold onto your kettle. Turn the kettle upside-down and run the cold tap until all of the water is clear, then wipe down the inside of your kettle with a clean towel.
The Bleach Method
- Use two cups of bleach to 1 gallon of water. This method should be used only when there’s limescale inside your kettle that has not yet dissolved completely.
- Take your cold water and slowly add the bleach, making sure it doesn’t bubble up.
- Let it boil for around 10 minutes, making sure to skim off any foam that emerges from your kettle.
- Cool the kettle and remove it from your stove before running the cold tap for about half an hour.
- Wipe down the inside of your kettle with a clean towel, ensuring you’ve removed any leftover bleach.
The Boiling Water Method
This is another popular technique to remove limescale from your kettle. It’s suitable for potatoes and roasts too! Fill your kettle with cold water and bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat and let it cool completely. Once completely cool, take your kettle off the stove. Set it atop a kitchen towel to let out any excess water that may have collected around the utensil. Run your kettle mouth-side down into a sink or bowl, allowing boiling water to fill the interior of your kettle. Let the kettle sit there for at least 30 minutes until all of the water has evaporated. Then wipe down the inside of your kettle with a clean towel, ensuring you’ve removed any leftover limescale.
More than one of these methods may be used to clean your kettle. I’ve listed them in order of most common use, but each of them should only be used as a last resort. If your kettle is still very dirty or you can’t get all of the limescale out, then it’s best to try another method. The methods listed above are pretty good for getting rid of the build-up, but you may need to use additional tools to get the limescale out entirely if it’s stubborn.
As long as you have a tea kettle, a stove, and water, you can boil water and pour it into a cup or a bowl to have your tea, coffee, or even hot chocolate. But, you need to know that if not taken care of regularly, these kettles can get dirty and lose their effectiveness. So always keep it clean, and be sure to clean it first before boiling anything. You’ll also find that cleaning your kettle regularly will help prevent the build-up of limescale which will be pretty much impossible to remove once it occurs.