Essential Tools

5 Kitchen Tools That Are Much Easier to Clean Than They Look

April 14, 2016

It's always the turmeric that does it.

I was making a turmeric-spiced ginger-carrot soup and transferred it to the bowl of my food processor to purée it (an immersion blender is on my wish list). I whirled it. I emptied it. Gold, gold, gold—and, on the walls of my plastic food processor bowl, an especially stubborn gold, even after a good scrub.

Luckily, even stained food processors can essentially clean themselves—as can blenders, automatic drip coffee makers, French presses, and coffee grinders. No elbow grease involved.

Here's how:

Photo by Mark Weinberg

How to Clean a Food Processor or Blender

This is as simple as boiling a pot of water and adding something a little stronger to it.

Heat your water and pour it into your processor or blender. (You don't want to fill the thing completely with hot water—leave some room for it to splash around when you turn the machine on.) For every cup of hot water, add:

  • A 1/4 cup of white vinegar, OR
  • A few tablespoons of baking soda, OR
  • The vinegar and baking soda in the amounts above. Add them to the bowl of the machine, let the bubbling subside, then add hot water on top.
  • The Kitchn suggests whirling half of a lemon!
  • A few drops of bleach—this is a good resort if your machine is really stained, but vinegar should do the trick.

Put the lid on the machine, cover the top in a thick dish towel lest any hot water leak out of it, turn it on, and let it blend for 20 to 30 seconds. Empty out the solution, give the bowl and top a good swipe with a soapy sponge and then a rinse.

How to Clean a Coffee or Spice Grinder

Unless you want your cinnamon to also taste like cumin (or your coffee to taste like both), cleaning your blade grinder is an important step.

We have a whole article about how exactly do to do this, but here it is, distilled: Fill a grinder with uncooked rice, grind it up until the rice is powdery, then empty the rice powder out and wipe the inside of the grinder with a damp towel. Tada! The rice absorbs the oils from the coffee or spices.

One of the commenters on that piece, Andy Paysinger, says that you can use a few broken up saltine crackers and a few tablespoons of baking soda to the same effect. A good alternative if you just used the last of your pantry stock of rice.

How to Clean a French Press

It's one of the easiest ways to make coffee, but unless you are extremely diligent about cleaning your press as soon as you've finished your coffee (and kudos to you if you are), the oils in your coffee grounds—and some of the coffee grounds themselves—will embed themselves in the wire mesh of the press. And once they've hung out there for a while, they'll start to get sort of stale, and that will affect how your coffee tastes.

First, eliminate any grounds. Really give the mesh filter a good scrub—a brush is handy here. Then fill the French press with hot water and add baking soda, vinegar, or bleach (just a little, as you would with the food processor above). Put the top on, submerge the filter in the solution, and let it sit for a few minutes. Pour out the solution, rinse it, and give it a quick wash with a soapy sponge.

How to Clean an Automatic Drip Coffee Brewer

Drip brewers are prone to both coffee residues and buildups or stains from hard water. Happily, it's maybe the easiest to clean of all.

Add a cup or so of vinegar to the water reserve and fill the rest of the way with water. Make sure the carafe is beneath the drip, and then let it run through a brew cycle (but without, you know, coffee).

What are your tips for getting stains and residues out of your tools? Share them in the comments.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Monica
  • Douglas McNeill
    Douglas McNeill
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  • Shumidog
  • wisekaren
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Monica February 24, 2017
I love the idea of using dry uncooked rice in the coffee grinder! I also appreciate the commenter (Frank) who said to use a few drops of automatic dishwashing detergent in a stainless coffee carafe. I have one too and the neck is SO skinny! As for the French press, we use ours every day and we rinse it out each time it's empty, but to get the oils off, we just run the beaker through the dishwasher weekly and it comes out good as new. My biggest challenge is when my husband doesn't rinse the wine decanter right away and it gets a stain/film on the inside. Any ideas for that?
Douglas M. February 23, 2017
Clean an automatic dishwasher with a packet of SUGAR FREE lemonade Kool-Aid drink mix in the soap dispenser with an empty washer and a regular cycle.
Frank February 23, 2017
I have a stainless steel coffee carafe that is impossible to clean. The neck is too small to get your hand into and a cleaning brush only gets some of the buildup. The solution is to use a bit of automatic dishwasher soap. Hot water, soap, shake the hell out of it. Empty. Rinse. The first time I did this I just stood there and laughed at all of the wasted time I've spent over the years of trying to clean these things.
Shumidog February 13, 2017
I use a citric acid solution to clean a drip coffee maker. I had a Senseo which seized, then I read the manual which says never use vinegar in a Senseo use citric acid and it gave the proportions. I did not have problems with my replacement. Citric Acid is cheap if bought in bulk so I have lots to work with.
wisekaren April 15, 2016
If you're not using the feed tube of your food processor (or the hole in the lid of the blender), put a piece of plastic wrap over the top before you put on the lid. Then you don't have to wash the lid at all!
Sara W. April 15, 2016
Smaug April 14, 2016
I usually use baking soda to clean coffee makers, and I believe that's more common- coffee residue itself is pretty acidic. I'm not a real fanatic on chemical exposure, but I'd draw the line at using bleach in a blender or food processor- or a French press, for that matter- just too hard to make sure you get out the residue. For blenders and processors, all this seems a bit elaborate- I usually just use tap water; the machine still needs to be disassembled to clean and dry; there's places that running the machine can't be counted on to clean.
Galapagos February 13, 2017
If you clean something with bleach, then after you've rinsed well, rinse with cider or apple vinegar and then rinse again with water. The acid in the vinegar will neutralize the base in the bleach. Good hint for getting bleach off your fingers, too.