How to Clean Your Keurig (Just In Case You Don’t)

It's the adult thing to do.

January 17, 2022
Photo by Rocky Luten

When an appliance in your home is functioning as it's intended, not many of us stop to perform the routine maintenance it needs, because um, hello? There's a mile-long to do list for things that are a bit more urgent. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a few minutes and a little exploration of the appliance's parts to discover that A. it's gunkier and funkier than you'd care to admit and B. it actually runs a whole lot better now that you cleaned it. Unfortunately, even the most automatic of appliances in our homes (yep, dishwashers, washing machines, ovens) all need routine cleaning to function properly.

This is especially true when it comes to your coffee maker, which you probably use at least once daily. As it turns out, Keurigs and drip coffee makers can get mineral build-up in their inner workings, not to mention harbor all sorts of harmful bacteria (yeah, gross), which will not only make your brew taste weird, but will also compromise the lifespan of the appliance (and your health!).

For way too many years as a young adult, I didn’t bother cleaning my coffee machine. I know: It’s embarrassing. I just didn’t really understand why I had to. My coffee tasted fine (or so I thought), and didn’t it basically clean itself each time water ran through it?

But recently, thanks to an impromptu decision to deep-clean my kitchen appliances, my life changed forever. The next day, I was shocked at how much greater my coffee tasted!

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I've found it does a great job of cleaning out the Keurig without the lingering smell of vinegar.”
— dtremit

Bottom line? If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned it, your Keurig probably needs to be cleaned (though, community member BeeBait suggests putting a post it on the back of the coffee maker with the cleaning date, much like an oil change sticker on your car). Here’s how to do it the right way—your mornings will never be the same again.

How to Descale a Keurig

The process of cleaning the inner workings of a coffee machine is often called descaling. (“Scale” is another term for calcium deposits, which build up in the pipes of your Keurig over time.)

What You’ll Need:

Step 1: Prepare the Machine

First, you’ll want to unplug your Keurig and take off the water reservoir. Empty it out, then remove the water filter.

Pro tip: Sync up your filter-changing schedule with your descaling schedule to make maintenance easier. Filters should be changed every two months or 60 tank refills.

Step 2: Fill the Reservoir

If you’re using vinegar to clean your machine, fill the water reservoir about halfway with white vinegar, then fill the rest with water. If you’re using descaler, pour the whole bottle into the tank, then fill up the rest of the way with water.

Step 3: Run the Machine Multiple Times

Plug your machine back in and turn it on. Place the ceramic mug underneath the spout, then start the brew cycle using the largest setting your cup can accommodate—the larger the cup, the faster the process will go. You’ll want to run these cycles without a K-cup in the machine.

Once the brew is finished, empty the cup into your sink, then run another cycle. Repeat until the water tank is empty.

Step 4: Let It Rest

Let your machine rest for 30 minutes so the inner workings can soak. You can leave the power on for this step.

Step 5: Rinse with Fresh Water

Remove the reservoir and rinse it out. Fill it with fresh water, then run a few more cycles to remove any lingering vinegar taste.

If you’re using descaling solution, Keurig recommends running at least 12 more cleansing brews to ensure all the chemicals are removed. Wondering how often to descale a Keurig? The manufacturer recommends every three months.

Cleaning Every Part of Your Keurig

It’s just as important to clean the outside of your Keurig. Here’s how to clean every part of your coffee maker:

Pod Holder

Remove the pod holder from the machine, and detach the bottom funnel portion. Use a paperclip to gently scrape any coffee grounds out of the tube on the pod holder, then wash both pieces with warm, soapy water.

Brewer Needle

The needle above the K-Cup holder has two holes at its base where water comes in. Gently insert a paperclip into each hole and move it around to dislodge any grounds or grime that may be blocking water flow.

Mug Stand

This piece is top-rack dishwasher safe, but you can also wash it by hand using warm, soapy water.


You should wash out your Keurig reservoir once a week using warm, soapy water. Let the interior of the tank air dry to avoid getting any lint particles in it.


Wipe down any exterior parts using a soft cloth, dish soap, and warm water.

How to Cleanse Between Cups

Have you ever noticed that if you make, say, a cup of hot cocoa in your Keurig, the next cup of coffee kind of tastes like chocolate? Flavors can carry over between brews, and if you want to prevent this, you need to use the Keurig Rinse Pods. They look just like regular K-Cups, but all they do is wash out any lingering flavors.

Keurig recommends using a Rinse Pod weekly. Just pop one into the machine and run an 8-ounce brew cycle. You’ll then want to run a cycle with fresh water before you make your next cup of coffee. Which, naturally, will be amazing.

When’s the last time you cleaned your coffee maker? Let us know in the comments!

This article was updated in January 2022 to add even more helpful cleaning tips.

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


[email protected] December 18, 2022
I performed all the steps listed in this article. Only exception is the inside of the swing down assembly where the Pod Holder plugs in. It looks pretty cruddy down there. It would be good if the swing down section was removable. Please reply [email protected]
Thank you!
Lynnie October 9, 2019
Descaling the Keurig or other k-cup coffee makers is a MUST, not optional. If you do not, you run the risk of toasting the heating element and it will ruin your machine because it simply will no longer heat water. I know because I did that. I have a Cuisinart k-cup brewer. Great machine. It's directions are to empty the water container, then put in something like 4 C white vinegar and run it once and then leave it ON for 4 hours, so that the vinegar is descaling the inner workings. After that time you then proceed with flushing the machine with clean water. They recommend doing this every 4-6 months. So, slightly different protocol. They also recommend changing the water filter monthly; I don't because I already have a Multipure water filtration system on my kitchen faucet, so I am using filtered water, but I do change the in-tank filter our every 2-3 months.

Interestingly (kind of...) here at my gig they have a hefty big Keurig machine in the break room that never gets descaled to my knowledge and it is going great now for several years. Hmmmm.....
dg A. September 20, 2019
"Have you ever noticed that if you make, say, a cup of hot cocoa in your Keurig, the next cup of coffee kind of tastes like chocolate? "
Maybe think of it in terms of all the coffee made in Keurigs (like the ones in my company's break rooms) that no one ever cleans. Then over comes the lone cup of tea...
Violetsnake September 6, 2019
While the Keurig is a very convenient coffee machine, the plastic it produces is not so convenient and is contributing to polluted waterways and oceans. Plastic particles are contaminating our municipal and alpine stream water. Hoping you might consider switching to something less polluting. Coffee grounds, by the way, are great in compost for gardens. As a point, the K-cup creator John Sylvan regrets having invented the Keurig coffee pod system. This is an excerpt: "The man who invented the K-Cup coffee pod almost 20 years ago says he regrets doing so, and he can't understand the popularity of the products that critics decry as an environmental catastrophe."
Steve K. September 8, 2019
Im sure he doesnt regret the paychecks , otherwise he would stop producing it. Also , I dont use the plastic containers. Theres an option to brew regular coffee grounds in the container holder .... To prevent pollution.
Violetsnake September 8, 2019
Not so, Sylvan isn't in a position to do much about the problem. He sold the company for $50,000 in 1997, and it's now owned by Green Mountain, the brewing company. Glad that some are using the optional container.
Lynnie October 9, 2019
San Francisco Coffee makes a fully biodegradable k-cup. And has good coffee. Check Costco for more info on their product. But, the custom, reusable coffee pods are a great way to get exactly the brew you want without contaminating the planet with more plastic refuse. Point is, there are options.
Alexa N. September 6, 2019
Where is the pink coffee holder from in the first picture on the left? Now that I've seen it I can't live without it!!
Melissa S. September 6, 2019
SAO’ September 6, 2019
I just realized something: used to live in just outside Denver, where 95% of the population drinks melted snow, but up in Adams county, we were stuck with alluvial well water. Hardest water I’ve ever drunk. Had to clean that needle weekly. Moved a little ways north, now how the best tasting municipal water I’ve ever been served, and haven’t had to clean that thing once. (The machine, yes, but not the paper clip procedure they’re talking about above.)
So, check your water, because your mileage will vary.
D Y. September 5, 2019
My Keurig is a K-Compact, and didn't come with a filter, and has never had one in it. It's now been in use daily for about 3 months, but I only use reverse-osmosis water for coffee. Should I worry about cleaning it, or just assume it's ok?
Cathy V. September 5, 2019
Run 12 more cycles? Do you mean 12 more reservoirs or 12 more cups?
Mark September 9, 2019
Sharman September 5, 2019
Do you clean the filter or put a new one in? Where do you find them?
Kat B. September 2, 2019
Where is the filter?
Cathy W. September 6, 2019
This is what I would like to know! Hopefully someone can explain where it is. I've had my machine for years and I have no idea where this is! I have run it through several Vinegar cleanings but never have I cleaned a filter.

dtremit September 6, 2019
The filter was *optional*, at least on my Keurig. There's two parts: a plastic filter holder, which you clip into the reservoir (it covers the water outlet), and replaceable filter "packs" that go in the holder. I think the pack is just activated charcoal, like a Brita. You're supposed to replace the filter pack every three months.

I don't know that Keurig sells the filter *holder* for older brewers anymore, but lots of third-party companies sell both the holder and the filters. Search for "Keurig filter holder" or "Keurig filter kit" on Amazon and you'll find plenty of results.
Cathy W. September 6, 2019
Thanks for replying. I don't think I had that option. I have the water reservoir but there is not another piece to that. In the coffee reservoir I use my own coffee instead of the k-cups. I don't like the waste that the k-cups create. I also throw the grounds in my compost. I wish there was an easy way to take the entire thing apart so I could give it a good scrub down. Too bad we can't. :(
dtremit September 6, 2019
You wouldn't have the extra piece unless you bought it separately -- it comes as part of the filter kit. If you look at the bottom of the reservoir, where the water goes into the machine, there's a little 3/4" round piece with a metal mesh screen. The filter just snaps on top of that. (Or at least, that's what it looks like on my machine.)

I've started buying alternative K-Cups manufactured by a company called RealCup -- they're designed so you can separate the plastic cup and recycle it. We're fortunate that the store brand at one of our local supermarkets (Wegmans) uses them, but they do supply some national brands as well (Wolfgang Puck seems to be the most recognizable). That said, when this machine breaks, I think we'll be replacing it with something more sustainable.
BeeBait July 25, 2019
I put a post-it note on the back of my coffee maker with a cleaning date. Much like when you get your car oil changed and they put a little due date sticker in your window. When I go to fill the reservoir I see the post-it...
Susan G. July 25, 2019
I have the simple Keurig that does not have a reservoir. What are the instructions for cleaning?
Melissa S. July 25, 2019
I just want to know what that pink mug is in the picture, PLEASE!!
Monica B. July 26, 2019
Monica B. July 26, 2019
Found it! seems to be new so maybe will be more available in coming months.
Alexa N. September 6, 2019
ha ha yessss!!!
Monica B. September 6, 2019
Can find here at food52 and other online retailers. :)
Melissa S. September 6, 2019
dtremit July 23, 2019
The Keurig descaling solution is mostly citric acid, I think. You can get powdered citric acid at your local Indian grocery for less than $2. I've found it does a great job of cleaning out the Keurig without the lingering smell of vinegar.