Those K-Cup Cleaners Don’t Actually Get the Job Done — Here’s What You Need to Know

updated Jun 14, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Keurigs are a convenient alternative to brewing an entire pot of coffee — but just like any other brew method, residue from water and coffee grounds can build up in the machine over time. To keep your machine functional (and just as importantly, to keep your coffee tasting delicious), you’ll need to perform standard cleaning and maintenance on your Keurig machine

With lots of reviews and excellent ratings on Amazon, you’d think those single-use Keurig machine cleaning cups would be the ideal solution — just pop one in, run a cycle, and you’re good to go, right? Not so fast.

For one thing: As convenient as pre-filled cleaning pods appear, keep in mind you won’t get an effective or thorough clean. The cleaner inside the cup can only access the parts of your machine between the K-cup and your mug. That leaves the water reservoir and the water mechanics inside the machine untouched — where lots of bacteria and mineral scale can live. Plus there’s the area around the K-cup loader itself, which becomes littered with coffee grounds. And on top of everything else, because they’re plastic, they only add to your waste footprint — so it’s a lose-lose.

That’s not all. Dean Davies, a pro cleaner at the UK-based company Fantastic Services, says the cleaner might leave a smell behind, too. These types of cups can leave behind a “chemical residue” in your machine, he says, “which in many cases takes a couple of gallons of water to remove,” he says. (Talk about wasteful.)

Another risk: Cleaning cups could actually damage your machine, even if you follow the instructions. Davies says some users’ machines gave them a “water under pressure” error the next day, indicating the machine is clogged and potentially unfixable.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Right Way to Clean a Keurig

Instead of relying on quick-fix cups, you can use ingredients you already have in your kitchen to rehab the machine. To wash your Keurig, Davies recommends unplugging the machine, then gently taking it apart. Wash all the parts with warm, soapy water, then let the machine air dry. (Just be careful when you’re cleaning the part that holds the actual K-cup, as it houses a small needle that could pierce your finger.) 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

To remove limescale buildup from the interior, use vinegar! Just empty out the reservoir, fill it halfway with white vinegar, and turn off the “auto-off” function (if it has one). After making sure there’s no K-cup in the brewer, run the machine through a brew cycle. Dump the hot vinegar the machine spits out and continue running cycles until the little light tells you you need to add water. 

After letting the machine sit on for a few hours, fill the reservoir to the top with water and keep running brewing cycles with hot water. Once the brewed water no longer smells like vinegar, you’re good to go.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Those K-Cup Cleaners Don’t Really Work — Here’s Why