How To Clean A Keurig (even if you think it’s broken)

How to clean a Keurig from HousewifeHowTos.com
I wonder how many people have thrown away their coffee makers because they didn’t know how to clean a Keurig, particularly one that doesn’t pump water any more?

I nearly did just that, having stopped using my machine for over a year because I’d decided the disposable K-Cups were too expensive. Then one day I found a reusable insert for my Keurig that would let me use my favorite coffee or loose tea and, after bringing it home, eagerly powered up my machine. How frustrating to find it wouldn’t make a cup!

Fortunately, after a half-hour of effort, I got my machine up and running again. Here’s how.

How To Clean A Keurig

  1. Unplug it. I can’t emphasize this enough: unplug the thing!
     
  2. Disassemble it. Remove the water tank and its lid, along with the stand your coffee cup rests on. Then open the top and remove the K-Cup holder. Wash these pieces in warm, soapy water and dry well:
     
  3. How to clean a Keurig by washing these parts
     

  4. Unclog the needles. Grab a paperclip and partially unbend it. Then, with the Keurig’s top open, carefully insert the free end of the paperclip into each of the three holes along the needle that pierces the K-Cup. Jiggle the paperclip around then remove it. Don’t worry about harming your machine: there are no working parts here, just holes that get clogged with scale and debris. Like so:
     
  5. How to clean a Keurig by opening the spout
     

  6. Turn and tap. Turn your machine upside down and, with the top open, give the bottom a few light smacks with the palm of your hand. Crazy as this sounds, this helps loosen debris.
     
  7. How To clean a Keurig that will not pump water

    Put a straw over this spout and blow. Hard.


     

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  8. Breathe into it. Thought the previous step sounded crazy? This one’s even wackier, and yet it works! Turn the machine upside down and put a drinking straw over the spout. Wrap this juncture with a paper towel to make it as close to air-tight as possible. Now, blow as hard as you can into the straw to force air through the Keurig spout. This helps dislodge debris and opens the water line.
     
  9. Wipe it down and reassemble. Grab a lint-free cloth and clean the cup holder, then the outside of the machine. Return all of the parts to the machine.
     
  10. Descale it. Fill the water tank with half water and half white vinegar. (You may have been told to use straight vinegar, but that can actually harm the machine due to vinegar’s high acidity. Just keep it at a 50-50 mix.) Now, run the machine without a K-Cup until you’ve emptied the entire tank. Dump each cup of vinegary water after brewing.
     
  11. Run it some more. Repeat the above step using only clean water in the tank. Check the final cup of water to make sure there’s no vinegar taste. Run more clean water through if needed.
     
  12. Maintain it. Performing the two steps above on a monthly basis will keep your machine running well. Should you ever notice your Keurig brewing too slowly or making smaller cups than usual, perform the entire process to get it working like new again.

Now that I know how to clean a Keurig, and I’m using these reusable K-Cup inserts, I’m in love with my machine all over again.


Equipment I Use For This:
   

  • Heather-Joan Carls

    Thanks for this. We just got our Keurig in January and we bought the reusable k-cup because we knew we couldn’t afford to always by the k-cups. Lately, the Keurig has been jipping me on my coffee. We always use the button farthest to the right to brew the coffee. We have a Pure water filter on our tap because we live in the city and we use that water in our Keurig because you’re suppose to use purified or bottled water in your Keurig or your going to break it. Anyways, how do you get the k-cup holder out of it? How much loose tea do you put in the k-cup? Can you use tea bags in the k-cup? I haven’t even used tea in the Keurig? Thanks for this. I will definitely be using this today to clean our Keurig. I look forward to your answers. Thank you.

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      Hi Heather! It’s infuriating when the Keurig short-cups you, isn’t it? Gotta be honest, I don’t always use purified water on mine because sometimes I’m just not awake enough, so that might be why mine clogged to begin with. Then again, if something’s going to be higher maintenance than I am in the morning before I’ve had my coffee, it won’t last long. LOL

      You didn’t say what model yours is, but with my Keurig removing the K-Cup holder involves a bit of jiggling and then the thing pops out. The holder is actually a plastic insert — mine has a white arrow painted on it — so you just grab by the raised edge, twist and lift. (Really technical instructions there, right?)

      As for loose tea, my reusable filter has a “fill to here” line, so I…fill to there. You can’t use tea bags, but if you have a tea you like that’s in bags I suppose you could cut them open and dump them in the holder. Then again, microwaving is probably easier.

      I buy my tea loose, in bulk and organic, with a Subscribe & Save discount via Amazon. My favorite is this one, which combines chamomile, cranberry, roobios, rosehips, hibuscus and orange peel. It’s divine!

  • Heather-Joan Carls

    Hi Katie! Thanks for getting back to meツ We have the Special Edition K69/K65 single serve. I set mine up the night before so since I am always the first one up I just have to push down the handle, press the button, go to th’s bathroom and when I come back, it’s done and I just put the creamer and sugar in and I am good to go.
    I inspected the reusable cup and saw the fill line. I don’t buy loose tea. Too expensive right now. I would ♡ to and I know it would be best and open up a whole new world for me but right now I got my ‘stash’ of Twinnings and Bigelow. I do have loose leaf of Earl of Gray from Twinngs(I just bought it first the tin. I ♡♡♡ tins!) . I willl also try opening the tea bags. Your tea doesn’t come out weak from not steeping for 3-5 minutes, Katie?
    I will try removing the K-Cup holder like you said…yes too easy lolツ and give it a go. Daily I give the whole machine a wipe down because it seems a lot of dust settles on it for some reason and there is always coffee residue in the K-Cup chamber.
    I pray you and your family have a very blessed Easter. Thank you staying around and conversing with me on this. I really appreciate thisツ

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      These steps should work with your model, from what I’ve been able to see online.

      I agree, loose tea is a bit expensive. That link I’d given you is actually one of the better deals I’ve found. But, yes, it does come out rather weak in the Keurig. Sometimes at night, or when I’m brewing a cuppa for my son, that’s what I want. Otherwise, I’d rather go with an infuser and use my electric kettle. :)

      I hope you and your family enjoyed a wonderful Easter, too!

      • Heather-Joan Carls

        I am going to purchase an infuser as I did try the tea in the Keurig and didn’t really care for it either. Again, thanks for these tips. You’ve been most helpful ツ and I have ordered the tea you suggested-I cannot wait to try it!

  • Eric Veritas Blair

    Forget the Keurig! I went old school and got a percolator and bean grinder best coffee I ever had! I got a 9 cup Corningware at a flea market, there’s tons of them on Ebay cheep.

    • IndianaJoes

      Absolutely! We bought a small Farberware percolator and have never looked back. Fast, hot, tasty coffee.

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      I completely agree about the superiority of percolated coffee. I’m just incredibly impatient.

      • Eric Veritas Blair

        I found starting with hot water cut brew time in half. Good things come to those who wait ;)

      • hoosfoos

        I follow the “cold water only for all cooking” because hot water contains lead. It takes longer but if it keeps the lead out, it’s worth it.

      • Eric Veritas Blair

        Hot water only contains lead if you have lead in your pipes.

      • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

        Hot water is more likely to loosen lime and other mineral buildup in the hose, though. OTOH, I suppose you could look at it that as a form of vitamin supplementation. OTOH, ugh.

      • Meeshell

        Starting with cold water makes the coffee taste much better. I believe the instructions tell you to use cold water too. I’ve been using my percolator for 30 yrs, love it!!

  • April_sunshine

    Loved this post! I had tried vinegar with water and flipping the machine upside down. I even attempted to unclog the needle and still the machine would only drip water. I found this post and followed your method step by step and would you know I can now make fresh coffee. It seems there was a lot of coffee grinds clogging the needle. I even saw some debris shoot out the straw as the machine was brewing. No longer need this cleaner solution, taking unopened bottle back to the store. Thanks so much!!

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      You’re quite welcome. Thank you for taking the time to let me know it helped!

  • Lane Lester

    I’m not a housewife; I’m an old geezer. But your how-to sure saved me a heap of trouble. I’ve had my Keurig for a few months, and today the pump seemed to die. I had seen this article copied on Lifehacker, so I followed your instructions. I had to vary them because I have a Vue model. The needles have grooves, not holes, but they had gunk on them that needed scraping. I ran through about a quart of vinegar water, and now the machine seems to be working fine again. Thank you very much.

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      Very glad it helped, Lane!

  • Scrapnsewsue

    I like my keurig very much. I have had 2 pumps die within the first year of owning them. Both never indicated to be cleaned by showing the “descale” command. Keurig is fantastic to deal with and both times shipped me a new machine within days. I use softened water that is also filtered from my refridgerator. The 3rd machine has worked for two years now. I think it is a new improved and better pump. It is much quieter. These cleaning tips are spot on. A good pump can’t pump well through clogs. :). Good day!!

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      Keurig does have great customer service! My machine has never nagged at me to clean it, either. My other coffee maker, OTOH, seems to nag at me every couple of days. Ugh.

  • Loretta

    The owners manual with the Keurig also recommends running the vinegar cycle every few months to help keep it running well, not that anyone ever reads the owners manual :-p

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      You read manuals?! ;-P

  • Carlotta

    OMG! You’re a genius! Thank you for helping me fix my machine.
    I have an unhealthy attachment to my coffee.

    • http://housewifehowtos.com/ Katie B of HousewifeHowTos.com

      I’m glad to have been of help! I can’t start my day without coffee, and the Keurig makes it so darned convenient. I really do love that thing.

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