How Often You Have to Clean Your Keurig Before it Gets Moldy


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Jan 14, 2024

How Often You Have to Clean Your Keurig Before it Gets Moldy

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That water reservoir can become a habitat for microorganisms to thrive.

Love 'em or loathe 'em, the fact is that Keurig single-cup coffee machines caffeinate millions of households. But how many of those homeowners are cleaning their coffee makers properly?

These countertop appliances can churn out a cup of coffee in a snap, but when it comes to cleaning, they definitely can't be left on autopilot. Should you forget to clean your Keurig, things like mold and hard water build-up can muck up your morning cup of joe, making it taste overly bitter, sour, or just off.

"Keurig machines are most susceptible to mold and bacteria growth in the water reservoir, coffee pod holder, and exit needle because these areas are damp and dark, creating a suitable habitat for microorganisms to thrive," says Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless, a Washington, D.C. area home cleaning service.

Mold growth isn't an issue unique to Keurigs. Coffee reservoirs in general are among the top five germiest things in people's kitchens according to NSF International, an independent public health organization that had 22 families swab 30 household items to see which held the most germs. Coffee reservoirs came out in the top five because they are prone to mold, mildew, and yeast growth—and, in many households, they aren't cleaned as frequently as they should be.

What's a coffee-lover to do? Experts agree that, to prevent mold growth, some of the most vulnerable parts of your machine require a quick clean up after use and a sudsy wash every week or so.

Short answer: No. If you're sitting here terrorized because you realize you've been delinquent in Keurig-cleaning, don't panic. While no one wants to start their day off with a musty-tasting coffee, it probably won't make you sick. Probably.

"Generally speaking, if you consume small amounts of mold from a dirty machine you would not notice except for possibly a stomachache," says Board-certified Family Medical Physician Dr. Laura Purdy, MD, MBA.

However, if you're consuming large amounts of mold, are allergic to it, or are immunocompromised, you could have some gastrointestinal and respiratory issues, and, in the case of an allergic reaction, you might experience difficulty breathing, Purdy cautions.

When it comes to cleaning the appliance, soap and water is best. One mistake people make with their Keurigs is using harsh cleaning solutions—i.e. anything with ammonia, bleach, acetone, or alcohol, says Jennifer Rodriguez, Chief Hygiene Officer with Pro Housekeepers. These cleaners can damage the coffee maker's components and leave behind residues that shouldn't be in your coffee. Just suds up with good old dishwashing detergent, then rinse thoroughly.

You can also use rinse pods to clear your Keurig of any residue and also reduce flavor carryover between brewing sessions, something that might be happening if members of your household are using all different kinds of K-Cup Pods.

That's a basic overview, but we're not basic. We asked Toner to break it down for us, and provide tips for cleaning your Keurig, part by part. Here's the advice from the expert:

Coffee Pod Holder: This should be washed with warm, soapy water, ideally after every use, says Toner. You can get away with washing it down just once a week if you're using a small brush to remove any leftover coffee grounds or debris after every use.

Water Reservoir: Aim to clean this at least once a week, and also keep it dry so it doesn't become a breeding ground for germs. To clean, remove it from the machine, and wash it with warm, soapy water, Toner says. Rinse and dry it thoroughly before putting it back in place.

Water Filter Cartridge: If your Keurig machine has a water filter cartridge, replace it every two months or after 60 brew cycles, whichever comes first, Toner says. If your water source is particularly hard or has a high mineral content, you'll probably want to replace the filter more frequently.

Keurig Needles: Coffee grounds can get stuck in the needle that pierce through the K-Cup pods, leading to some inconsistent brews. Prevent this from happening by giving the needles a good wash once a week, Toner suggests. (Unplug the machine before attempting to clean the needle!) You'll have to remove the pod holder first, then use a sterilized paper clip or a special Keurig needle cleaning tool to remove any buildup or debris.

Descaling the Machine: Every three to six months, depending on how often you're brewing coffee, you should descale your machine to remove limescale buildup. Keurig has a descaling solution (since every model is a little different, follow Keurig's instructions for descaling). But you can also replace a store-bought solution with a DIY mix that's equal parts white vinegar and water.

Brittany Anas is a former newspaper reporter (The Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera) turned freelance writer. Before she struck out on her own, she covered just about every beat—from higher education to crime. Now she writes about food, cocktails, travel, and lifestyle topics for Men's Journal, House Beautiful, Forbes, Simplemost, Shondaland, Livability, Hearst newspapers, TripSavvy and more. In her free time, she coaches basketball, crashes pools, and loves hanging out with her rude-but-adorable Boston Terrier that never got the memo the breed is nicknamed "America's gentleman."

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Coffee Pod Holder: Water Reservoir: Water Filter Cartridge: Keurig Needles: Descaling the Machine: