Making a great cup of coffee is an art form, and one of the secrets that everyone should know is how to keep their coffee maker clean and free of build-up. The best coffee maker cleaners and descalers ensure that your coffee tastes fresh, and your machine's parts run efficiently and smoothly.
Coffee maker cleaners and descalers can be designed for a specific machine or work in different setups, but each has an individual purpose. “While cleaning is done for the elimination of rancid substances, the aim of descaling is the removal of mineral build up in the machine,” says Maria Isabel Angela, spokesperson for Mr. Coffee. To effectively remove pesky mineral deposits, a descaler usually falls “on the acid side of the PH scale,” says Brandon Pleshek, member of The Spruce's Cleaning and Organizing Review Board. According to Pleshek, cleaning your coffee maker should be done roughly once per month, and “descaling is done as needed, depending on how hard your water is.” Pleshek also notes that a descaler is "usually a much stronger acid and takes time to properly rinse your coffee maker.” With that in mind, he “would suggest only descaling when needed.”
We researched the top coffee maker descalers and cleaners on the market to find options for different types of machines, including drip coffee makers, single-serve machines like Keurigs and Nespressos, and espresso machines. Whether you're cleaning or descaling your machine, you should still run a cycle or two of plain water before brewing your coffee, as this is standard amongst both types of products.
Impresa Coffee Machine Descaler
Compatible with all machines
Simple to use
Comes in a two-pack
Ratio to dilute not included
Requires multiple cycles in your machine
This Impresa descaler works in all machines, including Keurigs, Nespressos, espresso machines, and regular drip coffee pots. We think it's worth snagging the two-pack of 8-ounce bottles, which can come in handy because you have to use half of a bottle for each cleaning. If you're not willing to commit to two bottles, you can get a single pack. To use, make sure that everything is cleared from the machine first. This might mean running a cycle or two of hot water, and wiping out the reservoir or pod dispenser.
To run the solution through the machine, you’ll pour it into the water reservoir and dilute it with water. The exact solution-to-water measurements aren’t included, which might be tricky if you have a machine with a smaller or larger-than-normal water reservoir. Just make sure you run a full tank of clean water at least two times through before you make coffee after descaling.
Notably, this solution is very effective on hard water build-up, including limescale and other mineral deposits, though. And while the potent formula (which contains citric acid and sulfamic acid) is effective, it is also straightforward to use.
Price at time of publish: $30
Cleaner or Descaler: Descaler | Type: Solution | Amount: 16 ounces | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machines, superautomatic machines, Keurig machines, Nespresso machines
Aunt Fannie's All Purpose 6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar
Good for a variety of coffee makers
Practical, versatile household cleaner
Jug size is a bit confusing, smaller than grocery store vinegar
Can irritate skin, gloves recommended
Did you know you can dilute and use vinegar to descale a coffee maker and other household surfaces? We think Aunt Fannie's is a worthy budget-friendly pick because cleaning vinegar is 20 percent stronger than the white distilled vinegar you might use in your food preparation. The bottle comes with 33 ounces of product which may sound like a lot, but it's just over 4 cups. Cleaning vinegar is also very versatile, so you may find that it comes in handy for many different cleaning tasks around the home. (Just make sure you don't use cleaning vinegar for cooking, as it's not approved for consumption.)
When it comes to descaling your coffee maker, as a general rule, you'll typically want to use one part water, one part vinegar—so you should get a lot of mileage out of this jug. You should be able to use this vinegar to clean single-use coffee makers, drip makers, espresso machines, and other coffee maker types—but you should always check your machine's manufacturer instructions, just to be sure. All in all, we think cleaning with vinegar can be a great route when you're on a budget, especially if you like your cleaners to be eco-friendly and multitasking. Be sure to protect your hands with gloves when handling cleaning vinegar, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Price at time of publish: $12
Cleaner or Descaler: Both | Type: Solution | Amount: 33 ounces | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machines, other surfaces and products
Bar Keepers Friend Coffee Maker Cleaner
Formulated for coffee stains, residue, and tannins
Suitable for drip, single-cup, and espresso machines
Can be used on mugs, tumblers, and carafes
Some cleaning jobs will require lots of product
If you're looking for something to tackle those stains at the bottom of your favorite travel mug or carafe, this cleaner from beloved Bar Keeper's Friend is up to the task. It's made for both visible stains and invisible residue that builds up over time, and it promises to help maintain your equipment for better-tasting coffee in the long run. We like that it's formulated for different coffee machine types, as well as mugs, tumblers, and carafes made of stainless steel, glass, or ceramic. It also should be safe for internal rubber components like gaskets.
Make sure to take a close look at the back of the bottle for guidance on usage and dilution. The 8:1 concentration might seem like it'll go far, but considering the volume of some brewers and their pots, you may go through an entire bottle within just a few cleans. If you do find yourself replacing it more than expected, the good news is it's budget-friendly.
Price at time of publish: $8
Cleaner or descaler: Cleaner | Type: Solution | Amount: 12 ounces | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machines, and stainless steel, glass, and ceramic coffee mugs
Biocaf Coffee Equipment Descaling Powder
Individual packets make less mess
Plant- and mineral-based ingredients
This powder from Urnex Biocaf comes in individual packets, so you never have to worry about measuring. This particular product is a descaler only, but Urnex Biocaf also makes a coffee maker cleaner that has its own usage instructions. While using a separate descaler and cleaner does add extra steps, the two products do have different purposes—as noted by both Angela and Pleshek. Notably, this descaler is compatible with single-cup machines and drip coffee makers, as well as espresso machines.
This is a more eco-friendly option that doesn’t contain phosphates, is biodegradable, and uses plant- and mineral-based ingredients to get rid of limescale and other build-up. It dissolves completely when mixed with 32 ounces of warm water, so you don’t need to worry about any powder getting left behind in your machine. You should still run a cycle or two of plain water before brewing your coffee, though.
Price at time of publish: $12
Cleaner or Descaler: Descaler | Type: Powder | Amount: 2 ounces | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machines, superautomatic machines
De'Longhi EcoDecalk Descaler
Descaler for all types of coffee makers
Doesn't need to be dissolved
Instructions could be more visible
You may already know the brand De'Longhi for its coffee and espresso machines, so it's safe to assume they know a thing or two about proper care and maintenance. This descaler works with all sorts of machines—not just De'Longhi models—and promises to rid them of limescale and other mineral deposits to give you that ideal cup of coffee or shot of espresso. The materials are also biodegradable and plant-based, and the packaging is recyclable, too.
Some users have reported that they weren't pleased with the way the instructions are printed on the backside of the bottle's label (similar to certain types of medicine containers). Still, as long as you know what to expect and how to find the instructions, we don't think this packaging quirk is a dealbreaker. Whether you've invested in a De'Longhi machine or have something else completely, we consider this a great solution for regular descaling.
Price at time of publish: $33
Cleaner or Descaler: Descaler | Type: Solution | Amount: 16.9 ounces | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machine
Affresh Coffee Maker Cleaner Tablets
Work on single and multi-cup drip machines
Easy to use
Requires multiple cycles for cleaning and rinsing
Not compatible with espresso machines
Tablets can be less messy to dispense than other options, but they can also be expensive per use. If you don’t mind spending a bit more on a descaling product, the Affresh coffee maker tablets bring plenty of cleaning power to get rid of mineral build-up from inside your machine. For a standard, multi-cup drip coffee pot, put the tablet into a full reservoir of water, and run a brew cycle. You will need to run a water-only cycle to fully rinse the system after that. For a single-serve coffee maker, you’ll need to run two brew cycles after you add the tablet to a filled water reservoir, then two water-only cycles to rinse.
These tablets are formulated for descaling, so it’s a good idea to add another cleaning product to your shopping cart. They are individually wrapped and easy to store, however, as long as you have a compatible machine. They do work with single-cup machines, as well as larger drip coffee pots, but they aren’t formulated for use with espresso machines.
Price at time of publish: $9
Cleaner or descaler: Descaler | Type: Tablet | Amount: 3 | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers
Urnex Coffee Maker Cleaner and Descaler Kit
Effective on both residue and hard water build-up
If you know you want to clean and descale your coffee machine, a kit is a great choice to streamline things. We like this pairing from Urnex, which gives you one 4-ounce bottle of cleaner and one 4-ounce bottle of—you guessed it—descaling solution. The brand's coffee-maker cleaning offerings were contenders for some of our other categories on this list, so you can rest assured that this kit doesn't sacrifice quality for convenience. And don't worry if you're still scrolling to double-check the difference between a cleaner and descaler. The two bottles come with clear instructions so you can get through both processes smoothly.
One drawback of this kit is that it's meant for a single use—you'll use each of the full bottles when you clean and descale your machine. If you want to keep more solution on hand for future uses, you'll need to purchase extra kits.
Price at time of publish: $12
Cleaner or Descaler: Both | Type: Solution | Amount: 2 4-ounce bottles | For Use On: Drip coffee makers, single-serve coffee makers, espresso machines
Best for External Cleaning
E-Cloth Home Cleaning Microfiber Cloth Set
Reusable for up to 3 years
Soft microfiber material
Easy to use, wash, and maintain
Not for internal machine care
Not a way to sanitize or disinfect
For quick wipes and touch-ups in between full cleaning cycles and descaling, it's a good idea to keep a set of microfiber cloths, such as these E-Cloth Home Cleaning Microfiber Cloths, on hand. They're especially great if you're prone to splashes when you grab that first cup of joe in the morning, or if you need to remove smudges from yesterday's grounds. While they won't get into the inner components of your machine, they can help keep the exterior sparkling. Just dampen a cloth with water and use a little elbow grease. Even better, the cloths can be washed and reused, and the brand indicates that they'll last for up to three years or 300 washes.
We also like how they come in multiple colors and that you can buy sets targeted for other home surfaces, like glass or showers. With eight cloths to a pack and multiple colors available, you can stock up with favorites.
Price at time of publish: $26
Cleaner or Descaler: Surface cleaner | Type: Cloth | Amount: 8 cloths | For Use On: External components, variety of kitchen surfaces
Our "best overall" pick is the Impresa Coffee Machine Descaler, an easy-to-use liquid solution that can remove mineral build-up from the interior components of many types of coffee makers and machines. If you're looking to clean coffee residue or oils from your machine, opt for the Bar Keepers Friend Coffee Maker Cleaner, our "best cleaner" pick.
What to Look for in a Coffee Maker Cleaner and Descaler
Coffee maker cleaners and descalers remove build-up from within your machine to keep your coffee tasting great and brewing efficiently, according to Maria Isabel Angela, spokesperson for Mr. Coffee. Cleaners target coffee oils and burnt-on liquid. This tends to accumulate in the brew cup or pot, as well as the spout. Descalers break down limescale and other minerals that build up throughout the inner workings of your coffee maker. If you have hard water, this build-up can accumulate more quickly, making descaling a must.
We've made an effort to make recommendations of each type of product on this list, though if you're looking for an efficient way to try both kinds, consider the Urnex Coffee Maker Cleaner and Descaler Kit (our "best kit" pick), which includes a single-use supply of both.
Type and Application Method
Many coffee maker cleaners and descalers come in a liquid solution. To use, you just need to pour the designated amount, and dilute it with water. Then run, typically, between one and four cycles in your coffee maker, as well as additional rinse cycles. The number of cycles will depend on what your individual product calls for, so you should always read the instructions on the packaging and follow them thoroughly. The De'Longhi EcoDecalk Descaler is a versatile liquid option, making it our “best solution” pick.
Powders are similar and are put into the water reservoir along with warm water, which dissolves them. The Biocaf Coffee Equipment Descaling Powder (our "best descaler" pick) is worth consideration if you’re looking for a powder to remove mineral deposits from your coffee maker. Tablets, such as the Affresh Coffee Maker Cleaner Tablets, work similarly to powder, but they can be even easier to store.
Coffee Maker Compatibility
Some cleaners and descalers are made for specific types (or brands) of coffee makers—a quick search and you can easily find options marketed for Keurig and Nespresso machines. On the other hand, liquid solutions can often be used for single-serve machines, drip coffee makers, and espresso machines, so we tend to lean toward this type of product for versatility. De'Longhi EcoDecalk Descaler, for example, comes from a brand that makes coffee and espresso machines, but you can use it with other brands, too. Just make sure to pay close attention to the amount needed, since that can vary depending on the size of the bottle.
How often should a coffee maker be cleaned and descaled?
Try to deep clean your coffee maker every one to three months. If you have hard water, you will likely need to descale your machine more often than that, since hard water has more minerals that can build up inside the machine. If you notice that your coffee maker is not working as quickly or efficiently as expected, it may be time to clean or descale. You can also see visible build-up in some cases that can alert you that it is time for a thorough cleaning.
If you have other problems resulting from hard water in your home, you may want to consider installing a water softener system. Water softeners can reduce the mineral content in your water before it enters your plumbing, appliances, and fixtures.
What happens if you do not clean and descale your coffee maker?
Not only will your coffee brew cycle not work as well if you do not clean and descale your coffee maker, but also leaving build-up in your coffee machine can make the parts wear out. Build-up can also impact the taste and temperature of your coffee.
If the coffee is less smooth, limescale may be to blame. If it comes out cooler than in the past, the heating element may be having a hard time effectively warming the water as the coffee brews.
“Your coffee will begin to taste bitter. Your coffee and coffee machine will produce an acrid smell,” says Angela. “Coffee residue can cause clogging and blockages that can render a machine unusable.” Brandon Pleshek, member of The Spruce's Cleaning and Organizing Review Board, adds, “Cleaning and descaling can seriously make your coffee taste so much better when done correctly,” additionally noting, “I also like to always suggest thoroughly rinsing your machines, you don’t want to leave any cleaner or descaler behind.”
Can you use vinegar to clean and descale a coffee maker?
Vinegar and hot water make an effective cleaning solution with many uses in the home, including cleaning your coffee pot. You can use it similar to a cleaning solution, by putting it in the water reservoir and running a few brew cycles to clean and rinse the interior parts and the brew pot. You should also take out the filter basket and any other removable parts to clean them with a sponge or brush.
Though, vinegar can’t always break down all mineral deposits, especially if you have hard water. If you've tried diluted distilled white vinegar and found it hasn't effectively descaled your machine, you might try something a bit stronger, such as a cleaning strength vinegar like Aunt Fannie's All Purpose 6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Melynn, a freelance writer who specializes in home and family products. Melynn has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. An enthusiastic coffee drinker, Melynn has tested out most of the cleaners on this list in her own home. She talked to Maria Isable Angela, a spokesperson for the well-known coffee maker brand Mr. Coffee, about when to clean and descale your coffee maker. Brandon Pleshek, a third-generation janitor and founder of Clean That Up!, also offered insights into the differences between coffee maker cleaners and descalers, and how often to use them.
Dena Ogden, commerce writer at The Spruce, updated this piece and contributed additional research. She’s been writing professionally since 2016 and with The Spruce since August 2022, and she's been drinking coffee since the early aughts.