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How to Clean a Coffee Maker With Bleach

Coffee makers are a staple in pretty much every kitchen, from college dorm rooms to mansions. People love having their morning cup of jo, I can say very confidently that my fiancé has at least one cup every day! Ask yourself though, when is the last time you ever cleaned your coffee maker? Chances are you probably don’t remember. 

Well, this is not good, There are few things bacteria and fungi love more than warm wet environments. What is a coffee maker after you are done using it? Well, you guessed it, it is a warm and wet environment. 

So you can safely continue feeding your coffee habits, let’s get down to how to clean your coffee maker.  

How to Clean a Coffee Maker With Bleach

We get asked this a ton, and let us start by saying you should not use bleach to clean your home drip style coffee maker. 

Coffee maker

I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this article supposed to tell me how to use bleach for cleaning my coffee maker? Yes, but it’s also important that you are informed about why bleach is not the safest cleaning method for this

While bleach is often used in industrial and commercial settings, they take adequate time and safety precautions to ensure no residue ends up in the next brew.

If you still feel that you absolutely must use bleach on your drip coffee maker, read through our steps on the best way to use it. Just remember, bleach is slow, dangerous, an overkill on the bacteria, and can leave mineral deposits.

Here are the steps we’ll cover: 

  1. Mix bleach with water
  2. Run the coffee maker
  3. Pour out the liquid from the coffee pot
  4. Repeat until the bleach is used
  5. Clean with hot water
  6. Smell the water
  7. Air dry

Materials Needed

  1. 1 tablespoon bleach
  2. 1 gallon of water for mixing with bleach
  3. 5 gallons of water completely clean no contact with any bleach 
  4. Drip coffee maker 

Step 1: Mix Bleach and Water Together

Never put bleach directly into the coffee maker. Always mix it first with water. You will be adding a tiny amount of bleach (1 tablespoon) to a lot of water (1 gallon). This formula is very important to get right! You do not want to add more bleach than this.

As you do this, make sure you are in a well ventilated area. The fumes from bleach are caustic and can damage your eyes, lungs, and skin when it comes into contact. 

Bottle of bleach to be used to clean coffee maker

Step 2: Run a Full Cycle on the Coffee Maker 

Pour your bleach into the water reservoir and let it fully run through the coffee maker. Let the mixture fill the coffee pot as well to fully clean the pot.

Step 3: Pour Out the Liquid From the Coffee Pot

After the coffee pot fills, immediately turn off the coffee maker and pour out the mixture from the pot. The reason you want to turn off the coffee maker is because you want to minimize the amount of bleach mixture that hits the heating plate. 

Step 4: Repeat Until All the Bleach Water Is Used Up

You need to run the full gallon of water through the system. This will take several runs depending on your drip coffee maker model. Be sure to run through all of it, and don’t leave your coffee maker unattended – if someone else went to use it and did not know you were running bleach through it, they could get very sick! 

Step 5: Clean With Hot Water 

Get a clean gallon of hot or warm water and run this through your coffee machine. This is going to take a while so you want to use hot water to minimize the time spent warming water in the brew cycle. The less time you have to wait to boil water the better here. 

Repeat this until you’ve run 5 fresh gallons of hot water through your coffee system. Yes, you need to run 5 gallons of water through the system to ensure it is clean of bleach residue!

Step 6: Smell the Final Batch of Water

Smell the final batch of water, it should have no scent at all. Bleach has a very distinctive smell, so if there is no bleach smell you are probably all good. If you want to be more precise you can test the PH level, and if it is 7 you are good to go.  

Step 7: Air Dry

Air dry upside down for 1 day in the sun or several days on the countertop. This is a critical step! As it dries in the open air, any final deposits of bleach will turn to solid white specs. If you see these you need to continue running fresh water through your machine. 

Additional Tips for Cleaning Coffee Makers

The best advice for cleaning your coffee maker is to not let it get so bad in the first place. When you are done with a coffee brew, immediately remove the filter and then let the reservoir dry completely. 

Coffee coming out of a coffee maker

If your reservoir detaches this is best, otherwise you can unplug it, leave it open, and turn it upside in a dish rack.

Are There Safer Alternatives to Bleach That Are Still Effective?

There are definitely safer alternatives to bleach when it comes to effectively cleaning your coffee system. 

Use white vinegar or lemon juice with salt to clean your coffee maker. It is far more effective than bleach and much safer as well. Why is this? 

Both vinegar and lemon juice have antibacterial properties, especially when combined with salt and heat (salt we can add, heat the coffee maker does on its own). Next, both are acidic rather than alkaline (which is what bleach is). This means that vinegar and lemon juice will remove calcium deposits, whereas bleach will not do this. 

Finally and most importantly, let’s talk about safety. Your downside risk for lemon juice or vinegar is a slightly sour or salty cup of coffee rather than a potential trip to the hospital for bleach poisoning. I think I’ll risk puckering my lips.

So as we stated at the start of this article, you should never clean your home coffee maker with bleach. If you want to safely clean your coffee maker with lemon juice or vinegar here are the steps below: 

Step 1: Mix Ingredients

You can mix one of the following combinations together: 

  • Mix 1 part water, 1 part lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of salt
  • Mix 1 part water, 1 part white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of salt

The combination of acid and salt will have antibacterial properties which are increased as heat is applied as well. I recommend doing 2 coffee pots full. 

Step 2: Run 2 Cycles

Run both cleaning cycles, using up all the acidic salty water. Pour out the carafe after each cycle completes. It doesn’t matter much if a tiny bit of water hits the heating plate. 

Cup of coffee

Step 3: Run 4 Cycles of Hot Water 

You’ll want to run 4 cycles of warm or hot water to fully rinse the system. You might be able to get away with 3 cycles, but this really is going to depend on your system and your taste buds. I think 4 is plenty to ensure a clean brew on your next real go. 

Step 4: Air Dry

Similar to when cleaning with bleach, you’ll want to air dry for 1 day in the sun or several days on the countertop. This is a critical step, as everything dries in the open air.

Related Questions

Is It Safe to Use Undiluted Bleach to Clean a Coffee Maker?

It is absolutely unsafe to use undiluted bleach to clean your coffee maker. Not only is that unsafe, using diluted bleach is frankly unsafe. You should not use bleach to clean a coffee maker unless you have undergone specific training, have the right tools and safety precautions, and have a good grasp of the chemistry at work. 

Can a Dirty Coffee Maker Make You Sick?

Absolutely, bacteria and fungi love warm wet environments (many of which produce toxins or compete with good bacteria in our bodies making us sick). 

Have you ever forgotten to take a filter out of the coffee maker and saw it molding a couple days later? Bad news – if you spot even the tiniest bit of mold there are spores everywhere you can’t see. 

How Often Does a Coffee Maker Need Descaling?

How often a coffee machine needs descaling is fully dependent on the water situation in your house. If you have really soft water it may never need it. For most of us, once every few months is probably a good amount. 

Conclusion

While the drip coffee maker truly is a modern invention of convenience and necessity for many. It is critical to take care of your investment and your health. Don’t use harsh chemicals to clean cookware. There are safer easier alternatives like vinegar that do just as good a job but with the only danger being a slightly sour cup of joe. 

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. With inspirations like Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsey, Nathaniel focuses on simple processes to make amazing food.