How To Clean A Coffee Maker Without Vinegar (Do This!)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

For many people, a hot cup of coffee is a non-negotiable way to start the day. Do you have a high-tech Keurig, sleek Nespresso, traditional drip coffee pot, or classic french press? No matter which machine you prefer, coffee makers are an essential part of many kitchens.

So how do you keep your coffee maker in good working order? Cleaning and descaling your coffee maker with vinegar is a frequent choice for affordable, natural cleaning. But if vinegar isn’t available, you can use baking soda, lemon juice, denture tablets, borax, hydrogen peroxide, or even vodka!

Do You Need a Maid Service?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Why Clean Your Coffee Maker?

Regular maintenance is important to keep any appliance in good working order. Coffee makers are no exception! Frequent cleaning will prolong the life of your machine and improve the taste of your coffee.

How often do you clean your coffee maker? Experts say that 50% of household coffee makers contain bacteria, yeast, or mold. And you thought the only extras in your coffee were sugar and cream; yuck! Ideally, you should perform a deep clean about once a month. This can remove debris, eliminate funky growth, and decalcify your coffee pot to remove mineral deposits from hard water.

Mold loves to grow in dark and moist conditions, so the inside of a coffee maker is a fertile breeding ground. The residue of natural oils from coffee beans and even the grounds themselves can accumulate inside your coffee maker.

But What About Vinegar?

Vinegar is a great natural cleaner. It removes residue, kills mold and bacteria, is non-toxic, and affordable. You can use it for a variety of cleaning tasks throughout your home.

So why not use it? Some people are averse to the strong smell of vinegar. The taste can also linger in your coffee pot or on other surfaces after cleaning. This lingering taste can end up leaving a bad taste in some peoples’ mouths. (Literally.)

Maybe you don’t have any vinegar on hand. Not to worry, there are many other effective solutions! Just make sure to stick to natural cleaners. Chemicals like bleach can be hard on your machine and are harmful to ingest, even in small quantities.

Just like vinegar, all of these cleaning ideas are non-toxic and budget-friendly. Who says you have to break the bank to have a sparkling clean kitchen and home?

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker Without Vinegar

Dish Soap

This one is partly a no-brainer. You should be washing all of the removable pieces of your coffee maker each time you use it.

This includes the coffee pot, filter basket, and drip tray. Don’t forget to also wipe the warming plate where coffee drips. Of course, this step is less about germs and more about burning coffee smells.

If you’re handy, you might want to take your deep clean a step further. First, you can disassemble the coffee maker to your level of comfort. Next, hand wash each piece individually in warm soapy water and let them dry completely before reassembling.

If any tight crevices are hiding coffee grounds or residue, you can soak them in a bin of soapy water. Then you can scrub out the gunk with a bottle-cleaning brush or old toothbrush.

Once you reassemble the coffee maker, run a brew cycle with just water. This will ensure that all the soap is gone and that you’ve reassembled the coffee maker correctly! Leave the lid of the water chamber open to allow any excess moisture to evaporate, preventing mold.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural and powerful odor eliminator. It’s alkaline, unlike vinegar, which is acidic. However, similar to vinegar, it functions as an affordable, non-toxic cleaning solution.

To clean your coffee maker, dissolve ¼ cup of baking soda in warm water, and start a brew cycle. Make sure to dissolve the solution completely before running it through the machine. Otherwise, the coffee maker could get clogged with clumps.

Baking soda is gently abrasive, so it can help remove stubborn stains from coffee pots. After running the baking soda brew, run two cycles of just water to make sure it’s all clear.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice has an acidity about equal to vinegar. But, some people prefer the smell of lemon to the smell of vinegar, making it a much more appealing choice.

To clean your coffee maker, mix ⅓ lemon juice and ⅔ water in the water tank. Run one brew cycle with this mixture and two cycles with just water. Otherwise, your coffee may have a lemony taste to it, although you might like this hint of extra flavor.

Fun fact: Italians often drink their coffee with a lemon twist. It can help cut bitterness (and looks very festive)!

Denture Tablets

A surprising choice, yet quite effective! You know they’re safe to use in a coffee maker because they clean something that goes in your mouth.

Dissolve two tablets completely in water, pour the mixture into the water tank, and run through a brew cycle. Denture tablets are suitable for cleaning stubborn mineral deposits. If you want to clean the carafe, you can also put a tablet into the coffee pot and fill it with warm water. Scrub gently with an old, soft toothbrush or cloth.


Borax is another household cleaner with many uses, though people use it mostly for laundry. To use it in the coffee maker, dissolve one tablespoon of borax for each cup of water.

Then, pour the mixture into the water tank. Run the coffee maker through a brew cycle once with this mixture and then twice with just water.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is great at killing bacteria, which is why many people use it to treat cuts and scrapes. Fun fact: it actually kills both good and bad bacteria, so it’s best to use alcohol for first aid instead. Our bodies need the good bacteria to heal!

To use hydrogen peroxide to clean your coffee maker, combine two cups of water with one cup of hydrogen peroxide. Run the peroxide mixture through a brew cycle and rinse with two water-only brew cycles.


Usually, a morning cup of coffee is the cure for too much vodka, but now the tables have turned. Let vodka help out your coffee for a chance!

Vodka is an effective cleaning agent because it’s an alcohol with low odor and high alcohol content. Some people even use it as a dry-cleaning spray to launder garments they can’t wash with water.

For your coffee maker, fill a quarter of the tank with vodka (it’s okay to use the cheap stuff). Then, fill the remainder of the tank with water. Run one brew cycle of the vodka solution. Follow up with two brew cycles of only water so your coffee won’t taste like booze in the morning.

Do You Need a Maid Service?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Related Questions

How do I clean my Keurig coffee maker?

Cleaning a Keurig is not as straightforward as cleaning a traditional drip coffee maker. There are many hidden parts and pieces by design. The less you see and have access to, the easier it is daily to make a cup of coffee. But cleaning it properly isn’t any less important!Keurig recommends that you change the water tank filter every two months. Even though clean water is the only thing that goes in there, you still want to keep it fresh. You can buy a package of these filters for $15 for a pack of six. The manual advises cleaning the general buildup inside every 3-6 months. You can use their descaling solution ($15 for a single-use bottle) or one of the methods above. The main ingredient of their cleaner is citric acid, which is also prevalent in lemon juice.You should wash removable parts like the tray after every use, or at least once a week. You can clean the needle as needed with their special needle cleaning tool. At approximately $3, it’s a worthwhile investment.

How do I clean my french press coffee maker?

This gadget is more straightforward and doesn’t have any hidden internal parts. Therefore, it’s less likely to build up mold and mildew. However, buildup is still possible.You should rinse your french press thoroughly with hot water after use. If you start to see brown residue around the sides, it’s time for a deep clean. Scrub all parts with baking soda, water, and a scrub brush. Remember to leave the top off so the carafe and pump can both dry thoroughly.

What if I just need to clean the coffee pot, not the whole coffee maker?

To remove stains and scale from mineral deposits, try using salt and ice water.In the carafe, combine table salt and ice. Fill up the carafe with water, leaving a little room to mix. Swish, stir, agitate, and rub a cloth or soft brush against the side. This process will help dislodge buildup and descale the coffee pot. Rinse and wash the carafe in the dishwasher or hand wash it based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

More by Stacy Randall