December 17

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker Without Vinegar: 5 Powerful Substitutes

Written by: Kristina


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If you love your cup of joe as much as I do, then chances are you can sniff an imperfection in your morning’s brew way before you’ve even poured it. 

While vinegar is one of the best cleaning agents to use in your kitchen, it can also leave behind a distinct vinegar scent. And when that scent sneaks into your coffee, it can make for an unpleasant cup. 

If coffee in the morning is a priority for you, then a great cleaning routine for your coffee maker should also top your list. Today, I’ve got five tips on how to get a super clean machine without using vinegar. 

5 Vinegar Alternatives to Clean Your Coffee Maker 

1. Lemon Juice


Get the squeaky clean power of vinegar by using lemon juice instead. Lemon juice works the same way that vinegar does because of its citric power. To clean your coffee maker with lemon juice, you’ll use the same method that you would with vinegar. 

Fill your reservoir with one part water and one part lemon juice and run it through your coffee maker on a regular brew cycle. If you have heavy limescale buildup, then you can run straight lemon juice through your machine instead.


After running the lemon juice through your machine, run one or two cycles of pure distilled water to remove any lingering trace of lemon. 

The acidic property of the lemon will work to remove the limescale buildup, all while giving you a really pleasant and uplifting scent. You can even bottle one part distilled water and one part lemon juice in a spray bottle to use on the outside of your coffee maker as well.

For routine cleaning, run a diluted mixture of lemon juice once or twice a month.

2. Soap and Warm Water Solution


Sometimes, all you need for a fantastic cleaning routine is to stick with a good soapy solution. 

A warm soapy scrub-down of your carafe, lid, and filter will help you get rid of any coffee buildup in your machine. For this method to be the most effective, clean your coffee machine out after every use to avoid tough buildup. 

Letting your brew sit in the coffee maker for an extended period of time will make it harder for you to get the coffee grinds out. You can make your life even easier by throwing the carafe in the dishwasher. All the other removable parts in your coffee machine are not dishwasher safe unless your manual states otherwise. 

To keep limescale build up away, you can even run a brew of distilled water through your coffee maker twice a week. This will ensure that your coffee maker is running as good as new with no funky lingering odors.

3. Borax


Borax is a great substitute for vinegar if you need to descale your coffee maker. Borax, or sodium borate, is a soft and colorless powder that dissolves moderately well in warm/hot water.

It’s a great cleaning product to use around your house because it gets rid of mold and mildew and it doesn't leave behind a chemical residue (as long as you make sure it's completely dissolved prior to using). 

When it comes to your coffee maker, borax can be a great option to go with because it neutralizes hard water and gets rid of odors, two things any coffee maker will desperately need throughout its lifespan.  

Cleaning your coffee maker with borax is super simple and it works best for hard to clean coffee makers like Keurigs.

1) Find out how many cups your coffee maker's water reservoir holds. 

2) In a heat-safe container, warm up this same quantity of distilled water to somewhere between 80-100°F (DO NOT BOIL! as borax vapors are harmful if inhaled).

3) Add in about 2 tablespoons of borax into the container and mix until completely dissolved.

4) Once dissolved, run a brew cycle. As the borax runs through your machine, it will work to descale the way vinegar would without that sharp, vinegar odor. 

5) Once your brew is done, use distilled water to run three or four more cycles to ensure you’ve removed any lingering trace of the borax. 

**This method can be a little cumbersome because you’re going to be running the brew cycle about four or five times, but you’ll get a squeaky clean machine every time.

Plus, it helps that you’ll only need to run this method about once a month on your coffee machine.

4. Descale with Baking Soda


Baking soda works much like borax in helping you descale your coffee maker. And much like vinegar, baking soda is one of the most versatile and powerful cleaning agents to use in the home. 

The process of cleaning your coffee maker using baking soda is very simple and straightforward. Start by mixing together 1 cup of warm water with 1/4 cup of baking soda. Pour this mixture into the reservoir and brew a regular cycle. 

Once the cycle is complete, run another cycle using distilled water to help get rid of any lingering baking soda. This simple mixture is powerful enough to use on the inside of your coffee pot, as well as on the outside of your machine.

5. Hydrogen Peroxide


Hydrogen peroxide is better known for its properties as a great medical disinfectant, but those same disinfectant properties can be used on your kitchen appliances. Hydrogen peroxide works to kill bacterial buildup and can be helpful in removing lingering odors in your coffee maker. 

Mix together one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts warm distilled water. Put this solution inside your coffee maker's reservoir and brew a regular cycle. Any lingering bacteria and gunk will be killed on contact. For coffee makers that have harsher buildup, you can run a second cycle with peroxide. 

After you have finished your hydrogen peroxide cycle, run two or three cycles using distilled water. You can even run a cycle using lemon juice if you want to offset any odors you might encounter from the cleaning. While hydrogen peroxide is odorless, you may encounter a slight odor from heavy mineral buildup. 

If you are going to clean the outside of your coffee maker using a hydrogen peroxide mix, just be sure to wipe it down afterwards using distilled water.

In Conclusion


Vinegar is no doubt a powerful cleaning tool, but for some people, the smell can be a little too much. There are some great alternatives that are perfect for cleaning your coffee maker. I hope you find these equally powerful cleaning tips helpful if you're someone who wants to clean their coffee maker without using vinegar. 

Do you have some hacks that you use for cleaning your coffee maker? Be sure to share your routine with me in the comments section below!




About the author

Kristina is a world-traveling foodie whose mission is to explore and recreate the most delicious cuisine. While still an avid traveler, Kristina has taken culinary refuge in the great country of the Czech Republic. When she isn't nannying or exploring the beautiful city of Prague, she's sharing her favorite recipes on the web.

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  1. Warning! Borax does not dissolve easily in distilled water. It's critical to FIRST heat water, then add borax in a separate bowl and stir it thoroughly until it's fully dissolved BEFORE adding to the coffee maker –– otherwise it will likely turn hard as a rock and settle inside your pot and ruin it. If you do that first, it's the best for cleaning the maker.

    1. Hey Jon,

      Huge thanks for the intel! I’ll include this in the borax section! Really appreciate you saying something.



    2. I’ve updated the article. Please let me know if this accounts for the poor solubility of borax in cold water.

      Thanks again!


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