The complete kettle washing archive

We move from saving the planet to a subject of much more immediate urgency.

A while back I did a little experiment to determine whether it was more energy efficient to heat water on the stovetop or in the microwave. The microwave was the clear winner, but many commenters suggested that I should really consider an even more efficient device, the electric kettle.

This past Christmas, our kids gave us an electric kettle, and we’ve been happily using it for all our water-boiling needs ever since. But recently I’ve begun to wonder what the maintenance requirements for such a device were. Little did I know, this is a controversial topic. Innocently enough, I started a twitter discussion on the subject. This post attempts to chronicle the entire debate:

# davemunger
A question for the brits: how often do you wash your electric teapot? 9:00 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck

# Evidence Matters
@davemunger If by teapot, you mean electric kettle, I clean mine 2x a week & descale it 1x 4 weeks. 9:03 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# davemunger
.@EvidenceMatters I mean the electric gizmo that I use to heat water for coffee/tea 9:05 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck

# labratting
@davemunger … what is an electric teapot! You have just made me realise that I’ve never actually washed my kettle though… 9:04 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# LouiseJJohnson
@davemunger If you mean electric kettle, never (except to descale it now I live in hard water area). It only ever has boiling water in! 9:06 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# EvidenceMatters
@davemunger Good – that’s what I thought you meant so previous figures stand for my kettles. 9:06 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# davemunger
Oops, sorry, I used the wrong term. How often do you wash your electric kettle? 9:07 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck

# LouiseJJohnson
@davemunger I know people who insist that you shouldn’t wash teapots ever either. I think they hope, eventually, not to need teabags anymore 9:08 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# JonSatriani
@davemunger London water requires I give mine a pretty good sluicing about once a week. 9:09 AM Feb 23rd via Echofon in reply to davemunger

# labratting
@davemunger ah right. In that case: I have never washed my electric kettle. But a) it’s only one year old and b) I’m an undergrad. 9:09 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# YoniFreedhoff
@davemunger People wash electric kettles? 9:10 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck in reply to davemunger

# EvidenceMatters
@LouiseJJohnson @davemunger I should, perhaps, declare that I take both tea & coffee w/out milk so a tad careful @ water/kettle/pots. 9:10 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to LouiseJJohnson

# arinapz
@davemunger Never. Well, unless the water’s really hard and I need to use vinegar to get the residue off. Should I be washing it? 9:11 AM Feb 23rd via Seesmic in reply to davemunger

# davemunger
Let’s clarify further: If you only use your electric kettle to boil water and you don’t have hard water, should you ever wash it? 9:13 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck

# YoniFreedhoff
@davemunger Do you wash your home’s pipes? 9:14 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck in reply to davemunger

# mentalindigest
Good grief! OCD much? ;-) RT @EvidenceMatters: @davemunger If … you mean electric kettle, I clean mine 2x a week & descale it 1x 4 weeks. 9:15 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck

# EvidenceMatters
@davemunger Yes. There is a nasty film build-up even in absence of obvious hard-water deposits. You also need to clear bacteria 1/2 9:15 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# labratting
@davemunger I don’t see the point in washing it. It *boils water*. Anything that comes out is going to be sterile almost by definition. 9:15 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# davemunger
@YoniFreedhoff No, and I don’t wash my kettle either. But I was wondering what the custom was. Getting quite a variety of responses! 9:16 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck in reply to YoniFreedhoff

# EvidenceMatters
@davemunger from standing empty/lukewarm between uses if you use water at diff. temps for diff. teas & coffees. In my opinion. 2/2 9:16 AM Feb 23rd via web in reply to davemunger

# YoniFreedhoff
@davemunger It seems rather crazy to me to wash something that boils water. What do people think survives the next boil? 9:17 AM Feb 23rd via TweetDeck in reply to davemunger

# SciencePunk
@davemunger What are you supposed to wash it with?? 9:18 AM Feb 23rd via Echofon

davemunger Wow, quite a debate going on the electric kettle question. Do we need a hashtag? #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:17:58 +0000 – tweet id 9527198069 – 1 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:17:58

mentalindigest @davemunger Well…you bring up kettles and the Brits will have something (A LOT) to say on the matter ;-) #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:19:00 +0000 – tweet id 9527237506 – 2 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:19:00

michaelmeadon @davemunger I’d say wash it once a year or something #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:19:27 +0000 – tweet id 9527254898 – 3 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:19:27

davemunger @YoniFreedhoff I’m with you. But they say you need to boil several minutes to purify water, & a kettle brings just to a boil #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:20:39 +0000 – tweet id 9527301843 – 4 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:20:39

LeighJKBoerner @davemunger I’ve had mine for…how long have I been in grad school now? 5 years. I’ve never washed it and I’m not dead yet. #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:21:00 +0000 – tweet id 9527315120 – 5 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:21:00

LouiseJJohnson @davemunger Depends how often you use it, perhaps? I boil mine every few hours so water never sits around in it. #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:21:06 +0000 – tweet id 9527319026 – 6 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:21:06

mentalindigest @EvidenceMatters Then I understand ;-) I’m in soft water, and hardy environmentals building up in my kettle don’t worry me #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:22:00 +0000 – tweet id 9527352950 – 7 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:22:00

hashtager # Wow, quite a debate going on the electric kettle question. Do we need a hashtag? #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:22:28 +0000 – tweet id 9527371179 – 8 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:22:28

davemunger What I’ve learned from the #kettlewashing debate so far: You can justify pretty much any practice when it comes to boiling water
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:25:21 +0000 – tweet id 9527481961 – 9 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:25:21

“LeighJKBoerner @davemunger Since you bring the water to a boil, I don’t see why you’d need to “”wash”” aka disinfect it. #kettlewashing”
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:25:23 +0000 – tweet id 9527483556 – 10 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:25:23

labratting @mentalindigest I’m on hard water, but I’m pretty sure limescale won’t kill me, and I honestly have better things to do. #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:28:50 +0000 – tweet id 9527614536 – 11 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:28:50

davemunger @EvidenceMatters I take it you have a deluxe model that allows you to specify the temp. We don’t have such luxuries in the US #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:29:37 +0000 – tweet id 9527644638 – 12 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:29:37

davemunger @samplereality I think #MarksDEAD2011 could benefit from a plenary session on the social dynamics of online #kettlewashing debates
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:33:45 +0000 – tweet id 9527809873 – 13 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:33:45

davemunger @EvidenceMatters So if you’re serving immunocompromised people and don’t boil the water, regular #kettlewashing is a must. No argument there
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:36:34 +0000 – tweet id 9527918027 – 14 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:36:34

davemunger @EvidenceMatters But if your water supply is okay, is there any way for hardy pathogens to get introduced into the kettle? #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:40:38 +0000 – tweet id 9528075647 – 15 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:40:38

mentalindigest Cleaning kettles can be dangerous though (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5635891) lol #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:41:22 +0000 – tweet id 9528104338 – 16 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:41:22

davemunger LO freaking L. I’m dying here RT @mentalindigest: Cleaning kettles can be dangerous though (http://is.gd/90nEz) lol #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 14:42:29 +0000 – tweet id 9528148064 – 17 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 09:42:29

mentalindigest @EvidenceMatters I have WASHED my kettle. Just saying. #kettlewashing
Tue, 23 Feb 2010 23:15:04 +0000 – tweet id 9547789320 – 18 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-23 18:15:04

EvidenceMatters Well, that’s reassuring :) rt @mentalindigest I have WASHED my kettle. Just saying. #kettlewashing
Wed, 24 Feb 2010 08:11:45 +0000 – tweet id 9567391775 – 19 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-24 03:11:45

EvidenceMatters Seriously tho’ – following yesterday’s discussion initiated by @davemunger – am I really the only person who goes in for #kettlewashing ?
Wed, 24 Feb 2010 08:12:57 +0000 – tweet id 9567419109 – 20 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-24 03:12:57

prateekbuch does d-scaling count? RT @EvidenceMatters: that’s reassuring :) rt @mentalindigest I have WASHED my kettle. Just saying. #kettlewashing
Wed, 24 Feb 2010 08:13:01 +0000 – tweet id 9567420447 – 21 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-24 03:13:01

davemunger @EvidenceMatters There were a couple others. Maybe I should publish the complete #kettlewashing archive (including pre-hashtag posts)
Wed, 24 Feb 2010 12:15:48 +0000 – tweet id 9573185969 – 22 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-24 07:15:48

EvidenceMatters @davemunger It would make me feel less alone *half-sob, half-laughter* #kettlewashing
Wed, 24 Feb 2010 12:17:54 +0000 – tweet id 9573247588 – 23 – geo info [ 0 0] – 2010-02-24 07:17:54

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One Response to The complete kettle washing archive

  1. Anne says:

    Awesome! A much needed laugh.

    If you don’t make tea daily/boil water daily, I do think there’s a sanitation issue, but..

    What I really meant to say is that you should ask them if they’re pre-lactaters (i.e., if they take milk or cream, do they insist–as purists seem to–on putting the milk in first) or not: that’s a whole other controversy!!!

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