How to clean a coffee percolator – the easy tips that experts swear by

You probably already have the best cleaning tools in your cupboard

How to clean a coffee percolator: Cuisinart's coffee percolator on a blue tray with cups of coffee and a spoon with sugar cubes on around it
(Image credit: Cuisinart)

Knowing how to clean a coffee percolator properly can extend the life of your coffee maker as well as improving the quality of your coffee. You don't need to invest lots of money and time into upkeep, vinegar and baking soda will have you covered.

I don't even want to count up how many hours (more like days and weeks) of my life that I've spent cleaning coffee makers. I've perfected my home hacks and cleaning techniques, but I spoke with other baristas and cleaning experts to give you a big picture of how the experts clean coffee makers.

Here's everything you need to know about how to clean a coffee percolator, from how often to deep clean, home remedies, and expert tips and tricks. Follow these simple steps and you'll be able to enjoy endless amounts of delicious coffee.

How to clean a coffee percolator

Cuisinart Classic Percolator

(Image credit: Amazon)

To keep on top of your percolator, you'll need to clean it with soap and water immediately after use, whilst it's still warm. This doesn't need to be anything elaborate, but it's preventative, so will help reduce how often you need to deep clean and remove stains. Plus, it'll slow any build-up of old coffee grounds, oils, and bacteria. 

Kayla Stavridis, a former barista, recommends 'unplugging your electric percolator and allowing it to cool. Then disassemble all parts that come into contact with coffee grounds or water.' She recommends rinsing them using a gentle detergent. I would recommend Ecover and Method (both available at Walmart).

Fill the percolator pot with warm water and add a few drops of mild detergent. Fir the basket and stem into the pot and leave them to soak. Then, Stavridis recommends 'using a sponge or brush to scrub all the parts gently. Pay special attention to the filter basket and tube, as these areas can accumulate coffee oils and residue.' She also recommends investing in some long bottle brushes I have this bamboo bottle brush set from Walmart and they're brilliant for cleaning all my kitchen appliances. You can use the narrow brushes to reach inside the percolator's tube as well as the base or any small crevices in your percolator.

Then, rinse all the parts under warm water so that there's no soap left. Dry them with a gentle microfiber cloth or let them air dry before you reassemble your percolator. 

How to deep clean using vinegar or lemon

A glass bottle with a stainless steel funnel in the opening with a sliced lemon and teaspoon of baking soda around it

(Image credit: Ivan Bajic via Getty Images)

Every one to two months you should do a deep clean of your percolator. Luckily, you can clean your coffee percolator with vinegar or lemon, both of which you probably already have in your kitchen. 

If you're cleaning with vinegar, fill your percolator with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Kayla says 'If you're wary of the smell of vinegar, lemon juice is an effective, fragrant solution for descaling, you can follow the same process as you would with vinegar.' 

Brew your lemon or vinegar solution like coffee and then let it sit for a quarter of an hour. Kayla, says that 'not only will this help to remove stubborn coffee oils, but it will also dissolve mineral build-up.' 

Make sure to rinse your coffee maker thoroughly afterward. Kayla recommends brewing a pot of plain water to ensure no vinegar tastes seep into your coffee.

How to remove tough stains using baking soda

A pair of hands pouring baking soda to a water cup

(Image credit: Marcus Chung via Getty Images)

If you have some stubborn stains, experts recommend using a baking soda scrub. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so balances leaving your percolator intact with working off any tough marks. To make a soda scrub, Jee Chloe, an SCA-certified coffee expert says 'Mix baking soda with water so that it is a toothpaste thickness. gently rub it on tough spots.' 

If you don't stay on top of this cleaning, Jee says you'll 'quickly find that your coffee will have a bitter, muddled flavor or, even worse, an unpleasant metallic taste. We've all been there,' she says 'I cringe at my all-nighters in college where I would leave my percolator soaking in old coffee grounds. Thankfully, now my coffee maker is an object of flory and meticulous cleaning.' 

Rocky Vuong, founder of Calibre Cleaning, has an alternative, whacky tip for the most stubborn stains. He says 'Try denture tablets (available at Amazon). I know it's odd, but the fizzing action is surprisingly effective for tough crud'. It's one of many surprising things you can clean with denture tablets.

Laura Honey
eCommerce Editor

Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.