How to Clean a Percolator?

If you have been feeling like the quality of your percolator coffee is dropping for no reason lately, it might be just the right time to do some cleaning. Even though it isn’t something that is thought about often, your percolator being dirty can negatively affect your brew in multiple ways.

Keeping your percolator clean will ensure that you always get a freshly brewed cup of coffee, and prolong the lifespan of your percolator at the same time.

Don’t know where to start? We got you covered.

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Percolator?

First things first, let’s dive deeper into why cleaning your percolator is very important.

Even though percolators are mostly made of stainless steel which allows them to last a long time, not cleaning your percolator after every brew will cause your percolator to eventually have coffee stains, coffee oil buildup, and limescale buildup.

If you end up getting coffee stains and coffee oil buildup (which is inevitable if you don’t clean regularly) in your percolator, you’ll notice that there are some spots of unpleasant discoloration, along with the smell of old coffee. This can cause your freshly brewed coffee to smell bad, and taste more bitter than usual. In extreme cases, the buildup could cause your filter basket to be clogged.

On the other hand, limescale buildup isn’t related to coffee, but water instead. Depending on the hardness of the water you are using, scale buildup can accumulate in your percolator due to hard water containing high amounts of magnesium and calcium. This kind of buildup will also give your coffee a bad taste, and eventually may damage your percolator if left uncleaned. Allowing a thick layer of limescale to form will cause corrosion which erodes the metal, reducing the lifespan of your percolator drastically.

Cleaning Your Percolator

Cleaning your percolator is quite straightforward, and can easily be done with simple household objects. If you’ve been putting off cleaning your percolator just because you thought it requires special cleaning products, now is a good time to take action and give your percolator a good cleaning.

We will be talking about two different kinds of cleaning, one which you should be performing after every brew, and another which you should perform roughly once a month.

Regular Cleaning

To start, we will be talking about regular cleaning which is supposed to be done after every brew. This will ensure that your percolator stays clean with no leftover coffee remnants inside.

  1. The most important thing to do is to clean your percolator as soon as you’re done with it. Letting your percolator stay with used coffee grounds and liquid inside for a long period of time will cause coffee stains to appear which will be harder to clean later on. By simply discarding the excess coffee liquid and grounds right after you’re finished with your coffee, the cleaning process becomes much easier.
  2. After your percolator is free of old coffee, it’s time to give it a good wash. If you’re using an electric percolator, make sure that you unplug it before you do anything else, and never submerge your percolator in water. Fill the percolator with water and some soap, and scrub the insides gently with the help of a sponge. Keep rinsing until the water inside is completely free of soap.
  3. Next up is the filter basket. Since coffee grounds come into direct contact with the filter basket, the basket will usually end up quite oily and dirty. Once again, with the help of some water, soap, and a sponge, gently wipe the filter basket until it’s completely clean. The filter part of the basket can be damaged easily, so make sure that you aren’t using something with a hard surface to wipe it.
  4. The perk tube is another component that needs cleaning. If you don’t know what the perk tube is, it’s basically the tube that goes through the percolator and holds the filter basket in place. Just like you have done before, wipe gently with your sponge, ensuring that there aren’t any coffee grounds stuck inside or around it.
  5. To finish off, give a quick wipe to the lid and the outer part of the percolator with your sponge. These parts don’t get too dirty, but cleaning them after every brew is still good practice to keep your percolator clean and shiny. If you wish, you can use a towel to dry your percolator off when you’re done.

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning is something you should do every now and then, and usually, deep cleaning your percolator once a month should be good enough. This process helps to get rid of any buildup which might have formed over time.

You will require baking soda and vinegar for this process.

  1. If your percolator isn’t clean, start by cleaning it as we have talked about in the regular cleaning section. Fill your percolator completely with water, and turn it on as if you were brewing a pot of coffee. Hot water will help the cleaning process by loosening the buildup, so allow your percolator to go through the process until it’s finished. When it’s done, you can proceed by getting rid of the water inside.
  2. Add some soap on your sponge, and give a quick wipe to your percolator with the help of some warm water.
  3. Fill the percolator with water once again, and add baking soda. Adding some baking soda into the filter basket will ensure that your filter basket is thoroughly cleaned as well. While the amount of baking soda you should use depends on the size of your percolator, roughly 50 grams in total should do the trick. Once again, start the brewing process, and wait until it’s done. When it’s done, dump the water.
  4. Now, will be doing the same thing with vinegar. Fill half of your percolator with water, and the other half with vinegar. Turn your percolator on, let it finish brewing, and get rid of the water.
  5. Finally, run one last cycle with just water as we have done in the first step in order to get rid of the vinegar smell.

The reason for using both baking soda and vinegar is to clean both the acidic (coffee) and the alkaline (limescale) components of the dirt inside. Since vinegar is acidic, it reacts with limescale and decalcifies your percolator. On the other hand, baking soda is alkaline, which allows it to react with coffee stains and oils.

How Often Should You Clean Your Percolator?

You should clean your percolator after every brew, as soon as you’re done drinking your coffee. The sooner you get around to cleaning your percolator, the easier it becomes to get rid of the dirt. Cleaning regularly also acts as a preventative measure, meaning that you won’t be troubled by issues caused by a dirty percolator as often (if at all) as someone who doesn’t clean regularly.

On top of this, you should ensure that deep cleaning becomes a part of your routine once a month in order to keep your percolator in top shape. 

Depending on how often you clean your percolator, it may eventually become very hard to get rid of some part of the buildup by just regular cleaning, which is where deep cleaning comes into play.

How to Clean a Percolator Basket

The percolator basket is the most sensitive part of the percolator, as the built-in filter should be handled with care in order to keep it in good condition. It’s also the part of the percolator which gathers the largest amount of dirt due to its contact with coffee grounds. As if those weren’t enough, it’s the part of the percolator that should be kept in top shape at all times as a clogged filter basket can ruin your coffee.

If you regularly clean your percolator, you most likely won’t have too many problems here. On the other hand, if you don’t clean regularly, and you don’t really feel like deep cleaning your percolator just yet, deep cleaning your percolator basket might save the day.

With all these things in mind, you may be wondering the best way to clean your percolator basket, and luckily, the answer is actually rather simple.

By leaving your filter basket in a bowl full of hot water and baking soda mixture for a while, you can loosen the buildup to a point where it will become much easier to manage if not completely gone already.

How to Clean an Old Fashioned Percolator

While the process remains the same as we have mentioned in a previous section, cleaning an old fashioned (non-electric) percolator is easier than cleaning an electric one. Since there are no electrical components to be worried about, you can simply submerge the percolator into the soapy water if you wish, which speeds the process up and makes it easier to clean.

Another thing you can do here which isn’t possible with an electric percolator is leaving your percolator in the cleaning mixture for a certain period amount of time in order to loosen the dirt, making the cleaning process even easier for you.


Cleaning your percolator is an important part of an enjoyable coffee experience, and it’s also a lot simpler than a lot of people think. With simple household goods, it’s possible to give your percolator a thorough cleaning, ensuring that your next brew turns out perfect.

While cleaning may prove to be too much work at times, keeping on top of it will make your life easier in the long run by keeping your percolator healthy and ready to go.