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26 Aug 2021

Smelly kettle? What to do if your kettle makes water taste bad

Baffled by a peculiar smell or taste in your kettle? Here's how you can try to fix it.

Does your kettle make water smell and taste awful? Find out what could be causing it, and get tips to help you try and fix the problem.

The issue of smelly kettles is one we've been trying to solve for years, and it's a lot more complicated than it may seem. It could be caused by your kettle, your water supply, or even a combination of the two.

Thankfully none of the funky smells coming out of your kettle are a danger to your health, so at worst you'll have to put up with a few iffy cups of tea before the problem is resolved.

On the hunt for a new kettle? Take a look at our Best Buy kettles to find out which models we'd recommend.

Could your kettle be the problem?

Smelly kettles are a far more common problem than you might think. In our recent product experience survey on small kitchen appliances, a handful of respondents told us that they had issues with their kettle developing a strange smell in the last few years.

Judging by the results of our survey, it's more common in some brands than others, although a large number of brands were affected.

If your kettle has any loose plastic parts inside, it could be worth removing those and boiling it again to see if they're part of the problem.

Many brands use plastic water level indicators that can be taken out without damaging the kettle - although double-check this won't void your warranty before you do it.

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What to try if you have a smelly kettle

There are a few different things you can try if your kettle starts to smell a bit funny.

1. Thoroughly clean your kettle

Your first port of call when faced with a funky scent is to give your kettle a good deep clean. Remove any build-up from the inside, give it a good scrub and make sure there's nothing in there that shouldn't be.

Rogue limescale won't usually have a distinct smell, but it can make your water taste funny and give it an unexpected crunch if left untreated for too long. Descaling your kettle can make a huge difference, so head to our guide onhow to descale your kettle for more info.

2. Try using filtered water

A water filter will help remove any impurities that are making your kettle smell weird. They're a cheaper alternative to using bottled water and just as effective.

If you do decide to start using filtered water in your kettle, make sure you look after your water filter jug to avoid the problem happening again. Clean your water filter jug regularly - white vinegar is good for this, and ordinary washing-up liquid and water are fine too. You should also replace the filter regularly, as per the manufacturer's instructions.

3. Use tap water - but leave it to stand first

Water companies add chlorine to our drinking water to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases. It isn't dangerous to drink, but it is one of many things that could contribute to a smelly kettle.

To remove the taste or smell of chlorine from your water, some water companies recommend storing it in a covered container in your fridge before using it. Which? scientist Monika Gil says the chlorine will evaporate more quickly at room temperature, and even more so if you put the water in a container with a wide opening, such as a jug. Cover the container with a clean cloth or another breathable material rather than an airtight cover.

Leaving your water to stand for a few hours like this will allow any excess chlorine to evaporate but it won't kill any bacteria - in fact, the lack of chlorine can cause bacteria to build up after 24 hours, so be sure not to leave the water for too long before using it in your kettle.

Inspired to give everything in your kitchen a deep clean? Here are eight things you really shouldn't clean with vinegar.

What else causes smelly water?

There are many other things that could contribute to your water starting to smell. According to Thames Water, different odours can point to different issues, for example:

  • A chlorine smell or taste can be a result of (perfectly safe) changes in treatment at your local water plant.
  • An earthy or musty scent can be caused by high numbers of harmless micro-organisms which occur naturally in all water types, especially if your home has been empty for a while. Run your cold taps for five minutes to allow old water to pass through and use your water on a regular basis.
  • A TCP taste or smell can happen when chlorine in the water reacts with certain materials, including some plastic parts in kettles. Thames water advises filling, boiling and emptying new kettles twice before you use them to prevent this happening.

If there has been any disturbance to your pipework, you may experience issues with your water for a few hours. If it doesn't return to normal after running your tap for two to three minutes, you should contact your local water board to report the problem.

For more info on keeping your kettle squeaky clean, head to our guide on how to descale a kettle.

Know your consumer rights

Experiencing an issue when boiling water can be really frustrating, but even if you're not 100% clear on what's causing the problem, you might be able to return your kettle.

  • Approach the retailer where you purchased your kettle.If the fault lies with your kettle, it could well be in breach of the 2015 Consumer Rights Act, which states that anything we purchase must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described.
  • Explain the problem and ask for a refund.You can use our faulty goods complaint tool to create a complaint letter. After you purchase your kettle, you have a 30 day 'right to reject' period in which you can claim a refund, repair or replacement if it turns out to be faulty.
  • Know your consumer rights.Even if you've owned your kettle for more than 30 days you might still be eligible for a repair or replacement. If you've had it for less than six months, the retailer must give you a full refund if a repair or replacement isn't possible.

Ended up with a faulty product? Find out how to get a refund, repair or replacement.