A few Christmases ago, Papa Bear and I were lucky enough to be given a teasmade as one of our gifts. It is a reconditioned vintage Goblin model, much like the one in the picture above. We think it's great! It makes our mornings so much pleasanter - the teasmade has an alarm in it (which is very loud) and it goes off when the water has boiled and filled the teapot - all ready to be covered with a cosy and stew whilse we do our Bible study and morning prayers! It's so much nicer than having to get up (especially in the dark and cold of midwinter) and go downstairs to make the tea. I'm so glad that we have it. But recently it had started to malfunction. When the kettle boiled, the water pressure wouldn't get high enough to force it through the narrow spout into the teapot, which meant that the alarm didn't go off (it is triggered when the teapot is full of water). Instead, we would be woken by a sort of spluttering sound, as the water bubbled and boiled, but never managed to gush from the kettle into the teapot. There was obviously a problem!
Papa Bear had a good look at it, and said that he thought what was happening was that the kettle had become furred with limescale (we live in a part of the country where the water is very hard indeed) and that because of this, the narrow pipe that the water has to be forced down to get from the kettle into the teapot, had become too clogged for the water to travel down. In short it needed to be descaled.
Now normally, descaling a kettle is a simple procedure. In fact because we live in such a hard water area, I do regularly descale our ordinary kettle. It's easy to see that it is getting scaled, and all I do is place a sachet of descaling liquid in the kettle, boil it, then let it sit for a while before rinsing it and reboiling it a couple of times. No trouble at all! The teasmade kettle is different, however. For a start, the lid that the water is poured into to fill it, is very narrow and small - which means that you cannot actually see properly into the kettle nor reach into it to clean it. More importantly, because the kettle relies on a build up of pressure caused by the steam from the boiling water to force it from the kettle into the teapot without it having to be poured manually, it would be dangerous to put regular descaling powder into it - as this froths and foams as it does its job. If we tried to descale the teasmade kettle using this, it might possibly cause a miniature explosion! So what could we try instead?
Papa Bear came up with a great suggestion! I've written before about all the different helpful ways that you can use vinegar around your home as a cleaning agent and sanitiser. It's a cheap and natural way to clean many things, and it also has a natural descaling quality, becuase as an acid, it reacts against the hard water and dissolves the limescale deposits, which is alkaline. Because it isn't a man-made, corrosive chemical like commerical descaling products, it is much safer to use, especially in kettles and such that you are going to be using to prepare food or drink with. He suggested that I use some white vinegar to descale the kettle - and in addition, get a pipecleaner, soak it in neat vinegar, and then thread it through the narrow spout of the kettle and leave it for several hours to dissolve the build up of limescale there. So that is what I did. First of all I used neat vinegar to half-fill the kettle. I used an old toothbrush to scrub the inside as much as I could. And I put a pipecleaner through the end of the spout of the kettle and threaded it down as far as I could get it. Then I left it to sit for several hours, until we were ready to go to bed. I then rinsed and re-rinsed the kettle many times, until the scent of vinegar had faded. I filled it with water as normal, did up the lid as tight as I could get it and set it up on the teasmade as usual.
Did it work?
We were so pleased! The natural descaling had worked a treat - and our teasmade is fully functional again - just in time as the mornings start to be cooler and darker. I'd happily recommend this technique for descaling a teasmade - but do check the instructions, if you have a model that is different to ours, just to be sure that it is safe to use. Some more modern versions may advise that you try a different technique - but it works great for us, and is definitely cheaper than using commercial descaler - and more natural too.