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Keurig Coffee Maker Descale Not Working? Reset that Light!

There’s nothing worse than wanting coffee and getting the descale light on your Keurig. Sometimes even a normal descaling won’t get that light to turn off. So how do you fix a Keurig coffee maker descale not working?

If descaling a Keurig does not work to turn off the descale light, repeat the process with more solution, or descale with vinegar or citric acid and water & let sit for a few hours before rinsing. If using refillable K-cups, make sure to not overfill them, and clean the exit needle with a safety pin.

But there’s a lot more to it than that, so let’s explore a little further.

So in this article, we’ll explore the possible causes for that Keurig descale light staying on, and a simple solution that will get you brewing again in no time!

Sometimes after descaling, even more than once, that dreaded light stays on!

So can you hit your Keurig to get that light to go off? Click here to read my article on what’s called the Slap and Burb method for dislodging scale build-up inside your Keurig. Does it work? Will it break your machine or void your warranty?

Keurig coffee maker descale not working coffee beans flowing out of a coffee cup Kitchen Appliance HQ

What does descale mean on a Keurig coffee maker?

Descaling a Keurig coffee machine refers to using a descaling solution to remove calcium build-up from the plumbing inside of a Keurig. Calcium scale build-up is the result of using hard water to brew the coffee.

When the dreaded descale light comes on, it’s simply an alert that something is preventing the normal flow of water.

While that can mean you have scale build up in your lines inside the Keurig, that isn’t the only possible issue. In my house, we use a refillable K-cup. We don’t like the idea of just tossing little plastic cups into the trash every day. Plus, we can buy ANY brand of coffee we like and we can even grind it fresh for a better-tasting cup of coffee.

But, some makers of refillable cups allow more room for flow than others. It is also possible to pack your cup too tightly which restricts the water flow. Both of those can lead to the descale light coming on.

After all, Keurig doesn’t have sensors inside the water lines; it just knows it isn’t coming out as fast as it should.

Thus, if you are refilling your own cups, it’s a good idea to not pack down on the coffee when you fill them and don’t quite fill them all the way to the rim.

But it could be a clogged water filter too!

Click here to read my guide on Keurig water filters and whether you have to get the specific one for your model. But I also cover how often to change them, and whether it works to buy an off-brand one on Amazon for cheap!

What do I do when my Keurig says descale?

I have the classic Keurig, and the following applies to it and all of their hot brewers, but not the mini ones (more on that below).

  • Empty the water vessel
  • Remove the coffee pod
  • Turn off the “auto-off” feature (if you have that)
  • Turn the brewer off
  • Pour in an entire bottle of Keurig descaling solution into the water container in your brewer
  • Refill that bottle with cold water and add to the water container
  • Place a large coffee mug on the stand
  • Lift the Keurig handle up and then back down
  • Select the 10oz button (the largest one) and press it to start the process
  • Pour out the contents and repeat the process until the “add more water” light comes on
  • Allow your Keurig to sit (power on) for 30 minutes
  • Dump out any remaining water mixture in the water container and fill with fresh water up to the limit
  • Repeat the brewing process (still without a K-cup) at least 12 times to rinse the unit (adding more water if necessary)

If it’s been at least 3 months since the last time you descaled (or if you’ve never done it) it may be time to descale it.

However, if you suspect that perhaps you packed your refillable K-cup too tightly, just remove the cup completely and see if it will let you run a cycle through.

How to descale a mini Keurig

So for the mini Keurig, mini plus, or B/K130 use just 1/3 of a Keurig descaling solution bottle (about 4 1/2 oz) and then fill with water to the fill level.

Here are the steps with the minis, without a K-cup:

  • Lift the handle, wait 5 seconds, and then press down and press brew
  • Once the cup is full, discard and repeat but don’t press brew
  • When the brew button turns red and starts to dispense, turn the power off
  • Let sit for 30 minutes
  • After 30 minutes, turn back on and press brew
  • Discard the water
  • Then repeat with just water (no descale solution) for a total of 3 times

The B/K130 is almost exactly the same process as the mini except the brew button doesn’t turn red, so just turn off power as it starts to brew in that step.

Of course, the overall process is the same for any Keurig. The primary difference is the amount of descaling solution you use.

How to descale a Keurig Duo

A Keurig Duo is a different kind of Keurig.

It combines the traditional Keurig K-cup coffee maker with an old-school drip coffee maker with a carafe. Luckily, descaling it isn’t radically different than with other Keurig coffee makers.

Here’s a step-by-step on how to descale a Keurig Duo:

  • Turn the power off
  • Make sure there are no K-cups or ground coffee in the machine
  • Empty the water tank
  • Fill it with 2 bottles of Keurig descaling solution (14 oz each)
  • Then fill both empty bottles with tap water (14 oz each)
  • Add the water to the tank (should have a total of 56 oz in the tank now, so it will be almost totally full)
  • Turn the power on
  • Press the pod button
  • Run a brew cycle for a 12 oz cup
  • Pour out the 12 oz of water solution
  • Press the carafe button
  • Brew an 8 cup carafe
  • Pour out the 40 oz of water solution
  •  Clean and rinse carafe and water tank 
  • Refill tank with tap water
  • Run a 12 cup carafe 3 times, pouring out the contents and adding more water as needed
  • Brew a 12 oz K-cup cycle 3 times (no K-cup), pouring out the contents and adding more water as needed

If you descale and the descale light is still on, hold down the 8oz and 10oz buttons at the same time, and hold for 5 seconds and the light will go off.

What can I use in place of Keurig’s descaling solution?

The best alternative to Keurig’s descaling solution is a 50/50 blend of water and white vinegar. But additional options include citric acid or even lemon juice (which, of course, contains lots of citric acid). 

Keurig descaling solution is their proprietary blend of citric acid, water, and trace amounts of silicic acid, phosphates, and bleach.

Of course, buying their bottles (anywhere from 6 bucks to 10 depending on where you get them) can add up over time (but can also be much more convenient.

Let’s go into detail on each of the best alternatives below.

How do I descale my Keurig with white vinegar?

To avoid buying their expensive descaling solution, mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part water.

Since the typical bottle is 14oz, that means you’ll use 7 oz. of vinegar and 7 oz of water to make your mix. Then you’d add an additional 14oz of plain water.

Following Keurig’s recommendations, go through the descaling process I outline above except, if needed, you can allow the mixture to sit in the Keurig for up to 4 hours rather than the 30 minutes they recommend for their solution.

How much vinegar do I use to clean my Keurig?

As I mentioned, you’ll want to use a 1 to 1 ratio of white vinegar to water to make your mix solution.

For most Keurigs that means you’ll need 14 oz total of your homemade descaling solution. So mix 7 oz. or white vinegar to 7 oz of water.

How do I descale my Keurig with citric acid?

Following your Keurig’s normal descaling process use 1-2 (depending on the size of your unit) tablespoons of powdered citric acid to a full reservoir of water.

Citric acid powder can usually be found in the baking section of your grocery store where pectin and gelatin might be found. But you may also find it where they have Vitamin C tablets.

Citric acid is the primary ingredient in Keurig’s official descaling solution, but buying a 1 lb bag will be far more economical than buying their descaling solution (which is about 50% water).

How do I descale my Keurig with lemon juice?

I personally wouldn’t use this method due to the number of lemons it would take (probably about 12) and how long it would take to squeeze them all. But if you’re bound and determined to avoid citric acid, vinegar, or Keurig’s descaling solution, this works just fine.

As with the vinegar method, you want a 1 to one ratio of lemon juice to water to make the mix and then add an additional 14oz of water to the water container. Thus, you’ll need about 7oz of lemon juice (almost 1 cup).

Proceed with all the above steps for descaling based on which model you have.

Can I hit my Keurig to dislodge scale build-up?

It does sometimes work to gently strike the underside of an unplugged Keurig to dislodge the built-up calcium scale inside the Keurig which was resistant to descaling solution.

Of course, I’m sure Keurig does not recommend this and it could very well void your warranty. That being said, there are people who swear by this method when all else fails. It even has an official name, the “Slap and Burp method”.

I get into greater detail on this in this recent article, including what not to do to void your warranty. But here is a quick step-by-step.

  • Unplug the unit
  • Remove the water reservoir and catch tray
  • Hold the unit upside down and slap it a few times on the bottom
  • Put it all back together

Essentially you are trying to jar loosen any stubborn scale. But there is another possible benefit too. There is a magnet inside your Keurig that corresponds to the magnet in the water reservoir (this is how the Keurig knows when the water is low).

Too much scale build-up can cause the magnet to stick and give you that dreaded “add water” light even when there’s plenty of water.

How to clean the Keurig exit needle

To clean the exit needle of a Keurig from the excess build-up of either coffee or scale build-up, insert a paper clip or sewing needle into the needle and loosen the debris, and remove it. Then rinse thoroughly.

Sometimes, when trying to descale your Keurig, it won’t even brew to let you descale it. Very frustrating! In this case, you want to clean the exit needle.

If you look at the bottom of a K-cup, you’ll notice a tiny little bump that sticks out. The water enters your K-cup at the top, goes through the ground coffee, and then exits here (and some cups have mesh sides too). What pierces that little bump is a needle in the bottom of your K-cup holder.

If your exit needle gets clogged (from excess coffee grounds or scale build-up), then your Keurig won’t be able to brew at all.

Can you reset a Keurig?

Keurigs do not have a simple reset button. However, unplugging the unit for up to 5 minutes acts a reset for the unit, and opening and closing the K-cup holder acts as a reset to the brewing cycle.

Sometimes when our Keurig coffee maker descale is not working, we get desperate for a reset button. However, if you’re looking for a reset button like you find on the bottom of a garbage disposal you may be disappointed.

There is nothing user-serviceable inside the unit.

One other question people have with their Keurig coffee makers is whether you can leave them on all day or if you should turn them off after using.

I answer the question Can a Keurig Be Left on All Day in a recent article, including how much energy that uses and whether it poses a fire hazard.

So check it out if you leave yours on for long periods of time. Just click the link to read it on my site.

How often should I descale my Keurig?

Keurig recommends going through the descaling process on a regular basis – about once every 3 months.

But they also suggest changing the water filter inside the water vessel every 2 months and using their rinse pods once a week. Personally, I’ve never done the rinse pods, but I do think it’s a good idea to occasionally run a cycle or 2 of just water to keep the pipes clean.

Are some kinds of water worse for a Keurig?

Yes is the short answer.

Descaling is meant to remove calcium and other mineral deposits. Thus, you should never use mineral water or spring water in your Keurig coffee maker, as they both contain high amounts of minerals that can make the descaling warning come on more often.

Distilled water is a great way to go for some models of Keurig, but not Keurig 2.0. Thus for most of us, we are best off using plain old tap water and then allowing the Keurig filter to clean it.

Of course, most tap water does have a small amount of chlorine in it, which can affect the taste of coffee, so you can add a reverse osmosis water filter on your counter (or whole house), or just buy reverse osmosis water at the grocery store.

If you love hot coffee as I do, also make sure and check out my recent article on What Coffee Maker Makes the Hottest Coffee?

I break down all the best brands for delivering the hottest coffee as well as what the experts say is the perfect temp for both brewing AND serving.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Final thoughts

In this article, we looked at the world of Keurig coffee makers which have started to dominate kitchens everywhere for their ease, speed, and convenience.

We explored the best ways to clean yours to keep it running smoothly, how often to descale it , and whether the official Keurig descale solution is the best way to descale it.

But specifically, we examined one of the most common problems; the descale light not shutting off! And what to do when the normal descale method isn’t working on your Keurig. That way, you’ll be back to brewing in no time!

And no matter which Keurig model you own, we gave specific solutions by model.

Sometimes we like to enjoy a nice espresso! But do those capsules work in a Keurig?

Click here to read my guide on the 1 workaround for using Nespresso (or other brands) espresso capsules in a Keurig. It can be done, but you have to know the trick.

As an Amazon Associate I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases if you click to Amazon from my site and choose to make a purchase. You can read my complete affiliate disclosure for more details.

Jeff Campbell

Eileen Ross

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

I have descaled my machine with vinegar, it went through fine. When I then tried to flush it with water, it didn’t work. The power light and three cup volume lights are on, but it won’t flush the water through. It’s making a faint gurgling sound, but nothing happens. I’ve unplugged it, tapped the bottom and nothing is working. Any suggestions? Thank you

Jeff Campbell

Friday 20th of November 2020

Hi Eileen

My guess is that the vinegar dislodged a large particle of scale (calcium build-up) and that is somehow clogging it up. If you've tried the slap and burp method of striking the underside and that didn't work, your best bet would be to put more vinegar in and let it sit for a few hours to further break that up so it can flow through the pipes. Hope that helps!

Karen W

Monday 19th of October 2020

Once again, I've learned the lessons of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and "No good deed goes unpunished." My Keurig was working fine until I decided to run vinegar through it, according to the manual, and this was years overdue. After dispensing two 10 oz. cups of water/vinegar it won't dispense at all now. It also now says 'descale' although it didn't previously and we have never seen this on the display before. I assume that the vinegar it drew into the internal tubes or reservoir loosened up something and now it's clogged. I cleaned the exit needle although there was nothing there really. I definitely burped and slapped it many times which was very gratifying. After the first burp and slap it spit out a little bit of water with very small debris, but nothing more even after all the additional burping and slapping. (We don't pack our own reusable Kcup btw and I do feel bad about all that plastic. This might be karma.) I'm hoping letting it sit with whatever vinegar it managed to draw inside will help dissolve whatever is clogging, but do you know anything else I can try? Thank you!

Jeff Campbell

Thursday 12th of November 2020

Hi Karen

Crazy. I've never heard of that happening and I'm sorry it is. I think at this point, I would try the official Keurig descaling solution, although the white vinegar itself should have caused it. What could have happened is the vinegar could have dislodged some large pieces of scale inside the unit (calcium flakes) and they, in turn, could have clogged it up somewhere.

But whether more vinegar or the official Keurig solution, I do think your idea of letting it sit is a good idea to dissolve the clog.

Good luck!

Steve Moeller

Friday 5th of June 2020

I tried the Keurig solution, white vinegar, Citric acid & 4 cups of lemon juice from my tree. NO LUCK! I called customer service at Keurig. They told me about the #6 & 8# for 3 sec., for the K-cup duo an, WaLa! The light went out!

Jeff Campbell

Sunday 7th of June 2020

Wow, that's cool Steve! Thanks for sharing!


David Block

Sunday 10th of May 2020

Great article. Easier than watching the online videos although they helpful.

Jeff Campbell

Monday 11th of May 2020

Thanks, David

I wrote that one literally having had this issue, so it was from the heart! Thanks for reading, enjoying, and commenting!



Saturday 11th of April 2020

My Keurig is only 3 months old. I have ran the descale 3x's, doing exactly what the video says. I have the DUO Essential. LIGHT STILL ON!!! Ugh! How to get it to turn off.


Monday 11th of May 2020

If you have tried the paper clip method and other suggestions and the descaling light is still on, try the following. Turn the machine on then hold down the 6 and the 8 cup buttons at the same time for 3 to 5 seconds. When you release these buttons the light should turn off.


Thursday 7th of May 2020

I have the same problem Jackie. Did you find a solution?

Jeff Campbell

Sunday 12th of April 2020

Hi Jackie

Sorry you're experiencing that. Since it's brand new and you've done the descale 3x, I would suspect the problem is most likely the brand of K-cup you're using (especially if you refill your own). Packed too tightly, they can constrict the flow of water which to the Keurig, looks like a descale problem.

I would try a different brand if you're just buying ready-made K-cups, and if you pack your own, just fill them loosely, not all the way to the top, and don't pack down on them or compress the ground coffee.

If that doesn't do the trick, I would consider trying purified water as it could be the mineral content of your tap water is too high. Next I would try changing the Keurig filter if you haven't already in case it's clogged.

If none of that works, I'd contact Keurig as you probably have a defective unit and need to get it replaced.

I hope that helps! Thanks for being here and good luck!