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Have you had a problem with smelly kettle water?

A cup of tea with some biscuits

Can you help solve a mystery that’s threatening to ruin the breakfast time cuppa of tea drinkers up and down the country? Smelly kettle water. It’s a problem many of you seem to suffer, judging by comments we’ve had.

The problem came to the boil when several Which? members complained to us that water they heated in the Russell Hobbs Ebony 15076 kettle smells and has a ‘revolting’ plastic flavour that makes it ‘undrinkable’.

One of those who contacted us told us that they had tried reboiling and rinsing it several times, but the ‘plastic flavour’ wouldn’t go away.

What the problem is

One member told us:

‘It produces the most foul tasting water which renders tea, coffee etc undrinkable. No excuses here either as the water used was from a filter jug and regularly produces totally drinkable water from my other kettle.’

So we had a look at it in our lab where we test kettles and sure enough, there really is a problem with how the water tastes and smells when boiled. But why? Our white-coated wizards tested it for lots of different chemicals but couldn’t come up with an answer.

What Russell Hobbs told us about the smelly kettle

We asked Russell Hobbs if it could explain the problem. It said safety was its main concern and that all its products are thoroughly tested.

It apologised ‘to anyone who has had an unsatisfactory experience’, said that this was an isolated incident and that anyone concerned should contact its customer services team.

But now it seems the Ebony isn’t the only kettle that has this problem as we’ve heard of similar problems with other kettles and other brands.

Have you had this problem? Can you help solve the mystery of the smelly kettle water?


Unless someone does some structured testing I doubt we will get to the bottom of this problem. I’d start by surveying consumers to find out the extent of a smelly kettle water problem. Which?Connect could, perhaps, undertake this?

Has anyone checked this out with their water supplier?

Last year, the water coming out of our mains cold water tap just wasn’t nice any more. It tasted horrible almost metallic, was heavily chlorinated and a thick scum formed when boiling in a saucepan. We went back to drinking bottled water for a while.

I contacted our water supplier who informed us there were works in progress but it shouldn’t affect us.

I was told the scum was apparently natural for hard water, to run the cold tap for a while before use, they were not adding extra chlorine, and don’t keep tap water in the fridge for more than a couple of hours.

I felt rather fobbed off but a couple of months later our water returned to normal.

Alfa – If a water company says tap water should not be kept in a fridge for more than two hours, what are we to make of the official advice issued to travellers on the London Underground to carry a bottle of water with them on their journey in hot conditions? Many people have the same bottle of water at the end of their working day as they arrived with. Is tap water safer at ambient temperature rather than chilled? This is both obscure and peculiar advice.

I am glad your home water returned to normal eventually. I wonder whether your water company reported the non-conformity to the Drinking Water Inspectorate as they should have.

Tap water will keep for 24 hours covered in a fridge. After then it will have lost most of its chlorine taste and best to replace it, but Wavechange is the person to ask about this.
I always take a glass of water uncovered to bed and often wonder how long before it becomes unsafe to drink.

Most bottled water doesn’t contain chlorine as far as I am aware, so it presumably it wouldn’t be safe to drink once opened for very long I would think.

The advice did sound extremely odd at the time and I did question it. I felt fobbed off more than anything else, so didn’t take much notice or believe the advice I was given.

Not sure I have heard of the Drinking Water Inspectorate though . . .🤔

We deep chilled tap water in the fridge that can stay there for a few days sometimes, AFAIK, I don’t think we have suffered any ill effects from it.

Spring water shouldn’t contain chlorine, but if you buy bottled water especially when out somewhere that sells single bottles, very often they are just tap water, so presumably likely to contain chlorine.

Hard water can produce a scum when boiled. This is why I stopped drinking tea when I moved to a hard water area. It looks unpleasant but is harmless. Fortunately our water is blended with much softer river water these days.

Both fresh tap water and bottled water are tested to make sure that they are free from harmful bacteria, but both should be boiled before being consumed by children or anyone with a seriously compromised immune system. The amount of chlorine in water in tap water can vary because some is lost en route to our taps. A slight taste of chlorine in tap water does not concern me and it provides reassurance that it is safe to drink.

It’s important to keep water bottles free of contamination, either by pouring the water into a cup (reusable please) or pouring the water into your mouth without making contact with lips etc., and then rinsing the bottle before refilling it. In the summer months I keep a bottle of tap water in the boot of the car (away from light and as cool as possible) and have sometimes drunk it after a week.

A bottle filled from the tap will retain chlorine for a few days and if this is still detectable it will be safe to drink. If kept in a covered open container in the fridge to allow the chlorine to disappear I suggest using it within two or three days. The information that Alfa was given about not keeping water in the fridge for more than a couple of hours is nonsense and I would love to have had the opportunity to ask for an explanation.

Like others, I keep bottles of tap water in the fridge, so I can make nice cool drinks.

Thanks for confirming it was nonsense wavechange, I didn’t believe him at the time.

Trish Cornell says:
2 August 2020

Our new Russell Hobbs kettle is the same! Taste of tea is awful! Smell in the kettle is awful! Will be buying a new one, different make, after having tea from friends and family that is nice.

I hope you will ask the retailer for a refund Trish. Please contact RH and let them know about the problem.

John T says:
20 February 2021

Trish, today I finally resolved the several week long problem of having a smelly kettle! Nothing to do with the kettle itself, it was the 13amp moulded mains plug which was shorting out and what we were smelling was in fact burning plastic on the base of the neutral pin of the plug. I am taking this up with RH as it is clearly a fire hazard and we were lucky it did not develop into something more serious…watch this space but I doubt they will admit a manufacturing fault. I am not concerned about a refund as, having fitted a new plug, the kettle is now functioning “smell free”. What I am concerned about is the potential fire risk.

Thanks John. Faulty plugs and wiring will be a fire risk on any appliance. That is why most UK businesses operate strict Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) regimes.

mapa says:
21 October 2020

I bought one in Sainsburys, I felt for the 10 pounds reduction. Now its plastic or silicon ? The smell of burning plastic was strong, when I switched the kettle on . I tried to contact the company,https://uk.russellhobbs.co.uk., but impossible to made contact. I think, its not a good design , you need to put the hands inside the kettle in order to measure the amount of water. RH should do better than this. I’m taking my kettle back, to Sainsburys.

Andrew says:
22 October 2020

Our new kettle is the same, if I swill it out twice after every use it solves the horrible taste issue but this shouldn’t be necessary, we’ve had it for over 2 weeks now, I even tried (after checking online advice) boiling it putting bicarb in it and leaving it over night, emptying it then boiling it twice and emptying it. It’s definitely not the tap water, I drink that cold and the previous kettle never had this problem.

Anthony Wellbeloved says:
26 November 2020

My tastes too, I’m beginning to suspect the red plastic measuring gauge in the bottom of mine!!

have had the same thoughts about the the red plastic gauge

pulled the gauge out, no smell

thanks for that last point about the red plastic thing in the bottom. I bought a second kettle , exactly the same so that I could use both when several cups are needed. This second one has always smelt horrible after boiling. I tried putting it on the first kettles base as I thought it was to do with the electricity but it still smells awful so I’m sure it must be the red plastic which is only in the second newer one. I am about to try and remove it.

I have had exactly the same trouble with my Russell Hobbs kettle. I did as instructed, still had a bad taste, bi-carb worked for a short while then back to the bad taste. After reading posts on here I turned the red plastic indicators away from the heating ring inside the kettle (I couldn’t remove them as suggested) That seems to have fixed it – fingers crossed it stays that way.

I suggest that you return the kettle to the retailer if you have just bought it, Joan. Many people have kettles with red plastic indicators and no problem.

Ann Rogers says:
22 February 2022

I bought a Russell Hobb green electric kettle today. After boiling the kettle 3 times and rinsing with cold water each time the tea had a bad smell and taste. I will be returning the kettle to Currys after reading the previous comments. Thank you for helping me make my decision. Ann

I hope you have no problems with your new kettle, Ann.