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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?

Comments
Guest
Hilster says:
5 April 2016

So…. Has anyone successfully bought a taint free, reliable electric kettle recently that they would recommend? (I know this might seem a silly question on the Which? site…)

Guest

It’s hard to make recommendations – because the “smelly kettles” problem does not seem to affect all kettles and/or all households.

A friend of mine recently replaced her kettle with a £6 plastic bodied budget offering from Tesco. As a consumer of tea at her house, I must say that I cannot detect any problems with it at all.

But who knows – maybe the exact same kettle in a different house – or another kettle of the same design but from different batches of raw materials – might exhibit the problem.

Guest
Bill Williams says:
29 October 2017

Hi,
The only kettle that I have found that does not taint the water is one model by Swan. It is their old-fashioned Swan traditional electric kettle.
It has the element on the inside of the kettle at the bottom.
I took out any plastic bits including the internal float for the level indicator and it works well.
No after-taste.
I have tried most of the big brands such as Russell Hobbs, Breville etc and they all pollute the contents and no amount of sodium bicarbonate or vinegar will stop this.
None of the manufacturer’s advice is correct regarding removing the problem.
I simply kept returning the kettles till I found one that was ok.

Guest

Is this the Swan polished aluminium kettle @ £3.10s.3d recommended in the 1957 Which magazine I have just received? 🙂 It was in second place of the recommended ones. They didn’t test for tainted water in those days, and 60 years later still don’t. Perhaps they should? 🙁

Guest
peter griffin says:
6 April 2016

I’m guessing that all these kettles are manufactured in China. If so, for how long ? I bought a Morphy Richards Chroma plastic kettle yesterday, and on boiling water, the plasticky smell is overpowering. The coffee brewed using this water also has an additional unwelcome taste. I have been buying plastic kettles for years with no problems, The last one I bought was a Breville about 2 years ago, and there were no problems with it. This must be a recent phenomonon.

Guest

And I say your guessing is right Peter .

Guest

I know that kettles have been made in China for far longer than this problem has been apparent.

Hence I agree that the issue is most likely caused by relative recent developments in kettle manufacture.

The designs of kettles have not really changed, but both manufacturing processes and raw materials may have done.

Eco developments now encourage the much greater use of recycled materials in manufacturing – this may have the adverse trade-off that greater proportions of potentially volatile impurities have become present in the raw materials.

Continuing pressures to reduce the costs of materials may also lead to the same effect – cheaper materials are likely to be more impure, bringing in more “trace quantities” of unwanted substances.

Guest

On the button Derek , I was thinking the same but was looking for substantial proof as you know many posts i post get challenged , an I agree from me .

Guest

Duncan,

The problem here does seem to be getting proof.

in olden days, Which? ran their own labs and might have employed some clever folk who could have undertaken “post-mortems” of convicted “smelly kettles”. The trouble is, if the quest is to find trace quantities of smelly materials, the required analysis might not cheap or easy.

If enough kettles are affected, and get return for refunds, then our British kettle retailers and distributors (I won’t call them manufacturers) might eventually get motivated to do something about it.

My ~10 year old Asda kettle was probably made in China but its labelling does not state its country of origin. My spare kettle is a ~25 year old Phillps. They are/were a Dutch company, but it it was Made In England. But since then, consumer pressure for ever keener prices seems to have resulted in more and more consumer goods being made overseas.

Guest

Derek I am spending a bit more time traveling round the Internet to get back up to what I post now but I go by the “Law of Averages ” that if enough people complain about something -well there must be something to it as they cant all be wrong . Each person is an individual some have good sense of taste/smell others not , some can “live with it ” others cant . The biggest clue I got was actually from wavechange I think he got it spot on .Because of the promotion of Eco information a lot of stuff in the past 20 years is being recycled and he said Plastic . That makes sense as recycled plastic will have impurities in it even thought the big Chinese manufacturers just mention “polypropylene ” etc on their websites as what they do and small Chinese sub-contractors do are two different things ,especially when its a “save money ” exercise both by the manufacturer and the importer especially as he wants to maximise his profits. I just dont trust them and I do trust public reaction . Your right about laboratories -expensive , but I haven’t given up ,I inhabit some very radical websites which do “exposures ” nearly every day and get emailed by many but I sift through them and then double check before taking what they say as gospel I am still trying to get a laboratory test result that condemns the plastics used in most kettles 100 % ,if I do I will certainly post it .

Guest

There have been many people complaining of smelly kettle water and I have asked Which? several times if it would be a good idea to retrieve some of the offending kettles and carry out a proper analysis of what is causing the problem.

This sort of thing was, I thought, among Which?’s jobs, and probably would have been when it did its own testing. I also used to think a significant part of my subscription went towards investigations and testing, but it seems only around 10% goes towards this vital (in my view) work. So maybe that’s why we still don’t know what kettle to buy? 🙁

Guest

DerekP, I doubt if the UK is the only victim of smelly kettle water. Perhaps Which? might ask BEUC (the umbrella group that looks after all the European consumer organisations) to ask these organisations to see whether their members have similar kettle problems. Then we might get enough impetus for a properly-managed investigation?

In view of the relatively small amount of our money that Which? puts towards testing, and since many of the products we use are also used throughout Europe, is it not time all these organisations worked together to help all consumers? We might have got somewhere with Sony phones, Whirlpool driers, for example with the weight of our European friends behind us.

Might we not also get a consumer associations’ test laboratory as well to save subcontracting all this work?

Guest

Malcolm -consumer association test laboratory- back that up 100 % .Good idea !

Guest

Which? still talks about “our lab” in print media. A bit disingenuous I think. Once people find out about these little misnomers they might lose trust in the organisation.

Guest

It is all very well to suggest that Which? should test products in its own labs rather than to pay for this to be done in labs, but the number of products that are tested has greatly increased over the years. Some testing facilities would be used regularly but other equipment would remain unused most of the time. To get the best out of the equipment, you need skilled operators and it makes no sense to retain them if their expertise is not being used. As John says, it’s not acceptable to refer to ‘our lab’, and that must stop.

Thinking about how this relates to the problem of smelly kettle water, the most useful piece of equipment is likely to be a GCMS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry), together with a competent operator. That’s not cheap, and might not be of general use in product testing. I would be surprised if the kettle manufacturers have this sort of equipment in their own labs.

My suggestion is that Which? collects some problem kettles from Which? members and sends them to a test lab for investigation. An alternative or complementary approach would be to do some detailed survey work to identify the products most seriously affected and publicise the results to encourage the manufacturers to take action.

Guest

Which? could quite easily collect suspect kettles and discuss with an analysis laboratory the best procedure to test for contaminated water after boiling. They would be doing their members a service and also the industry in, if successful, publicising an issue. The might talk to the trade association to see whether they would also participate. Have they done this?

I am not suggesting that Which? has ll its own test facilities in house. What I suggested was that all the European consumers’ associations start cooperating and establish a European test lab – probably spread around Europe with different labs doing different testing. There is surely enough testing work on the majority of products to warrant this.

Still nothing to stop them seeking outside testing when very specialist facilities are required.

A laboratory is not just about testing – following a set procedure and publishing the results. It is about looking at the procedure for improvements, looking at the results to learn what is going on, and intelligently making use of that information – to predict better ways to perform, ways to achieve better reliability and safety for example. What you lose by not having your own test facilities is the experienced staff who can guide what Which? should be doing.

It would also allow people like Which? to input a consumers’ view, based on real knowledge, into the standards system to help modify and develop them – through BSI in the UK’s case. I am still waiting to hear whether Which? has any representation on BSI committees; it is one of the ways the consumers’ needs can be usefully communicated.

Guest

If, as appears to be the case, smelly kettles are proliferating, it should not be necessary for Which? to deprive any members of their kitchen hardware – they should buy a load of the different manufacturers’s models [starting with the highest-selling brands] and put them to the nose and throat test before submitting offending articles for professional analysis. Since kettles are a virtually essential piece of apparatus found in 27 million homes and countless other places this would be a great and noble public service.

Guest

I agree that Which, as the largest consumer group in Europe, perhaps should be leading the way in this matter.

As to the matter of cost Which? has paid around £2.24m in bonuses to four directors this year. I cannot but feel that the money would have been better spent on improving the testing Which? arranges. ANd particularly on the smelly kettle problem.

I am a member of the Austrlain version, Choice, which of course is a lot smaller but also has much to be admired in terms of transparency and what it does. And it has its own testing facilities that members can visit.

I cannot see taste problems so far BUT they do make the point that the kettle testing does not include durability which they rely on the members to supply. Their Best Buy a Breville scores 82% but only has one subscriber out of 8 happy to recommend it as it is very faulty. They actually provide this percentage in the heading.

The system is slightly flawed in my view but easily improved. Another nice thing is they have always been open about this arrangement unlike Which?:
“This online price comparison service is provided by the eBay Commerce Network. And while CHOICE makes money from it, that does not affect the results – prices are ordered from lowest to highest.”

Guest

Darn! You write something then you find it …
” Strange tastes?
We’ve had reports that some kettles, particularly plastic kettles, can give the boiled water a strange or unpleasant taste. A quick experiment in our lab with a cheap plastic kettle confirmed that this can indeed happen with water that has been left in the kettle and reboiled again and again. We don’t know if there’s anything more to this than just a plasticky odour, but it is certainly worth avoiding.
To avoid this problem, try to only fill the kettle with as much water as you need each time (good advice in any case – it’s more energy-efficient). If any boiled water is left over, pour it out before you refill the kettle. If the problem persists, it might be time to replace your plastic kettle, perhaps with a glass or metal-bodied model.”
Choice
Universal problem?

Guest

What water tastes the best ? As someone who has tasted water straight from a mountain stream in land that was untouched by human hand I think it has no equal, this is due in a large part to the large amount of oxygen content I am sure Ian living where he does might agree with this ? . In any case my point (and it is open to dispute ) is that boiled water loses a lot of oxygen and therefore the concentrates from the plastic will have more of an effect on taste . Diesel and other posters head over to= hotwatermagic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/destructive-myths-dissolved-oxygen.html. While it doesnt give a definitive answer they do all agree that water, when heated, loses its oxygen content and thats what I am getting at.

Guest

I agree, , , I was brought up on spring water and now have deep bore water
I cannot compare to any mains water I’ve ever tasted
All mains to me is either bland or smells and tastes of bleach. . .Of course those used to it will argue an do argue that there is no taste or smell off of their water. . .As the add goes “noseblind”

Even water at differing locations within the same estate/development can be quite different due to the chemicals being heavy

I suppose it’s one of the disadvantages of so many living in urban areas. . . It would be impossible to supply chemical free water in such industrial quantities required and the costs of not recycling water in urban areas would be prohibitive even if we could find enough fresh water

I’ll stick to my hole in the ground. . . . Nature is a good Mistress in my eye’s

Guest

I think most of the people with the smelly kettles and bad tasting water just want their hot water to be the same as it was before they bought a new kettle, and just as it would be if they boiled some in a saucepan. Whether it is as fresh as a mountain stream or tastes of bleach [which I have never tasted – it might be lovely] isn’t the issue really.

As I have repeatedly said in all these Conversations, re-using previously boiled water is no way to make a decent cup of tea or any other hot drink because of the loss of oxygen. For years now all our kettles have been metal and we have never had a taste or smell problem. We still have an old plastic kettle which never gave any taint or odour when it was in everyday use. It’s not a plastic versus metal question either. Personally I am convinced there is something about the particular grades of plastic that are being used nowadays since even metal kettles have plastic parts, but sub-standard metal composition could also play a part. Let’s get them tested and see.

Guest
Graham says:
9 April 2016

Our Breville kettle makes foul tasting tea. The main body is stainless steel but has a plastic lid. However, if we boil it with the lid open the tea tastes fine. Obviously the automatic shut off doesn’t work so you have to shut it off manually. The lid itself has the smell that we taste in the tea, especially when it’s hot.
Looking for an all metal kettle now.

Guest

Many thanks for that post Graham thats what we are looking for evidence ,keep it coming folks ! Once many come in we can make up a graph .

Guest
John Blewitt says:
14 July 2016

I have a theory that the problem is associated with heating element The element is of a metallic construction most likely copper If the element has a chrome plated or similar covering then I think that this would prevent the metallic taste which is like that of copper sulphate.

Guest

As far as I know, most modern kettles have a stainless steel base with the heater below, so there is no contact with the water. Some have reported metallic tastes, presumably from stainless steel that has not been correctly ‘passivated’ but the main problem is what has frequently been described as a TCP taste and smell. There are still some traditional kettles with chrome-plated copper element and the plating can start to flake with age. When I had this sort of kettle I always emptied out water that had been standing and never experienced a metallic taste.

Guest

The Stainless Steel Association could not see how the metal would cause taint. The main suspect seems to be plastic. maybe used in seals, the body, level indicator or lid. But all we’ve had to date is speculation. Someone could pay for tests to be done by an appropriate laboratory (try a university?) on kettles that are known to taint water. Then we might get facts and be able to see how to avoid taint in future, or at least advise consumers which kettles to avoid – maybe include taint as part of the Which? kettle tests. What is the reluctance to adopt a scientific approach to try to solve this problem? Otherwise this problem will just drag on….and on….

Guest

I recall this, Malcolm. From what I have read here and elsewhere, the problem of metallic tastes is less frequent than plastic tastes. A university might take on a project involving the public as part of ‘reach out’ or ‘outreach’, which is seen to be a good thing. Unfunded hobby research is frowned on by the bean counters these days.

One of the problems we are up against is the apparent low frequency of taste/smell problems. Retailers will probably replace problem kettles although kettles are so cheap that some people will just buy a different brand rather than make a fuss. I know of many cases where people have replaced products that have failed during the guarantee period. Usually the reason is that the goods have been bought online. I know someone who was given a fitness tracker by her daughter and it failed within two weeks. She just bought another one, hoping her daughter would not notice the slight difference. Incredible but true. 🙁

I have asked family and friends and have yet to discover anyone who is aware of the taste/smell problem. When I do I will try to discover whether it’s a problem that everyone can detect.

Which? did say that they would include a taste test in future kettle tests but like radio interference caused by LED bulbs, I’m still waiting for this sort of information.

Guest
In wragg says:
23 July 2016

I bought a Breville plastic electric kettle recently and have to keep throwing numerous cups of tea away due to horrible taste and smell

Guest
Chris Ellis says:
29 July 2016

Just bought a Russell Hobbs kettle. Strong plastic smell in kettle despite multiple boils with fresh water each time. Tea made from this kettle undrinkable so far.

Guest

Outgassing of chemicals from polymers at elevated temperatures and an effective transport
medium hot water! 80-90% of all kettles sold in the UK are manufactured in China directly to
two UK companies specifications , just ask them as they know (Strix & Otter).

Guest

So backing up my-land of built to a price – MC ?

Guest

“two UK companies specifications” ==> “built to a price” ??

Guest

Derek if you have been following my posts over a long period on many different Chinese products complained about by posters on Which you will find we are talking about large number of products. If you head to America you will find even more criticism of them not only by posters but by business tech. engineers who assist the US public in determining the cause of breakdowns in imported goods which has been caused by government policy -aka BB of outsourcing its factories to $1 an hour Land -aka-China where I can list a large number of products built to a price . I have said it before but I see I have to repeat it. I am not blaming the Chinese directly I am blaming the importers who are British and American who TELL the Chinese how much they want to pay for a product. The Chinese are benefiting from UK/US political policy of bigger profits to shareholders/banks and financial institutions instead of investing the money in British engineering factories thereby providing jobs for the poor which helps to sustain the economy by their ability to spend money on the economy instead of life on the dole.

Guest

duncan, have you looked at where many of your clothes are made? We “support” many low labour cost countries for our supplies. I’m sure the economies in those countries benefit and they gradually become higher-cost suppliers as their own wealth increases. So production will move elsewhere. Africa next? Which is why we don’t make so many staples in this country – our labour costs preclude it. Personally I’d be happy to pay more for a UK product and see much less cheap wear-once-throw-out fashion clothing or the unnecessarily full wardrobes we can now afford; but I suspect I will be in a minority of men, let alone women.

As yet we do not have any proven answer on why certain kettles taint water, only hypotheses, some of which do seem to hold water. Why have Which? not tested suspect kettles to see if they can identify a cause? And why do they not include taint in their testing? Is it such an elusive phenomenon confined to just a few isolated cases? Which? could use their Connect group for a survey of the make and model of kettle used, the area they live in, and whether they have noted tainted water. Might get somewhere instead of waffling on. If they have already made a rigorous investigation I will withdraw my comment and go make a cuppa.

Guest

As Duncan says, Chinese manufacturers will make anything for anybody according to the specification they are given, which will usually set out the quality of components and materials used in the manufacturing process and the quality control procedures required. Importers and retailers of domestic electrical appliances are under extreme competitive pressure to offer goods down to a price rather than up to a standard but good quality products are made in China as well as low quality products. The responsibility rests with the company commissioning the production. We have many products that were made in China that are entirely satisfactory, well-designed, well-made, and sometimes very high quality. Obviously this will be reflected in the price and the nature of the UK retailer from whom they are purchased. Buying goods without seeing them first, or without checking on serious product reviews, or by only considering the price, exposes consumers to risks of disappointment.

Guest

Thank you John . Malcolm in your opening point you are talking about Third world countries . since when is China a “Third world country ” ? not in the eyes of the USA , who at this moment is threatening a trade war although the UK media are keeping quiet about it due to the imbalance in trade in certain goods and what the US Administration think about the “openness ” of the Chinese regime , which again is very restrictive in favour of itself(check out the International Trade Laws of China , including the refusal to accept the return of faulty goods into China , I have read their Trade manifesto malcolm . You cannot compare the Chinese economy with African economies . Every time I go into the Co-op something I buy relates to helping those African/South American countries , the Co-op is “Big ” in this department , highly publicizing it so I play my part in it, but I would never think of subsidizing China this country does it automatically as does the US by buying the multitude of goods that China makes . I make no excuse in saying I am very jealous on behalf of Britain in that regard and although I voted to Remain I know exactly where the Brexit,s are coming from when they say we should produce our own goods they havent a stronger supporter in that regard than me.

Guest

duncan, I have not mentioned China nor said it was a “third world” country. It is a developing country It does have low labour costs, possibly subsidised, to help grow the economy. I say subsidised because even products that come from expensive machinery with minimal labour – pressure diecasting, injection moulding, laser micro-machining – are sold much cheaper than we can produce for. As China becomes more of a consumer nation by becoming richer, labour costs will rise and other countries will almost certainly try to fill the gap. That seems to be the cycle.

As this Convo is about kettles I still like to hear from Which? about why it does not feel that testing for taint is worth doing.

Guest
Flambardjack says:
25 August 2016

Agree wholeheartedly with Malcom re testing for taint, have purchased three kettles in past 18 months, all still working but two (cheaper models) appeared to make water taste of plastics, to point of not enjoying drinks made this we decided to discontinue use.

Guest
Kentish says:
3 September 2016

some people here have commented how water-filter jugs make their water better.

It’s interesting that the German organisation that tests consumer products have tested water filters and their advise is to not use them. Their thorough tests covered: softening of water, removal of lead/copper, bacteria and etc.
Most devices failed to have much effect after 1/4 of their claimed filter-life.
Considerations of whether the filters made water worse: caused one manufacturer to withdraw a model that added bacteria to the water!

The body is called Stiftung Warentest http://www.test.de

Their test from 2015
– Wasser­filter im Test: Gut filtert keiner (Water filters: none does well)
https://www.test.de/Wasserfilter-im-Test-Gut-filtert-keiner-4840828-0/

Guest

About 25 years ago…when I was working in the technical QA team for a retailer we experienced this problem in most kettles. The manufacturers at that time were using Acetal bodies…we drove an industry wide specification switch to polypropylene bodies. Polypropylene is largely inert wheras acetal displays some reactivity or loss of monomer. I recently purchased a new kettle and guess what…tainted water, exactly as I remembered it when we were testing before the switch to polypropylene. Took me back a few years 😀.
Its my theory that for whatever reason, the manufacturers have changed some of the plastic materials in their kettles away from polypropylene…thereby causing the tainting. Without access to a lab I can’t prove it, as I am long retired.
I tried to look up material specifications for a number of kettles and most simply say ‘plastic’….which frankly is not good enough.
I will leave these thoughts with you…based entirely on the experience of past history with tainting kettles.

Guest

Kev – You are absolutely right about the lack of information about plastics used in household items. Simply naming a plastic as acetal or polypropylene, for example, is only part of the story. A named plastic can include a range of different materials including plasticisers, fillers, colouring materials and other additives that make it suitable for a particular application. Even when made, the properties and composition of plastics can change.

Take plasticisers as a well known example. These are often added to make plastics less brittle and more flexible. Typically they are small molecules that can be gradually lost from the plastic, one of the reasons why some plastics become brittle with age. The characteristic smell of new cars and other products is likely to be loss of plasticiser. When making kettles, plasticisers and other additives are chosen from a list of ones that are believed to be safe if they migrate into the water.

Plastics are undoubtedly one of our greatest achievements but I would like to go back to metal kettles. Occasionally there might be a metallic taste if poor stainless steel is used but this seems to be a relatively uncommon cause of strange smells and tastes.

Guest

On one industrial website it was admitted that plastic shavings from kettle production are recycled , it was stated that it depends on the manufacturers quality checks as to whether they are of high enough quality to be recycled as plastic pellets as impurities can be introduced to them.

Guest

Agree 100% with your comments ‘wave’ didn’t want to ‘over science’ the conversation though.
The latest tainting issues seem to have occurred fairly recently. It would be a simple enough matter for the QA team of the brand owners to look back through the specification changes and manufacturing records to see what material or process changes were made in the months leading up to these tainting issues.
I wouldn’t mind a small wager that an ‘unauthorised’ specification change has been made somewhere in the process. I would also wager that the kettles from all of these Brands are either coming from a single factory or that a component containing the ‘culprit’ material is universally supplied to different factories.
I’m going back to a plastic free stove top kettle for now. 😊

Guest
Al Cain says:
15 November 2016

This problem still persists. I have just bought a Breville Electric Kettle and the water it boils is rendered horribly tainted – makes tea undrinkable! I took the kettle back and got it replaced with an identical model – but I have the same problem – even after plenty of flushing & cleaning etc.
I have just written to BBC’s Watchdog about this – are we being poisoned by the plastic compounds used in some of these kettles?
I too have gone for an expensive Italian kettle that is all Stainless steel – there are no plastic parts which come into contact with the water. I used to think that people complaining about such things were being hysterical, but this is a real problem – the tainting of the water is foul and can not be healthy.
(For those interested I have ordered the “Alice” all metal kettle made by Ottoni Fabbrica of Italy).

Guest

Thanks for providing an example of a kettle that has no plastic parts. Maybe we could create a demand for more.

Guest

Investigating the cause of the problem scientifically might yield some clues. If Which? won’t do this perhaps they can suggest some organisation that will.

Guest

After this length of time, I think we can be fairly sure that this is not a priority for Which?, but I wish they would just tell us.

Perhaps a Which? Connect survey could be used to establish makes and models do not cause problems. It might be more productive to focus on these rather than the problem ones. It would be good to have a report on stainless steel kettles without plastic components. Most of the online information seems to be about models sold outside the UK. These suggestions relate to routine activities of Which?, whereas arranging scientific investigations is not – unfortunately.

Guest

Are we Brits the only ones to use electric kettles in Europe? Do we have very different water to our continental friends? Should we not ask through BEUC whether other countries consumer associations have smelly kettle water?

It seems to me that Which? should cooperate much more in investigations and testing and use the joint resources of all the European consumer groups and the strength of the membership behind them. Perhaps it does and we don’t hear about it?

Guest

You may be on to something there Malcolm. The UK are a nation of tea drinkers and need kettles.

We have rented many holiday apartments/villas and they rarely have electric kettles. If a kettle is supplied, it is usually a metal one to put on the stove so maybe other countries don’t notice the problem like we do.

Guest
Al Cain says:
19 November 2016

A quick addendum to my previous note. The horrible ‘water tainting’ Breville kettle was returned to Sainsbury’s for a full refund. The woman in Sainsbury’s also said that she sees this issue cropping up more and more often – product returns for ‘water tainting’ kettles are on the up .
No response yet from the BBC’s Watchdog team about this issue (worth a try though).

However, my new kettle has arrived and it’s a bloody joy! Perfect tea – zero taint. Not too much to ask eh!?
It’s a pity I had to buy my way out of this problem, but well worth it – I recommend this kettle. There are zero plastic parts anywhere which come into contact with the water inside. It has auto shut off, a metal filter etc (make sure you specifically request the metal filter when you order). Lastly it’s designed by the Italians, so it looks great too.

Here’s the product for those interested (it’s not cheap, but it’s very high quality, and won’t poison you with unknown compounds!):
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01M6ZX3OQ/

Guest

Thanks for the link to the kettle. It looks rather nice and they do a wide range of colours. Just a shame they don’t do toasters to match.

Guest

I have often wondered why people want matching kettles and toasters. The best buys are unlikely to come from the same stable. Better to stick to stainless steel then they don’t date and they look compatible, if not matching, on the counter.

Guest

Polished stainless steel is easy to keep clean and a quick rub with metal polish will keep it looking as good as new for years.

Guest

I have never had matching kettle and toaster before, not even considered it, especially as they wear out at different times and you tend to buy whatever you think is best at the time.

I think it must be a ‘having a new kitchen’ thing !!!

Guest

I have never owned a toaster, though have had quite a few people offer to buy me one. I don’t like toast and when friends visit they can use the grill, which does a perfectly good job.

Guest
Tom Smith says:
11 December 2016

Hi I have just bought a kettle “Silvercrest” and carried out the manufacturers instructions and boiled and replaced the water several times. I the made a cup of tea and the smell /taste of the tea was disgusting. My initial response was that I must of contaminated the cup with a cleaning chemical so I made another cup of tea in a different cup but had the same experience. So I then investigated the kettle by smelling the inside of the kettle with the lid open, the smell was very strong especially when I smelt the inside of the lid which was plastic (the kettle is made from stainless steel). I then reverted back to my old kettle which is a Russell Hobbs made from stainless steel but the lid has no plastic in its construction and there was no smell or taste in my tea.
So the conclusion that I have reached is that the plastic which is part of the lid when the water boils changes its composition and contaminates the water. It is possible that the taste/ smell may disappear with time but obviously who is going to put up with unpleasant taste and smell until then.

Guest

Well thats the type of post I like Tom -down to earth- or should I say -down to smell ? . The practical facts from practical investigation by a practical person , no need for higher physics here !

Guest
Mrs A Lloyd says:
14 December 2016

The element broke in our very cheap ‘Cookworks’ stainless steel kettle which we had had for a few years and we bought a Russell Hobbs Buckingham stainless steel kettle on the 3rd of December 2016 after looking at the ‘Which’ report. We boiled water in the new kettle and rinsed it out as instructed but the first time it was used both my tea without milk and my husbands black coffee were undrinkable. The smell and taste was horrible. We tried everything to resolve the problem but nothing worked and we took it back and got a refund. We searched on the internet and found numerous other people with the same problem with various makes of kettles going back some time. After looking at lots of kettles we bought a Russell Hobbs glass kettle model 21600 yesterday 13th December which we thought would be fine but it has the same problem. Our old kettle did not have this problem nor does our old ‘Prima’ glass kettle so why is this happening now. Has the composition of the plastic changed? Can anyone advise of a good electric kettle that does not have this problem?

Guest

Russel Hobbs Buckingham Quiet Boil Kettle.

Terrible smell and taste for the first 2 days. It did eventually go after repeated boiling of full pots.

Guest
william says:
6 June 2017

I Purchased my Russell Hobbs kettle 1 week ago on 31/5/2017 and used it on that day, the water tasted/smelt horrendous, after following the cleaning instructions there was still no change. I contacted their customer service department and was told to was it out with Bicarb of soda, tried this several times over two days and still no change in the taste or smell, I contacted the customer service dept again and was told “as it is only a few days since I purchased the Kettle take it back to the store I bought it from and tell them it is broke” and ask for a replacement. I am absolutely furious with their actions.
So thank you to Russell Hobbs customer service reps.
Never again shall I purchase any RUSSELL HOBBS GOODS…..

Guest
Anna says:
21 July 2017

I have the same problem with a swan 1.7 litre kettle, have boiled it 20 times now and still disgusting. I am not trying any more, i am expecting and won’t risk drinking it. Emailed Swan, have had a response saying Which are looking into it, emailed them again but no response so far. Very disappointed.

Guest
Steve says:
28 July 2017

Try using filtered water from a jug filter for boiling but empty any unused water from the kettle before boiling again. Never use the same water twice for boiling. That works for mea great cup of tea every time.

Guest
Steve says:
28 July 2017

Hi, we always have an issue with foul tasting tea with water boiled from our kettle the only solution that works for us is to only use filtered water from a jug water filter for boiling, and to empty out any unused water after boiling. That gives us a great cup of tea or coffee every time.
Out of interest this only started once the village water pipes were upgraded to the modern plastic ones so I put it down to that as we didn’t have any problems prior to that, although I think the chemical additives in the water today don’t help. It may be the taste of plastic in the boiled water comes from water laying in the pipes overnight due to low usage.

Guest
Rosemary E says:
28 October 2017

I have got the same problem with my new Morphy Richards kettle. I have had it for about three months and thought it would eventually settle down but it hasn’t so I thought I would search online and was amazed to see what a widespread problem it is. I find that the only way to avoid the horrible plastic taste is to boil exactly the amount of water I need for one cup of tea and then completely empty the kettle before I use it again. If I leave even a tiny amount of water in the kettle it taints all of it.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
7 December 2017

An interesting observation. One that if found to work for others would be quite a discovery.

It may be worth trawling a few sites to extend the potential testers by offering it as trial solution.

Guest

There is a simple explanation. When there is water in the kettle, whatever is causing the taste problem can leach into the water, which cannot happen if the kettle is empty. I’ve always emptied my kettle overnight and rinsed it before use, as my parents did.

Guest

Tea is best when using freshly boiled water immediately. Boiling removes the oxygen from the water which impairs the taste of the tea so it is always best to discard any water left in the kettle before making more tea and refill the kettle with fresh water from the mains supply. We always do as Wavechange does and leave the kettle empty after use and always run off a couple of litres of water from the mains tap each morning before consuming any just to ensure the water is good.

To eliminate the water source as a possible cause of the taint, boil some water in a plain stainless steel pan and make some tea and compare the taste with tea made from freshly boiled water from the kettle. If the pan-boiled water is fine the water supply is not the problem.

I guess that, being more robust in character, coffee is more tolerant of any taste problem than tea leaves are.

Guest

By the time water has been boiled, the oxygen will have been removed. I used to make oxygen-free water routinely for lab experiments that would not work if oxygen remained. I was using distilled water rather than tap water but it seems unlikely that would be a factor.

I’m not questioning the fact that freshly boiled water makes better tea, just the explanation.

Guest
Rosemary E says:
8 December 2017

I don’t dispute that boiling water a second time will not make such a nice cup of tea. What I have found with this kettle is that it actually has a strong and horribly strange taste which has never happened with previous kettles. It is not a case of leaving water in the kettle overnight, it happens even if the water has been in the kettle for half an hour. I would love to have returned the kettle but lost the receipt.

Guest

Instead of leaving water in the kettle after making tea, have you tried emptying the kettle immediately and not refilling it until you need more boiled water? It would be interesting to know whether that also results in a taint.

Guest

Rosemary – A receipt is not necessary as proof of purchase if you can provide other evidence such as a credit card statement.

Guest

To my knowledge, despite the extensive Convo, no one has produced a watertight explanation if the tainted water problem; plenty of speculation, opinion, but no properly-researched and tested answer. Does it matter? Someone pointed out there is no great outcry so the problem is minimal. So it might be but, nevertheless, I like to see answers to problems. If anyone wanted to bother, a first step would be to ask complainants to supply a sample of water boiled in their offending kettle, and unboiled water. We might learn by analysis of the two samples what the differences are and how they might have arisen. But is it worth the effort…..? Perhaps a kettle manufacturer might be interested.

Is all tea affected, or not China……?

Guest

That is what I am doing. I am actually wasting water now because it is difficult to put exactly the amount of water for one pot of tea in the kettle. I fill the tea pot and then pour the rest of the water away. Every now and then I forget and that is when I get a nasty surprise with the taste.

Guest

Hi Rosemary – It would be interesting to do a couple of experiments to help us understand the problem:

1. Do other people spot the unpleasant taste in the water or tea? The reason I ask is that it’s well known that some people detect tastes that others don’t.

2. Can you detect the bad taste in coffee or other drinks? Teas is a rather delicate flavour.

Various solutions such as putting baking soda in the kettle or using kettle descaler have been suggested.

Guest

Purchased a Russel Hobs Cambridge – the plastic lid has always has a ‘mouldy’ smell – noticed while removing packaging – washed and repeatidly boiled – but smell remains after weeks – I have just purchased a stainless steel PSB free kettle – let’s see how this one is !!

Guest

Is there any evidence that kettles sold in the UK use plastics containing BPA (Bisphenol A)? I ask because I have a kettle with a plastic lid.

Guest

“What studies are being carried out in the US and how will these address the uncertainties?

The National Toxicology Programme (NTP) is conducting a long-term study in rats involving prenatal as well as postnatal exposure to BPA. This study will clarify whether the changes in the mammary gland seen in some studies will result in an increased incidence of tumours in humans.” “The assessment is expected within the next 4 years.”
https://www.food.gov.uk/science/bpa/foodcontactmaterialsbpafaq

At present the European Food Standards Agency states “Is BPA in food harmful?

Minute amounts of BPA can transfer from packaging into food and drinks, but independent experts have advised that these levels of exposure are not considered to be harmful. Independent studies have shown that, even when consumed at high levels, BPA is rapidly absorbed, detoxified, and eliminated from humans.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reduced the tolerable daily intake (TDI) to address the current uncertainties surrounding the potential health effects of BPA.The current exposure to BPA from food contact materials is considerably below the new TDI and therefore is not a health concern. The TDI is the estimated quantity of a chemical substance that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without posing an appreciable risk to health.”

Is any later information now shown to give cause for concern?

Guest

This has come up for discussion before, Malcolm, and I’m aware of the published view of the EFSA. I’m not sure that this completely allays concerns. Do we really want to have to rely on the ability of our body to detoxify and eliminate potentially toxic chemicals?

What I was wondering is whether or not manufacturers use plastics containing BPA in contact with water (or steam in the case of the lid). What is used for the handle or base is unimportant because it will not be in contact with the water.

Guest

If you are looking for a BPA Free kettle – I have just purchased a Cusimax 1.7L 3000 CMWK-1805 – no horrid smells or taste (amazon)

Guest

Our kettle is all stainless steel. Never had a taint problem.

Guest

Thanks Fi. The vast majority of people don’t suffer from taste/smell problems even if their kettles are made of plastic or have plastic parts. Stainless steel seems a far more sensible material to use.

Guest

Looks better too IMHO.