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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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……?

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.

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.

barbara jones says:
28 July 2019

The question is though, What is causing the bad taste in the first place?

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 !!

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.

“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?

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.

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)

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

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.

Looks better too IMHO.

A few days ago I bought from Argos a Russell Hobbs Luna quiet boil kettle to replace an old and far cheaper all plastic Tesco kettle where the plastic lid and surround were beginning to granulate and crumble. The Luna is a mainly stainless steel body with plastic inserts to view levels, a lid which is plastic on the inside and 3 plastic “paddles to measur 1,2 and 3 cuplevels. I had thought moving more towards steel was a good thing.
Despite having prepared the kettle first as per instructions the boiled water tastes strongly of TCP as mentioned elsewhere in this thread. I hope this will clear in time but reading above I am not now hopeful. I am starting to do a side by side with the old kettle each time I use it to see how/if it reduces. In discussions with Which? last year on the subject of tainting they say “Russell Hobbs told us that safety was its primary concern”. Well so I should think for a product from which we drink. But even a safe kettle which taints the water unpleasantly is not fit for purpose and unless it improves I will return it on that basis. RH also said to them “that all its products are thoroughly tested. It apologised to anyone who has had an unsatisfactory experience’ and said that this was an isolated incident.” The last comment is patently piffle as shown by this thread.
I have been a member of Which? for about 40 years They give this product 81%. There is no reference to tainting in their review or the tiny number of comments below it.
I will try to remember to update this thread to say whether the taint disappears or not.

We asked Which? if they assessed “tainting” in their kettle testing, given the number of adverse reports in Convo, but don’t recall any information being given. It may be to do with water quality of course so tainting might occur in one area but not another. Which? Connect could perhaps survey their members to tell them what model kettle they have, whether the boiled water tastes strange, and the area they live. The results might produce a list of “don’t buys” to help others.

Which? employ a testing laboratory and no doubt would have to arrange a new contract which given the potential water sources and sheer mechanics of getting the water may make it a no go.

One might think that using members of Connect or even magazine subscribers could be a way to establish some patterns. Think of it as primitive research a la cholera –
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1854_Broad_Street_cholera_outbreak

If Which? test a single sample of each available kettle, then this may show whether or not that particular item produces a beverage quality that is acceptable, according to the sensory capabilities of the testers involved.

However, this cannot prove the case for all possible water and beverage types, all possible customers and all possible sources of manufacture. For any given design, different batches made within the same factory or by different factories may behave differently.

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I don’t think it’s a common problem, Duncan. I hope that those who are affected return their kettle for a refund. It’s the best way to make the manufacturers take notice.

In her late 70s my mother started to use a plastic travel kettle because it was lighter than her full-size stainless steel kettle. I found it when moving home last year and thought it might be useful when I was living between two houses for a couple of months. It produced a strange smell after boiling, even after rinsing and boiling, even when this was done several times, whereas it had been fine before it had been consigned to the back of a kitchen cupboard for more than ten years. It’s the only time I have experienced a strange smell from a kettle and I decided not to taste the water.

I’m happy with my stainless steel kettle with a plastic lid, though might look for an all-metal one when it is replaced.

A couple of years ago, Patrick Steen wrote: “Hi John 🙂 as a result of all this feedback, each kettle we review will now be tested to check whether it affects the taste of the water, which means you can avoid kettles that have this problem in future.” https://conversation.which.co.uk/food-drink/kettle-smelly-water-russell-hobbs/#comment-1421322

I don’t recalling seeing reference to taste tests and they are not mentioned in the current advice from Which? https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/kettles/article/how-we-test-kettles

@patrick – Please could you give the team a nudge.

Until we know the cause of taint that might be a difficult test to set up. I’ve suggested elsewhere that initially Which? ask Members with the problem to supply samples of water before and after boiling, to see if we can analyse the difference in content. It may be down to the material in the kettle, the region the water comes from, for example. If we know what causes taint, we might then be in a better position to predict what kettles might cause it, or which consumers might be affected.

My first comment was on 7th Dec after buying a Russell Hobbs Luna kettle on 4th December which produced tainted water. I have since run a side by side test comparing the now extensively used Luna with my old completely plastic Tesco kettle ( a third of the price) which produces pleasant tasting water in comparison. I had bought the Luna thinking it would be better to have a nearly all stainless steel kettle. Although not so strong the Luna continues to produce a taint of TCP spoiling the taste of a cup of tea. Although in all other respects the Luna seems to be a good kettle, one which does that is not fit for purpose and I am going to return it. As coffee generally has a stronger taste coffee drinkers might not notice it so much. We use water from a filter jug for filling our kettles.

David A. C says:
18 February 2018

We have just replaced a Breville kettle purchased just 3 months ago because we were completely fed up with having to throw out drinks that tasted nasty. I’ve never had this problem before, but now I look on the internet I see numerous complaints about kettles produced by Breville and other companies (all emanating from a single factory somewhere, you can imagine). A web search suggests that plasticisers in the plastic lid may have been the issue. We found the problem was worst for the first drink of the day, consistent with chlorine in the tap water reacting overnight with the plastics to release plasticisers.

I’m amazed that the kettle producers seem so complacent about this problem, telling users that the chemicals creating the bad taste aren’t harmful and that treating the kettle with bicarb often solves the problem. If the issue is plasticisers, then there are major questions about their safety to consumers and aquatic wildlife. For instance, Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in large quantities in the production of polycarbonate plastic which disrupts hormones (i.e. the endocrine system) even if consumed in small quantities.

I see that Which already conducted some chemical tests on bad-tasting kettle water but drew few conclusions. I would encourage the organisation to conduct further tests with specialist chemistry labs involved in analyses of plasticisers in water.

Our replacement kettle has a steel lid (advertised as “BPA free”) and we’ve had no problem with bad tasting water.

Plasticisers are added to many plastics to improve their properties. They are typically volatile materials, which is why new products can have a chemical smell – such as new car smell. Only the manufacturers will know which plasticisers are present in plastics and at present we don’t know if plasticisers are a problem but this could be established by chemical analysis.

Is there evidence that the plastics used in kettles contain BPA? I have not seen any and I wonder if ‘BPA-free’ is a marketing gimmick being used to raise false concerns. I suppose we could advertise ‘asbestos-free’ products even though no other brands contain asbestos. I would love to know if any kettles contain plastics made from BPA. Incidentally, BPA is an ingredient of plastics (polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride) rather that a plasticiser.

I would be interested to know if others detect the strange taste, David. If so, it would be easy to identify problem kettles for testing. Sense of taste can vary a great deal and might explain why the smell/taste problem has been so difficult to identify.

I bought one of the Russel Hobbs Buckingham kettles last week and had an awful issue with bad chemical tasting water, I tried everything to get rid, including bicarbonate, vinegar, and still there, THEN, I thought if this is a plastic taste which my wife thought it was, then what could I do, so looked inside the kettle and un clipped the red plastic fast boil level indicator, (which is not really needed and just clips on) and hey presto that was the problem….so there you go problem solved….hope that helps others 🙂

Hi Olly – It’s nice when a problem is resolved easily. 🙂

Can you explain the purpose of the fast boil indicator? I guess its purpose is to mark the minimum water level.

Hello olly34, we recently bought a Russell Hobbs dome kettle. This also has three red plastic indictors in the bottom to show the water level for one, two and three cups. I ignore them! But we’ve never had a problem with smelly water. We, like many, live in a hard water area but maybe water treatment plays a part.

If Which? were interested they would ask for your plastic markers and test the results in boiled water of different qualities. Perhaps you could offer them? We might then begin to get a resolution to a problem – part of what testing should be about. Also, I would tell Russell Hobbs.

Yes the purpose is to show one, two and three cup levels for fast boil purposes…I would never use it to be honest as I just fill half way up and boil…

If you are game for an experiment you could try putting the plastic level indicator in a pan with water and finding out if this produces the strange taste. That would confirm that the plastic is the problem.

Any type of plastic sitting constantly sitting in boiling water would be an issue, I guess this piece of plastic is of different quality to anything else in The kettle, it does serve a purpose but not one I would need, it is definatetly the problem…and the water tastes and smells fine now…

Many kettles are all-plastic except for the base with the heater and they don’t produce tainted water. My Russell Hobbs has a plastic lid and water level gauge. All stainless steel kettles are not common, unfortunately.

As I’m sure we already know, terms like “plastic” and “stainless steel” refer to classes of material, not “pure substances”.

From olly34’s discoveries, and previous discussions on this convo, it seems likely that the problem of smelly kettles is linked to manufacturing issues such as “loose specifications” and poor configuration management and quality control.

Smelly kettles and a high level of product returns are likely to follow from those issues. If consumers dutifully return smelly kettles for refunds, then that should encourage manufacturers to do better.

Beyond that, what further actions do we think Which? could take?

We had a discussion about stainless steel before. Essentially there are a variety of grades available, but the reason for a metallic taste is likely to be poor ‘passivation’ after manufacture.

We are all familiar with the names of common plastics, or ‘resins’ as they are often called. A plastic such as polypropylene can include various additives that improve the properties of the plastic. We are not told which additives are used in plastics, never mind how the amounts. We are told the ingredients of manufactured food and I believe we should be told about the ingredients of plastics in contact with food. Manufacturers also use ‘mould release agents’ that are analogous to greasing a baking tray, and could remain on the finished product.

I think Derek is right about poor control in manufacturing being the reason for problems with some kettles.

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When this topic first started I contacted the British Stainless Steel Association. (Aug 2015). The problem would not just concern kettles, but presumably any food heated in stainless steel appliances. Stainless steel gets its properties partly from oxygen spontaneously combining with the chromium at the surface to produce the resistant layer without any assistance.
They replied”“I have never heard of such a problem with regard to stainless steel kettles. It is known that new stainless steel material initially leaches a tiny amount of iron from the passive layer, but the amount leached into water is typically <20ppb (parts per billion or 20μg/Litre), which cannot affect the taste of the water.

Consequently, the source of the complaint is a mystery to me. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this is connected with the processing, but I would think any change in taste would be a result of some other material contaminating the stainless steel surface – consistent with your lubrication idea ?"

My guess is the plastic is the more likely source, coupled with the additives in the local water supply. The proposal mentioned a number of times is to boil the same water in a plastic-free container, and in the suspect kettle; that should at least determine the source and, of course, whether someone might have particularly sensitive taste buds.

However, all this is still speculation. No attempt seems to have been made to attack this in any scientific way. If taste is affected then there must be something in the water that differs from the same water boiled in a taste-free vessel. That should be capable of analysis, if we want to bother.

The earlier version of this Convo (3 May 2015) reported more than than 130 complaints of unpleasantly-tasting water. So not necessarily a trivial problem. I have asked whether any EU consumers’ associations have had similar complaints, but no answer as far as I recall.

If we raise these issues I think we should want to see them pursued, otherwise what is the point?

A few reports about problem kettles refer to a metallic taste – which is quite distinctive – but more mention other tastes (TCP-flavour is sometimes mentioned) that are likely to be related to plastics. It would be possible to carry out scientific studies but maybe the money might be better spent in testing kettles with no plastic parts and also encouraging consumers to return problem kettles for a refund, which would encourage better quality control.

Which? did say they were considering testing kettles for taste. However, unless they know what might affect taste – the quality of the water for example – it would need to be carefully done. Boil water in a kettle, and in a taste-free container, use tap water and pure water for example. And taste the boiled water on its own, not making tea or coffee.

I well remember, Malcolm and have posted a similar comment. Carrying out this test does not require special resources or cost much. Even if there are no problems we deserve to be told.

Water alone has little taste so any strange flavour will be accentuated. Many can taste chlorine in tap water but use the water in food preparation and I would be surprised if many notice it.

Thank you Olly34, you have solved my problem. After weeks of taking my new Russell Hobbs kettle to friends houses to try out, emptying water after each boil, boiling alongside my ageing Morphy Richards (which has no problem with tainted water) and using bottled water. Today I read your post and have unclipped the red water level indicator, no more bad taste. You’ve saved me a miserable drive to Meadowhall to try and get a refund. But how come Russell Hobbs haven’t worked this out for themselves??

To think we could have been commenting on this solution under the relevant kettle test ….

If only it was so simple. I was staying with friends in Chesham recently and the Russell Hobbs kettle contained a red plastic water level indicator, something I had not seen before and is not present in my own RH kettle. Tea and coffee tasted fine.

Let me know if you are in that part of the world again and we could have a real ale and a G&T 🙂

Thanks Malcolm. My friends come up north at least once each month and being in their early 70s are planning to move here to be nearer their family.

This topic first began on 26 July 2015 – 2½ years ago. Despite suggestions I can see no research ever carried out by Which? to attempt to find out what causes the problem We’ve made numerous suggestions – suspect kettles from customers with samples of their local water, chemical analysis, using the plastic in different containers, but to no avail. Is it a consumer problem or just a few isolated cases? Has any survey been carried out to see how extensive the problem is? Have Which? consulted any experts to see what might be known and how it might be resolved? Have the manufacturers been asked to comment? Have I missed all attempts to solve this or is it just another pointless talking shop?

Oh, Happy Mothers’ Day too all mothers out their. 🙂

I have asked many people, mostly local and some living in other areas, but not yet found anyone with a problem. I discussed it with Russell Hobbs and from memory they said that they had received some reports but it is not a common problem. Since it is a problem with new kettles it should be easy to get an exchange in the same way as one with another fault.

Run as a community project on TV (e.g. Watchdog) information about makes, models, water suppliers could be generated. There is another Conversation giving a likely explanation. From memory, chlorine in tap water can react with plastic seals and other plastics. The amount of chlorine in the water that reaches our taps varies, depending on various factors. The concentration of chlorine can be estimated with test strips that can bought by the public.

Ok, experiments done, the plastic piece was removed from my kettle and the TCP or plastic smell and taste has now gone, so as requested I then boiled the offending piece of plastic in a pan of water and guess what’s the smell and taste was back in that pan of water, so for anyone’s who has this issue with the Russel Hobbs Buckingham kettle, remove the piece of red plastic from inside which is just clipped in place, it is just a fast boil level indicator and serves no real purpose….

Thanks very much Olly. You have proved your point. A strange question, but did other people detect the taste/smell? The reason I ask is that some people can detect tastes/smells that other people cannot.

Well done Olly.We have these same bits of red plastic in our Russell Hobbs “Dome” stainless kettle but have not noticed any smell or taste. We, like most, are in a hard water area. Water quality may be part of the problem. If you could be bothered, you could try bottled water boiled with the red plastic to see if that has any effect. Some people have taste buds that have differing sensitivities to others; one classic difference is the way Brussels Sprouts are perceived so this may also enter into the problem. Does everyone in your family see the difference in taste?

@patrick, perhaps Which? could take note of these simple experiments to help their testers check out smelly kettle problems?

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Thanks Duncan. I saved this page in my reading list earlier today, but have yet to look at it: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/microplastics-found-in-more-than-90-of-bottled-water-study-says

I’ll do a bit of reading and post a comment in one of the Convos on plastic waste or bottled water. Nile Red is a widely used fluorescent stain that is lipophilic, i.e. it binds to oils and fats.

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The amount of plastic in the micro particles is small and where owners of dodgy kettles have tried boiling water in a pan they have not had the taste/smell problem. I can’t say for sure but I think it’s unlikely that plastic microparticles are the problem. There’s no harm in considering all possibilities.

Posting this before I test out your theory.

We had a plastic Russell Hobbs kettle bought for us when we moved in to our house 18 years ago. Never had any problem with the water but the kettle partly died last week. We bought a Russell Hobbs Westminster (stainless steel) kettle to replace it. We have found that if the water in the new kettle is fresh i.e. not left in after a previous boil, the taste is fine. If not, the tea or coffee tastes like detergent has been added.

We’ve done the boil and empty multiple times (including shaking the kettle with the boiling water in it which requires a bit of care). We still get the taste appearing. We can switch back to the ancient plastic kettle with some care and the taste is good (so not the water or the milk or the tea/coffee or the cups). If I rinse the new kettle before boiling, empty and then boil, the taste is also good.

Candidates for problems are going to be the red plastic tab inside the kettle, or maybe some residue on/in the lid which comes out slowly if steam from a previous boil is allowed to condense and return to the water.

My wife finds the taste in coffee makes it undrinkable – takes me a while to realise there’s an after taste in tea. So I’m going to try a few tests and see whether we can get rid of the taste properly (or the kettle is going back).

We will be interested in your findings, Rob. I think you are the first person to say that it’s not just you that detects the strange taste. Taste can vary greatly between people. Russell Hobbs recommends either going through the descaling procedure or using bicarbonate of soda, but I cannot remember which.

As mentioned above, I’ve tried some tests, including a blind taste test with my wife and daughter. We all had the same responses albeit to varying degrees (my daughter and I found it mildly unpleasant, my wife found it horrendous).

1. Removing the red plastic tab inside the kettle made no obvious difference.
2. Boiling the same water repeatedly and swishing around the kettle produced the strongest most upleasant taste.
3. Boiling the kettle with the lid open and a tea towel around the lid to prevent steam getting to it seemed to produce a clean taste.

Since we know it isn’t the milk, or the water, or the tea/coffee (our old kettle produces a good cuppa), and because reboiling the water with a lot of agitation seems to produce the bad taste/smell most reliably, I suspect it is associated with the lid. The lid itself has the hinge, the hinge release mechanism, and is a hollow compartment, so if this is a manufacturing process problem leaving a residue on various surfaces, a simple wash and repeated boiling isn’t going to get the nooks, crannies and void spaces in the lid.

After our initial multiple rinse and boils, we were getting a bad taste/smell about one in five times.

I’ve since boiled the kettle full (including letting this boil out of the kettle top – have a care), plus emptied the kettle upside down forcing the hot water to run over and through the lid, ran bicarb of soda through a boil, multiple boils, and run very hot kitchen tap water through the lid. This seems to have improved the ratio to maybe one in ten but the taste is still coming through occasionally.

The fact the taste is present sometimes but not always implies it is something to do with a part of the kettle not in the main body where the water is always boiling. My money is still on it being associated with some residue on the lid or hinge, possibly buried inside the lid itself, or maybe even in some of the tubes, the scale for the level indicator (this is an odd plastic part which does have small void spaces and gaps to let water in/out).

Next stop Russell Hobbs customer care.

Thanks for coming back, Rob. I have long wondered if different people might have different sensitivity to strange tests and you have done the obvious experiment. Your conclusions make sense and I will be interested to know what response you receive from Russell Hobbs. I have two Russell Hobbs Canterbury kettles with plastic lids that pop up at the press of a button, and I presume yours is similar. I really like the design.

I registered both kettles with RH and made it quite clear that this was for them to inform me of recalls or other safety information and NOT for marketing. I received a marketing email yesterday and it is not the first one that I have received.

Russell Hobbs immediately redirect anyone with a product under one year old back to the original retailer so I’m taking this one back to Argos (who direct anyone with a product to contact the manufacturer in the first instance!). I’m going to try a replacement first.

It is the retailer that has the legal responsibility, but it’s always worth contacting the manufacturer to make sure they are aware of problems. Russell Hobbs offer a two year guarantee and this can be extended to three years by registering, though if you do it online they assume you will participate in their market research. I got round this twice by phoning them.

Argos should not be referring you to the manufacturer, but this is a very common problem with retailers. I expect that Argos will replace the kettle without question if you remind them that it is their legal responsibility.

Excellent researching.

Thabsile dladla says:
28 April 2018

Hi everyone, i use a plastic kettle. i started to boil water because i am afraid of tap water. People say that boiling water makes it safer which i dont really know for sure. so i after cooling down the boiled water i pour it into my plastic bottle after some days i notice white things floating around and it smells bad. why is that? should i stop boiling my water?

Drinking water is filtered and chlorinated to ensure that it is safe to drink straight from the tap. It is wise to boil water for babies, whether tap or bottle water, but not necessary for adults.

If you live in a hard water area the white material is likely to be calcium deposits as Duncan suggests. Try descaling the kettle. If the problem remains, try boiling water in a pan or microwave oven. If the problem remains it is hard water and if the water is OK then the plastic in the kettle must be breaking down.

I disagree with Duncan about the smell being caused by bacteria. If the smell is only there after boiling it is caused by the kettle, as with the many cases reported in this Conversation.

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Boiling water (or filtering it with a Brita filter) will remove the chlorine that ensures that it is safe to drink when it reaches the tap, so it’s best to store the water in the fridge and use it within a couple of days.

For bacteria to grow and produce a foul smell, this indicates the presence of a large number of bacteria. For bacteria to grow, they require a complete range of nutrients – I used to give lectures about this. I cannot see where these would come from if you boil tap water and store it in clean plastic bottles.

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We live in the Thames Valley, which has notoriously poor quality (and hard) water. We’ve been suffering the “foul water from the kettle” problem for years. It’s cyclic, we go through periods of 2-4 weeks every few months where the water smells foul once boiled in the kettle, to the point where a cup of tea made with it is undrinkable. There are other symptoms when it’s particularly bad-

1) The boiled water itself smells bad (it’s nothing to do with the teabags).

2) When teabags have been steeped in the teapot for a while, the water surface has an oily or metallic sheen.

3) A cup of tea (made with teabags) will have a visible “scum” of team particles in the middle when stirred, seemingly bound together by the oily film.

4) Sometimes it’s so bad the water seems to burn the tip of your tongue (this is a burning chemical taste, not due to temperature).

We’ve tried changing kettles endless times, and have been filtering the water through a Brita filter, to no great effect.

After reading this forum, the “excess Chlorine in the water reacting with Phenolics in the plastics of the kettle” is the explanation that makes the most sense. We went and bought yet another a new kettle (a Bosch as it happens) with the smallest possible amount of plastic in contact with the water, and started putting a glass jug of water in the fridge to let the Chlorine evaporate off before making hot drinks with it.

We haven’t had an undrinkable cup of tea since starting this process. I won’t pretend we always get a great cup of tea, but at least it’s drinkable.

So- the explanation makes sense, but the questions remain-

1) Is it really ok to get water from the mains tap that contains so much Chlorine it burns your tongue?
2) What plastics are kettle manufacturers using?, because whatever they are choosing it seems to be making this problem worse.

If you boil a saucepan of water, does it still get a yellow scum on it? Over 25 years ago, it was reported that water in that area was recycled about 6 times before it got to taps.

I wouldn’t drink water from the tap.

I believe the water has been passed by the management of Thames Water.

alfa’s suggestion eliminates the possibility of plastic being the cause.

Water filters like Brita claim to remove most of the chlorine. Do they work and how quickly? A bit of a fag and an expense though but if you like drinking water as well probably worth considering?

We’ve recently purchased a new Russell hobbs kettle and we have boiled it with water as suggested and we have done the bicarbonate soda. But we still have a tcp taste in our hot drinks, it’s been a couple of weeks since we purchased it. It’s a metal kettle with a plastic lid. Our last kettle never had a tcp smell.
Please can anyone suggest how to get rid of the tcp taste?

I suggest you just return it to the retailer for replacement, Katherine. It’s likely to be the plastic lid that is the cause.

Keith Lewis Duncan Tapp says:
9 September 2018

Russel Hobbs claims this is an isolated case but 391 cases, that includes me are surly not isolated.

From the Frequently asked questions about kettles on the Russell Hobbs website:

“The kettle smells weird, how can I remove the smell?

Try descaling the kettle according the descale procedure, as this removes most smells. Rinse carefully afterwards.

If this does not help, please contact the Russell Hobbs Customer Service Department on 0345 658 9700.”
https://uk.russellhobbs.com/faq

You could try pointing this out, Keith. 🙂

From July 2015:
“We’re looking into whether we can test every kettle we review in the future for this problem, so that our reviews and test scores can help you avoid buying kettles which are likely to produce smelly, foul-tasting water in the future.”

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/07/what-to-do-if-your-kettle-makes-water-taste-bad-409296/ – Which?

Have Which? started testing for this problem?

Thanks to all who have replied to this thread – it’s very interesting reading because I, too, am having problems after buying a new kettle – or two actually.

Having used several Russell Hobbs kettles over the years without any problem at all, our latest one gave up the ghost a month ago, and, because it was on offer at Argos in Cambridge, we replaced it with a Breville stainless steel kettle with a plastic lid. Imediately we got the TCP/plastic/chemical taste in our tea. We read the Breville website which suggested boiling with Bicarbonate of Soda to remove it – we did this twice but to no avail and took the kettle back to Argos. The smell inside the kettle was so bad that the sales assistant agreed that we couldn’t carry on with the Breville and was very happy to exchange it.

The replacement was a trusty Russell Hobbs stainless Steel Worcester kettle in black…. SAME PROBLEM!

As a stop-gap, we’ve been using a very old plastic Swann kettle which delivers perfectly boiled water, super tasty, every time, albeit a bit slowly. The problem, therefore, has to be with the two new kettles, and not with our tea-making/water/milk/teabags/cups etc.

Having made two cups of completely undrinkable tea last night (the first with the replacement Russell Hobbs) I removed the red level indicator and also covered the kette’s lid with a plastic bag and tried again – not a fair scientific test- removing two variables at once, but we needed tea! The result was perfect – no unpleasant taste. Two boilings today have also been perfectly fine.

Tomorrow I shall reintroduce the red level indicator and see what the result is. Having read some of the comments on the thread, my guess is that it’s something in the lid that’s causing it but my mind remains open. I shall report back.

If it’s the lid then I shall speak to Russell Hobbs. I’ve been a customer and advocate of theirs for quite a long time so hopefully I can end up with a RH product that works like all the ones before it.

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Simon R, try boiling it with the lid removed.

I’ve a Russell Hobbs stainless “Dome” kettle. The lid is stainless with the only plastic on the outside. Inside there are the red level indicators – they are a waste of space so losing those will be no hardship – and a plastic window, sealed in, showing water level. We’ve never had a taint problem, but our water may well have different impurities / treatment residues from yours.

Which? could look at the reports from all those who’ve experienced the smell and see if it correlates with particular geographical areas or water suppliers.

Just a little update:

This morning I replaced the red level indicator inside the kettle, but left the lid wrapped up with a plastic bag and the boiled water remained fine – no evidence of the bad taste at all.

This evening when I have more time I shall boil it again with the bag removed and see what happens. My money is on a return of the bad taste.

If this is the case, I still have my broken, old Russell Hobbs kettle and I think the lid is the same as my new one so I think I’ll just swap them over because the old kettle never had this problem.

Maybe dismantling and washing the new lid in bicarbonate of soda would fix it.

I will report back 🙂

Here’s the latest on our kettle debacle – to recap, this is a black Russell Hobbs Worcester kettle in stainless steel with a plastic lid:

I put the plastic red level indicator thing back into the kettle and left the lid covered in a plastic bag. All was initially well but out of about 15 attempts (fresh water in the kettle each time) we had a couple of bad-tasting batches.

This has led me to remove the red indicator and discard it.

I then uncovered the lid and carried on boiling with fresh water each time.

Initiallly we had a couple of unpleasent batches in approximately 20 attempts but it seems to have cleared and we are now getting consistently good results.

Hopefully that’s the end of the problems. It’s difficult to draw any conclusions, except that I think both the red thingy and the lid were intermittently responsible for the bad results, however in the case of the lid, it has cleared with repeated use and hopefully won’t be back.

If the problem comes back then I shall return the kettle to Russell Hobbs as unfit for purpose and re-think our kettle buying strategy.

I wish everyone else luck with this issue 🙂

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Using the resoucefulness of members has never been a feature of Which? as far as I can recall this century.

I have the 12 month ongoing reports I would like to add to the Neato Connect and Roomba 980 articles but now we have no venue. Seems Which? are driving us to Amazon to give product reports derived from our experiences. I have strong objections to this as Amazon is dangerously powerful, and as we know, not very careful at all in what it is prepared to sell.

Some sites, like Screwfix, arrange customer reviews to demote uncomplimentary ones. I don’t now whether Amazon does that as I rarely look at them – basically because I don’t trust them.

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Screwfix displays reviews by descending rating, though you can show them with the poorest or newest ratings at the top of the list. Many retailers do the same.

Amazon often provides a large number of reviews of products and that is one of the strengths. Avoid the very positive comments and the very negative ones – which are often about delivery problems. Look for reviews that give both positive and negative comments and are and give information that is not shown in advertising. There is obviously no need to buy from Amazon. 🙂

I cannot say that I miss the reviews on the Which? website because the product coverage was poor. Nevertheless, there should be a way for members to point out deficiencies in the reviews, poor reliability, etc.

With 700 000 members (all consumers) I think they (we) should all be encouraged by Which? to comment on products they have, new and well used, to build up a database that we could search. Would need a bit of effort on both parts of course.

Well, it’s not good news about the Russell Hobbs Worcester kettle. I thought it had settled down and would be OK, however, this has not been the case. Although we’ve been careful not to re-boil water, every now and again (probably twice or three times a week) we would still get a bad batch of water.

This always seemed to happen at a very inconvenient time and after a few mornings when we left the house for work early in the morning without having enjoyed a cup of tea, because we realised too late the tea was undrinkable, I lost my rag!

I called Russell Hobbs to tell them what I thought of their kettle and after a brief telephone call I got a returns number and will be including this with the kettle when it goes back to Argos tomorrow.

Our plan is to step up a price bracket and go for a kettke that’s as free from plastic as we can find. The Dualit range look pretty good and although twice the price another bonus is that the kettle would match our toaster.

If the Dualit has the same problem, there’s always a £499.95 Smeg Dolce & Gabbana kettle at John Lewis. I might try a price point before that though!

Wish me luck.

Good report, Simon.

The more metal the better the kettle.

Patrick Taylor says:
20 November 2018

We had a designer kettle in metal, an Alessi design. It was though designed for a hob and poured badly. Now with induction hobs being so powerful a hob top kettle is actually an option – provided someone still makes kettles in a metal with magnetic potential. ….. ah someone has researched this for consumers:
designrhome.com/kettle/kettles-suitable-for-induction-hobs.php

If the Dualit suits I believe it can be sent away for the element to be replaced a few years hence.

And failing all that there is the Quooker which much more useful than the Smeg. We have bought three. Quooker.

AND for researchers everywhere hope that one of Europe’s test facilities will buy this and Which? will employ them.
m.phys.org/news/2018-11-h2o-technology-simultaneously-elements-liquids.html

I think we’ve solved the problem. As you say, John, the more metal the better. We happened to be in Norwich yesterday and found a Kitchenaid Design Collection 5KEK1565BAC Kettle in Almond Cream, at £103.50 in Jarrold department store.

It’s a lot of money for a kettle, however, this particular one is totally stainless steel-lined, including a stainless steel lid, so no plastic comes into contact with the water at all.

The result? The water tastes as it should so far.

As we were looking at the various kettles on display at least two people bought the same Russell Hobbs model that gave us all that trouble… I wondered if I should say something! I didn’t in the end but, you never know, they may end up here wondering why their tea tastes undrinkable.

In a way I’m sad that Russell Hobbs can’t seem to make a decent plastic kettle any more – I’ve been a customer of theirs since the Millennium Kettle nearly 20 years ago – one of the first with the disc element. That was a very well designed product which worked very well.

Just pulled apart a Russell Hobbs Whisper Model 3090 cordless kettle which i have been using every day for a few years.
It was intermittent turning on.
I fixed that problem by bending one of the switch contacts on the inside just a little as it had burned away slightly and was only making contact sometimes.
When I put the bottom back on and tested it I noticed that the water had an electrical smell which was strange as I had never noticed it before.
I then pulled it apart again and noticed that one of the main wires from the switch to the element had the insulation melting so I replaced that wire and now there is no smell in the water.
To confirm the smell I held the old wire and insulation on a flame and that is definitely what the smell was. The smell was travelling UP the tube which takes steam down to the bimetallic strip to turn the kettle off and was contaminating the water in the kettle.

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