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Your view: letting off steam over noisy kettles

Steaming red kettle

They serve us well through morning coffees and afternoon teas, but has the trusted kettle lost our love when it boils so loudly it’s ready for take-off? Here’s how you let off steam over noisy kettles…

Comparing a kettle’s noise to a plane might seem like a stretch – our loudest kettle came in at 95dB and a plane taking off is an audio-booming 140dB – but it’s a comparison Rachel made:

‘My kettle sounds like a jet taking off from Gatwick. I can’t hold a telephone conversation and boil the kettle at the same time.’

This led to an amusing comment from Wavechange:

‘This is your captain. Warning lights will be switched off shortly, but you are advised to keep your seat belt on throughout the flight. As you have heard, the kettle has boiled and tea will be served soon.’

Still, noisy kettles don’t bother our regular commenter Wavechange:

‘The noise made by the kettle does not bother me. When the noise stops, it is time to make the tea, so it is quite useful.’

Kettle on, ear plugs ready

Anon the Mouse’s kettle certainly isn’t as a quiet as a mouse – they described their kettle as ‘so loud we can hear it from one side of our home to the other.’

And John Ward thinks his kettle has seen better days:

‘Our kettle gets tremendously excited and makes a phenomenal racket, drowning out all conversation during the last few minutes of the boil. This has got worse as the kettle has got older. It helps if we put one of those ribbed rubber mats underneath it to stop the transmission of vibration, but the screaming from the cold molecules as they get scolded by the hot ones is still alarming.’

David Dundas thinks the evolving kettle design is to blame for the noise. He’s tempted to design his own quieter kettle:

‘Electric kettle noise is a big problem and it was much less when kettles had immersion elements. I am an engineer and I feel sure I could design an efficient kettle that is much less noisy than the present offerings, if only I had the time to do it.’

Boiling kettles kill conversation

Antony’s kettle would serve the perfect brew if it wasn’t for the unsavoury noise:

‘Our Russell Hobbs kettle is great. It is well designed, made out of good materials, and looks like it will last. But it is astonishingly noisy, drowning the radio and making phone calls impossible while it is boiling.’

Hughesy is tempted to move back to an old-fashioned kettle:

‘Who decided that all kettles should have a nice resonant metal surface over the element? We had a good old Hayden white plastic kettle made in England now about 15 years old. The element is the old traditional type immersed in the water and is quite quiet compared with modern horrors. It still works and have only recently replaced with a modern Kenwood £20 cheapy because the plastic was worn and looking dirty.

‘The Kenwood is noisyish but one still converses without too much difficulty. The old kettle did not fur up too much because we use filtered water. It is easy to clean a furred element. Very tempted to go back to using an old fashioned kettle (if I can find one) on the gas hob – at least it would be quiet!’

Do noisy kettles bring your temper to boiling point, or are the complaints just a lot of hot noise?

Dave Garner says:
9 August 2013

The issue of noisy kettles illustrates a more general problem: the difficulty of checking technical details before buying equipment. Try asking most shop assistants whether a kettle is quiet, how long a light-bulb takes to warm up, how long a digital radio takes to change stations, and you’ll get blank looks. A friend recently tried to buy a digital radio in a very large and very respectable London department store. The assistants he asked first didn’t know whether the store sold radios. Then, when he found them himself and asked a couple of not-too-technical questions, he was invited to read the box.

sks says:
9 August 2013

I have a very quiet kettle – it’s a Russell Hobbs Montana Whisper which I bought in Australia; unfortunately you don’t seem to be able to buy them here in the UK. It has the flat metal plate rather than the immersion element but it has a ‘plastic’ (?) ring on top of the metal plate and that seems to be the thing that keeps it quiet. It’s a stainless steel kettle which also would normally appear to be noisier than plastic. I am assuming that the plastic ‘baffle’ breaks up the size of the bubbles and this reduces the noise (this is purely a guess!!). How I wish we could get these kettles here in the UK – my parents are looking for a new kettle, as you can’t hear yourself think or hear the TV over the volume of a boil on their current one! I did purchase one of the Which? recommended kettles last year, based on the results of the test saying it was really quiet but had to return it as it wasn’t at all!

While looking for information about quiet kettles, I found reference to a plastic ring on Kenwood kettles, strangely named the ‘Stealth system’. I posted about this in the previous Conversation but no-one suggested how this might work or commented on whether it is effective.

I suspect that the purpose is the plastic ring is to help prevent the thin metal base from resonating and amplifying the sound. My traditional-style Breville kettle has a large stainless steel base and sides and it is clear that this is involved in transmitting sound caused by cavitation, the collapse of bubbles of steam. It sounds quite different with and without the lid in place.

Issues like noise levels are one of the reasons why Which’s Product Tests can be so invaluable.

Even though kettle noise is not my top priority, it is very good to know as much as possible about products before purchase. It would be great if Which? could give an explanation of why some kettles are quieter than others.

howIwish says:
10 August 2013

I too suffer from this phenomena. I presume, in areas prone to limescale build up, refills of fresh water also enables chemical reactions to take place and the creation of gases in and under the calcium deposits in the kettle.
As the water heats up the bubbles explode, causing a lot ofnoice. gas bubbles exploding that produce a lot of the noise. I find descaling with ‘white viniger’, cleans and reduces the noise considerable.