/ Home & Energy

Does your kettle make your blood boil?

Leaks, loud noises, sticky lids – these are just a few of the problems you can run into with your kettle. Our testing helps weed out models prone to these issues, but which kettle problems really get on your nerves?

Kettles are an everyday product that many of us take for granted, yet they certainly inspire strong opinions among Which? members.

In fact, we get more reviews posted about kettles than almost any other product we test. Those reviews give us a wealth of insight into what you do and don’t like about kettles, which we’ve then used to improve our lab testing.

Your top 5 kettle complaints

Unclear and hidden water gauges were your fifth most common complaint with kettles, while difficult lids you struggle to open came in fourth. As a result of your feedback, we’ve changed the way we assess the water gauges on kettles, so that kettles with big, clear windows on either side are rated more highly.

Kettles which stay on once the kettle’s boiled – wasting energy in the process – were your third most common bugbear. So every kettle we test now has an ‘overboil’ rating, which also feeds into our test scores.

Noisy kettles are the second most common source of irritation to many of you, so we made noise levels a more important factor in determining a kettle’s overall test score.

But by far the most common complaint we get is about kettles that leak. As this is almost always a fault that develops over time, we can’t always tell from testing alone which kettles are most likely to leak a year or two down the line. But what we can do is survey thousands of small appliance owners every year to find out how reliable the big kettle brands really are.

What’s your biggest bugbear?

Personally, what I find most annoying is not being able to see how much water is in the kettle or the kettle having a high minimum fill level. I’m a stickler for waste, so I only like to boil as much water as I need. I recently bought a Best Buy kettle that has a really clear water gauge and can boil as little as one cup at a time and it’s been worth every penny so far.

So which of the above kettle complaints annoy you the most? Are there any issues I haven’t mentioned that really get your goat?

What is your biggest kettle bugbear?

Noisy kettles (30%, 141 Votes)

Leaky kettles (20%, 92 Votes)

Kettles that continue to heat water after boiling point (16%, 75 Votes)

Difficult lids (15%, 71 Votes)

Poor or unclear water gauges (11%, 50 Votes)

Other - tell us in the comments (8%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 469

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Yvonne Duffy says:
23 August 2015

I have recently bought a new kettle (Dolphin) but I am finding that there is a scum appearing at the top of the water, if left for only a short while. I live in Spain and consequently use bottled water as the tap water is, unfortunately, still subject to being cut off if and when we have rain. Do you know if the water which is sold as safe to drink should be doing this?

I used to have this problem when I moved to an area with very hard water, Yvonne. Boiling hard water will either deposit calcium salts on the kettle or they will float to the top, particularly with a shiny new kettle. If you see the same scum when you boil water in a non-stick pan you can be sure that this is the reason.

My Breville one cup kettle only delivers half a cup and I am unable to find an address to complain to

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Some of these devices allow for different size cups. If it is intended to deliver 250 ml then it won’t be enough for a mug.

If the amount of hot water dispensed is different from what is stated then it’s worth returning it to the retailer for replacement if it is a new product, or for repair/replacement under warranty.

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As Wavechange said above, in the UK the customer’s statutory rights lie against the retailer irrespective of the origin of the product, its manufacturer or its distributor.

Jesse says:
15 November 2015

Worst I have found are the ones with the handle over the lid, mine was a Swan. Very silly idea. It cost three times the one I have now and stopped working after one year. Just out of warranty how about that? Every time it boiled it produced a difficult situation as to when to pick it up. Never again. The cheap one has now broken…it just kept boiling and filled the handle with boiling water too. At £10 not worth fixing so off tomorrow to buy another one.

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Starterman says:
29 December 2015

I am having to replace a two year old kettle for the second time for to the round electrical connector in the base failing. Looking for a different design this time.

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Starterman – Fromwhat you have stated in your comment I assumed you were referring to the small circular electrical contact point [connector] that makes the electrical connection when you stand the kettle on its base unit [which contains the power lead from the wall socket] . The base unit has an upstanding circular projection containing a socket at its core and this engages with a matching cavity underneath the kettle that contains a central contact pin and circumferential contact strips. I believe the design of this electrical contact is more or less universal although dimensions might differ and quality of manufacture might affect the integrity of the connector leading to premature failure. In the first place you should take the kettle back to the retailer for a remedy under the Sale of Goods Act [recently superseded by the Consumer Rights Act for more recent purchases]. There doesn’t seem to be any point in having a repair or replacement of the identical model if the underlying fault has not been rectified so you should demand an alternative remedy to that.

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I dismantled the connector in the base on which the kettle sits to clean and adjust the contacts on a Kenwood kettle after it stopped heating. That was a couple of years ago and it still works perfectly. Only try this if you know something about electrical work though. After only two years I suspect you have a rubbish quality kettle and think your decision to replace it with a different make is correct.

Antony says:
14 January 2016

Hello! Thank you for this post! It is very useful for me. Recently my kettle has broken and I decided to buy new one. I want to make my purchase via internet and decided this shop http://hardware.eu. Does anybody know something about it? It is weird but i have never done any orderings online and I am scared a lot…

Nigel Smith says:
21 January 2016

We purchased a Russel Hobbs best buy kettle in 2014 and have had real problems with it tainting the tap water, so much so that we often have to discard the first boil and run the tap for up to 30 seconds before being able to get a decent cuppa . I have even left the water to stand over night with mixed results. So is it the water , the kettle , or both at fault ?

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Duncan – I presume you are referring to deionised water, which is commonly sold for use with steam irons, car batteries, etc. This is not food-grade and I would not drink it.

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I’m fairly sure it’s based on pseudoscience, a bit like perpetual motion machines. 🙁

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As a Scot, I have been fascinated by the achievements of John Logie Baird, and I know what you are talking about. James Watt – another Scottish inventor reputed to be inspired by a boiling kettle – could easily have been sidetracked if his kettle water had developed a strange taste instead of going on to improve the design of steam engines. 🙂

As regards the invention of TV, in the UK it was really Alan Blumlein, not John Logie Baird that invented the first really successful fully electronic TV systems.

Blumlein was also have responsible for a lot of pioneering developments in stereo – or binaural as he called it.

Hence, as ever, I wonder if DL has got any (or all) of his facts right…

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I see it fine to disagree but when it comes to insinuating that someone knows nothing or contributes endless nonsense its getting a little out of hand

Duncan has his field and has helped with advice on many things
It’s up to the reader to make their mind up.

Not so many days ago I got it in the ear and was pretty hurt

I dont think we need this
Yes me might give off about machines and companies even politics but personal comments are ott such as
“Hence, as ever, I wonder if DL has got any (or all) of his facts right…”

The “hence,as ever” is strongly suggesting DL is more often wrong than right
“any (or all)” continues on the same theme

Wave said Baird fascinated him and if one were to ask the man in the street who invented TV 9 out of 10 would say baird but there was another man finished the job
All wave and DL wee doing were having a debate………….about kettles and ionisers whatever they are

We all cannot be both labour and conservative and there will always be differences of opinion however we will not be moved by poor attitudes or those who complain about grammar or lack of knowledge

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Yes – I realise that there is not a disk whizzing around in my TV, so it must be electronic.

Meanwhile, it would be interesting to find out what percentage of kettles are affected by the smell/taste problem. And if someone has an affected kettle, do other people detect the same smell/taste? If some people manage to invent TV and stereo, surely a bit of joint effort might get to the bottom of the dodgy kettle problem.

It would be easy for Which? Connect to conduct a survey of members. I wonder if it will result in a Kettle Cheats campaign?

That’s one possibility and another is for Which? to contact some subscribers or users of Which? Convo with problem kettles with a view to getting them sent in for testing.

It sounds like the chlorine (necessary to kill bacteria) in the water is reacting with plastic or rubber to give a TCP taint. Re-boiling the water makes this worse as it concentrates the TCP. This reaction very often happens in the flexible hoses that supply water to washing machines and dishwashers. when you run the tap a certain amount of tainted water will return through the pipework and come out of the tap. If this is happening you need to fit non-return valves on the flexible hoses. Talk to your local water supplier as they may supply these valves like mine does, (Free of charge !)

@malcolm-r @wavechange thanks both for your suggestions. I’m going to have a look and see what we can do.

Thanks Lauren. Our Kenwood kettle seems to be on its way out – the switch turns off soon after switch on and needs to be reset. I’ll investigate…….But I might be providing evidence if and when I buy a replacement.

Thanks Lauren – Some of us are would love to make more input than just post comments on a website.

Malcolm – If your Kenwood kettle is one with an oval translucent switch, they often exhibit the fault you describe and I have seen people put weights on them to keep the power on. Not recommended. If your own fix does not work, try twisting the switch. I fixed one in this way, but achieved nothing with another.

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duncan, thanks – I’ll look out for those solutions when I operate on the kettle. wavechange – thanks also, but my kettle has a different type of switch but the problem may well be the same.
Putting weights on the switch is a no no. In the olden days some steam engine drivers did that with the safety valves to get more power and blew up their locos.

My Russel Hobbs kettle,bought in August 2015 has a very dangerous fault.
The lid pops open while kettle is boiling,but worse,the lid has popped open as I’ve been pouring the boiling water into teapot etc,and I was almost badly scalded.
Where can one find a safe reliable kettle?
It wasn’t like this in the good old days!

This seems like a fault in your particular example. In hindsight it should have been returned. Look at Which? reviews but they don’t mention bad tasting water. I’d therefore avoid plastic kettles. We’ve had a Kenwood SJM270 stainless steel kettle for many years that has given good service, but don’t suppose you can get it now.

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I was not suggesting all plastic kettles produce bad tastes but, in the absence of an explanation for the phenomenon, I would buy a stainless steel one.

cordless, ie sit in a base, are made to fail
thats why they saturate the market
i’ve tossed 4 in the trash
the ones with an attached cord are disappearing faster than your money

I had the same problem as Liz above. Russel Hobbs kettle, and now a cheap Asda one. After a year or so, strange fatty globules of a yellowish colour appeared on the inside of the kettle. Not removed by descaling. Strange taste. I’m wondering if there is an electrical insulating grease (silicon dielectric grease?) which is used to insulate the wiring underneath the element, and eventually leaches through into the inside? Our water is hard, but we rinse after use and descale regularly. The yellow grease is on the base, around the peg thing, and has almost blocked the filter inside the spout. Have chucked both kettles away, and now we use a stainless steel saucepan to boil our water in for tea.

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We managed to unscrew the parts underneath the old plastic Asda kettle this morning, to see if there was anything resembling an oily substance among the wiring, but as you say, Duncan, it’s all as it should be and has had no contact with the inside. The yellow residue is really sticky, and globular in form. It’s completely gunked up the plastic filter in the spout. We can’t fathom it out. But we’ll be using our trusty stainless steel pan in future. It takes a bit longer to boil on the cooker hob, but this is better than being poisoned with Unspecified Sticky Yellow Lurgy!

I cannot offer any suggestions but all the silicone grease I have seen has been colourless.

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Eliza, if you have the manufacturers contact details you could ask them, and send a picture of the residue. alternatively, ask AMDEA. (manufacturers’ trade body).

My biggest complaint is about reliability. Over the past five years I’ve been having a Kettle from the Argos cookworks range going wrong about once a year. Usually it just gives up the ghost, the electrics stop working (I think it’s the switch…) The last one was wrong as soon as I got – it dumped several tablespoons of water onto my table every time I poured out a cup. Enough! I joined Which? and bought their best buy Kettle. Not cheap, but I’ve had it with cheap and nasty kettles! So far so good, but will it last a year? The Which reports don’t have figures for reliability. Surely this could be tested across all their users? Or maybe decent kettles are simply reliable?

It’s so hard to find a decent kettle. Over the last 15 years, I must have bought about 8 kettles. The most frequent problem is leaking. Some just stop working almost straight away. I bought in the price range of £28 to £99. By far the worst quality were the two that I bought for £99 (Siemens Porsche and Dualit). The only thing I have learnt is that you don’t get what you pay for: the expensive kettles fail more quickly that the cheap ones. It seems counter intuitive but there you go. I recommend getting a cheap kettle and not being getting too attached to it.

I agree with you Mark. We haven’t got through quite as many kettles as you, but they don’t last long. I aim for about £30 when buying kettles. Those £100+ see-through kettles look really good before they are used, but when you live in a hard water area are a complete waste of money.

I will never buy a kettle from Amazon again as I have now bought 2 that might be fakes. You can read about them here:

I’ve had a Russell Hobbs Dome stainless steel kettle for many years – lost track of when it was bought. Its only fault was the failure of the mesh filter in the spout; I can live with that. About £30 when purchased.

My current Salter kettle has the filter as part of the lid and is a much better quality that I have seen on previous kettles.

I haven’t looked for a few years now, but the last time I looked, there were plenty of RH filters available on the internet and my local electrical store could also get them.

Leaking kettles seems to be the big issue. I don’t remember kettles leaking “when I was young” (1980-1995) and I think that is because they were all plastic. The trend in higher end kettles seems to be metal and glass. So there has to be joins in the kettle, where the metal meets the glass, which of course expand and contract at different rates. Hence the leaks. Many people have concerns about toxins from plastic leaching into their drinking water from kettles, which I guess is one of the reasons why premium kettles use metal and glass. Looks like you have a choice – cheap and plastic with no leaks, or expensive and metal / glass, with leaks.

It is common for kettles to leak around the water level viewing window, whether they are metal or glass. The simple solution is to have the water level indicator inside, where it can be seen when filling the kettle.