/ 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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Comments

What annoys me is the stupidity of putting a powerful electric heater in a plastic container. Kettles, fan heaters and irons may contain safety devices but safety devices can fail, and even if the plastic does not burn it will create smoke.

We fitted a Quooker , an always on boiling water tap, when updating our new house. It is expensive as a fitment but when you add up the amount of saved time and water against the running costs it is arguably a cost effective investment.

I’ve looked up the Quooker and found that it is an expensive boiling water tap.

Perhaps it belongs in the Betterware catalogue, with all the other gadgets that solve problems we did not appreciate we have. 🙂

A better solution might be to invent an insulated kettle that will keep water hot for ages, though no doubt someone has thought of this.

Noise is the main problem for me. My sister once owed a kettle that sounded like a booster rocket. At night the sound of a kettle is especially annoying and I avoid making a drink for fear of disturbing others.

I’m not so bothered about the other issues mentioned. When leaks happen that usually signifies the kettle needs replacing. I need a new one now because of this so I’m off to check the latest report!

Kettles are amongst the simplest appliances and places like Argos do a selection for less than £10. If it goes wrong chuck it out and get another.

The only reason for spending any more is appearance. No problem with that but with this sort of device Which? best buys are seldom the best value.

Hi nick, buying cheap kettles regularly is an option, but it’s one I’d personally prefer to avoid. This is partly because the regular buying and replacing of appliances is potentially damaging to the environment, but it’s also because I would prefer to make an initial, higher outlay of money and receive a better engineered, longer lasting (and yes, more attractive!) product.

I only paid £40 for my kettle, but it works a treat, looks nice and I shouldn’t have to replace it for years (fingers crossed).

I agree Jennifer, though I am not convinced that more expensive kettles are durable. Leaks at water level gauges are very common, for example.

We should be pushing for at least a ten year warranty on kettles. If the manufacturer has to pay for repairs, I think we will see a great improvement in quality. That would be better for the environment and better for the user.

I redesigned the catches on my kettle slightly to ease the opening of the lid – works very well – Not recommended unless you are a competent engineer – I am. Incidentally I was so impressed with this particular brand of Chinese kettle – I bought a spare a couple of days later – That was nearly seven years ago – still using the original.

It was so much better and so much cheaper than the British one (£5 rather than £20) I bought one month earlier – couldn’t see water level and boiled ‘forever’ – so is in the attic never used.

I think a very important consideration is whether the kettle switches off when lifted off its base. My previous kettle did this, but the one I have now doesn’t, which I find very annoying. I often pick up the kettle before it switches off automatically, but even if I empty it, it will continue heating when put back on its base. This is surely wasteful, possibly even dangerous. I don’t always remember that I have to switch it off manually. If buying a new kettle I would definitely want to know whether it does this, but I’ve never seen this mentioned in reviews.

I echo this point! In Spain I have a very cheap kettle (Bifinett from Lidl) that has worked perfectly for years and switches off the moment you lift it from its base. Here in the UK we have a Breville kettle with a built-in Brita filter which is excellent in all respects – except that it goes back on the boil as soon as you put it back on the base! THIS IS REALLY ANNOYING! 🙁

I’m glad someone’s mentioned this! I thought my kettle continued to be on because it was a very cheap unbranded supermarket thing. One day, I picked up the kettle just as it started boiling, before it had a chance to turn off, emptied all the water into my saucepan, put it back on its base, cooked, had lunch, and dessert, and then went to make coffee and realised the kettle was on all this time! That’s 2000 W for 1 hour, or 2 kWh I had just wasted! And I was lucky the plastic didn’t melt. This kettle only turns off when there is boiling water inside it, so when it’s empty it will happily carry on heating the air for ever.

No, Clint, there must be an overheating cutout or you would have soon had a melted kettle or a fire. If the cutout fails, that is what will happen with a plastic kettle.

You’re right, wavechange. I thought it continued to be on because the kettle remained hot all that time. But if it was on continuously at 2 kW, it would have been melting as you rightly say. I think the safety cut-out turns it off until it cools down, then resets itself and makes the kettle come back on until it gets hot again before it cuts out again, which is why the kettle was hot but not that hot.

Mt first kettle (bought from Argos in 1986) was a Russell Hobbs. Very traditional shape, design and so on. Corded (I don’t think there were any cordless then, or of there were, very few and all “Jug” type). It went on and on and on and on …. and in fact it is still going on now – never even needed a new element – but now it’s in the office at work and gets used dozens of times every day by many users, some rather careless. I only changed it because it did have a tiny leak, so small that it never made the worktop wet, but over about 19 years it gradually made a nasty, crusty, scaly deposit under the spout on the outside and it looked unpleasant. With hindsight I realise that this leak is a manufacturing fault and if I’d noticed it early enough on I should have taken the kettle back and exchanged it. Had I done so I’d doubtless still be using it at home. It boils very fast, it’s almost silent, and it switches off very promptly pretty much at he split second that the water reaches boiling point.

Contrast that with a Russell Hobbs Jug style, stainless steel, kettle (cordless) which I bought as a replacement from John Lewis in 2008. It sounds like some sort of heavy duty industrial flame gun or blasting tool and it makes horrible, loud, snaps, creaks and groans. It also reaches boiling point and then boils …and boils … and boils … and boils … and boils … and boils … and boils … … you get the idea. In fact it’s so noisy and so bad at switching off that I took it back as faulty once, but John Lewis replaced it and the replacement was just the same, so that went back too and a 3rd was obtained, which was exactly the same for noise but even worse at switching off.

So back it went and I got my great Aunt’s 1976 Swan automatic corded traditional kettle, which was probably going to be thrown out otherwise as she’d gone into a nursing home and sold her house, and that is still going strong ….. and silent! (and it switches off very promptly when it boils!!)

My conclusion of the experience was that, like so many other appliances which these days are designed with form before function, older kettles – which actually look like kettles, sound like kettles, work like kettles (and by golly they ARE kettles!) actually work better and last longer.

One other point: jug kettles are not much use for people with weak wrists as they strain the wrist whereas a traditional kettle can ‘hang down’ in your hand and place no strain on your wrist. I never thought about this until I tried the Russell Hobbs jug kettle and found that when my mum, who has arthritis, visited to cat-sit whilst I was in Cornwall, she had to boil water in a saucepan on the stove because she could not lift the kettle.

George Scribe says:
25 October 2012

I’m very disappointed that the review did not cover pouring. We bought a Breville a while back and it’s impossible to pour without spilling. I hoped that the review would inform us in that respect as to a replacement but it doesn’t.

John Pontiggia says:
25 October 2012

I’m amazed that these reviews don’t seem to consider pouring. The most irritating thing about kettles in when pouring hot water into a cup and finding much of it has dripped onto the kitchen worktop or the floor.

Agree 100%, this is a major cause of frustration with most gadgets that involve pouring and it certainly should have a rating!

Roy.

The lid on our metal kettle is difficult to remove and potentially dangerous when hot.

Every kettle I’ve ever had with a level guage has ended up leaking, so now my priority is finding a kettle without a guage. At the moment I have a Morphy Richard kettle where the element doesn’t sit in the water and I can boil one cup at a time, I live alone so this is ideal.
However, the MR is now getting on in years, the lid mechanism has disintegrated but is still usable for the time being, just hope I can find one that is this kettles equivalent or better without that lousy level guage!

My old and faithful Morphy Richards has finally disintegrated to the point of being dangerous to the unwary or the half-asleep in need of caffeine!
The replacement is a Russell Hobbs, similar to the MR but contemporary I suppose you could say.
1.7 ltr capacity, with a filter that serves little purpose that I can see, however, I use filtered water for my tea so it’s of little or no concern. Stainless Steel, no element in water, and quick, boils a pint of water in the time it takes to get the tea-bag into my pint mug, milk and sugar, don’t know whether it could be classed as noisy or not, as it is of little importance to me. £19 from Morrisons, now back up to £22:99, my only niggles are the small lid opening and a fairly flimsy on/off switch.

You make a pint from a single teabag, and put the milk in before the boiling water? It can’t be very strong tea then!

Our Phillips kettle doesn’t turn itself off if you take it off its stand before (or just in the process of) boiling – quite normal when making coffee. This means it is still on when putting it back empty with the result in our case that the pretty fragile switching mechanism broke.

Jane says:
26 October 2012

Fragile filters for water scale. Often fiddly to remove when descaling the kettle and they don’t last. The kettle needs to pour well and switch off when lifted off the base. Another bug bear for me is getting a decent kettle that is not plastic. I don’t like the idea of plastics leaching into my water. Stainless steel isn’t perfect but I prefer it to plastic. The last plastic kettle I had, when replaced had deteriorated to the point where the inside was soft and flaking off into the water – I dread to think how long I had been ingesting this.

Noise is the most annoying thing about kettles. Kettles are so noisy that I have to turn up the radio to hear it.
However it appears as if Which haven’t really taken on board these annoyances – the website still just lists energy to boil, time to boil, overboil time and minimum fill on their best buy table. Kettles are rated as “energy saver” where energy efficiency is not a big issue on the list of issues.

Kev W says:
26 October 2012

Life must be wonderful if all anyone has to worry about is a noisy kettle! If you have a fast, and therefore high power, kettle then the physics of thermal shock and heating the water quickly will make it noisy!

I live in the cotswolds, an area with very hard water, if a kettle lasts a year it’s doing well, so I buy cheap and throw them away, sorry recycle 😉

Eric Lynch says:
26 October 2012

My Morphy Richards Jug Kettle that always drips from the spout when finishing pouring on to work surface

John Cudbertson says:
26 October 2012

We bought a Sainsbury’s own brand kettle last January solely because it was a best buy, and had your logo on the box to prove it. It worked fine for 8 months but then the lid failed to pop open, it was returned to the store for a replacement which turned out to have the same problem from new. The fourth replacement is being returned today with the exact same problem, this time for a refund. So how was this found to be a best buy? It is notable that it is now absent from your lists though still on sale. Further it is not possible to find using the search function in order to leave a review to warn others. Does this mean that an error has been discovered and you are therefore disassociating yourselves from the best buy status afforded to this poor item? It really should be placed in the don’t buy category with a persistent design fault as serious as this.

Matt

Which? recently warned about the fire risks associated with domestic appliances. In relation to kettles, the advice was: If you’re getting a new kettle, find one with a boil dry function which won’t allow you to use it if there isn’t enough water. There is no mention of this in the tables summarising the features of kettles.

As I mentioned above, I am concerned about the dangers of putting a powerful heater in a plastic container, so perhaps the fact that kettles are noisy is a useful reminder that they are switched on.

Thanks, Matt. I think you are right, though it is usually a self-resetting thermal trip that will turn the heat on again when the kettle has cooled. Older designs had a button to reset the cut-out and before we had cordless kettles it was common for the power plug to be ejected in the event of overheating. As far as safety goes, we might be moving backwards.

Adrian M says:
26 October 2012

Our biggest disappointment with kettles is that of durability. We have tried numerous different makes/models and at differing price levels – always purchased from Argos (and always with the extra 3 year warranty) – invariably they cease to function or break/leak after 12 – 30 months regardless of outlay. I would hope to get 6-8 years or more out of a kettle as we did in the ‘olden days’ ! However we now keep the box and receipt accessible as a matter of course and dissapointligly the staff at Argos never appear surprised and just end up throwing it away. Unfortuately in todays throw away world it doesnt appear to be in the interest of manufacturers to make anything that lasts longer than the warranty period and they just benefit from repeat sales. Sustainability doesnt appear to be at the forefront of any manufacturers business plans..

I had two kettles in 30 years. The first was made by Swan and was replaced because the paint started to peel and it looked tatty. I had a Philips chrome kettle for many years and replaced that because of a small water leak that would have been difficult to fix. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky with the next one, made by Breville. The heater failed after a few months and the kettle was replaced with the same model. This one has done better but I am concerned that it could leak around the water level indicator, which seems to be a common weakness of kettles.

In the ‘olden days’ you refer to, it was easy to buy and replace kettle elements.

M F Hutton says:
26 October 2012

Dribbling from the spout – this is often worse with hot water as this is less viscous.
A cure for plastic spouts is careful paring on the inside with a stanley knife.