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Start your morning off right — here's how to clean your coffee maker, according to experts

Ahhh. There's nothing like that first cup of coffee in the morning. Whether you keep things simple or prefer to whip up something that would rival your local Starbucks, that a.m. cup of joe helps start the day off right — that is, as long as your coffee maker is clean.

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Not to burst your bubble, but when was the last time you cleaned your coffee maker? Do you even know how? Luckily, it's simple — but still necessary. NSF International, an independent public health organization, did a study on household germs and tested 30 common items in 22 different homes. Researchers said that "the biggest misconception identified through the study was that the bathroom is the dirtiest place in the house when in fact the kitchen had the most germs."

Germs thrive in moist and warm environments. In fact, according to the study, items like "sponges and coffee reservoirs, which may not be cleaned as frequently as they should be, were in the top 10 germiest places in the home" — and coffee reservoirs in particular were common places to find yeast and mold. Yikes! With that in mind, let's get cleaning.

Coffee being poured into a mug.
If your coffee tastes more bitter than usual, it might be a sign that it's time to clean your coffee maker. (Getty)

How often should you clean your coffee maker?

According to coffee maker brand Mr. Coffee, you should clean any reusable parts of your coffee maker after every use, and you should do a deeper clean once a month. Depending on your coffee maker, some parts may be dishwasher-safe — score! If not, hand-washing with warm, soapy water will work just fine.

As for that deep clean, vinegar is an easy answer when it comes to properly descaling your coffee maker. "Descaling removes limescale build up in your coffee machine from calcium, magnesium and other minerals that come from your water," KitchenAid advises. "The descaling process can include cleaning with vinegar or specialized descaling tablets."

It's also a good idea to consult your coffee maker owner's manual to see if there are any particular things to keep in mind. As with most products, all coffee makers are built slightly differently.

A woman in a kitchen pours coffee from a coffeepot into a mug.
Enjoy your freshly brewed coffee knowing it's coming from a clean coffee maker. (Getty)

How to clean your coffee maker, step by step

1. First, pour equal parts distilled white vinegar and water into your coffee maker's water tank. Make sure there are no coffee grounds lingering in your basket or filter.

2. Set your coffee maker to brew, and let it run its usual cycle with that vinegar-and-water mixture. If you have a particularly dirty coffee maker, Real Simple recommends pausing the cycle halfway and letting the solution sit for an hour, then finishing the cycle.

3. Discard the vinegar and water in the coffeepot, then run a standard brew cycle with only clean water. You should do this two to three times, discarding the water in the pot and filling the tank with clean water each time.

4. Once you don't smell any lingering vinegar, leave the lid of the coffee maker open to let everything dry out. After that, you're good to go.

If you don't have a bottle of distilled white vinegar already sitting in your pantry, it's not hard to find — pick it up online or at your local supermarket.

$2 at Amazon

Hate the smell of vinegar? These Affresh tablets are a convenient alternative and are compatible with both multicup and single-serve coffee makers.

$6 at Amazon

Bar Keepers Friend is great to have on hand if your coffeepot, carafe or mugs are stained and looking worse for wear. This product helps remove oily residues, tannins and stains.

$9 at Amazon

Cleaning a single-serve, pod-based coffee maker is a cinch: Just add one of these to your machine's pod holder and brew the largest cup size possible. Then, remove the cleaning pod and brew another large cup with just hot water to rinse away any residual cleaning solution.

$10 at Amazon

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