The day I moved out of my last apartment I poured myself a glass of water from one of the two trusty filtered water pitchers that sat on the counter next to the sink. As I sipped from my glass, I looked closer at the pitcher. When had this last been washed? I’d changed the filters last month for sure, and I know I wiped down the handles—as well as every other surface in the apartment—with isopropyl alcohol after reading an especially unnerving article about flu season disinfecting in January. But I definitely hadn’t given it a good soap-and-water bath the whole time I lived there. 

I started picturing all the hands, in various stages of cleanliness themselves, that had touched those pitchers. Then I looked at my roommate’s electric water heater, realizing it certainly hadn’t been washed in the recent past. I glanced up at the teapot sitting on atop the fridge. No one had even used it since we got the water heater, but I know it wasn’t cleaned either. Oh GOD. I spat out the water and walked out of the apartment for good, leaving the pitchers—and their probable extreme filth—to my now-former roommates.

I couldn’t shake the feeling of ickiness for hours. I’d spent eight months passive-aggressively telling my roommates to scrub spaghetti from the counters and wipe up the globs of grape jelly on the dishwasher (yes, that actually happened,) but never the appliances that house water. I was wrong. It is important to clean a water pitcher, teapot, hot water heater, and anything resembling something reusable that stores water. Even if the only material inside is H2O, if the item’s exterior is touched at least once a day, you’ve got to get washing.

Water pitchers

If you don’t have a filtered water faucet on your kitchen sink or one of those funky refrigerators with a built-in filtered water dispenser, odds are you filter your water by pitcher. Since these pitchers are typically made of plastic, washing one is simple: Pop out the filter, then hand wash the pitcher and lid with a sponge and dish soap. If you pour regularly, you should probably wash the pitcher once a week. However, if you can’t bear the idea of a weekly scrubbing, wash the pitcher monthly when you change the filter. It’s better than nothing.

Electric hot water heaters

Electric water heaters and kettles are tricky contraptions. Not one is the same: plastic, stainless steel, two-piece with a warming plate, one big plug-in kettle—you get the idea. Some, like those two-piece kettles, are perfectly conducive to a washing. Remove the pitcher from the warming plate and hand wash it with dish soap, then wipe down the warming plate attached to the plug with a damp dish cloth. That was easy. Water heaters that come as all one piece, however, can’t be submerged in soapy water. Those will have to be cleaned like a coffee maker: with white vinegar. Simply boil equal parts water and vinegar in the pitcher, let the mixture sit for about half an hour, then re-boil and dump. Wipe the outside of the pitcher with a damp dish cloth. To rid the kettle of its newfound eau de vinegar, boil and dump a round or two of water before brewing that cup of Earl Grey

P.S. You can give the kettle on a two-piece version vinegar rinse for added cleanliness if you want, but I won’t make you. If you make a daily cup of tea or pour over coffee every day with your kettle, you’re going to have to add this guy to the weekly scrubbing too.

Stovetop teapots

Like water pitchers, a simple hand wash with dish soap will clean a stovetop teapot. For any calcium buildup inside the pot, once again turn to trusty white vinegar; cleaning as you would the pitcher of an electric water heater. And stay tuned for my forthcoming article and/or bicep tattoo: “White Vinegar Fixes Everything.”