How to Clean a Steam Distiller

A steam distiller, also known as a water distiller, uses a boiling process to remove impurities from water such as certain minerals and heavy metals, microorganisms, dissolved solids, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals. During this process (distillation), these impurities deposit on the walls of the boiling chamber and gas vent openings as well as in the activated carbon filter (ACF) if the distiller has a filter. As a result, a distiller must receive regular weekly cleanings to maintain the boiling chamber’s performance and limit bacterial growth. Cleaning a steam distiller isn’t difficult and only requires the use of a deposit or “scale” remover and sanitizing cleaner.

Step 1

Turn off and unplug your steam distiller. 

Step 2

Open the distiller and remove its lid, boiler chamber and/or activated carbon filter (if applicable).  If your distiller has an attached lid, tilt it aside to reveal the interior of the boiling chamber.

Step 3

Mix equal parts water and white vinegar to make a homemade scale remover/distiller sanitizing cleaner.  Make enough solution to fill the interior of the boiling chamber, as you may need to repeat the cleaning process more than once to remove all scale. If you have a professional scale removal and sanitizing product, follow the product’s instructions for cleaning your distiller. 

Step 4

Pour your solution into the boiling chamber at least 1/2-inch above the highest level of scale, also known as the scale or mineral line, and then set the unit aside for at least 12 hours. 

Step 5

Scrub the gas vents of your distiller with a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush dipped in your homemade cleaner to remove any scale buildup on the vents.  Wipe away the dislodged scale with a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth and water.

Step 6

Wipe the interior of the boiling chamber gently with a microfiber cloth.  Drop it into the chamber/solution and rub it against the chamber walls to dislodge the scale.

Step 7

Rinse the inside of the chamber with water and air-dry.  If scale remains inside the chamber, repeat Steps 4 and 5 up to three times as needed to remove the scale—increasing the amount of vinegar in your solution by 1 tsp. each time you repeat the process.  If your homemade cleaner can't remove the scale, purchase a professional cleaning product.


  • Never use sharp objects to dislodge the scale from your distiller's boiling chamber as sharp objects can scratch or damage the chamber.
  • Always clean your distiller in a well-ventilated area as vinegar can react with certain chemicals or minerals in scale to create harmful vapors. Professional cleaners often contain hazardous chemicals, so take care when using these products.

About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.