Keurig Descale Light Stays On – How to Fix

Are you totally stumped why your Keurig descale light stays on? No matter how much you descale your Keurig machine? And regardless of which descaling solution you use?

Turns out – this is a very common problem with many Keurig coffee makers.

Today let’s explore a ton of reasons why your Keurig descale light won’t turn off. Some reasons just might surprise you!

Common Reasons Your Keurig Descale Light Stays On

You should add more descaling solution

Life’s easy if you use Keurig Descale Solution. Follow the steps on the bottle and the Keurig machine’s manual to make sure you’re using enough solution.

But if you’re cheap like me: just make sure you’re using enough homemade solution to match the recommended amount.

use enough descaling solution to reach the MAX fill line of the water tank

Why? The Keurig machine checks that you’re using enough liquid. 

There’s an easy way to make sure you’re using enough. Just fill the water reservoir with enough solution to reach the MAX fill line.

Did you activate the Descale Mode?

If you forgot, then the machine might not know you descaled it! Check the Keurig coffee maker’s manual for exact steps.

example of descale mode enabled

Here is a list of all the common ways to turn on Descale Mode though for each Keurig model:

SMART Keurig machine

  • If there’s a Descale notification on the screen, just press left and Continue to start the descaling process
  • You can press both arrows at the same time to open Settings, then turn on Descale Mode

Keurig Essentials machine

  • Make sure the coffee maker is plugged in and powered off
  • Press and hold the 6oz and 10oz buttons until the 8oz and DESCALE buttons flash
  • Then press the 8oz button to turn on Descale Mode

K-Express and K-Iced coffee maker

These have the same steps as the Essentials line. Except replace the 6oz and 10oz buttons with 8oz and 12oz. 

Press the 12oz button as it’s flashing to turn on Descale Mode.

A different Keurig coffee maker

These are probably very similar to the K-Express and K-Iced. Except you don’t press a flashing 12oz button.

It’s a flashing brew button instead!

You need to rinse with fresh water – perhaps many times

How do you rinse with fresh water? Fill the water reservoir to the MAX fill line.

make sure to rinse your Keurig coffee maker enough times

If you had to press a flashing button to turn on Descale Mode, then this is the same button you should press to rinse. Otherwise choose the largest capacity you can brew.

Keurig recommends you rinse at least 8-12 times. The light could stay on until you rinse many times!

(Personally I noticed lots of people online didn’t rinse enough times. This is a super common reason that the light stays on. So be patient and keep on rinsing.)

You might have a glitch

This might sound silly. But try unplugging the coffee maker and then plugging back in. Sometimes I’ve been lucky and this solves my issue!

Another time I contacted Keurig customer service. Then they just offered to replace my K-Slim coffee maker.

Other Ways to Turn Off Your Keurig Descale Light

What if you followed all of Keurig’s instructions? But still nothing is working?

Use a vinegar or citric acid descaling solution 

white vinegar and citric acid both make great descaling solution

White vinegar and citric acid are natural (yet powerful) deep cleaners and descalers. For vinegar, use equal parts white vinegar and water. For citric acid, mix 1-2 tablespoons with enough water to reach the Max fill line in the water reservoir.

Use the official Keurig Descaling Solution

Keurig Descaling Solution

I prefer to save money and make my own descale solution. But a few times I bought and used it. Why?

Because I wanted to rule out the solution as the reason my Keurig’s descale light stayed on. The official solution should always work. And if it doesn’t, you know it’s something else.

Just use equal parts Keurig descaling solution and water.

Clean the Keurig machine’s needles

The first time I heard this, I thought: what the heck are Keurig needles?

Keurig exit needle cleaning with paper clip

One area makes sense for needles though. Above the K-cup there’s a tube that pokes the top of the K-Cup. Which allows hot water to brew the K-cup’s ground coffee.

Then less obvious is the exit needle. This is a tube inside the K-cup holder where the brewed coffee exits the coffee maker and into your cup. You might need to unscrew the top of the K-cup holder from the bottom to see the exit needle (see picture above).

Both of these places and their needles MUST be cleaned! Otherwise you might have overflowing coffee grounds or a slow brewing time.

Take a paper clip or sewing needle and poke into these tubes. Don’t poke too hard since you don’t want to break anything. Just hard enough to remove any coffee gunk stuck in there.

Reassemble the K-cup pod holder if needed and run through the Keurig descaling cycle one last time. Hopefully now the descale light turns off!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do I need to descale my Keurig coffee machine?

The short answer is at least every few months.

The long answer is it depends on the minerals that build up inside your Keurig coffee maker. And this depends on what kind of water you brew coffee with.

Keurig suggests using “fresh water.” But what exactly is “fresh water?” Let’s see:

Tap water has more minerals. Which means you need to descale your Keurig coffee maker more often. So Keurig (and I) suggest using bottled or filtered water if you don’t like descaling too often. You could invest in a water filter to save time.

How often should I clean the Keurig exit needle?

You should clean the exit needle more often than you descale your Keurig machine. I suggest every couple months.

The descale light stays on when the Keurig machine detects any chance of brew cycle issues. Water flow through the Keurig coffee maker’s needles is very important.

My Keurig descale light stays on no matter what. What if I just ignore the descale light?

I suggest you try the descaling process again and then all the Keurig maintenance steps you can think of. Make sure the Keurig descale light isn’t a false alarm!

Afterwards though – if that pesky descaling light just won’t turn off – then you can assume your Keurig coffee maker has an issue.

Contact Keurig customer service to let them know + see if you can get a replacement. Feel free to keep brewing in the meantime. Just remember to continue doing a descaling cycle every few months. Put a calendar reminder if you must!


Remember that if your Keurig descale light stays on, this usually means your coffee machine didn’t realize you did the descaling process.

Try adding more descaling solution and try Keurig’s descaling solution. Fill the water reservoir all the way to the MAX fill line.

Don’t forget to activate the descaling mode BEFORE you start the descaling process. Check out specific instructions for your Keurig model.

Do more rinsing cycles until you reach Keurig’s recommended number of 12 rinsing cycles. Otherwise the coffee pod machine might detect an incomplete descaling cycle and keep its descale light on.

Last but not least: use a paper clip to clean your Keurig coffee maker’s exit needle.

Remember that Keurig designs each coffee machine to prevent brewing issues. Think of the Keurig descale light as a feature and not a curse. It helps ensure delicious coffee for every coffee lover out there!

Lexi Han

Lexi is happily married to Bryan and works as an internet marketing consultant. As a lifelong believer of frugal living, she constantly strives to satisfy Bryan’s high-quality food and drink cravings while on a budget. Her favorites include (discounted) pumpkin spice lattes and Costco polish dogs.

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