How to Clean a Sous Vide Cooker

Disclaimer: There may be affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you sign up for a free trial or purchase through the links, but there is no extra cost to you.

The benefits of sous vide cookers are widely publicized, they range from the flavor and quality of the meals they produce to the health benefits of cooking sous vide.

But there’s a less widely discussed benefit. The sheer ease of cleaning and maintenance that sous vide machines offer. Because there is no direct contact between the food and the sous vide machine itself, cleaning is simple and quick.

Even the best sous vide cookers will need a little care now and again to keep it in prime condition. It’s good to know how to clean sous vide cookers.

Mineral deposits from water can also build up in immersion circulators, and this can affect the performance of the machine. Periodically, descaling the machine can greatly prolong its life.

This article covers all the techniques you need to know to keep your circulator clean and working as efficiently as the day it was unboxed.

How to Clean a Sous Vide Cooker

I have broken this down into two sections. In the first section, there is a step-by-step guide of the cleaning steps and what to avoid when performing a basic cleaning routine.

In the second section, I describe the steps needed to descale the machine and get rid of all that nasty mineral build-up.

Sous Vide Cooker Cleaning Routine

The process is so quick and simple that I would recommend you give the machine a quick clean after each use.

A quick word of warning – Before I start, an essential thing to bear in mind is never to rinse or immerse the electronic head of an immersion circulator in water as this can cause serious damage.

Step 1 – Unplug the immersion circulator before performing any cleaning.

Step 2 – Gently wipe the machine with a clean absorbent cloth, it’s best with a damp cloth. Unless there is excess grime (a leaky sous vide bag for example), there is no need to use liquid cleaning detergent or cleaning chemicals.

Step 3 – If food liquid has escaped into the sous vide water bath, then it is best to clean the inside of the machine. 

Some immersion circulator units are sealed and it is impossible to access the interior. In these instances, run the sealed circulators in a sous vide bath with a little cleaning solution. Use a gentle detergent and allow it to run for a few minutes to clean the inside.

Machines that can be disassembled for cleaning can be cleaned with a damp clean cloth and soapy water. A toothbrush or small bottle brush can be handy for getting into awkward nooks and crannies.

A toothbrush and mild dish soap can be used to clean the internal parts of a circulator, the pump shaft, impeller, heating coil, sensors, and soft rubber seals. Be sure not to bend any product parts.

Following the steps below that describe the descaling procedure will also work.

Descaling a Sous Vide Cooker

How often you should descale the circulator depends on the hardness of your tap water. The hardness of water is determined by the amount of magnesium and calcium deposits.

The greater the deposits from tap water, the harder the water. Depending on the water source and water pipes, the deposit build up color can be brown, white, black, or green.

These minerals build up on the surfaces and working of many appliances that use tap water, including kettles, coffee machines, and washing machines. The build-ups can stop your machine from working efficiently.

Regularly inspect your immersion circulator for signs of these water hardness build-ups, and when they start to show, perform the following steps to descale your sous vide cooker.

You will need:

  • White vinegar – to create a vinegar and water solution
  • A small container for the vinegar water bath and the sous vide machine

Step 1 – Mount the immersion circulator in a container for the vinegar bath. The container should be as small as possible, as this cuts down on slow heating times and the amount of vinegar required.

Step 2 – Fill the container with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water.

Step 3 –Set the temperature for 140° F (60° C) and switch the immersion circulator on.

Step 4 – Leave the immersion circulator running, it is best if you let it run for at least an hour.

Step 5 – Once completed, empty the water/vinegar mix from the container and replace it with fresh water. 

Step 6 – At the same temperature, run the circulator for a few minutes in the clean water. I tend to overdo this just to be on the safe side and usually run it for 15 minutes.

Step 7 – Using a clean cloth, dry the machine off, and check to see that the mineral deposits have been removed.

If you have a machine that dismantles, you can also clean the components with a toothbrush to remove build-up that may have softened, but hasn’t been removed. Be careful not to damage the impeller shaft and other parts during this stage.

Can I Use Cleaning Products?

Most of the time, the use of any cleaning products is unnecessary. However, if things have gotten messy for whatever reason (brown water bath accident, floury hands, etc.), then mild cleaners and soaps are all that are generally required for sous vide machines.

If the appliance has been subject to a ruptured sous vide bag, then a little dishwasher detergent added to the water and run through the machine works wonders. Food safe cleaning products are usually good.

Always avoid harsh chemical cleaning products and bleaches that contain scouring materials as they can scratch the exterior finish.

Sous Vide Cleaning Tips and Tricks

  • Regular Cleaning – A simple wipe down after each use keeps the sous vide machine sparkling.
  • Descale Regularly – Learn how often you need to do this by watching for mineral build-up. This varies depending on use frequency and hardness of the water. By monitoring this, you will learn how frequently descaling is needed.
  • Seal the Sous Vide Bags Properly – Always use high-quality bags. Don’t overfill them and make sure they are sealed properly. A burst bag ends up in brown water and potentially spoiled food. 
  • Stubborn Descaling – In cases where vinegar hasn’t removed mineral build-up, a commercially available descaler like CLR Remove (Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover) can be used in its place.

Last update on 2021-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re looking to clean and reuse sous vide bags, check out the article.

How to Clean Sous Vide FAQs

Do I need to clean my sous vide?

Yes, you should clean your sous vide. This helps to prolong the life of the sous vide cooker and keeps it hygienic. Removing mineral build-up keeps it running accurately and efficiently.

How do you clean sous vide coils?

In models where the sous vide coils are accessible, they can easily be cleaned with a toothbrush and mild soapy water. Always be careful that the immersion circulator heating coil and other internal components are not damaged when cleaning.

How do you clean the Anova Pro sous vide cooker?

Anova sous vide machines are easy to clean. The Anova Pro sous vide precision cooker can be cleaned with a damp cloth. For a deeper clean, the internal components can be accessed and gently wiped with a soft cloth. A toothbrush can be used for awkward corners. Always use a gentle cleaning agent like dishwasher detergent.

What can be used instead of a descaling solution?

Before using descaling solution, I would recommend first using an equal parts solution of white vinegar and water to remove mineral deposits. If the vinegar water solution doesn’t remove the mineral deposits, try descaling solution.

Can I put the Breville Joule in a dishwasher?

No, you can’t put the Breville Joule in a dishwasher. The electronics that are contained in the head of the unit will be seriously damaged, probably beyond repair. For the same reason, you should never rinse or submerge the head in water.

Will a deep clean help with issues like heating, whistling noises, or heavy-scale buildup?

Yes, a deep clean will help with heating issues, whistling noise issues, and heavy-scale buildup. A build-up of mineral deposits in the sous vide machine can affect water flow. That can cause inaccurate temperatures, and the disrupted water flow can cause a whistling noise.