Some say that ceramic kettles add matchless appeal to the kitchen. There appears to be much to gain when considering an upgrade to a ceramic electric kettle. But are ceramic kettles safe? Here I look at what you need to know most about electric ceramic kettles, including the pros and cons of using them.
Compared to other options currently on the market, electric ceramic kettles are considered relatively harmless, at least that seems to be what the consumers are reporting.
Let’s look at some frequently asked questions about these kettles. The obvious ones are: are ceramic kettles safe, are they any good, how do they compare to the normal ones, and what are the pros and cons of using a ceramic kettle?
Are ceramic kettles safe?
Electric ceramic kettles that are plastic-free or at least BPA (Bisphenol A) free are considered safe to use. However, a Proposition 65 warning label on some ceramic kettles is off-putting and raises concerns for various people and so it’s worth investigating the reason behind this. Read on.
It’s been over a decade since scientific research, particularly the one published in Toxicology Letters, determined that certain plastics release toxic BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical (meaning it affects our hormones) and more so (55-times in fact) when filled with boiling water.
The other problem with plastic is that it disintegrates over time. Plastic electric kettles are known to powder and I guess that stuff goes into the water that goes into your cuppa. They also tend to discolor and look kinda cruddy inside.
Modern electric kettles other than plastic ones are popular. Some say the great thing about ceramic electric kettles, in general, is that they are quintessential and safe to use. Let’s leave no stone unturned as we explore the world of electric kettles!
In particular, let’s look at ceramic kettles…
Are ceramic kettles any good?
Users regard electric kettles as one of the most useful tools in a kitchen. You can quickly boil water to brew tea or coffee, make hot chocolate, instant soup or noodles, or sanitize bottles and jars. But are the ceramic ones any good?
Being able to choose a kettle that will turn off automatically with no (or minimal) plastic parts is good. If the product has plastic parts often these are advertised as BPA-free, and this is important for food and water containers where the use of plastic is sometimes unavoidable.
For starters, ceramic is an inorganic non-metallic material and that seems good. If it has no plastic parts then that is even better.
A ceramic product like this is corrosion-resistant and durable (but somewhat fragile if dropped). This is not unlike the clay type ceramic cookware.
I should mention that the ceramic of these products is not the same as that of ceramic knives, which comes from zirconia, and that of nonstick ceramic, which I cover in my guide to buying ceramic cookware.
I wrote about the manufacture of zirconium type blades in my complete buying guide on ceramic knives.
Advantages of ceramic electric kettles
The advantages of ceramic electric kettles are many but include these main ones:
- Presentation: The solid stone look of these adds a natural sophisticated feel to the kitchen.
- Convenience: Just a flip of a switch and your water is boiling!
- Energy efficiency: They heat water fast using less energy than heating a kettle on the stovetop.
- Versatility: Being cordless with a detachable base means a portable unit for easy filling and also serving, e.g., when hosting dinner parties.
- Clean operation: Optional scale filters help prevent mineral buildup.
- Insulation: Ceramic is insulating, which means the heated water stays heated for longer to enjoy those top-ups.
- Safety features: Automatic shut off. Plus, most ceramic kettles come with boil-dry protection.
- Non-corrosive interior: Ceramic interior apart from the heating element, which is typically a circular stainless steel plate or coil to ensure continued safe heating.
Disadvantages of ceramic electric kettles
There are also disadvantages. Here are the notable ones.
- Weight: Noticeably heavier than the metal or plastic types.
- Handle with care: Ceramic kettles can crack if dropped or chip if given a hard knock.
- Cost: You’ll pay more for good ceramic kettles over plastic or metal rivals.
Are ceramic electric kettles bad for you?
You might see ceramic kettles (or other kitchen items) on the market labeled with “This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm” or a similar warning and wonder whether ceramic electric kettles are bad for you. Should you buy one?
After reaching out to the Deputy Director for External and Legislative Affairs for the California Environmental Protection Agency, Sam Delson, he responded advising that “they do not have information on specific products and which chemical exposures they cause” in terms of the Proposition 65 list of chemicals.
Let’s look at the warning pertaining to California’s Proposition 65, compiled by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).
The important thing to note here is that a Proposition 65 warning is not exclusive to ceramic electric kettles. In regards to ceramic kettle vs stainless steel appliance, it’s not necessarily different.
New Proposition 65 requirements came into effect August 30, 2018, and it appears various companies are now adding a Proposition 65 warning to their products regardless of whether it’s known they contain contaminants or not.
An indication is gleaned from the disclosures from two reputable brands…SMEG, who makes household appliances of stainless steel, and De’Longhi, who also makes household appliances.
From SMEG company
This is a company known for its quality stainless steel appliances. SMEG discloses on its website:
“Our products may display the following warning: WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
The reason is given in concluding…
“While the exposure may be negligible or well within the “no significant risk” range, SMEG has elected to provide the Proposition 65 warnings, as not all of the listed chemicals provide exposure limit requirements. While the exposure may be negligible or well within the “no significant risk” range, SMEG has elected to provide the Proposition 65 warnings.”
De’Longhi is known for its coffee machines. On its website, it discloses a long list of products that carry a Proposition 65 warning.
From their disclosure, we learn that “the new regulations include changes to listed chemicals and specific requirements for how warnings required for products containing identified chemicals must be provided.”
Apparently this list contains ~900 chemicals.
They explain how manufacturers must either test for these chemicals to verify that none are present or place the appropriate warning on the product packaging and website.
From their prospective, they reasoned that…
“All products may now need a Proposition 65 warning, even if a warning was not previously required.”
Primary concern with ceramic food ware
In the past, we saw companies selling ceramic cookware in the US disclosing details about lead and cadmium levels pertaining to the regulations.
The concern relates to food and beverage containers in regard to the potential contamination of the ceramic glaze, especially with lead and cadmium. Stringent US guidelines aim to protect consumers.
As I wrote in my article on ceramic cookware pros and cons…”regulations restrict the inclusion of lead and cadmium in any product for food use.”
The California Proposition 65 standards have set “0.1 ppm for lead and 0.049 ppm for cadmium in hollowware (> 1 liter)” and the US FDA standards “lead (1 ppm) and cadmium levels in cookware”.
As I said, it’s best “to further alleviate your concern, check whether or not the product has been tested for lead before purchasing.” It seems this may not be so clear today.
Laws of the US require companies selling products in the US to display a warning label on products where toxic substances may exceed certain limits.
However, it appears that companies use this warning to cover themselves against the enlarged identified contaminant list in its entirety rather than carrying out the numerous tests. This at least seems to be the case based on the above research into reputable brands.
Are electric kettles better?
According to consumerreports.org, in the US “An estimated 3.9 million electric kettles were sold last year.”
You’ll find electric kettles on the market ranging from plastic to aluminum to stainless steel to glass or ceramic. Glass and ceramic are sturdy and attractive but are fragile. Aluminum raises concerns, as I outline in my article covering the different cookware material. Stainless steel types are the more common type of electric kettles in home kitchens.
As I mention below in the history of kettles, electric kettles have been a common way of boiling water for hot drinks for decades in other countries and I have to say my experience with them has been positive.
Here are a few of the key selling points on electric kettles:
- You don’t have to worry about the spluttering of a kettle on the stovetop.
- The latest electric kettle design will boil water faster than the same water in a microwave.
- You are less likely to burn yourself with an electric kettle than a kettle on the stovetop.
- Electric kettles have an automatic shut-off that stops the kettle once the water is done (and no whistling to ring in your eardrums).
- You’ll have the exact temperature for the perfect cup, especially with models that offer a set of specific temperatures.
History of the kettle at a glance
The history of kettles starts with the earliest ones made of iron used on open fires to boil water in Europe. The design similar to today’s is said to originate from Mesopotamia in Asia dating back to 3500-2000 B.C. and made of bronze.
- In 1891, The Carpenter Electric Company created the first bona fide electric kettle manufactured in the United States. The design had the heating elements in separate chambers and it took almost 12 minutes to boil the water.
- In 1922, The Swan Company advanced the electric kettle design. This time the heating element was sealed in a metal tube and positioned inside the water chamber.
- In 1956, Russell Hobbs revolutionized the electric kettle design by making it fully automatic. Following this, we saw the production of plastic kettles, which continues to this day.
Since their invention, electric kettles have become commonplace in home kitchens of countries like Australia with 200-240V mains electricity. In these places, electric kettles have been the typical way of boiling water for tea, coffee, soup, and instant noodles (rather than using microwaves or kettles on stovetops) for decades.
I’ve used electric kettles exclusively to make my cuppa while in Australia and found the advantages of convenience make them a winner for me.
If looking to buy a ceramic kettle and wanting a good one, it’s best to choose one that has no plastic parts that come into contact with the water, regardless of whether it’s 100% BPA free or not. It’s also best to check for warnings pertaining to US regulations related to potential contaminants, such as lead.
Choose wisely. The above information is a guide only to help you with your choice of product.
Recommended product related to this article…
The ceramic kettle shown has no plastic inside the kettle or lid. It features only silicone and stainless steel additions. This ceramic electric kettle is by Bialetti. It’s available at Amazon, where you can check out the price and reviews by verified owners – See details