Originally published: January 8, 2017
Updated: April 8, 2021
In response to these posts (tea kettles that have tested positive for things like lead and cadmium) I wanted to share the following!
Lead Safe Mama’s guidelines for choosing a safer tea kettle:
A kettle is something you probably use every day for boiling water. We do in our house. As a result it totally makes sense to invest in one that is as free of toxicants as possible (lead-free, mercury-free, arsenic-free, cadmium-free.) It is for this reason I avoid any kettles with any kind of enameled or other similar colored coating. The coatings are what contain most of the “nasties” because those toxic heavy metals are often what is used to achieve the brightest prettiest colors in a finished kitchenware product. Note: Lead-free does NOT need to mean EXPENSIVE. In most cases Lead-free choices are LESS-Expensive!
What to AVOID in choosing a kettle:
- Avoid brightly colored enamel coatings (inside and out).
- Avoid kettles marketed as having non-stick coatings of any kind.
- Avoid kettles that have painted brand logos or measurement markings anywhere on the outside of the kettle (including the bottom of the kettle).
- Avoid Le Creuset (across the board as a brand).
- NOTE: please ONLY use your kettle for boiling water (not for heating other beverages)
Kettles are difficult to test using XRF technology…
An additional problem with many tea kettles is that you can usually easily test the outside with an XRF instrument, but it is often difficult to do independent XRF testing of the interior material or coating (if the interior is in fact coated) without destroying the kettle. In most cases an XRF just won’t fit through the top opening in a way that allows for a meaningful test result.
As a result of limitations of testing – as a rule – I stick with clear glass and high quality stainless steel as my materials of choice for cooking. I currently have two kettles in my home, one is a vintage glass one (that I rarely use) and the other is a modern lightweight stainless one. Some of the vintage clear glass ones have tested negative for lead and others have tested positive, so be careful if you are leaning in that direction for your choice (since you most likely don’t have an XRF in the closet to test your kettle after you buy it.) Modern clear unpainted/ undecorated glass or modern stainless is your best bet.
What to look for in choosing a kettle:
- Stainless Steel kettles are normally a good choice.
- look for options with the fewest plastic parts whenever possible
- All glass kettles are normally a good choice.
- look for options with NO painted logo or measurement markings
- NOTE: With all choices – for a longer-lived kettle – try to find plastic-free options whenever possible.
Issues with modern clear glass choices
The one thing to also be wary of in modern clear glass is any painted exterior markings. Those markings often test very high positive for lead (usually in the 20,000 to 40,000 ppm range and sometimes higher.) The manufacturers claim that the Lead is added because it helps the markings stick to the glass at the time of manufacture HOWEVER these markings also tend to wear off with repeated use and washings. Epecially given the nature of a stove-top tea kettle that is going from hot to cold to hot to cold… the mere (imperceptable) expansion and contraction due to temperature will usually cause this paint to chip and wear into your kitchen environment.
Some specific recommendations that may fit my guidelines for choosing a kettle:
Here are a few specific recommendations, based on what I have in my kitchen and my personal experience in testing for toxicity in consumer goods using an XRF instrument:
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Click through on each of these images to read more about these choices ( personally like the first glass one and the last stainless one the best!) I have chosen these particular kettles as they appear to have NO painted markings (based on my experience and based on the product listing photos for the item.) IF when you purchase one of these it does have painted markings, please let me know and I will remove the choice from the selection below. Some of the glass ones may have a painted logo on the BOTTOM (heated surface) of the kettle, in which case I would no longer recommend that product:
Examples of clear glass options
Updated: April 8, 2021
Examples of stainless options
Updated: April 8, 2021
As always, please let me know if you have any questions! And happy hunting for the perfect lead-safe/ lead-free tea kettle!