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I have one of these teeli tea strainers, and it's wonderful. It's a very fine metal mesh basket with plastic frame. I've had it for perhaps 10+ years and it's still working well after brewing thousands of cups of tea.

The Problem:
However, it seems that the metal mesh is slowly becoming "clogged" or something. The tea still infuses fine, but it's more prone to spilling and dripping because water doesn't pass through as quickly. How should I clean this thing?

What I've tried...
I generally don't bother to clean it (just empty and reuse...) because it doesn't get "dirty" as such. Occasionally, I'll give it a rinse in the sink, or a scrub with regular dish detergent and sponge. Sometimes when bits seem to be stuck, I'll take a toothbrush or other dish brush to scour a little more thoroughly. I've also tried soaking in water.

What "They" Say:
The teeli web site doesn't seem to have any suggestions for cleaning; hardly surprising since it's not needed any significant maintenance in 10 years of service.

Searching for this yields a lot of links. Many are about strainers with larger holes, or bigger mesh (closer to a regular kitchen strainer), or about removing stains. Others suggest what I've tried, and I'm not sure about the other suggestions I've seen:

  • a couple posts say to soak in vinegar. I am afraid this might corrode the metal or make the plastic (and all further cups of tea!) taste like vinegar...?
  • eHow even suggests to soak in bleach?? Yikes.

Before I start soaking my beloved tea strainer in various household chemicals, I wanted to see if anyone here had this problem and has a good solution? Long-term soaking? Boiling? Vinegar? Baking soda? Special brush? Alcohol? Compressed air? BLEACH?! Anything that you've tried that should I avoid?

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    It says "dishwasher safe", so why don't you soak it in dishwasher detergent dissolved in water? Preferably the powder, not a tab. It's quite aggressive, maybe even more so than vinegar. – rumtscho Nov 7 '14 at 17:58
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    Overnight Vinegar soaking, then rinsed off and dried well before use should eliminate any after taste. Soaking in Sal-Soda should loosen lime buildup, a tooth brush to remove loosened lime would help. – Optionparty Nov 8 '14 at 0:38
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    There's no way that vinegar is going to significantly corrode the stainless steel mesh. Chemically, it just doesn't happen. Moreover, the plastics used in these kinds of products won't be affected. If you make sure to wash off the vinegar (or other cleaning solution) thoroughly, there won't be any taste effect. Promise. I'm a chemistry professor. – Geoff Hutchison Nov 9 '14 at 23:54
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    I'd echo @rumtscho that you should be able to soak with a bit of dishwasher detergent in hot (or boiling) water. Since tea is mildly acidic, I'm not sure that whatever is on your strainer is going to be affected by vinegar. Most detergents are mildly basic/alkaline which should help - and then I'd rinse thoroughly. – Geoff Hutchison Nov 9 '14 at 23:57
  • Thanks to all for the suggestions. I hadn't even seen the "dishwasher safe" comment; whoops. I generally don't put anything plastic in the dishwasher, but seems like a reasonable plan in this case. I also hadn't considered that it might be scale. I'll throw one of these at it at a time and report what seems to work. Thanks again! – hoc_age Nov 10 '14 at 12:56

10 Answers 10

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Good news: I finally got 'round to cleaning the strainer, and it's clean and works well again. Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions.

  • I ran it through the dishwasher (twice), with no benefit; still clogged.
  • Next, I put dishwasher detergent (not dish soap) and the strainer into a small cup. Then I added boiling water and let it sit overnight. The residue came off easily with a toothbrush. Bingo; clean and clear.

Works well now! Thanks to all.

Pictures follow!

before... after!

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If you are washing it every day, you should only need to use a kitchen sponge after beating out the leaves lightly. You should not need vinegar and should never use bleach, as bleach can cause many metals to rust. if this strainer was sold with the teapot, treat it like gold - sometimes it can be hard to find a strainer that fits in your tea pot PERFECTLY and can be stored there, too.

  • Probably reasonable for daily cleaning, but it sounds like in the OP's case it's gotten dirty/clogged enough that a sponge isn't going to do it, so something a little more aggressive might be necessary. – Cascabel Nov 23 '14 at 7:15
  • Yes, agreed in general: minimal intervention is best! I've used little more than water to clean this thing over the past 10 years. This strategy works for my "other strainers" that are married to the tea pot; they're a coarser mesh and need even less maintenance. This particular model (link in original post) is much finer-gauge. Thanks for the thoughts, and stay tuned for results. I've heard the saying, "A good pot needs no leaves to brew tea," though I can't immediately find that phrase anywhere. – hoc_age Nov 24 '14 at 11:55
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If you push baking soda through a mesh screen it unclogs and cleans it really well too.

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    Thanks, and welcome to Seasoned Advice! Do you mean dry baking soda, or mixed with a bit of water into a paste? I've never heard of this, but perhaps I'll try it next time. – hoc_age Feb 10 '15 at 20:55
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A denture cleaning tablet, used as instructed, followed by a little brush action does a pretty good job of cleaning up a tea filter cup! I've also used it on my tea cups to clean the insides.

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I use my strainer for chai. So in addition to tea, there are spices I grind to add to the tea. The strainer clogs pretty quickly. I finally remembered the device used to clean fine crud from tight spaces. I use a disposable electric toothbrush and sprinkle baking soda on the mesh (and water). I do this regularly and my mesh is starting to regain its original color and I have no clogs.

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One of the only thing that seem to chemically dissolve tea deposit is acetone. Soak overnight and brush gently. Be careful, some plastics are attacked by acetone.

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Please Use Extreme Caution Looking at the item I would say use caustic soda lye. Place the item in a stainless steel pot or container and add 3/4 of the capacity with water and 2 tablespoons of caustic this should start to get hot.

DO NOT use any aluminium or alloy container as this will be dissolved by the the solution.

WEAR SAFETY PROTECTION ideally such as shoulder-arm Neoprene gloves as well as safety goggle's: caustic soda lye is very harmful to human skin when at full strength, let it soak for half an hour then hold container with filter under running tap and dilute all the caustic solution away drain and rinse with vinegar to neutralize any caustic that is left over on the strainer then rinse with water again and the item will be as good as new.

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Use Viacal: immerse the strainer overnight, rinse thoroughly next day and wash with washing up liquid; rinse again. The used Viacal can then be put back into its container, and used again. In fact, Viacal is a more effective cleaner than other proprietary kitchen and bathroom cleaners – though care should be taken in terms of possible skin allergies or respiratory problems that may affect some people. But again, it's often worth experimenting with cleaning products: for example, spray window cleaners are perfect for cleaning book covers! Solvents can often remove stains that no other cleaners will, but as these are highly flammable, great care should be taken in their use.

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Use oxi laundry powder. You can buy this cheap in pound shops. One scoop in a jug plus boiling water soak strainer for a few minutes This will remove all stains.

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Lemon juice hot water soak overnight. Rinse in morning. Safe and very effective.

  • Given the effort that the OP put into this question, please provide a more robust answer, and sources if you have any. – Jason P Sallinger Nov 27 '17 at 14:45
  • It seems like the only thing missing here is the ratio of lemon juice to water. I think we can assume that the author has done this, so their source is simply direct knowledge that it works. – Cascabel Nov 28 '17 at 20:16

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