I needed hot milk, so I boiled it in the nearest electric kettle to me, but I think I broke it, as water won't boil any more. I know this, because I tried it myself.

Should I tell someone in the office that it might be me who broke it and offer a replacement or should I not tell?

While I was heating it up, there was department director next to me who was curious to see the white liquid and was checking, but I told her myself what it was and she said "oh, it's milk".

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about asthma and milk has been moved to chat. Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 21:45
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    If you're in the UK, please tag accordingly.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 3:08
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    While it will be detrimental to the kettle, by spoiling the taste of water boiled in future, I don't see how it would cause the heating element to fail. Unless there's more to the story (such as you trying to clean the kettle and wiggling the heating element loose) it seems likely that the kettle was about to break anyway and that you did in fact not break it. While you should definitely inform someone regardless, I think you can do so with a clean conscience.
    – nitro2k01
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 9:55
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    @nitro2k01 Actually there was a spinoff Cooking question about why boiling milk in it breaks the kettle: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/84310/… Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 14:35

10 Answers 10


You boiled milk in a kettle?

Yes, this will break it, or at least spoil the taste of the water for anyone else who uses the kettle going forwards. If you've ever boiled milk in a saucepan, you'll know that it boils over pretty easily if you don't watch it. This happening in a kettle will spew boiling milk out of the spout - which won't be a nice experience for anyone close by.

You'll need to report this to the operations department, or whoever controls the kitchen equipment.

Please only put water into kettles. Use microwaves or a hob to heat milk.

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    I can't help but feel like this answer focuses a bit too much on the whole "don't boil milk in a kettle" part, considering this is a workplace site and the issue here is more about reporting it than having done it in the first place ("should I boil milk in a kettle" would be a blatantly off topic question). Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 13:03
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    This question about why not to boil milk in an (electric) kettle has since been asked and answered on cooking.SE.
    – Dubu
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 7:40
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    @Dukeling "Should I boil milk in an electric kettle, owned by my employer, and provided for boiling water to make tea?" is really what's being answered here, and that in turn is informed by "is boiling milk in an electric kettle likely to break it?" Were doing so a completely innocent act, then the propriety of doing so with someone else's property would be judged rather differently. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 18:40
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    "Use microwaves or a hob to heat milk." Can you please clarify what a hob is in this context? I'm afraid it's not clear to me and an internet search proves fruitless...
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 19:40
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    @adam A cooking hob is the thing you put saucepans on to heat them up.
    – user44108
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 20:30

I generally think that adults should take responsibility for their actions. If you accidentally break something it's common courtesy to offer replacement, depending on the value you may have an insurance for that anyway (at least in Germany).

I'd consider it a poor character trait of you didn't report it. If it comes out later it certainly wouldn't reflect well on you. It would be another case if you didn't notice that you broke it, but you did.

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    Personal liability insurance is entirely optional and has varying specific policies in most jurisdictions including Germany. Mine doesn't even consider liability claims below multiple thousand Euro to avoid the hassle and overhead of small claims. Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 11:40
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    @DavidFoerster I think that's what was implied by the "depending on the value" part of that sentence.
    – anon
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 19:15
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    @Dominik "But as a matter of fact, most people have it" - your comment is ambiguous. If you mean globally, it is very much not true; I am not aware of anyone in the UK with personal liability insurance (except for house and car insurance). I'm sure somebody has it, but it is nothing like as common as Haftpflichtversicherung in Germany. If you mean "most people in Germany", then yes, I agree. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 13:05
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    In my workplace (US, tech startup), we would never expect an employee to pay for a replacement communal item—the company would just buy another. That said, we would definitely expect that person to let us know they broke it. On the other hand, if it was a colleague's personal item they were sharing with the company, then it would be appropriate to offer to replace it.
    – Brandon
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 23:29
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    Yes! This is the essence of the right answer: ** "adults should take responsibility for their actions." ** Period. Is that so hard? Whatever the circumstances, whoever pays for it: Be a man, stand up, deal with it, socially, legally or financially, whatever applies. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 12:14

Yes absolutely let them know, if you have someone who is in charge of office or kitchen supplies then they are the best person to speak to. Otherwise I'd talk to your manager about it, explain what happened, apologize and say that you won't be doing so again and offer to purchase a replacement.

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    $50 to buy a new kettle is a very inexpensive way to get on a manager's radar as someone who can be relied upon to be honest and take responsibility for their actions.
    – MGOwen
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 9:26
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    @MGOwen indeed.. and a suitable kettle in the UK (where the OP is based) can be had for far less
    – motosubatsu
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 9:43

Firstly, as others have already said, don't boil milk in a kettle. But I guess you've learned that lesson pretty well at this point.

In most offices I've worked at, the kettle tends to be a pretty cheap piece of equipment and needs to be replaced fairly often. It isn't going to be a problem for the company to get a new one, and they will be unlikely to make a fuss about it unless it was brand new or unusually expensive.

You will need to confess what happened and take responsibility for it. Possibly you'll be asked to pay for the replacement kettle. There's also likely to be a bit of mockery from your colleagues. If that happens, run with it: turn the banter around and laugh with them; this is a minor thing that is easily sorted out, so don't let it turn into a big deal or spoil your relationship with your colleagues.

One final note: People like their tea and coffee at the office. They're probably already missing the kettle. If there's no kettle for a long time, it may generate some resentment. Go and talk to your manager or the office facilities manager as soon as possible. The quicker you get this sorted out, the less of an issue it's going to be for everyone.

  • Best answer imho. It's not a big deal unless you make it one by dodging responsibility. You did something stupid; own up to it and join in laughing about it. All will be good. Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 8:45

You should definitely tell you broke the kettle. Not telling may anger the person in charge of the supplies and everybody using it will be punished if this person decide not to replace it. By telling, you show this person the respect she deserves for this work and this makes you someone trustable. You didn't broke it for fun, it was a mistake, no big deal if you tell and assume. You can offer to replace it yourself to show some more respect, but you must say you broke it.


Kettles aren't for milk. Others already mentioned that of course you should tell whoever may be responsible for this kind of office or employee supply.

But of course, if your asthma requires heating milk for whatever reason, it is your responsibility to make sure you have the equipment needed to do so. Actually, a cup in a microwave will usually do fine. Less efficient than a pot on the stove but requires much less space than the pot in the dishwasher, and the extra electricity will be cheaper for the company than the additional time you wait for the pot to heat up.

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    Microwaving is almost 100% efficient, and microwaves last a lot longer than hot plates. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 4:57

It should be the person responsible for replacing the broken kettle if it would break without anyone's fault. Kettles do not serve for ages anyway. If you do not know who, ask for somebody like a secretary. No need to rush to CEO with the burned kettle in your hand.

Simply tell that person you broke the kettle and suggest that you either buy and bring in a new one (unpacked, will all papers it may have) or simply pay for a replacement. If the person cannot handle the process alone, needs some approvals, then more people will get involved but only as much as required.

I really do not understand which reason would be for everyone to know.


The main thing is don't leave the kitchen down a kettle. So immediately research the model then dash out to the local shop and get another, preferably same make and model, or better if that one had annoyances.

As far as disclosure, it's really no big deal, unless it's like a $300 magic kettle, these are Cheapie commodities that break all the time. Saying "it broke when I used it" is nothing special, it could've been anyone and they'll say "don't worry about it".

If you have learned your lesson about only use shared appliances in the same way everyone else does, then I wouldn't go so far as to mentioning the milk. If you did not learn that lesson, then yes, you should come clean about the milk. That way they will know who to talk to when they find egg yolk in the popcorn popper.

  • Yes, but do tell the person responsible for electrical safety on that site that you introduced a new appliance. See comments under the downvoted question below.... Commented May 7, 2018 at 12:51

What would you do in your home country if you broke the thing you boil milk in?

If you don't have electric kettles (and it sounds like you don't), then you must use some sort of pan on a fire (or hob). If you broke the pan, would you get a new one, or just leave it (or hide it)?

  • What does the home country of the OP have to do with anything? Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 18:42
  • I'm interested to know if, in the OP's country, it is culturally acceptable to break something and then hide the fact they have broken it. If it isn't, then why should this be any different.
    – Neil
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 11:36
  • How is it relevant whether it is acceptable in the OP's home country? What is relevant here is whether it is acceptable in the country of work. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 11:53
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    There's only one country I know of where you would assume someone from there would "cover it up": Düchbāggia. Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 5:02
  • @Harper - That's sort of my point, if it's not acceptable in the OP home country, why would it be anything different in whatever country they are in? To even ask the question must mean they think it is acceptable in some way.
    – Neil
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 12:39

Reporting it isn't really going to help you or anybody else. I would simply replace it discretely. Drop off the replacement when nobody's around to notice it was you.

Kettle's back, nobody thinks you're the "boiled milk" person, and everybody's happy!

I'm sure I'll get down votes for saying that. I just don't see the point of reporting it. In my office, I'm pretty sure the kettle is provided by a generous employee, not the company. If yours is like mine, reporting it doesn't do anything other than give you grief.

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    Although replacing it is a good advice (if you break it you pay it) not being clear and honest with your coworkers is not recommended. People will notice a new kettle (even more if it is not the same style) and eventually ask. It is better to report it and buy a new one.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 15:51
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    @GrayCygnus Always depends to whom you could report it. If the coworkers already know about the misfortune and are the only ones affected, I see no point in reporting it to some third party that might not even care about. Getting a new kettle and adding some note on a sticker saying: "Sorry guys for breaking the kettle, here is a new one." should be sufficient. Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 18:22
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    This could create another problem. The original kettle may be recorded in the stock list and removing it would mean stealing it. And using an unregistered electrical equipment in the workplace may be illegal in some legislations.
    – Melebius
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 8:26
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    @Melebius - trivial solution - don't remove the broken kettle. As Dominik says - supply a new one, unopened, with a note. Your dignity is preserved; the kettle is replaced, if there is paperwork to be done, the note already apologises to the person upon which this work will fall. If the new kettle is unauthorised due to legislation, well, I guess you can't fix everything. Can you give an example of places with idiot legislation like this?
    – Phil
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 10:21
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    Similar to what @Melebius wrote, in Germany, components used at a workplace and attached to mains voltage must be checked for electric safety ("DGUV 3" check) before being put into operation. This even includes private devices like radios and phone chargers.
    – Dubu
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 7:52

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