August 2015 Update: Vitamix has fixed the black specks issue; more details follow below. While the black specks did not present any known health risk and were normally unnoticeable, enough customers were displeased that Vitamix followed up, and Vitamix engineers have now figured out how to prevent the black specks. I heard from my Vitamix contacts that the updated design is now being used in C- and G-Series machines rolling out of the factory (this is from a memo from Vitamix’s Chief Operating Officer). If you want to ensure that you get a machine with the update, I recommend purchasing direct from Vitamix.com, because other sales channels may not have the most recent machines. If you already have a machine with the black specks, you can read my thoughts below, and/or call Vitamix at 800-848-2649.
Some readers have written in asking about black specks coming from Vitamix containers. (aka black flecks, dust, particles, or residue.) After investigating, I’ve decided that this is not a major problem, and I’d like to share why. Disclosure: I have an affiliate relationship with Vitamix (among other companies), which means that if someone makes a purchase after clicking one of my links, I may receive a commission. However, the information on this site is fully independent from Vitamix. This page contains everything I could find out about the black specks. Also note that I am a daily Vitamix user, so I wanted to objectively assess the risk for myself.
The Vitamix black specks issue was brought to light in a number of web forums last year (2014). If you run a Vitamix on high with water only, and then pour the water into a white bowl or plate, with some containers you may see tiny black specks floating in the water.
I ran this test on my two main containers, and found no specks from a 32-oz container, and a few tiny specks with a G-Series 64-oz container. However, apparently all containers are equally likely to shed the specks: some do, some don’t.
After talking with a number of Vitamix employees about the black specks, I am not concerned about ingesting them.
Are the Vitamix black specks unhealthy?
Most of us bought a Vitamix at least partially for health concerns, and ingesting black specks coming off your blender does not sound healthy.
However, PTFE is one of the most inert materials. Inert means that it does not react with anything, which is part of why it is such a good non-stick surface. PTFE’s inert nature means that ingesting it is safe—it will pass through you unchanged, without harming you.
In fact, PTFE is used in a number of implanted medical devices.
But what about the bad things you may have heard about Teflon? There are two scientifically based concerns that I’d like to touch on, although neither of them is relevant to Vitamix containers.
PTFE releases toxic fumes when heated above ~500°F
This is why you should be careful about preheating non-stick pans. However the Vitamix bearing seal never gets anywhere near that hot because it is in thermal contact with your food. If you were to run your Vitamix with nothing in it for a LONG time (over 5 minutes?), the bearings would heat up, but I think the container would melt well before the PTFE started off-gassing. (The container is made of Tritan copolyester, which starts to soften at ~250°F.)
Teflon used to be made using toxic Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
PFOA was previously used in the PTFE manufacturing process. It was associated with disease in factory workers, and it was also found as an environmental contaminant. However, PFOA was not found in significant levels in finished PTFE products. Moreover, DuPont stopped using PFOA in 2013. It’s easy to confuse PTFE and PFOA, since they are both strange-sounding four-letter chemical acronyms starting with P, but PFOA is no longer a concern for PTFE.
I mention these two genuine Teflon health concerns because they may be lingering in people’s minds. However, neither of them affects the Vitamix bearing seals.
The Environmental Working Group is tough on dangerous or questionable chemicals. Here’s what they say about ingesting PTFE particles: “Ingesting particles that flake off scratched non-stick cookware isn’t toxic because solid PTFE flakes are inert.” If we want to worry about toxic chemicals, I think auto pollution or the flame retardants in couches are worth thinking about.
Why does Vitamix use PTFE in the bearing seal?
In addition to being inert, PTFE is one of the most slippery materials. Slippery means low friction, which means that the high-speed bearings run more efficiently than they would with other materials. The only tradeoff is that PTFE has lower wear resistance than other materials. I suspect that lower wear resistance explains why we can sometimes detect the tiny black specks from Vitamix containers.
Do the black specks affect the longevity of the bearing seal?
I believe the answer is no, for two reasons:
- The specks are so small that they don’t add up to a significant volume of material.
- According to the Vitamix employees I have spoken to, the PTFE seal is not a new component on Vitamix containers. That is, they’ve been using PTFE seals for many years, without seeing significant problems. It seems that the new development is that people started running the water and white bowl test last year and started detecting the specks. I know of Vitamix containers that have been going strong since the mid 90s. Also, remember that new machines come with a 5 or 7-year warranty.
Why hasn’t Vitamix released a public statement?
I believe the reason is that they have determined that there is no health risk. I suspect that they do not want to have to explain why PTFE is not as scary as it might sound more than they have to. It took Vitamix a few months to communicate to all of their customer service associates, but now if you call and ask, the associates will tell you the nature of the black specks.
I trust Vitamix about the material of the particles. Vitamix is quite concerned about their consumers’ well being, as they demonstrated in their fast-moving voluntary blade recall in 2013.
In addition to not being a health problem, the black specs are not visible under normal blending conditions, so they won’t harm the aesthetics of your blends.
If these explanations do not put you at ease, you of course don’t have to buy a Vitamix. One side note is that all high-speed blenders use these PTFE seals, and the black specks have been found in all the top brands. Perhaps you’d rather go for some Stone Age technology?
For these reasons, I am not worried about the black specks, and I’m continuing to use my containers, even though I detected the black particles in one of them.
Finally, if you’re shopping for a Vitamix, perhaps you’d like to learn about the differences between all the Vitamix models. And, have you heard about the high value offered by Certified Reconditioned Vitamix machines?