A staple in the fabric of any foodservice establishment, ice is usually found chilling our drinks and packed in our grab & go displays; however, it’s not always at the top of our minds. Your ice supply often gets taken for granted until its unavailability causes a major inconvenience. Proper care and maintenance of your ice machine can prevent costly repairs and disruptions in your finely tuned routine.

It’s probably time to clean your ice maker if:

  • You’ve noticed slow or low ice production
  • Ice is semi-soft
  • Ice is not completely clear
  • Ice has an odor
  • The machine isn’t producing full-sized cubes
  • The machine doesn’t cycle into harvest mode, or ice does not release during harvest mode
How to clean your ice machine

All ice machines are a little different, and each manufacturer has their own set of instructions for how to clean and sanitize, so it’s important to reference your owner’s manual to check for specific recommendations from the manufacturer. Whether you have an undercounter ice machine, a countertop ice dispenser, or a cuber head and bin setup, this article provides a basic overview of the essential steps for cleaning and sanitizing your ice machine.

Read also: Ice Machine Buying Guide

What you need

Everything you’ll need for a clean ice machine:

Be sure to reference the owner’s manual that came with your machine before getting started and follow the manufacturer’s directions and recommendations, which may be unique to your ice machine model. For example, Manitowoc is a popular brand of ice machines that has special cleaning and sanitizing instructions, as well as some special products with different ways of accomplishing the job. Once you’ve established a plan, it’s time to gather your materials and get started!

Phase 1: Clean

How to Clean Your Ice Machine

Properly cleaning your ice machine will remove all visible buildup of dirt, grease, dust, hard water minerals, mildew, mold, and other films.

Step 1: Whether your ice bin is integrated or separate, always start the cleaning process by emptying all ice from the bin and from the machine itself. Depending on your type of machine, this may mean turning off the power after the harvest portion of the cycle, turning off the power and allowing the ice to melt from the evaporator, or pressing a manual ice harvest button to release ice from the evaporator.

 

Step 2: Remove any access covers your machine may have in place and reconnect it to power.

Step 3: If your machine has a button or switch labeled “CLEAN” or “WASH,” now’s the time to use it. Water will begin flowing through the dump valve and down the drain. When the trough has refilled, the display should indicate that it’s time to add chemicals.

Step 4: Measure the appropriate amount of scale remover or ice machine cleaner as recommended by your product manual and pour it into the reservoir. 

Step 5: Depending on your machine, the cleaning cycle can last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. This is a great time to go ahead and prepare a cleaning solution for the interior parts and think about which well-iced beverage you plan to enjoy after a job well done. When the cycle ends, turn off the machine once again.

Step 6: Dilute the cleaner with warm water, according to the directions in your manual. The ratio is typically one gallon of water to 16 ounces of cleaner, but if there is significant mineral buildup from hard water, you may need to boost the solution with extra cleaner.

Step 6: Carefully remove interior parts for cleaning, and don’t forget to check the drain line for mildew. If your machine produces specialized ice like flakes or nuggets, it may have additional parts to remove and clean. Reference your trusty manual to find their location.

Step 7: Use a brush, sponge, or cloth to clean the interior parts and try soaking any with stubborn buildup. If the solution starts to foam, don’t worry! That means it’s working, and it will stop once it’s done its job. When you’ve cleaned them to your satisfaction, thoroughly rinse the parts in fresh water and let them dry.

Step 8: While the interior parts are drying, clean all surfaces of the evaporator, ice bin, and dispenser, paying special attention to corners and tight spots. Rinse with fresh water and you’re ready to move on to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Sanitize

How to Sanitize Your Ice Machine

After the ice machine has been cleaned, it’s time to sanitize. It may feel redundant, but sanitizing is fundamentally different than cleaning and necessary to prevent bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from exceeding safe levels. Since the FDA classifies ice as a food, it’s not only best practice to sanitize, it’s the law!

Read also: How to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Step 1: Check your manual for the recommended solution-to-water ratio of sanitizing solution to water, and dilute according to the directions. If a ratio isn’t specified, mix two ounces of sanitizer with three gallons of warm water, being careful to avoid mixing any amount of cleaner and sanitizer.

Step 2: Fill a spray bottle with some of the diluted solution and spray the evaporator, ice bin, dispenser, and any other interior areas you cleaned in Phase 1.

Step 3: Initiate the “CLEAN” or “WASH” cycle one more time. When water fills the trough and flows over the evaporator, add diluted sanitizing solution to the trough and allow the machine to complete the cycle.

Step 4: While the machine is running the cycle, soak the disassembled interior parts in the remaining solution and allow to air dry. Do not rinse the freshly sanitized parts!

Step 5: Turn off the machine when the cycle is complete. Reassemble the machine and replace the access covers.

Step 6: Your ice machine is now sanitized! Turn it back on and remember to discard 100% of the next two batches of ice produced.

Keep it clean

Pro tips for keeping a sparkling clean ice machine:

  • The most important thing you can do to keep your ice machine clean is install a water filtration system and regularly change the water filter. This will prevent much of the buildup and scaling you may see as a result of hard water.
  • Regularly wipe down the exterior of your ice machine with sanitizer to keep bacteria and other contaminants on the outside of the machine from working their way to the inside, which can happen faster than you may think. Pay special attention to handles and any parts that are frequently touched.
  • Vacuum the coils of your ice machine and the area around the machine regularly– before dust accumulates and becomes difficult to remove.
  • Even if your bin is lined with an antimicrobial coating, it’s important to empty and clean the interior of your ice bin on a regular basis to keep contaminants to a minimum.
  • The entire process of cleaning and sanitizing your ice machine should happen at least twice a year, and more often than that if your business bakes fresh bread in-house, due to extra flour and yeast in the air.
  • See all Ice Machines and Bins here, and browse our vast assortment of ice machine accessories here.
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