How to Clean an Ice Machine from our friends at the Webstaurant Store.

Ice is essential in every type of foodservice establishment, and you can even find ice machines in other settings, such as nursing homes, hotels, healthcare facilities, and more. Even though ice makers are an important piece of equipment, many restaurant owners and operators neglect to clean them regularly. This article will take you through a detailed, step-by-step explanation of how to clean an ice machine, ensuring your equipment is safe for your customers.

Why It’s Important to Clean an Ice Maker

The FDA defines ice as a food, which means it must be handled and cared for in the same manner as other food products. No matter what type of ice machine your establishment operates, it’s imperative that you clean, sanitize, and maintain it. Any part of the unit that has contact with water can develop scale, slime, or mold at any time, which will contaminate your ice and potentially harm your customers.

How Often Should You Clean Your Ice Machine

Your ice machine should be cleaned and sanitized at least once every six months for efficient operation. This maintenance process requires you to first perform a cleaning procedure to remove lime, scale, and mineral deposits, followed by a sanitizing procedure to disinfect the unit and remove algae and slime.

If you don’t keep up on maintenance, scale buildup can cause ice to stick to the evaporator plates, which can impede heat transfer and result in freeze-ups, longer harvest times, reduction in capacity, and costly repairs. Not cleaning your machine can also lead to the formation of dangerous slime and mold.

Signs You Need to Clean Your Ice Maker

If you experience some of the following issues, it may be time to clean your ice machine:

  • Ice machine does not release ice or is slow to harvest

  • Ice machine does not cycle into harvest mode

  • Ice quality is poor (soft or not clear)

  • Ice produces an odor.

  • Ice machine produces shallow or incomplete cubes

  • Low ice capacity

Now we’ll get into the proper ice machine cleaning and sanitizing procedures, but first, let’s go over a few guidelines and tips.

  • Your ice machine should be cleaned every 6 months.

  • If you notice it’s requiring more frequent cleaning and sanitizing, consult a qualified service company to test your establishment’s water quality. Water treatment or a new water cartridge may be necessary.

  • Be sure to follow the proper instructions written out in your ice machine’s manual.

  • Some manufacturers require specific or approved cleaner and sanitizer solutions to be used with their machines.

  • All ice produced during the cleaning and sanitizing procedures must be discarded. It’s also highly suggested to throw out the first batch of ice made after cleaning.

  • Do not mix cleaner and sanitizer solutions together.

  • Wear rubber gloves and protective safety glasses when handling cleaner and sanitizer solutions. Read and follow any instructions and cautions listed on the solution bottles.

  • To prevent damage to the water pump, do not leave the control switch in a service position for an extended period of time when the water tank is empty during cleaning.

  • Know your equipment. Nugget and flake machines typically have more moving parts that require additional attention. Also, know your machine’s material construction so you don’t use chemicals that will harm it.

  1. How to Clean an Ice Machine

    Ice makers from various vendors will have their own special maintenance requirements, but most ice machines follow a basic overall process. As a result, you can follow these steps to clean your ice maker, whether your have a Manitowoc, Hoshizaki, Scotsman, or other type of commercial ice machine.

    1. Open the front door to access the evaporator compartment. All ice must be removed from the evaporator during the cleaning and sanitizing cycles.

    2. Remove all ice from the bin or dispenser. To remove the ice, follow one of the methods below:

    3. Either press the power switch at the end of the a harvest cycle after ice falls from the evaporators, or press the power switch and allow the ice to completely melt.

    4. Press the “clean” or “wash” button, depending on your machine's labeling. Water will flow through the water dump valve and down the drain. Wait until the water trough refills and the display indicates to add chemicals. This typically takes at least 1 minute. Then add the proper amount of ice machine cleaner per your manual. Wait until the clean cycle is complete. This will typically take at least 20 minutes. After the cycle is complete, disconnect power to the ice machine and the dispenser.

    5. Remove internal ice machine components for cleaning. For safe and proper removal, refer to your machine's manual. Once all parts have been removed, continue to the next step.

    6. Mix a solution of cleaner and lukewarm water. Refer to your machine's manual for an appropriate amount of solution. It should provide a chart that has the correct ratio for each product line. A general water to cleaner ratio is 1 gallon of water to 16 ounces of cleaner. Depending on the amount of mineral buildup, you may need to use more cleaner.

    7. Use half of the water and cleaner mixture to clean all components and parts you've removed. Most solutions will start to foam once they come in contact with lime, scale, and mineral deposits. Once the foaming stops, use a soft-bristle nylon brush, sponge, or cloth to carefully clean all parts. You can soak all of the components except for the ice thickness probe if they're heavily scaled. After removing all of the scale, rinse all components with clean water.

    8. Use the other half of the water and cleaner mixture to clean all foodzone surfaces of the ice machine, bin, and dispenser. Use a nylon brush or cloth to thoroughly clean the following ice machine areas: side walls, base (area above the trough), evaporator plastic parts (top, bottom, sides), and the bin or dispenser.

    9. Rinse all areas with clean water. This will help remove chemicals to prevent ice from becoming contaminated.