Redundant household or work tasks are never fun, and ice maker cleaning is at the top of that list. Whether your ice is for a glass of sweet tea, topping off mixed drinks at a pool party or is a provided in the food service industry, regular cleaning of your ice maker or ice shaver machine helps keep bacteria and odors at bay.
Table of Contents
- The Hazards of Not Cleaning Your Ice Maker
- How to Clean a Freezer Ice Maker
- How to Clean a Portable Ice Maker
- How to Clean a Commercial Ice Maker
The Hazards of Not Cleaning Your Ice Maker
Portions of your ice machine regularly or always touch water, making it possible for a variety of ills to take hold. Salmonella isn’t limited to chicken and other undercooked meats. It can appear in an ice machine along with other illness-causing bacteria such as listeria, Shigella, E. coli and noroviruses.
Food safety inspections performed at commercial locations occasionally mention the buildup of a slime, or biofilm, in unclean ice makers. When this “slime” is allowed to form, it makes a safe haven for bacteria. Slime also occasionally breaks off into ice chunks that can be passed onto guests or customers in the form of moldy green ice cubes. Unfortunately, a regular cleaning and sanitizing session doesn’t cut it after a biofilm forms. The slime must be removed, and it’s a difficult process. It’s easier to keep slime and bacteria from building up than to fight it later. Set a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule for your personal, business or commercial ice machines to stay proactive in the fight against germs.
How to Clean a Freezer Ice Maker
Many refrigerators include a built-in ice maker in the door and/or freezer section of the unit. Luckily, these built-in devices feature filtering systems to help reduce bacterial issues. However, some minerals from your water system likely find their way to the ice maker over time, which makes cleaning imperative.
Additionally, freezer-based ice makers have a tendency to absorb odors from food stored in the freezer section. Unfortunately, there is no waiting out the smelly ice. Lingering ice or frost in the freezer makes it possible to transfer the scent from ice batch to ice batch indefinitely.
Turn off Your Freezer Ice Maker
To get started cleaning your freezer ice maker, stop ice production. There is either a bar to lift or a switch to flip to stop the ice flow in your fridge. If you can’t find a way to halt production, unplug the freezer. The cleaning process moves quickly, so your food and that ice cream you made from scratch should stay fresh during the down time.
Slide any removable ice bins or trays from the freezer. Use an ice pick or a pick with warm water to remove any ice impeding removal. When your freezer is unplugged, move on to cleaning your ice bins and let the freezer start to defrost naturally.
For freezers with an off/on ice maker switch, use an ice pick and warm water to remove any other ice clogs or ice pockets from exposed surfaces. Gently scrub ice buckets and trays in a mixture of hot water and your favorite dish soap. Rinse with warm water. Let the items dry on a towel while moving on to cleaning the ice maker.
Wipe down any exposed portions of the ice maker with a dry cloth to remove excess condensation or moisture remaining from the defrosting period. After the ice maker is dry, it is time to clean.
Wipe Down Exposed Areas
Use the remaining soap water from cleaning the bins to perform a first wipe of all surfaces. This removes any food particles transferred from the freezer area and other debris. Wipe the area dry again before moving on to the sanitize stage.
Clean With a Sanitizing Solution
Mix approximately one-quarter cup of bleach in two quarts of water for a homemade sanitizing solution. Use a clean rag and wipe down the ice maker, all components and adjacent freezer surfaces. When defrosting the entire unit, sanitize the entire freezer at one time. Follow with a dry rag to remove excess moisture. Use the same sanitizing mixture to clean buckets and trays before replacing them in the unit. Double-check to make sure everything is dry before restoring power to the ice maker or freezer.
When mineral build-up is a problem in your area, incorporate changing built-in filters into the cleaning process. This helps keep bad tastes and chunks of scale out of your ice for as long as possible.
Power tip: Check the bottom of your non-electrical removable ice maker components to see if they are dishwasher safe. If so, use a dishwasher sanitation cycle to eliminate handwashing components or as an additional cleaning option.
How to Clean a Portable Ice Maker
Portable and countertop ice makers provide a great way to keep drinks at a party or social function cool when a refrigerator or commercial ice maker isn’t handy. When refreshing the masses, it’s doubly important to practice regular cleaning and sanitizing to keep guests comfortable and healthy long after the party ends. Luckily, cleaning a portable ice maker isn’t light years away from cleaning the freezer ice maker. With a few simple tweaks, the cleaning process zooms by.
Clean Interior With Sanitizing Solution
When cleaning a portable ice maker, start with the interior to streamline the process. A white vinegar or lemon juice solution is a natural way to target bacteria and avoid damaging sensitive areas of the machine, such as the water tank.
Cleaning the water reservoir requires filling it completely and allowing a sanitizing solution to pass through the machine. Add approximately 1.5 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice per each cup of water until the reservoir is filled. Start the ice making process and allow the machine to run for multiple cycles—at least two—before dumping the remaining water out of the tank. Detach all removable water lines from the machine and run a cleaning solution through them followed by fresh water before reattaching.
Run Batches of Ice to Remove Solution
Refill the water tank with fresh water and make multiple batches of ice. A minimum of two is recommended to remove any remnants of the cleaning solution. Dump the water from the water tank one last time. If you plan on making ice immediately, refill the tank; otherwise, wipe it dry with a clean cloth.
Wipe Down Buckets & Accessories
After the need for the ice bucket or trays are eliminated, remove them for cleaning. Use the same vinegar or lemon juice mixture or a dishwashing detergent of your choosing. Add the cleaner to warm water and wipe the buckets with a soft cloth. Rinse with warm water and wipe dry. Clean the ice scoop and any other removable accessories using the same method. Wipe down the exterior of the ice machine with a mild detergent and warm water regularly.
How to Clean a Commercial Ice Maker
A commercial business lives by the quality of its service. Bad ice and a bad run of food poisoning is devastating personally and for the bottom line of the enterprise. The ice maker in a commercial business needs to be deep cleaned at regular intervals. This includes wiping all interior surfaces and following with an appropriate sanitizer.
Make a Regular Task for Employees
Because ice machine cleaning is key to the health of your establishment, consider making it a dedicated task for certain employees. Train the workers on how to properly remove components and sanitize surfaces. Monitor routinely to ensure best practices are being followed and inspect your machines regularly between cleaning.
Empty Your Commercial Ice Maker
To get started, all ice needs to be removed from the holding bins, buckets or trays in the machine. You will need to eject any ice in process from the evaporator. Your machine may have a button that forces the ice off the evaporator. If not, unplug the unit briefly to stop the ice making process.
Run Commercial Ice Maker Wash Cycle
Use the clean or wash cycle on a commercial ice machine to simplify the cleaning process. Add scale remover to the unit based on product specifications. Each commercial ice machine recommends the use of certain scale removers. Always use manufacturer-recommended products to keep your warranty valid and your machine operating properly.
The cleaning cycle typically takes between a half-hour and one hour to complete. When it is done, unplug the ice machine to safely remove other components for a deeper cleaning. The service manual for your specific ice maker lists all removable parts for cleaning purposes along with instructions for removal and replacement.
Manually Clean Individual Parts
Use a cleaning solution and warm water mixture to thoroughly scrub all removed parts. A disposable sponge, nylon brush or clean cloth help remove dirt and scale. When build-up is a serious problem, let the items soak in the solution for several minutes before scrubbing. Rinse with warm water and allow to dry.
As the parts dry, clean the evaporator and ice bin with the solution mixture, a clean cloth or nylon brush. Scrub all sides during the cleaning process. After cleaning, disinfecting is needed. Refer to the service manual for the proper ratio of sanitizer to warm water to add to use on your machine.
Use the sanitizing solution to wipe down all removed parts. Alternatively, soak the parts in the solution and then rinse to save time. The same sanitizing mix is also used on the evaporator and ice bin behind the cleaner. After applying sanitizer, reassemble the machine and plug it back in. Run a second clean or wash cycle and restart the ice-making process. As the ice starts flowing, dump the first several batches out.
Regularly wipe exterior surfaces of your business ice machine to remove bacteria. This includes bacteria that may spread from inside the machine and any germs left on the machine by customers and employees. An added perk of regular cleaning and sanitizing is increased efficiency for the machine. Scale or slime buildup on key surfaces often limits ice production and makes the machine work harder to crank out the ice. By increasing efficiency, you lower electric costs while providing a better product to customers.
Nobody wants to be responsible for a health incident. Whether your ice maker serves your family, a family reunion or a family restaurant, establish a regular cleaning and sanitation process.
For a family with moderate ice usage, once or twice a year is typically sufficient unless a smell or scale build-up materializes. Make ice maker cleaning part of a routine defrosting or freezer cleanout process to check several items off your to-do list at the same time.
Remove water from a portable ice maker and wipe it down after every use. If the unit is in storage for long periods of time, consider running a cleaning cycle when it is unpacked.
Clean the ice maker in a restaurant or commercial eatery quarterly at a minimum. Heavily used ice makers in private businesses also need to be cleaned regularly. Consider starting a maintenance contract for the units to ensure best practices are always followed.