Tips & Tricks For Cleaning a Commercial Ice Machine

Even though ice machines are such a vital part of any establishment, it's often overlooked.

Keeping your ice machine clean needs to be a priority on your maintenance schedule. By consistently practicing proper maintenance on your commercial ice machine, you minimize breakdowns, code violations, misshapen ice, and the number of displeased customers. 

The importance of cleaning a commercial ice machine

One of the biggest issues commercial ice machines tend to have is bacteria growth. Biofilm slime is a commercial ice machine's worst nightmare and most common foe. Your basic cleaning won't due when it comes to getting rid of this slime in your equipment. It takes special chemicals, sanitization, and deep cleaning to eliminate it.

Additionally, bacteria and other contaminants make their way into commercial ice machines no matter how well the equipment is maintained. Limescale and calcium build up over time and, when neglected, can cause parts to wear down faster, which shortens the life of the ice machine. It also impacts the look and taste of the ice. 

Gross ice leads to gross drinks. Customers who are displeased with their drinks are less likely to return and more likely to leave bad reviews online. You don't want your ice machine to be the reason you lose business. Staying on top of the removal and sanitization of biofilm slime, limescale, and calcium buildup will keep your ice machine perfectly formed and tasting great. 

Not only is serving your customer's ice from a moldy commercial ice machine disgusting, but it's also a serious health and safety code violation. Even though you may not think so, ice is considered a food by the FDA, so food handling and safety regulations still apply. This is why you can't neglect your ice machine. Having mold, bacteria, and slime in your commercial ice machine can cause illness and leave you open to liabilities.

Mold in your ice machine is easier to spot than you may think. Even if you think the ice looks clean, it may not be. So do not go off of what the ice looks like; take a look yourself and implement a solid maintenance strategy, so tasks don't get forgotten.

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Steps for keeping your commercial ice machine clean

Not every commercial ice machine is created equal. Therefore, you need to check the owner or vendor manual to make sure you're following all guidelines and tips. Though, most general steps for cleaning an ice machine won't vary too much.

Tools & Materials Needed:

  • A nylon and a stiff brush
  • Sponge
  • Cloth
  • Warm water
  • Scale remover & cleaner
  • Vacuum

The first thing you need to do is remove any lime and calcium deposits. Then, you need to use sanitizer to remove and disinfect any slime present. You'll need to do this entire process every six months without fail to have an optimally clean commercial ice machine.

Here's what you should do:

  1. Clean the inside of the ice machine.
  2. Remove any remaining ice from anywhere in the machine.
  3. Find the «clean» button and press it to start the water flow.
  4. Add the correct amount of cleaner that is recommended. You can find this amount in the owner manual.
  5. Wait about 20 minutes (time will vary by brand) for the cycle to end.
  6. Remove any internal components. Be sure to check the manual to ensure you do this safely to protect yourself and avoid damaging the machine.
  7. Mix a cleaning solution. The typical ratio is usually 1 gallon of water/16 oz of cleaner.
  8. Take those components you removed earlier and clean them.
  9. Clean all food surfaces with your nylon brush and cloth.
  10. Give all areas a good rinsing.

2. Sanitize

Disinfecting the ice machine is the next important step of ensuring that your commercial ice machine is in top shape. It is without a doubt the most critical aspect of cleaning your ice machine because it helps minimize the number of harmful pathogens that could end up in your equipment.

  1. Mix a solution of sanitizer. Typically, it is a mix of 3 gallons of lukewarm water and 2 oz of sanitizer solution. However, to be sure, check your owner's manual.
  2. Use one half of the solution to sanitize the parts you've already removed, and then use the other half of the solution for all other surfaces, like the inside walls of the ice machine, ice bin, and more.
  3. Replace the parts you've removed.
  4. After 20 minutes, turn the power back on by pressing the same «clean» button from before.
  5. Ensure that troughs are fully refilled. Then add the right amount of sanitizer as per your manual, and then start the sanitizing cycle.
  6. After another 20 minutes, stand by and monitor at least two complete cycles, including the freezing and harvest cycles. IMPORTANT NOTE: Throw out the first two batches of ice when you're done.

3. Clean the Exterior, Condenser & Filter 

After the initial cleaning and sanitizer are done, clean the exterior of the commercial ice machine with a damp cloth and everything in the surrounding area near the machine. This includes dust, dirt, food residue, grease, and more that could end up around the machine. You have to make sure the exterior and surrounding areas are free of debris so that it doesn't end up in the ice machine. When it does, it can cause bacteria to grow faster.

Next, turn off the power to the ice machine and check if the condenser coil has any buildup. Then, use the vacuum to blow air through the condenser coil to remove debris. This helps clean the filter to ensure the air flows well and prevents malfunctions in the commercial ice machine.

Additional Tips for Cleaning Your Commercial Ice Machine

Here are some additional tips to help you do the best cleaning and sanitizing job possible for a commercial ice machine.

  • Be sure to follow the instructions of the commercial ice machine maker's manual.
  • Ensure you don't mix cleaners, sanitizers, and other chemicals to prevent hazardous situations. Additionally, always use protective equipment like gloves and safety glasses when handling any chemicals.
  • Check your water quality in your establishment frequently to ensure the highest water quality for the ice and ice machine.
  • Minimize damage to your water pump by never leaving the control switch in the service position for long periods.

The ice machine will always remain efficient and can even cut down on energy costs by always maintaining a regular cleaning and sanitizing schedule.

What to do if you don't feel comfortable cleaning your commercial ice machine

If you don't feel comfortable repairing an ice machine yourself, it's time to call in the experts. Thankfully, the refrigeration professionals at 512 Refrigeration have got your back. If you have a commercial ice machine that needs to be repaired, brought up to code, or you need a total replacement, our friendly technicians can have your ice machine up and running as soon as possible.

512 Refrigeration has a highly-skilled staff to get the job done right the first time. From ice machine cleaning to equipment installation, we are happy to serve restaurants and businesses across the Austin area. 

We understand how important your ice machine is to your business. The quality of your ice machine can make or break a customer's experience and can determine if they'll be a repeat customer. We will always respect your time and get your equipment in top shape. 

Schedule Service Today

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