The Importance of Ice Machine Maintenance

Ice cubes are classified as food by the FDA. Safe food handling rules apply, yet the ice machine is often a neglected piece of equipment. People often wrongly assume that all ice machines are self-cleaning. Some also believe that, due to ice being a frozen substance, nothing harmful can survive in the ice machine. 

Dangers can lurk in a poorly maintained ice machine, however. Even under the best conditions, contaminants can sneak into your ice supply. These can create health problems and compromise machine components. 512 Refrigeration qualified and highly-skilled staff provides reliable, high-quality ice machine cleaning and maintenance to the Austin, Texas area. We know that by maintaining a clean and well-functioning ice machine, you can avoid subpar ice quality, health risks, potential legal issues, and costly machine repairs. 

Quality of Ice

To keep your customers happy, you must ensure that the food and drink you serve are consistently tasty. Therefore, making care and maintenance of ice machines a priority is a must. Ice quality and taste suffer when your ice machine is poorly maintained. Without proper cleaning, limescale and calcium can build up in your machine and affect the smell and taste of ice. As the ice melts, it impacts the drink your customer ordered as well.

The ice will also melt faster when your machine is not maintained properly. The shape and appearance of your ice cubes may change as well. When the ice machine is working inefficiently, more oxygen and impurities can be left in the water. The resulting ice will melt faster in your customers’ drink, watering down their drink with water that probably won’t taste very good. That’s a double whammy that won’t bring customers back for more.

Mold, Bacteria, and Biofilm Slime

Sometimes mold and bacteria are obvious, even to the customer. When commercial ice machines aren’t clean, mold growth may be visible in the ice chute. But a clean-looking ice maker doesn’t mean the machine really is clean.

Even with the best food handling practices in place, airborne particles may enter your ice machine and breed problems. Cooking products like yeast and grease can travel invisibly in the air and enter your ice machine. Mold can begin in a dark and wet environment without you realizing it. 

The result of food, bacteria, and mold in your ice machine is biofilm slime. Sometimes known as pink slime, biofilm slime is not only disgusting, but it’s challenging to eliminate. Standard cleaning techniques will not rid your machine of slime. Special deep cleaning and sanitizing are required, leading to production issues for you and disappointment for your customers.

Health of Customers and Staff

Several grim studies have shown that the ice in some restaurants is dirtier than the toilet water from the same establishments. Shocking as that is, it serves as a warning for how badly contaminated an ice machine can become when regular ice machine preventative maintenance is neglected.

Ice machines can harbor mold and bacteria that can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems. Immunocompromised people and those with allergies may experience reactions to the contaminates, and anyone in contact with the ice might experience nose and throat irritation. 

While the problem may not be born in the machine, poor ice handling can introduce germs and bacteria into the ice machine. In an interview, associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University Benjamin Chapman stated, “No bacteria or virus we worry about when it comes to food-borne illness — listeria, pathogenic E. coli, salmonella, norovirus — die significantly when frozen.”1

So while the water systems your machine uses may be clean and safe, sanitation issues may result in illness for your customers. 

Health Code Violations

Ice from contaminated ice machines is one of the most common Health Code violations.2 In addition to putting your customers at risk, health code violations are damaging to your reputation. Health code violations put your establishment at risk for fines or closure while you correct the problem. Customers are deterred from visiting locations with health code violations. At all times, but particularly now when concerns about sanitization are at a high, this could negatively impact your business in the long term.

Ice Machine Longevity and Health

You want your ice machine to last, and it should — if it is maintained properly. Neglected ice machines develop problems, sometimes costly problems, that are a headache for the business owner. Production wanes and parts fail. The search for emergency ice machine maintenance service is then on. No one wants to deal with this expense along with a loss of revenue. 

The technicians at 512 Refrigeration can put you on a service schedule to keep your ice quality high and your machine costs lower. If ice machine maintenance is daunting and you want to ensure you’re always up to Health Code, talk with us about options so we can help keep your ice machine and customers healthy. 


1Margaret Heidenry, “Ice Cubes Could Contain Harmful Bacteria, Experts Warn,” Fox News (FOX News Network, January 2, 2019),

2Rada Tarnovsky, “Ice Machines: What Every Food Service Operator Needs To Know,” (Total Food Service, April 19, 2018), h

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