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How to Properly Clean an Ice Machine

Jun 2nd 2022 - Monica Cunanan

How to Properly Clean an Ice Machine

Ice is used in most foodservice settings, from restaurants, bars, and cafeterias, to nursing homes, healthcare facilities, and hotels to serve cold drinks.

Ice is considered food by the FDA, so it must be treated and cared for in the same way as other foods. Any part of your ice machine in contact with water can develop scale, slime, or mold at any time. This could contaminate your ice and possibly harm your customers.

Most ice machines follow a general overall process for maintaining them. This article will walk commercial ice machine owners through a detailed, Step-By-Step explanation of the ice machine’s cleaning process.

The General Steps For Cleaning An Ice Machine:

Step 1: Empty the Ice bin & Remove Components to be cleaned

Step 2: Begin the automatic cleaning cycle

Step 3: Add Ice Maker cleaner solution

Step 4: Wait until the clean cycle is complete

Step 5: Use Cleaner Solution for Interior & Exterior Components. The general ratio is 1 gallon of water to 16 ounces of cleaner

Step 6: Use Sanitizer Solution for Interior & Exterior Ice machine Surfaces

Step 7: Clean Condenser and its Filter

Things To Take Note of When Cleaning Your Ice Machine:

  • Every six months is a good time to clean your ice machine. It cannot be done weekly or monthly due to the corrosive chemicals of the cleaner. WARNING
  • Only use NSF-certified cleaner / sanitizing solutions. NSF certified means it meets the rigorous standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation. This is to ensure customer safety and customer health.
  • Clean regularly to avoid scale buildup on evaporator plates which would prevent impeded heat transfer that can cause long harvest times. It will be beneficial in maintaining your machine at full capacity and ultimately avoid costly repairs.

How to Clean Your Ice Machine (General Steps)

Before anything else, make sure to consolidate your manufacturer's manual. Certain manufacturers require specific or approved cleaning solutions to be used with certain machines. If you own a Hoshizaki Ice Machine, this manual will have more details. If you own a Manitowoc Ice Machine, this manual and video guide might help.

Step 1: Empty the Ice bin & Remove Evaporator

Make sure that ice bins are empty before beginning the cleaning process.

  • After the ice has fallen from the evaporator, press the power switch at the bottom of the unit.
  • Turn off the power switch and let the ice completely melt.

Refer to your manual to find where the condenser is and remove interior components that need to be cleaned.

Step 2: Begin The Automatic Cleaning Cycle

  • Push the “clean’ or ‘wash’ button: Once you've pressed this button, water will be flowing through the water dump valve, and down the drain.
  • Wait until the water tank refills and the display tells you to add chemicals. It would usually take a minute or so.

Step 3: Add Ice Maker Cleaner Solution

Ice machine cleaner is used to remove lime scale and mineral deposits from ice machine components.

  • Add your ice maker cleaner solution.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the ice machine. The general ratio is 1 gallon of lukewarm water to 16 ounces of cleaner
  • The cleaning cycle takes about 20-45 minutes per your manual instructions.

Step 4: Wait Until The Clean Cycle Is Complete

  • Wait until the clean cycles are complete:
  • The complete cleaning cycle usually takes at least 20 minutes.

Steps 5 & 6: Clean & Sanitize Interior and Exterior

Ice Machine Sanitizer is used to remove the buildup of mold, algae, and slime growth and to disinfect. Recommended frequency for sanitizer is a minimum of once every six months. In areas with a high concentration of airborne yeast (such as bakeries) more frequent sanitizing will be required. 

  • Before taking apart the ice machine, make sure to turn off the power supply and carefully take out the components according to the manual.
  • Only use a soft-bristle nylon brush, scrubber, or soft cloth when doing this.

In most guides, you cannot mix the cleaner and sanitizer solutions.

Interior Ice Machine Cleaning:

Step 1: Dilute Cleaning Solution

Refer to your machine's manual for an appropriate amount of solution. The general steps are as follows:

  • To dilute, mix the cleaning solution with lukewarm water.
  • The general ratio is 1 gallon of water to 16 ounces of cleaner.
  • Depending on the amount and type of buildup, you may want to use a cleaner.

Step 2: Use Ice Machine Cleaner Solution to Clean Components

  • Use half of the water and cleaner mixture to clean all components and parts you've removed. Most solutions will foam when they come into contact with lime, scale, and buildup of minerals
  • When the foaming stops, clean all parts with a soft-bristled nylon brush, sponge, clean cloth, or paper towel.
  • Clean the inside of the bin to remove any excess water and loose dirt.
  • Dilute an ice cleaner properly before applying it to the interior of the ice bin.
  • Let the cleaner remain on surfaces to dissolve scale and deposits and scrub stubborn deposits if necessary
  • Rinse with clean, fresh water.

Step 3: Use Ice Machine Sanitizer

  • Wipe dry and apply a sanitizing solution. The sanitizer mixture is usually a no-rinse solution.
  • Allow drying before turning on the machine

Exterior Ice Machine Cleaning:

Steps To Clean Exterior Ice Machine Surfaces:

  • Clean exterior surfaces to remove loose soil and dirt.
  • Dilute ice cleaner and use it to clean exterior surfaces.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean off any dirt or debris that has built up.
  • Rinse with clean water
  • Wipe dry and then apply the sanitizing solution.
  • Let it dry

Don't Forget the Food Zone Surfaces!

  • To remove the buildup of grease and food products, clean food zone surfaces by using the other half of the cleaning solution to clean all food zone surface parts of the ice machine and bins or dispensers.
  • Rinse: Make sure to rinse all areas, especially the common food-contact surfaces, thoroughly with clean water.

PRO TIP: Make sure that your water quality is at its optimum because this can affect machine performance. You can do this by testing it.

How to Clean an Ice Machine Condenser and Its Filter

Cleaning the condenser once every six months is important because it helps keep your ice machine working properly. These are the cleaning steps:

Step 1: Switch The Power Off

Unplug the ice machine head section and the remote condensing unit if applicable.

Step 2: Thoroughly Clean Your filter

There are two ways you can do this:

  • To clean the condenser, blow compressed air through it.
  • You can also simply wash it with water from the inside out.

Step 3: Make Sure to Double-Check

Once you’ve gone through the process of cleaning your ice machine, check to see if anything remains. If there is, we recommend that you call an expert.

You Should Take Precautions Before Cleaning

If you're not experienced in cleaning kitchen appliances, it may be difficult for you to effectively clean them.

  • Make sure you use the right cleaning products: Some manufacturers recommend specific or approved cleaners and sanitizers for their machines.
  • Follow the instructions: You must follow the directions for cleaning your ice maker.
  • Separate the cleaner mixture from the sanitizer mixture for safety reasons. The chemical combinations will not be safe.
  • When using cleaning products, wear rubber gloves and protective safety goggles.
  • Keep an eye on your establishment's water quality. If your machine needs more frequent maintenance, check its water quality.
  • Make sure the control switch is turned off when the water tank is drained for cleaning.
  • You need to know your equipment: Nugget machines usually have more moving parts than flake machines.

By keeping your ice machine clean and sanitized, you'll be able to keep its efficiency, prevent increased energy bills, and make clean and ready-to-use ice. If you are encountering problems with your ice machine, the first step is to usually ensure that your ice machine is at its peak. Need a troubleshoot guide? Check this Manitowoc and Hoshizaki Guide. You can also check out this article if you need help when your ice machine is beeping or freezing up.

Getting Ice Machine for Your Business?

Ice Equipment is crucial for operating any kitchen. Here at Culinary Depot, we are eager to help you find the right Ice Maker, parts, and necessities for maintenance.

May it be:

Visit our online store or contact us today for more information.