Commercial Ice Machine Maintenance and Cleaning Requirements 

Did you know that your commercial ice machine could quickly become a public health hazard without regular maintenance, cleaning, and sanitizing? 

It’s true! 

Any part of the machine contacting the water supply can develop. 

  • Mineral deposits
  • Scale buildup
  • Slime (usually pink or brown)
  • Mold

Without regular cleaning and sanitizing, your hotel, bar, or restaurant could serve potentially contaminated food to guests and patrons.   

Because ice is edible and ingestible by humans, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers ice a food product. As a result, ice-making, storage, and shipping fall under its jurisdiction and regulation. Typically, the FDA inspects large ice-producing plants that provide bagged ice to retail outlets. However, local health departments handle most food prep, food service, retail, and medical facility inspections. 

The FDA guidelines recommend following the specific installation, maintenance, cleaning, and sanitizing procedures per the manufacturer’s recommendations, but never less than twice a year. 

Once a contaminant reaches your ice machine, the ice and cold temperature can help preserve the germs while the inherent moisture allows them to reproduce. The result is a sticky “biofilm” (typically pink or brown in color) that is difficult to remove permanently without the proper cleaning and sanitizing products. Mold is also highly problematic because the colony can quickly reestablish itself in the corners, crevices, or missed spots. 

Ice Machine Cleaning and Sanitizing Schedules 

If you still need a formalized cleaning and sanitizing schedule, here are some essential factors to consider as you create one. 

Your business type – A busy bar or restaurant is a much different working environment than a medical facility. 

Ice machine location – An ice machine in a commercial kitchen will require more cleaning and sanitizing than one in a hotel lobby. 

Usage – Frequent and consistently used machines require more cleaning and sanitizing cycles.  

Local water conditions – Could be responsible for clogged lines and filters and contribute to mineral deposit buildup. 

Additionally, if your commercial ice machine exhibits the following performance issues, it’s probably time for a cleaning and sanitizing procedure. 

  • Diminished ice production
  • Ice does not release properly
  • Slow or extended production cycles
  • Shallow or incomplete cubes
  • Low ice capacity
  • The machine does not cycle through phases correctly
  • Soft or cloudy ice cubes

Lastly, if your machine requires excessive cleaning and sanitizing to work efficiently, you may need to test the water supply. Some localities may need water treatment to address high mineral content levels. 

How to Clean and Sanitize Your Ice Machine 

Before we jump into the cleaning and sanitizing, you’ll need to assemble a few items.  

Determine the make and model of your ice machine 

If you need access to the owner’s manual, locate the manufacturer’s tag and do a Google search to find the appropriate service manual online. For example, “Ice Master 2600 service manual” or “Manitowoc Elite Series Gold ice machine owner’s guide.” 

Assemble the necessary equipment and supplies 

Safety first! Always wear rubber gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from splashes and minor spills when working with cleaning or sanitizing solutions. In addition, you may need wrenches or other tools to disconnect filters, water lines, and other parts of the ice machine to perform a complete cleaning and sanitizing. 

Next, assemble the cleaning and sanitizing agents listed in the owner’s manual. Always use the recommended ingredients and mixing ratios per the owner’s manual to comply with warranty requirements.  

Compared to standard cube machines, flake, shaved, and nugget ice machines utilize additional components which require cleaning and sanitizing. Read through the cleaning and sanitizing directions multiple times to become familiar with the parts and assemblies before dismantling anything. 

Commercial Ice Machine Cleaning and Sanitizing 

The first step is to remove the ice from the bin storage; you can shut off the machine and wait for the ice to melt or manually remove and dispose of the ice. 

Important Note: Any ice produced during the process and the first batch of ice after cleaning and sanitizing is complete and should be discarded.  

The first half of the process involves cleaning the ice machine per the manufacturer’s instructions. The cleaning process for commercial ice machines can vary, but most include adding the cleaning mixture to the water trough and selecting the “clean” option. 

Most cleaning cycles will take 15-30 minutes, depending on the unit size and manufacturer. During this time, mix the cleaning agent with lukewarm water and remove the necessary parts (per the manufacturer’s instructions) for cleaning. Use ½ of the solution to clean the removed parts and the remainder to clean the exterior food zone surfaces completely. Thoroughly rinse all surfaces with water to remove any cleaner residue before starting the sanitizing process. 

Next, mix the sanitizer solution and lukewarm water per the manufacturer’s instructions. Finally, use ½ of the solution to sanitize the removed parts from the cleaning process by either soaking or using a spray bottle. 

Important Note: DO NOT rinse the removed parts with water after sanitizing them. 

Use the remaining solution to sanitize the exterior food zone surfaces thoroughly. Then, reinstall the previously removed parts and wait 20-30 minutes before continuing the sanitizing process. 

After restarting the machine and allowing the water trough to refill, add the proper amount of sanitizer and select the clean or wash cycle. The sanitizing process typically takes an additional 15-30 minutes. Once complete, your ice machine is ready to start making ice again. 

Important Note: The first batch of ice after the cleaning and sanitizing should be discarded. 

During the process, remember the ice machine condenser and any air or water filters utilized since dust and dirt buildup will reduce flow rates and could result in overheating and shorter equipment life cycles. 

MaintenX can service and install all makes and models of commercial ice machines including. 

  • Hoshizaki
  • Manitowoc
  • Scotsman
  • Ice O Matic

For questions about ice machine cleaning and sanitizing or setting up a preventative maintenance HVAC/R schedule, the MaintenX HVAC/R team of experts is never more than a phone call or email away. 

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