How to Clean Your Ice Machine

Posted by Patrick Maness +


As you’re probably aware, ice machines are infamous for attracting bacteria. That's right, the machine that makes those small, crystal-like squares that look so clear and pure may in fact produce little cubes of microbes that go plop-plop-plop into your customer’s drink.

Even if you diligently clean your machine, many customers are aware of the safety concerns surrounding ice machines and it’s likely that the health inspector will look at your machine with extra scrutiny.

For this reason, it’s important to review how to properly clean your ice machine.

When to clean

In addition to regular maintenance, your machine should be cleaned and sanitized — at a minimum — every six months. If you notice any of the following, you need to clean your ice machine right away:

  • Machine does not release ice, or does so slowly.
  • Machine isn’t producing to its full capacity.
  • Machine isn’t cycling into harvest mode properly.
  • Ice is soft, murky or comes out in half-formed cubes.

Proper ice-machine cleaning

Not all ice machines are alike, but these steps should serve as general guidelines when it comes to cleaning most machines:

  1. Remove all ice from the evaporator compartment.
  2. Empty out all the ice from the bin or dispenser. Do this by turning off the harvest cycle or pressing the power switch and letting the ice melt.
  3. Most machines will have a “clean” or a “wash” button. Press it. Water will fill up the trough and then a light will turn on, asking you to add ice-machine cleaner.
  4. Once the clean cycle is complete, remove various components from the machine and wash them in a mixture of cleaner and water.
  5. Rinse everything to make sure no soap or chemical residue remains.

Proper ice-machine sanitation

  1. Mix together two ounces of ice-machine sanitizer with three gallons of water.
  2. Use half of the mixture to sanitize all the components you removed and have already cleaned.
  3. Do not rinse parts in water after sanitizing!
  4. Liberally spray the inner walls, base, evaporator, bin and dispenser of the ice machine with the sanitizer solution.
  5. Let it stand for 20 minutes.
  6. Let water refill the water trough and wait for the “add cleaner” light to come on. Add the proper amount of sanitizer.
  7. Set your machine to automatically start making ice after the sanitizing cycle is complete.
  8. Carefully monitor at least two harvest and freeze cycles to make sure everything is working.
  9. Throw out the first batch of ice after cleaning and sanitizing is complete.


One thing to keep in mind is that the FDA classifies ice as a food, therefore, you should treat it with the same precautions as you do other foods. If you do, those rumors of ice-machine bacteria will not apply to your restaurant.

Read other articles in this series:

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