How To Keep Your Ice Maker Clean
There is nothing like an iced cold beverage that keeps us cool and comfortable in the summer.
But it hasn’t always been easy to get iced drinks. In the 19th century, people were forced to gather ice from frozen lakes. Now, thanks to handy appliances like freezers and portable ice makers, it’s possible to make ice from the comfort of our home, or just about anywhere.
Ice-Maker VS Home Freezer
The inside of a portable ice maker is not all that different from the typical home freezer. Water is pumped from a reservoir to a container where cold metal prongs turn the water into solid ice. The prongs are made of refrigerant, which is the same material used for refrigerators and air conditioners to cool the room. When the water is frozen solid, the heat exchanger component reverses the prongs from cold to warm so that the ice cubes will fall into the ice bucket.
As long as there’s a spot to plug in, you can use a portable ice maker anywhere. Most of the time, you’ll find them on the kitchen countertops and basement bar-tops for quick access to the ice at celebrations and summer barbecues. Some people purchase them for use in camping trailers or RVs with minimal refrigerator space since much of the drinks would be stored outdoors in a cooler.
One thing to note is that portable ice makers are not designed to keep ice cold for a long time (it’s a compact freezer job). However, any ice that melts will flow back into the water reservoir, which means you won’t have to worry about spills!
Cloudy or Smelly Cubes
A clean ice maker is essential for several reasons. First, it’s going to keep your ice maker producing clear ice. When cubes become cloudy, it means that you may be dealing with the build-up of debris that is causing it. Second, your ice has to taste like pure ice – nothing else. But if you’re not cleaning your ice maker, you can start to get a funky mildew taste.
Along with the taste comes the smell that can be attributed to the impurity of the ice machine. Simply put, your ice isn’t supposed to smell like anything. Ice itself has no smell. But if you don’t take care of your ice maker, smells can begin to absorb over time, which will cause your ice not only to taste funny but smell strange, too.
Lastly, you consume the ice your ice maker produces. And, well, it’s running off your water supply, meaning you have a chance for the mould and the mildew to find their way. When that happens, you’ll find yourself consuming mould and mildew remnants that can be dangerous to your health.
That’s why you need to keep your kitchen appliances clean and maintained to ensure that they work correctly year after year. And if you’ve got an ice maker, it’s just as necessary to keep the unit clean. If not, the calcium build-up in the dump valve disintegrates the diaphragm in the valve, eventually leading to leakage behind your ice machine. Once it starts to leak, the calcium begins to grow on the condenser, eat, and corrode it away, leaving you no choice but to replace it.
To avoid all of this, we’re going to break down how to clean your ice maker so you can be sure that your machinery is safe and running correctly. Before doing anything on this list, be sure to check the instructions for your ice machine’s manufacturer. Your manufacturer could require approved or specific cleaners and sanitizers with their machines and may have particular warranty instructions.
So without further ado, let’s begin!
How To Clean Your Ice Maker
- The first thing you want to do is to unplug the refrigerator and freezer. Remember, there water and electricity don’t mix. (This is a vital step that should always be taken when you start maintenance of any appliance).
- Carefully remove the refrigerator from the plug to unplug it as far as you can. And bonus, what an excellent time to sweep behind and below your refrigerator!
- Remove the ice from your freezer.
- Unhook the water supply and let any remaining water drain into your sink or nearby bucket. And if you’ve added philtres to your ice maker, remove them and set aside.
- Using your homemade vinegar solution and warm water, start wiping out all the ice maker’s reachable areas using a soft cloth. Any areas that require extra boost use your baking soda and toothbrush to clean them up.
- Now you can carefully plug the freezer back in.
- Fill your ice maker with this solution so that the ice comes into contact with vinegar and water. You can throw away this batch of ice.
- To be sure that future batches taste clean and fresh, it’s best to run another ice cleaner batch through this machine. But leave the vinegar out this time!
A Good Rule of Thumb
How often you should clean your ice maker varies from person to person. Some people insist that you have to clean it every year. Others, it’s every six months. Some people wait until they see signs that something is going on and then decide to clean it up.
A good rule of thumb is to clean thoroughly once a year. And rinse and wipe the ice bin every time you clean your refrigerator, preferably on a monthly basis.
Cleaning Your Commercial Ice Machine
- Remove any electric cords.
- Remove and discard the ice that is currently in your machine.
- Take the front panel off your machine. Find the “Make Ice / Wash Machine” switch. Flip the switch to “Wash Machine” This switches off the compressor but allows the water to circulate.
- Locate your water trough. If your ice machine is a horizontal ice evaporator machine, the trough is horizontally positioned at the machine’s top. Once the trough is refilled with water, the display will indicate that it is time to add cleaner chemicals to the ice machine.
- Using rubber gloves and protective eyewear, pour in the number of chemicals indicated on the cleaner or machine instructions. Set the timer for 25 minutes and allow the cleaner to circulate through the ice machine this time around. This will dissolve the scaling, lime, calcium and mineral deposits. Do not run the cleaning solution for more than 25 minutes. The cleaning solution is caustic, and running longer will eat the nickel plating off your ice machine.
- After 25 minutes, repeat the wash cycle more than three times with clean water. This is a must for caustic chemicals to be removed.
- Turn off the ice machine and unplug/remove all sources of power.
- Remove parts for manual cleaning and sanitizing according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Mix a cleaner solution for the washing of the parts. Again, refer to your manual for the correct amount of mixing.
- Use a soft brush or sponge to clean the parts of your ice machine with the solution. Any limescale on your parts will cause foam to begin but brush the parts methodically when foaming subsides.
- Rinse all of your newly cleaned components thoroughly with clean water.
- With the additional cleaner solution, you have prepared, clean all the inside and outside surfaces of the ice machine, including the sidewalls, the base around the trough and the inside of the ice bin.
- Now you’ll want to rinse all areas and parts of the machine that you’ve just cleaned with water to eliminate the caustic cleaning solution.
Sanitizing Your Ice Machine
- Mix an ice machine sanitizer solution with warm water.
- You can either soak the ice machine parts in a bathtub with a sanitizer solution or spray the sanitizer on the parts of the ice machine with a spray bottle. Don’t rinse it. Leave your sanitizer on.
- Use more of your sanitizer solution to wipe the ice machine’s inside surfaces and the ice bin. Use a spray bottle to get into those areas that are hard to reach.
- Put the ice machine back together. Wait 20 min for the sanitizer to work before proceeding.
- Turn the power back on to your ice machine and start the laundry cycle again. Once the trough is again full of water, add a sanitizer solution. Set the timer to 20 minutes and allow the sanitizer solution to circulate for this time.
- Clean the condenser coils of your ice machine by vacuuming them out with compressed air. You can use a soft brush on them, but keep in mind that ice machine condenser coils are more fragile than other cooling coils.
- Reset your machine to its ice-making mode.
- Throw out your first batch of ice!
- Finally, replace the primary philter cartridge of your ice machine every six months.
Ice Machine Technology and Energy Efficiency
New ice machine technology has dramatically impacted energy efficiency and longevity, which means that new machines are much cheaper to run. Some machines, such as the Manitowoc Indigo Series, have on-board dashboards that allow you to programme your machines to optimise performance and operating times. Manitowoc’s new Luminice Growth Inhibitor technology is perfect for locations where yeast is present, such as a bakery or brewery. This technology reduces the growth of yeast and bacteria.
New digital technology will also help you monitor and maintain your ice machine. The Dashboard displays on new ice machines display the machine’s operating health in real-time, like the Scottishman ice machines with AutoSentryTM, a self-monitoring technology.
An additional resource that might help you out is the Energy Cost Calculator offered by the U.S. Office of Energy, Efficiency & Renewable Energy for ice machines to calculate different ice machines’ energy costs. The ice machine should be on a six-month maintenance routine, which involves cleaning and sanitizing all moving parts, inside, outside, and the ice machine’s condenser and philtre. If your restaurant’s water quality is poor, causing a build-up of scale, you will need to clean your ice machine even more often. If you operate a beer bar, a brewery or a bakery where yeast is standard, clean your ice cream machine every 90 days. Yeast spores love the moist environment of an ice machine and quickly add to contaminant problems.
It’s easy to believe that as long as our appliances are working fine, they don’t require anything from us. But if you want to keep your investment going for years to come, then you’ll need to perform the care and routine maintenance you need to keep your appliances running efficiently. Your ice maker brings joy to you and your loved ones. Take the time to clean it so that it can work properly for a long time.
And it’ll keep you healthy, too.