Ice is used in almost every food service setting; from restaurants, bars, cafeterias, and coffee shops to nursing homes, hospitals, and healthcare facilities. Since ice is such an important part of the food service industry, it’s important for professionals to know how to clean an ice machine. In fact, these machines are often some of the dirtiest pieces of equipment in the kitchen. While every ice machine has its own special maintenance requirements, most follow a basic overall process. This article will take you through a detailed, step-by-step explanation of the ice machine cleaning process.
Ice is considered a food, according to the FDA. This means it must be handled and cared for in the same manner as other food products. No matter what type of ice machine your establishment operates, it’s imperative that you clean, sanitize, and maintain it. Any part of the unit that has contact with water can develop scale, slime, or mold at any time, which will contaminate your ice and potentially harm your customers.
You should clean and sanitize your ice machine at least once every six months to maximize efficiency.
The maintenance process is two-fold:
Ignoring routine maintenance can cause scale buildup which makes ice stick to the evaporator plates. This hinders heat transfer and creates freeze-ups, longer harvest times, reduction in capacity, and costly repairs. Not cleaning your machine can cause damage to the unit, but it can also lead to the formation of dangerous slime and mold. Learn more: Reducing Commercial Ice Machine Energy Costs.
How Do I Know When It’s Time to Clean My Machine?If you can answer yes to one or more of the following questions, it is time to clean your ice machine:
General Maintenance Tips
There are several basic things you can do to maintain your ice machine and keep it working properly. While most of these tips are common sense, they can easily get overlooked. Ignoring the small things can lead to bigger problems, like inefficient ice production or long-term damage. Copy this list, mark it on your calendar, and set reminders. It will be worth your money and time.
How to Clean Your Ice Machine
Now that you’ve reviewed the ‘why’ behind ice machine cleaning and maintenance, it’s time to walk you through the ‘how.’ The goal of regular cleanings is to remove scale build up. Scale build up affects the efficiency of your machine. If left unmanaged, it can cause costly repairs and poor quality ice that could be contaminated.
Here are the basic steps in the cleaning process:
Once your ice machine is clean, then you can move on to the sanitizing process.
How to Sanitize Your Ice Machine
How to Clean the Exterior of Your Machine
The exterior of your ice machine and the area around the unit should be cleaned as often as necessary. This will help maintain sanitary conditions and optimal operation. Exterior maintenance is easy. Simply wipe surfaces down with a damp cloth rinsed with water to remove dust and dirt from the outside of the machine. Never use anything abrasive to clean the outside of the unit. If a greasy residue remains, a mild dish soap and water solution can be used. Always consult your machine’s manual for restrictions on cleaners. For example, some nickel-plated machines require nickel-safe solutions. Never use chlorinated, citrus-based, or abrasive cleaners on exterior panels or plastic trim.
How to Clean the Condenser and Filter
As with the ice machine as a whole, the condenser, and the filter should be cleaned every 6 months. A self-contained ice machine has a washable filter that traps dust, dirt, lint, and grease. Rinsing the filter with mild soap and water will sufficiently clean it.
Once the filter has been cleaned, you can move on to the condenser. When a condenser is dirty, airflow is restricted. This causes higher operating temperatures which can lead to reduced ice production and shortened life expectancy of your machine.
Steps to Cleaning the Condenser:
Regular cleaning and sanitizing of your ice machine will ensure that your unit produces sanitary ice and runs optimally for a long time. Whether you’re producing ice for drink service or using it to chill foods and keep them fresh, you want to know that your ice is clean. Regular upkeep – cleaning and sanitizing your machine, keeping the exterior of the unit clean, and maintaining the unit’s condenser and filters—will improve your ice machine’s efficiency, decrease energy costs, and keep your ice clean, safe and ready to use!
Learn more: What to Know Before Purchasing an Ice Machine.
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