According to the FDA, ice classifies as a food, and food needs to be handled and stored properly. If it’s not, you run the risk of exposing your customers or staff to food-borne illnesses. The best way to keep your ice safe is to clean your ice machine bin, and you don’t need to be an ice machine technician to do it!
Regular Cleanings vs. Professional Cleanings
Contamination of ice can happen in a variety of ways:
- Incoming water
- Airborne contaminants (dirt, dust, airborne algae from yeast caused by baking, brewing beer, and open alcohol containers)
- Improper ice handling
- Unclean ice machine bin
To prevent contamination, you’ll need to perform regular cleanings and schedule periodic professional cleanings.
Ice machine owners or staff need to perform regular cleanings every night It’s the best way to prevent high-use areas from contamination. When cleaning, you should focus on the surfaces that see the most human contact. This helps prevent accidental contamination of the ice storage bin from improper ice handling.
Ideally, you should get two professional cleanings a year. This ensures hard-to-reach areas of the bin are sanitary. Since these types of cleanings mean reaching hard-to-reach areas, they should be performed by a qualified ice machine technician.
Note: if your ice machine is in an environment that produces a lot of dust or yeast (warehouse, bakery, brewery), you’ll need more than 2 cleanings a year.
Best Steps for Cleaning Your Ice Machine Bin
When performing regular cleaning on an ice storage bin:
- Turn off the ice machine.
- Mix a cleaner consisting of 1 oz of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.
- Soak a clean washcloth or sponge
- Wipe down the surfaces of the bin that commonly see contact.
- The lid
- Inside of the bin near the lid
- The baffle (the angled piece of plastic inside the bin that deflects the ice to the back of the bin.)
- Let the cleaner air dry on the surface. This will give it enough time sanitize by disintegrating algae and yeast as it dries.
There are many ways professional ice machine technicians clean your ice machine. Everything from environmental conditions to the bin type and size will determine how technicians clean the ice machine.
For instance, if it’s a small reach-in bin, technicians will commonly empty the bin and store ice in bags.
For large ice bins, technicians will cover the existing ice while cleaning to keep it clean and sanitary.
Ice machine cleaners and descaling solutions produce harmful gases when mixed. For this reason, perform descaling and bin sanitation separately.
For descaling, Hoshizaki recommends Lime-A-Way and Scale-A-Way products.
If you choose to clean scale yourself, here is a step by step process to follow:
- With a spray bottle, spray diluted de-scaling and de-liming cleaners in the interior of bin (follow the recommendations on the bottle for dilution instructions).
- Scrub the ice bin’s interior with a nylon brush or clean cloth.
- Don’t neglect the corners where scale deposits can linger.
- Rinse the surface with clean water.
Steps to Cleaning the Exterior of the Ice Machine Bin
We recommend cleaning the exterior of the ice bin at least once a week. If you can make time to clean it daily – even better!
- Use a gentle cleaner with a soft cloth to wipe down the entire exterior of the ice bin.
- Let air dry.
- Clean and sanitize the ice scoop. This can be done with a quat-based cleaner or you can toss the ice scoop in your dishwasher.
Don’t Neglect Cleaning Your Ice Machine Bin
Keeping your customers and employees safe from ice-borne contaminants is no joke. Not only is it important to avoid harmful health inspection violations from not cleaning your ice machine regularly, but a sick customer complaint can severely tarnish the reputation of your bar or restaurant.
Avoid these easy to maintain a safe and pristine ice machine when ice bin and ice machine cleaning are part of your regular cleaning regimen. Follow these simple steps and you can be sure your customers will always have clean and safe ice.