Infectious diseases like coronavirus, also called COVID-19, can transfer from a dirty ice machine to customers and employees. Ice machines are not an environment where viruses can proliferate, but ice can carry germs if employees practice improper ice handling techniques.
We’ve put together a guide to help you protect Chicago businesses from coronavirus and other contagious diseases.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
So far, we know coronavirus is transmitted person-to-person. Airborne respiratory droplets from a person infected with COVID-19 can pass it to other people or onto surfaces for a short while. While there is not a clear understanding of how long the disease can survive on surfaces, current evidence suggests it is between a few hours to days.
There is no way to ensure your business will be 100% free from diseases. However, you can greatly reduce the risk of spreading the disease by following some best practices. Doing so will help prevent customers or employees from getting sick.
Stress to Employees to Wash Hands and Limit Unnecessary Contact
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the leading authority on the spread of infectious diseases. They’ve created a list of best practices to help stop the spread of diseases like coronavirus:
No handshakes or hugs – use other methods to greet one another without contact.
Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email or text.
Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes.
Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, food prep surfaces, and handrails regularly.
Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.
Employees should spend at least 20 seconds washing their hands with soap and water, especially after using restroom facilities, touching their face, caring for individuals, or receiving money from customers.
Have Sick Employees Stay Home
Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It’s important that any employees with these symptoms stay at home. Employees showing even mild symptoms could be contagious. At-risk individuals can develop far worse symptoms, so it’s important to think about their safety.
Prevent Coronavirus Spread with Safe Ice Handling Practices
The inside lining of an ice machine bin is cold and made of inorganic, antimicrobial material, which is not a surface for viruses. The surface of an ice cube is also not an environment where viruses can thrive. Still, that doesn’t mean that mean a person can’t get sick using a commercial ice maker.
According to David Covell, Health Commissioner for Lorain County, Ohio and President of the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, “As is with most of the diseases that might be associated with an ice machine, mostly the danger is someone dishing that ice out with their hand.”
Any infected individual who coughs or sneezes into their hand and touches the bin door, commercial ice dispenser button, or the ice supply itself can potentially spread the virus onto the surface. The disease can then potentially transfer to the next user or into a customer’s glassware.
Here are a few tips you can follow when using an ice maker and bin:
- Always keep the ice machine bin door closed when ice is not being used.
- Require employees to wash their hands prior to scooping ice out of the bin.
- Always use an ice scoop to dispense ice. Do not scoop using glassware.
- Store the ice scoop outside of the bin.
- Sanitize the ice scoop with a mixture of 2 tsp chlorine bleach per gallon of water (you can also sanitize the scoop in your dishwasher).
Ice dispensers are popular models of hotel and hospital ice makers. These machines have a button or lever users press to drop ice directly into glassware. These models may not need a scoop, but users still need to be cautious when using these machines. Infected individuals can pass the disease onto the button or lever if they press it by hand.
Instructing a person to disinfect the area every time it’s touched is not very realistic. Still, there are things you can do to encourage sanitary practices.
“We have a big saying here in our mission statement,” Covell says, “We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
You can encourage good hygiene with these models by placing a supply of disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizing stations near the machine. Ask users to wipe the area down or sanitize their hands after every use. Employees will have an easier time keeping the area sanitary, which will decrease the chances of contamination.
Disinfect and Sanitize High-Use Surfaces on Your Ice Equipment
To eliminate germs like COVID-19, disinfect and sanitize surfaces that users will likely touch.
There are many approved cleaners the EPA suggests using to combat viral contaminants, bleach being the most widely used and cost-effect of them.
There is a difference between disinfecting and sanitizing. Disinfecting kills germs using a disinfecting cleaner. Keep in mind, you must rinse the area of any remaining cleaner, especially if it’s a food contact surface.
Sanitizing means using a lesser concentration of the same cleaner to drop the level of microorganisms on the surface to a safe level. When sanitizing, allow the solution to air dry. The manufacturer’s suggested concentration for sanitizing is at safe levels and non-toxic to people.
Cleaning the Exterior of Your Ice Equipment
- Pre-wash any soiled area with warm water.
- Wipe the area with a solution of 8 oz of bleach per gallon of water (or other EPA approved cleaner)
- Let the solution sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Rinse the area thoroughly with water and let air dry.
- To sanitize further, spray the area with a mixture of 2 teaspoons of bleach to one gallon of water.
- Let air dry.
Cleaning the Inside of Your Ice Bin
- Use a spray bottle to saturate the contaminated surfaces.
- Wipe the areas to remove the debris and make sure to rinse the area well.
- Once you’ve wiped the bin down after disinfecting, reapply the solution to sanitize.
- Leave the mixture to air dry.
Finally, cleaning your ice machine’s air filter regularly will decrease the growth of biofilms in your ice maker. We’ve put together some additional information on cleaning a Hoshizaki ice machine and cleaning a Manitowoc ice machine here.
Keep Your Business Safe from Diseases Such as COVID-19
Your main priority should be keeping customers and employees safe. Making sure to follow CDC guidelines and maintaining a regular ice machine cleaning schedule is the best way to prevent the spread of diseases like coronavirus.
At Automatic Icemakers, we professionally clean and sanitize ice machines for Chicago businesses twice a year. Cleaning helps to eliminate mold, slime, and other microorganisms. Professional ice machine service also helps in cleaning slime, scale, or sediment as well. We ensure our industrial ice makers are always up to the safest standards.