How To Clean and Sanitize Your Ice Machine To Keep it at Peak Performance During Summer Months

Air Temperature Makes The Summer Months Much Tougher On Your Commercial Ice Machines

During the summer months your customers' demand for products with ice goes up, while at the same time your ice machine’s performance slows down.

This poor performance from your ice machine is usually caused by either poor maintenance routines, heat, or both.

The warmer the air temperature, the harder your ice machine must work to produce ice. The neglecting of maintenance routines and built-up scale and contaminant deposits cause your ice machine to work even harder. A combination of the two can lead to your ice machine completely failing.

Ice machines are rarely ideally located in a restaurant. Ice machines should not be located in a hot kitchen, nor should they be located next to another piece of equipment that emits heat. That said, if the ice machine is kept in one of these places, it is imperative that the restaurants who own those ice machines religiously keep to a cleaning and maintenance routine.

What happens if you do not bother to clean your ice machine?

Calcium build-up in the dump valve erodes the diaphragm in the valve, eventually leading to leakage behind your ice machine where you don't notice it. Once it starts leaking, the calcium begins to grow up on the condenser, eating and corroding it away. The only fix is a new ice machine.

Check the guidelines on your ice machine manufacturer’s instructions. Your manufacturer may require approved or specific cleaners and sanitizers to be used with their machines, and they may have specific instructions regarding the warranty.

How To Clean Your Commercial Ice Machine

  1. Remove and discard the ice currently in your machine.
  2. Take the front panel off of your machine. Locate the “Make Ice / Wash Machine" Switch.
  3. Flip the switch to “Wash Machine” This turns off the compressor but allows the water to continue to circulate.
  4. Locate your water trough. If your ice machine is a horizontal evaporator ice machine, the trough is at the top of the machine placed horizontally. If it's a vertical evaporator ice machine, the water trough is typically to the bottom and side of the ice forming plate.
  5. Once the trough is refilled with water, your ice machine display will indicate it's time to add the ice machine cleaner chemicals.
  6. Using rubber gloves and protective eye-wear, pour in the amount of chemicals indicated on the cleaner or machine instructions. Set a timer for 25 minutes and allow the cleaner to circulate through the ice machine for this amount of time. This is going to dissolve scale, lime, calcium, and mineral deposits, Do not run the cleaning solution longer than 25 minutes. The cleaning solution is caustic and running it longer will eat the nickel plating off your ice machine. This will be the end of your machine.
  7. After the 25 minutes, repeat the wash cycle more three times with clean water. This is a must to remove the caustic chemicals.
  8. Turn off the ice machine and disconnect all power sources.
  9. Following manufacturer's guidelines, remove parts for manual cleaning and sanitizing.
  10. Mix a cleaner solution for washing parts. Again, refer to your manual for the proper mix amounts.
  11. Use a soft nylon brush or sponge to clean your ice machine parts with the solution. Any limescale on your parts will cause it to initially foam, but when the foaming subsides, brush the parts methodically.
  12. Rinse all your newly-cleaned components thoroughly with clean water.
  13. With the additional cleaner solution mix you prepared, clean all inside and outside surfaces of the ice machine, including the side walls the base surrounding the trough and the inside of the ice bin.
  14. Rinse all areas and parts of the machine that you just cleaned with water to completely remove the caustic cleaning solution.

Sanitizing Your Ice Machine.

  1. Mix a solution of commercial ice machine sanitizer and warm water. Use the manufacturer’s guide to determine the ratio of sanitizer to water.
  2. Either soak the ice machine parts in a tub of the sanitizer solution, or spray the sanitizer on the ice machine parts with a spray bottle. Do not rinse. Leave the sanitizer on.
  3. Use more of your sanitizer solution mix to wipe down the inside surfaces of the ice machine parts and the ice bin. Again, you can use a spray bottle to get into corners and back walls that are difficult to reach.
  4. Put your ice machine back together. Wait 20 minutes to give the sanitizer time to work before proceeding.
  5. Turn the power back on for your ice machine and again, start the wash cycle. When the trough is full of water again, add sanitizer solution. Set your timer for 20 minutes and allow the sanitizer solution to circulate for this time.
  6. Clean your ice machine condenser coils by vacuuming or blowing them out with compressed air. You can also use a soft brush on them, but keep in mind that ice machine condenser coils are more fragile than other refrigeration coils.
  7. Set your machine back to its ice making mode.
  8. Throw out the first batch of ice!
Lastly, replace your commercial ice machine's primary filter cartridge every 6 months.

Should I Replace or Repair My Commercial Ice Machine?

We cannot really answer that question for you. However, the three main points to consider as you make this decision are warranty, ice demand & supply, and new ice machine technology & energy efficiency.

1) Ice Machine Warranty

Consider both the warranty on your current ice machine and warranty offered on a new ice machine.

Check to see if your warranty is still in effect and if so, have you done anything to negate the warranty? For instance, many warranties are void if you neglected maintenance repairs or if you used chemicals not suggested by the manufacturer. That said, if your warranty is still in effect, you are probably better off just getting the machine fixed.

If your warranty is expired or has been voided, you might want to consider a new ice machine.

Make certain if you purchase a new commercial ice machine that you have researched the new warranty. What does the warranty on a new machine provide you? Read the details before you purchase. Better and longer warranties can, in the long run, make a more expensive ice machine less expensive.

2) Ice Demand & Ice Supply

Does your current ice machine keep up with ice demand year-round, or are you purchasing additional ice? This one is pretty simple. If you are purchasing ice during high demand, you need to seriously consider replacing your current machine.

3) Commercial Ice Machines New Technology & Energy Efficiency

How energy efficient is your current ice machine?

New ice machine technology has greatly impacted energy efficiency and longevity, meaning new machines are much less expensive to run. Some machines such as the Manitowoc Indigo Series have onboard dashboards that allow you to program your machines to optimize performance and operating times. Manitowoc’s new Luminice growth inhibitor technology is perfect for places where yeast is present, such as a bakery or brewery. This technology reduces yeast and bacteria growth.

New digital technology also helps you monitor and maintain your ice machine. Dashboard displays on new ice machines display the operating health of the machine in real time, like the Scotsman ice machines with AutoSentry™, which is a self-monitoring technology.

An additional resource that might help you is the Energy Cost Calculator offered by The U.S Office of Energy, Efficiency, & Renewable Energy for commercial ice machines that will help you calculate energy cost attributed to different ice machines.

An ice machine should be on a 6 month maintenance routine, which involves cleaning and sanitizing all moving parts, the inside, the outside, and the ice machine’s condenser and filter. If the water quality in your restaurant is poor, causing scale build-up, you will need to clean your ice machine even more often. If you operate a beer bar, brewery, or bakery where yeast is common, clean your ice machine every 90 days. Yeast spores love the moist environment of an ice machine and add to contaminant problems quickly.

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