Commercial Ice Machines

Cloudy to Clear: Filtered Water Makes The Best Ice

Ice cubes in a glassWe’ve all been there. You’re at a restaurant and the server brings you your favorite beverage in a glass with ice. But as soon as it arrives, you can tell. Each ice cube in the glass seems a little cloudy, a little foggy, it may even have a taste or smell. It is not the usual clarity you are used to seeing.

What causes this cloudiness? Buildup. Anytime you see a cloudy ice cube, you should inform the restaurant manager that it might be a sign for either a new commercial ice machine or a new water filter. Think of ice as food. As with every other food, safe and proper preparation are the only ways to guarantee a healthy, tasty product. Installing an inline filtration system on your commercial ice machine’s water supply assures that residual bacteria, accumulated minerals and other contaminants are removed from the water.

Which Filtration System Should You Buy?

Commercial water filtration systems use one to three filters to totally clean your incoming water. The number you need depends on the size of your commercial ice machine. Ice filters need to be changed every 6 months. Failure to change the filter will cause your machine to work harder and wear it out faster. Ice-O-Matic, for example, offers a free extended warranty if you agree to change the water filter every six months.

The Dirt on Ice Contaminants

Ice is subject to a variety of contaminants. The most common occur when a machine is poorly maintained or the water supply has dissolved minerals or residual chlorine.

  • Mineral Deposits: Municipal water companies only remove contaminants that are harmful to human health. Many dissolved minerals are not harmful, therefore are not removed. Mineral laden water results in ice that appears cloudy and can make a drink smell and taste unappealing.
  • Slime Build-Up: Slime build-up can result from a poorly maintained ice machine. Ice made from a slimy machine will appear cloudy with a slight yellow, green or red tint and can cause illness, especially in those with weakened immune systems.
  • Chlorination: Chlorination is the process of adding chlorine to water in order to treat it and kill harmful germs. Residual chlorine remains in the water supply giving the water an unappealing taste.

Water is clear and ice cubes should be, too. With the right attention and care of your commercial ice machine, you can guarantee crystal clear cubes in your drinks every time.

How To: Clean Your Commercial Ice Machine

The show Kitchen Nightmares has made me hyper-aware of the risks of dirty ice machines. Ice machines are considered food equipment and must be maintained and cleaned to promote healthy, sanitary conditions. Proper maintenance and cleaning of your ice machine increases performance and reduces the need for repairs. If you’re not cleaning your ice machine regularly, you’re allowing it to accumulate mold and slime that reduces the function of your ice machine and, more importantly, the health and safety of your ice.

Ice MachineCleaning and sanitizing your bin is a two-part process. First, you need to remove lime scale from your machine. Secondly, you need to sanitize the interior and exterior of the bin. It’s recommended that you use the manufacturer suggested solution when following the steps below:

To clean the interior:

  1. Mix a solution of water and descaler together following the recommendations from the bottle (Usually 5-6 ounces per gallon).
  2. Use a spray bottle to apply this cleaner to the inside of the bin. Remove the baffle from the inside of the bin by removing the thumbscrews first.
  3. Using a nylon brush, scrub the interior in its entirety as well as the baffle.
  4. Soak your scoop until all of the scale deposits are removed.
  5. Flush the bin, baffle and scoop thoroughly with fresh water ensuring all traces of the descaler has been removed.

Sanitizing your Ice Machine:

After cleaning the interior the unit should be sanitized. This is done following the same method as used above however, this time you will use a sanitizing solution.

  1. Apply sanitizing solution with a spray bottle.
  2. With a clean rag wipe down the entire interior surface of the bin as well as the baffle, thumb screws and scoop.
  3. Thoroughly flush the interior of the bin as well as the other parts that were sanitized with fresh water until all traces of the sanitizer is removed.

You’re not done yet!

The outside of your bin should be wiped down at least weekly. While this part of the bin won’t touch the ice, it’s important to keep it clean. Simply apply a mild soap solution and wipe the entire exterior surface.

Cleaning commercial ice machine condenser coils is essential preventive maintenance also. Dirty coils shorten the life of the compressor and reduce ice production. Eventually a safety will cut the machine off to prevent further damage. The coils can be vacuumed, blown out with C02 or compressed air or brushed. Remember that ice machine condenser coils are usually more fragile than other refrigeration equipment coils.

Finally, for maximum filtration efficiency, replace the primary filter cartridge every six months.

Commerical Ice Machine Maintenance

Ice Machines are an integral piece of equipment for any restaurant, bar, concession stand, or cafeteria. Mixed drinks, smoothies, to chill water and sodas, and to keep fresh food cold, a restaurant without ice would definitely be in trouble. Follow these simple maintenance tips to ensure your Ice Machine doesn’t stop working when you need it most. Remember to always refer to your Instruction Manual for specific maintenance tips for your machine.

Change Your Water Filter! Change your water filter every 6 months or when the filter gauge indicates a replacement is necessary.  Some manufacturers even extend warranties if the correct filter is used.

Clean It! Running a restaurant is time-consuming and exhausting. Unfortunately cleaning equipment regularly and thoroughly is often put off or completely overlooked (YIKES!). A dirty Ice Machine will not release ice, produce poor quality ice, and will be slow to harvest. Don’t fall into this trap.

    • Interior Cleaning: Clean every 6 months to remove lime scale and other mineral deposit using the manufacturers recommended cleaning solution. Turn the machine off overnight before cleaning so that ice can melt. Remove ice bins and trays and clean with soft metal brush. You can run them through the dishwasher as well. Clean and sanitize inside of machine. After cleaning process, turn the ice machine on, and allow it to run for a full freezing cycle, throw out ice batch made during that cycle and then resume using the ice machine as normal.
    • Air-Cooled Condenser: A dirty air-cooled condenser will restrict airflow that will reduce ice production and shorten the components life. Clean the condenser at least every 6 months by blowing compressed air through the condenser from the inside.
    • Water-Cooled Condenser: Cleaning generally requires special pumps and cleaning solutions that must be performed by a qualified maintenance or service personnel.

**Condenser fins are sharp, use care when cleaning them. If you are cleaning the condenser fan blades with water, cover the fan motor to prevent water damage.

Sanitize! Algae growth and slime are two things you do not want to find in your Ice Machine. Remove all ice and sanitize with a solution of one ounce nickel-safe sanitize to up to four gallons of water. Rinse all sanitized surfaces with clean water.
*Never mix Cleaner and Sanitizer solutions as this is a violation of Federal Law.
*Always wear rubber gloves for cleaning and sanitizing.

Antimicrobial Protection While newer machines have built-in antimicrobial protection, an anti-microbial stick or pouch will keep older Ice Machines slime and alga free. Replace every 2-3 months.

Contact Burkett Restaurant Equipment to discuss options to troubleshoot your issue and get your ice machine back up and running!

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