Whether you’re serving fountain drinks, smoothies, cocktails, or water, nearly every food-service business needs a well-functioning commercial ice machine. The last thing any restaurant, bar, concession stand, or cafeteria wants is to open the ice bin and find that their ice machine is not functioning properly. Dirty or mis-formed ice, low harvest amounts, and longer harvest cycles can all be the result of a neglected cleaning schedule. These simple tips can help identify issues, and ensure your ice machine doesn’t stop working when you need it most. A clean ice machine makes consistent amounts of clean ice. Check out our tips and tricks to keep your customers safe, and sipping on ice-cold drinks!
*For more specific maintenance advice, remember to always refer to your owner’s manual. *
Why is routine cleaning so important?
Preventative maintenance is key to avoiding larger repairs and customer illness. Deep clean and assess any potential issues with your commercial ice machine at least twice a year. For some businesses, it may be necessary to deep clean more regularly. Determine the right cleaning schedule for you based on the type of machine you use and its location in the kitchen. The main cause for slime and bacteria growth in ice machines is airborne grease and food particles. If your machine is near often used cooking areas, it may be time to consider a more frequent cleaning schedule.
Even if you can’t see buildup or scale on your ice machine, it can still be filled with bacteria. It may be easy to assume that because the only thing that goes into the machine is water, it won’t get dirty. However, mold and slime find a perfect home in the cool, dark place your ice machine provides. Plus, without regular cleaning and maintenance, sensors can be obstructed, and it can be easy to miss small issues that will lead to costly repairs or even needing to replace the machine later on. The most common reason ice machines malfunction or stop producing ice, is improper or neglected cleaning.
Troubleshooting common issues with Commercial Ice Machines:
- Dirty or low-quality ice – If ice is coming out cloudy or soft, it could be contaminated from slime or mold buildup in the machine. To avoid illness to any customers, you should immediately remove dirty ice and clean the ice machine, regardless of your set cleaning schedule.
- If your ice machine is producing less ice than normal, it can be a sign that something in the machine is not functioning at peak efficiency. Try removing the plastic trays and spillways, and clean the ice thickness sensor to get your machine back to its best.
- Not dispensing ice – This is the most obvious sign that there may be a serious issue with your ice machine. Lack of production could stem from a variety of issues, some of which can be easily addressed and remedied.
- If ice isn’t being produced, there may not be a sufficient flow of air or water to the unit. Determine whether your machine is water or air-cooled and locate the filter. If the filter is clogged, remove it to be rinsed, dried, then reinstalled.
- Check the water pressure. If the pressure is too low, water may not flow into the machine properly. Ensure the water valves are fully turned on before assessing this issue.
- Clear out any blockages near the feeler arm. Ice cubes may get stuck between the harvest and outer tray. If this happens, ice won’t be pushed to the bin, and the machine won’t dispense properly.
- Make sure the thermostat is at the right temperature setting.
- Check the water lines. If water lines are clogged or frozen, the machine won’t be able to produce ice. If they are frozen, turn the machine off to defrost, check the lines again, and restart.
- Make sure the machine is level. If your ice machine is tilted or on an uneven surface, it may produce shallow or incomplete ice cubes. Leveling instructions should be included in your owner’s manual.
Additional Tips for Ice Machine Safety:
- In addition to regular cleaning, it’s a good idea to include two preventative maintenance visits per year from a qualified ice machine technician. Other issues such as uncommon noises, leaks, and shutdowns can also be addressed and solved by a technician.
- When cleaning your ice machine’s sensors, it’s important to clean around the plastic casing as well. Buildup around sensors can cause the machine to report an error code.
- Be sure to read all labels printed on cleaning chemicals before using. The wrong chemical can damage the components of your ice machine. It’s especially important to avoid the use of bleach or other chemicals when performing routine cleaning, since they can strip the nickel plating on the ice harvest area and cause the machine to malfunction.
- Never mix cleaning and sanitizing solutions! Not only is it dangerous, but mixing cleaning chemicals is actually a violation of OSHA and EPA regulations.
- Always wear rubber gloves for cleaning and sanitizing to prevent harsh chemicals from coming in contact with skin.
- After cleaning, throw away the first batch of ice that’s produced. Even the right chemical solutions intended for cleaning ice machines can linger after cleaning. Don’t serve your customers contaminated ice!
- Make sure all components and sensors are sanitized and dried before reassembling the machine.
Commercial ice machines works hard to produce ice for your business. Prevent health code violations, dissatisfied customers, and costly major repairs by implementing a regular cleaning routine. By familiarizing yourself with some basic troubleshooting information and common causes of malfunctioning ice machines, you’ll be able to keep producing high-quality ice. Find everything you need to keep your ice machine running smoothly with our selection of ice machine filters and accessories For information on how to perform routine cleaning, check out our blog on How to Clean your Commercial Ice Machine.