Foodservice Equipment Reports
Refrigeration & Ice

Maintenance Tips: The Basics Of Cleaning Ice Machines

Always use the manufacturer’s suggested cleaning solution to prevent damage to internal surfaces or components. The wrong cleaning solutions can quickly damage evaporators made with delicate nickel plating or with soldering on copper tubing.

Maintain a regular cleaning schedule in tune with your work environment (i.e. beer pouring or bread making put yeast into the air and wreak havoc on ice makers, so clean them more often).

Before cleaning, empty all the ice from the unit. Typically, cleaning will involve taking off the unit’s front cover, turning the cycle switch to “wash” mode, which shuts off the refrigeration operation, and adding the cleaning solution to the sump pump. Allow the solution to circulate through the machine for the recommended amount of time, then drain.

At this point, check the cleaning solution. If it’s still discolored, run another batch of fresh cleaning solution and water through the system. Once the drained solution appears clear, use a soft brush dipped in the solution to gently scrub the plastic curtains and small parts in and around the ice chute and bin. If possible, remove and rinse the bin out as well.

Proper cleaning can take a good 90 minutes on a 400-lb. ice machine in a troublesome bread-baking environment, such as a sandwich restaurant. For a high-capacity, high-use unit producing 1,200 lbs. of ice in a chain unit, this cleaning routine can take up to four hours.

As with any equipment possessing air intakes, dust, residue and dirt kicked up in the atmosphere will find its way inside ice machines, especially yeast spores which readily find their way inside the ducts and nooks of ice machines.

“The spores get an opportunity to be sucked into the ice bin and elevate up,” Hester explains. The spores, drawn to the moisture added by the water lines and freezing elements inside ice machines, feed and multiply in the moist air, resulting in mold growth and bacterial contamination of ice--which is defined as a food product by sanitary inspectors--and will trigger citations.

While ice machines in less hostile environments may suffice with a six-month preventive maintenance schedule, Hester says he routinely calls for three-month schedules for ice machines subjected to these conditions.

Pay careful attention to ice units located atop post-mix beverage dispensers. Since these units are hard to reach and difficult to empty, they often end up neglected.

The ice machine’s condenser coil is another component that, when neglected, results in a unit that’s working harder and producing less ice than needed. Remove the vent cover and dry-brush dust and particles from coils. Use compressed air to blow out corners and hard-to-reach areas. Spray on a cleaner and allow it to penetrate, then use a wet rag to wipe down the surfaces.

If the coils are particularly dirty or hard to reach, call a service tech.

Finally, the evaporator, usually bonded to the back of the freeze plate where the ice is formed, will function less efficiently if it’s coated with scale. By allowing the evaporator to air-dry completely, the scaly deposits are easier to spot and clean off. Scale deposits are tough to see on wet evaporators.

Copyright FER November 2010


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