Cleaning, Sanitizing Ice Machines Ensures Long Equipment Life
Cleaning processes and frequencies vary based on brand, environment
In contrast to many other countries around the world, Americans consume a lot of ice. That’s probably why ice machines are found virtually everywhere here, from convenience stores and supermarkets to hotels and hospitals. It doesn’t really matter what shape it takes — cubes, flakes, nuggets, chips, etc. — but it does have to look and taste good.
To ensure that happens, ice machines need regular cleaning and sanitation. Not only will this ensure the quality of the ice produced, it will help the ice machine last longer. But when it comes time to replace that old machine, manufacturers are offering new models with features designed to make cleaning and sanitation a less onerous chore.
Most manufacturers recommend deep cleaning and sanitizing their ice machines at least once every six months, but more frequent cleanings may be required depending on the equipment’s surrounding environment. For example, ice machines installed in bakeries, pizzerias, sandwich shops, and similar applications may require more frequent cleanings due to the yeast or flour in the air, said Murray Meyer, director of product marketing, Manitowoc Ice.
“Those ingredients will get inside the machine, causing contaminants to grow,” said Meyer. “Even a brew pub or bar that doesn’t use flour or yeast can have empty beer bottles that cause contaminants to be in the air and make the machines more susceptible to bacteria growth.”
At a bare minimum, the ice machine and evaporator should be cleaned every six months, noted David Bishop, director of sales, Blue Air Commercial Refrigeration. However, Blue Air actually recommends cleaning every three months.
“In addition, the ice scoop should be cleaned daily, the outside of the machine should be cleaned every month, and the air filter should be cleaned every two weeks,” he said.
The purge/flush setting can also be a big factor in determining the amount of maintenance a unit will need. Scotsman ice machines, for example, have an adaptive purge, which will automatically adjust the amount of water being purged based on the mineral content in the water, explained Mike Tittelbach, senior technical manager, Scotsman Ice Systems.
“This can be very helpful in reducing the amount of minerals that are deposited in the water system of the ice machine,” he said.
If not properly maintained, mineral deposits, as well as biological growth, can impede an ice machine’s performance. Biological growth can change the way the water is distributed and affect the sensor readings.
“If the condenser is dirty, the ice machine will not be able to reject the heat pulled out of the water in order to make ice,” said Tittelbach. “Mineral deposits can significantly reduce the efficiency of the ice machine, and on continuous flow ice machines, they can add a significant load to the moving parts, which decreases the longevity of the machine.”
Dirty air filters or condensers can also cause the machine to use more electricity, but a bigger threat is an unsanitary machine, which can endanger public health.
“If mold gets into the ice, it creates a health violation and, more seriously, a health risk to customers,” said Meyer. “Most global franchises that have strict preventive maintenance programs do a pretty good job of keeping their ice machines clean. What is worrisome is the smaller ‘ma and pa’ establishments that may not have the discipline or regimen in place to clean and sanitize the ice machines on a timely basis. They are the ones at the highest risk.”
Unfortunately, many end users do not have their ice machines cleaned regularly, because they view it as an expense, and expenses are bad, said Bishop. What end users may not understand, however, is that if an ice machine is not properly filtered or cleaned, it will fail, and if this occurs in the middle of a busy day, it will become an even greater expense.
“When an ice machine fails, the establishment will be forced to buy ice from a local convenience store until the machine is fixed,” said Bishop. “The uninterrupted operation of an ice machine is critical in any commercial food service establishment that employs the use of ice. The trick is to have end users understand that beyond any shadow of a doubt, proper care will save them time, money, and headaches down the road.”
The cleaning process for an ice machine may vary from one manufacturer to another (see sidebar), but generally, it entails the removal of mineral scale buildup from the ice machine’s water system, sensors, and evaporator, which can be accomplished by manually cleaning and running an automated clean cycle, said Tittelbach.
“It may also entail cleaning the air filter on air-cooled units, emptying and wiping down the bin, among other sanitation steps,” he said.
There are numerous options available from third-party manufacturers — including UV lights, sanitizers, and filters that claim to keep ice machines clean, and many of them can be helpful in reducing biofilm, noted Tittelbach.
“However, it is important to make sure that they are compatible with your ice machine because UV light, for example, can affect the plastics inside most ice machines,” he said.
He also recommends using water filters that are not carbon based.
“Carbon-based filters will remove the disinfectant that is typically added by the municipality to keep the water system safe to drink,” he explained. “Filtering this out before it gets in the ice machine typically causes more biological growth inside the ice machine.”
The degree to which third-party cleaning and sanitizing devices work also depends on whether they are properly installed and serviced, as well as how end users care for their machines, said Bishop.
“In my opinion, UV represents a very exciting option since virtually all contaminants are killed or at least affected by the unique characteristics of UV light frequencies,” he said. “But [all the various methods] have their uses, and I feel the dealers and the end user community need to be educated on which one fits their particular needs.”
OUT WITH THE OLD
If it is time to replace an existing ice machine, end users may be interested to know that new models include features designed to make cleaning and sanitation easier.
At Blue Air Commercial Refrigeration, the push of a button prompts the machines to go into the drain mode, which drains excess water from the water reservoir. Once that is completed, the machine prompts the user to add the chemical mixture directly to the water reservoir with the simple word “ADD” displayed on the front of the PC board.
When the chemical mixture is added, the unit automatically goes into the cleaning mode (CLN), which takes five to 10 minutes. This is followed by a thorough three-minute rinsing of cold water through the system. All the water is then drained out of the water tank, and this drainage cycle continues a total of three times to be sure all sanitizer has been purged. The machine will then stop and start up again into the normal ice production cycle.
Manitowoc’s Indigo ice machines already featured a hinged front door that can be opened without taking it off, and a food zone that can be cleaned and accessed without removing the top or side panels. Selected food zone component parts include Alpha San, a silver-based antimicrobial coating that helps reduce mold and bacteria. All the components can be removed without the use of tools, including the water trough and water pump, and disassembly can be done in less than a minute.
The new Indigo NXT (Next) includes all the features of the standard Indigo ice machine as well as an easyTouch display, which prompts the end user to add cleaner or sanitizer to the water trough.
The optional LuminIce II advance growth inhibitor can be fully integrated with the ice machine, and once it is installed, the easyTouch display’s sanitation will shine blue to show that the system is working, then turn red when the UV bulb needs servicing.
Scotsman’s new Prodigy Plus models have AutoAlert indicator lights that provide better visibility, so operators can quickly identify when it’s time to descale and sanitize the machine. To ensure that unit-specific cleaning guides and manuals can be accessed easily, a QR code was added to the front panel, which can also pull up warranty history, parts lists, and serial numbers. A one-touch cleaning process is designed to reduce time-consuming oversight.
To improve sanitation between cleanings, Prodigy Plus models feature an AgION™ silver-based antimicrobial coating that helps inhibit the growth of mold or bacteria. In addition, air-cooled units now feature a re-washable, front-facing air filter, which results in better visibility to keep regular cleaning top of mind for operators.
Finally, Scotsman’s patented WaterSense technology automatically adjusts the purge cycle based on incoming water quality, which helps to reduce scale buildup and extend time between cleanings.
Keeping ice machines clean and sanitized is of utmost importance for the health and safety of consumers, and it ensures the units are operating at peak performance. Contractors should make sure their customers understand this and encourage them to have their ice machines regularly cleaned, so that they will continue running smoothly for years to come.
PERFORMING A DEEP CLEAN ON AN ICE MACHINE
The deep cleaning process for an ice machine varies from one manufacturer to another, but the general procedure — shown here for a Manitowoc NXT ice machine — is as follows:
1. Run cleaner through the machine to clean the water tubes. Make sure there is no ice on the evaporator (where the ice is formed). Also, remove all the ice from the bin, so that it can be cleaned at the same time. Clean the air filter and condenser on self-contained air-cooled ice machines.
2. Turn the machine off, disconnect power, and remove all the component parts in the food zone. Once the parts are removed, mix a solution of cleaner and lukewarm water (on Manitowoc machines, the ratio is identified inside the front cover of the ice machine). Scrub the components in a sink or pail. If some parts are seriously scaled, let them soak for five to 20 minutes. Rinse all the parts with clean water. Before reinstalling them, take that same mixture and wipe down the inside of the ice machine and the bin and rinse with clean water.
3. To sanitize, use a solution of sanitizer and water in a spray bottle and spray all the component parts and the inside of the food zone and bin (ratio identified inside the front cover of the ice machine). Don’t rinse it, just let it dry. Now replace all the removed components and run one more clean cycle using sanitizer. At this point, the machine will finish the cycle and automatically go into the ice-making mode.
Publication date: 7/9/2018