Cleaning an ice machine regularly ensures the ice machine will function as efficiently as possible while producing clean and high quality ice. Ice machine manufacturers typically recommend cleaning and sanitizing ice machines at least every 6 months.

When an ice machine is not cleaned and sanitized regularly, contaminants like algae, slime, calcium, and lime scale may buildup on the inside of the ice machine. These contaminants may negatively affect ice production while contributing to premature failure of the ice machine’s parts.


According to Nestor Moscoso, a commercial refrigeration expert with B&G Refrigeration, ice machine technicians typically either do a basic or deep clean on ice machines.

Moscoso said, “Basic cleaning for ice machines usually includes wiping down the internal parts of the ice machine, like the evaporator plate. However, deep cleaning involves running cleaner and sanitizer through the machine. In addition, some of the ice machine’s key parts may be removed, inspected, and manually cleaned.”

Moscoso advised technicians to consult with the technician’s handbook or service manual for the specific ice machine make and model if they are unfamiliar with the exact steps in cleaning a particular ice machine. The ice machine cleaning process often varies based upon the size, type, and manufacturer of the ice machine.

For detailed instructions on how to clean a standard commercial ice machine, we’ll examine the process for deep cleaning ice machines made by two of the industry’s top manufacturers — Manitowoc and Hoshizaki.


According to Manitowoc’s S Model Technician’s Handbook, there are roughly 16 steps for cleaning a Manitowoc ice machine. Before starting, be sure to wear rubber gloves and safety goggles when handling any ice machine cleaner or sanitizer.

Step 1: Remove the front door and top cover. Set the toggle switch to the OFF position and allow for the ice to melt off the evaporator.

Step 2: Remove all ice from the storage bin.

Step 3: Set the toggle switch to the “CLEAN” position, and allow water to drain. Wait for the water trough to refill, and flow over the evaporator before adding the proper amount of ice machine cleaner.

Note: Review Manitowoc’s specifications for the exact ice machine model and amount of cleaner required.

Step 4: After approximately 35 minutes, place the toggle switch in the OFF position when the clean cycle is complete. Disconnect power to the ice machine.

Step 5: Remove parts for cleaning. Parts to remove for cleaning may include the water curtain, ice thickness probe, water trough, splash shields, and water pump assembly.

Step 6: Mix warm water and ice machine cleaner at a ratio of 1 gallon water for every 16 ounces of ice machine cleaner.  Ensure there is enough solution to thoroughly clean all parts.

NOTE: Do not mix ice machine cleaner and ice machine sanitizer under any circumstances.

Step 7: Use half of the cleaner/water solution to clean the ice machine’s components. The cleaning solution should foam when it comes in contact with lime scale and mineral deposits. After the foam subsides, thoroughly scrub parts with a soft-bristle brush (not a wire brush) or sponge to properly remove contaminant buildup. Soak the parts for at least 5 minutes (longer times may be required for heavily scaled parts), and then rinse all components with clean water.

Step 8: While waiting for the components to soak, use the other half of the cleaner/water solution to clean all foodzone surfaces. This may include the ice machine, bin, and/or dispenser. Important areas to clean include the side walls, base, evaporator plastic parts, ice bin, and dispenser. Rinse with clean water afterwards.

Step 9: Mix warm water and ice machine sanitizer at a ratio of 6 gallons water for every 4 ounces of sanitizer.

Step 10: Sanitize any removed components with half of the sanitizer/water solution by soaking the removed parts in the sanitizer/water solution. Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with the sanitizer/water solution and liberally spray the solution to all surfaces of the removed parts.

Note: Do not rinse parts after sanitizing.

Step 11: Use a spray bottle to liberally spray the sanitizer/water solution on all foodzone surfaces in the ice machine, bin, and dispenser. Pay attention to the important areas noted in Step 8.

Step 12: Replace all removed components and wait 30 minutes.

Step 13: Reapply power to the ice machine, and set the toggle switch to the CLEAN position.

Step 14: Wait (about 3 minutes) for the water trough to refill and water to begin flowing over the evaporator. Add the correct amount of ice machine sanitizer by pouring between the water curtain/splash shields and evaporator.

Note: Review Manitowoc’s specifications for the exact ice machine model and amount of sanitizer required.

Step 15: Set the toggle switch to the ICE position and replace the front panel. The ice machine will automatically produce ice after the sanitize cycle is complete (about 35 minutes).

Step 16: Moscoso recommended making at least two batches of ice, discarding these batches, and rinsing the machine and bin with clean water before putting the ice machine back into consumer service.


According to Hoshizaki’s technician’s handbook, technicians should follow the maintenance label located somewhere in the ice machine which details the exact step by step cleaning/sanitizing procedure. However, a generic overview on how to clean a Hoshizaki KM Cuber ice machine is also outlined on Hoshizaki’s website.

Step 1: Remove all ice from the storage bin. 

Step 2: Turn off water coming in to the machine.

Step 3: Drain the water sump tank. Technicians may need to consult a Hoshizaki handbook for exact instructions on draining a specific model of ice machine.

For smaller KM units: A drain or suction hose may be pulled off to allow the water in the bin to drain out.

For stackable KM units: A plug toward the front of the unit and in the middle of the ice drop zone may be removed allowing the water to drain out.

For KML units: Use the automatic drain switch so the unit’s water pump may drain the sump. KML models also have a drain plug, so the reservoir may be drained.

For other Hoshizaki ice units: The overflow pipe may be removed allowing the water in the sump to drain out.

Step 4: Clean the evaporator using commercial ice machine cleaner, LIME-A-WAY or Hoshizaki Scale Away.

Step 5: Mix the ice machine cleaner with warm water according to the correct mixture ratio listed on the front panel of the ice machine. Pour the cleaning solution inside the sump, and move the toggle switch to the WASH position.

KM units may have an additional cleaning valve which should be moved to the open or clean position. Hoshizaki recommends leaving this valve open for approximately 5 minutes at the beginning of the cleaning cycle. Before the compressor will operate again, the return valve must be moved to the closed position.

KML units do not utilize a manually operated cleaning valve. Instead, a solenoid valve is automatically energized when the second toggle switch is moved to the wash position.

According to Hoshizaki, “The KML units have two toggle switches, one is marked (Service, Off, and Ice) and the other (Drain, Circulate, and Wash.) The first switch, when placed in the Service position, will allow you to disengage the compressor and engage the second toggle switch. With this switch you can drain the unit or circulate the cleaning solution.”

Step 6: Circulate the cleaning solution in the ice machine until it is clean. This may take varying lengths of time depending upon how dirty the ice machine is. Technicians may also consider moving the spray tubes out about ½ inch in order for the cleaning solution to run down the fins of the evaporator.

Step 7: Empty the sump using one of the methods outlined above. Remove the check valve, spray tube, and float switch along with the rubber connector. Soak these parts in ice machine cleaner.

Moscoso said, “Be sure to manually clean the float valve, because contaminants have a hard time leaving the float valve, even after running chemicals through the machine. Contaminants on the float may interfere with the magnetic sensor.”

Hoshizaki recommends taking the water valve apart, and ensuring the diaphragm is free of scale and the weep hole is clear.

Step 8: Mix an ice machine sanitizer with warm water according to the correct mixture. Circulate the sanitizing solution through the ice machine in the same way ice machine cleaner was circulated.

Step 9: Rinse the ice machine and bin with clean water.

Step 10: Make two batches of ice, discard each batch of ice, and rinse the machine with clean water before putting it back into consumer service.


Keeping ice machines clean often helps to prolong the life of the machine and reduce the need for servicing. In addition, ice machine manufacturers may be reluctant to replace any components which have failed due to scale build up or a lack of preventative maintenance, because these are not usually considered warranty issues.