Ice machine maintenance is an essential part of any restaurant’s refrigeration system and vital to keep your ice machine working in top condition. This means you have to keep it maintained regularly, and identify problems before they shut your machine down. One major part of ice machine maintenance is cleanliness. A machine that isn’t cleaned regularly will quickly develop mold and other biological contaminants. These can sicken your customers and even fail health inspections.
Read the Ice Machine Maintenance Section of the Manual
The cardinal rule, or law, of maintaining your ice machine, or any other piece of kitchen equipment, is to read the manual. Your owner’s manual will have all the information you need about how to maintain and troubleshoot your machine. If you no longer have your owner’s manual, you can find many of them online at the manufacturer’s website.
Here are some things to look for in your manual:
- How often does the ice bin need to be cleaned?
- What sort of water filters does your machine need and how often do they need to be changed?
- What chemicals are okay to use on the inside and outside of the machine?
- How long does your warranty last and how can you contact the manufacturer for service?
- How do you clean the air filter for an air-cooled ice machine?
- What user-replaceable parts are you responsible for maintaining before making a call?
- Is there a troubleshooting matrix and can you identify the most common things to look for that could indicate a problem?
Cleaning the bin
Cleaning your ice bin is the ice machine maintenance task that needs to be done most often. Your manual will have a recommended schedule for cleaning, but your local health codes may have more stringent requirements. Always choose the more stringent schedule. It may mean more work, but it will keep your health score in good standing.
Even if you use a UV light in your bin and have anti-microbial surfaces, your machine will still need to be cleaned and sanitized at some point. Ice Machine maintenance is a simple process and one that Fox Commercial Services provides to our commercial customers.
Turn off the machine and empty the bin completely of ice, then follow the procedure in your manual to clean and sanitize all the necessary components. While you’re sanitizing the bin it is also a good time to sanitize the ice scoop too. A dirty scoop is a common way cross-contamination happens. You may want to consider installing an ice scoop holder on the side of your ice maker to store the scoop so it doesn’t touch contaminated surfaces.
If you had to sanitize the lines after a boil-order in your area or after you changed the filter, let the ice machine make a batch of ice after cleaning, and then throw it out. That way you’ll eliminate any chemical residue.
Checking for scale
If you live in an area with hard water, then limescale build-up is your top enemy. Limescale in an ice machine will cause ice to cloud up. It will also collect in your lines and on the internal components of your ice machine. This scale can be very difficult to remove. The most common way to prevent limescale build-up is to use a water softener, but after many years of use, you may need to run scale remover through your machine and give the components a good scrubbing to remove scale.
The process for ice machine maintenance will differ slightly from machine to machine. Follow the procedures outlined in your owner’s manual and be sure to use a recommended limescale cleaner.
NOTE: Be sure to throw out any current ice in your bin as well as the first batch after you’re done cleaning out the scale to prevent chemical contamination.
Ensuring good air flow
The last item you should examine is the air filter. If you have an air-cooled ice machine you will need to clean out the air filter every few months or so. Most ice machines have a reusable filter. This is a good time to check the compressor components for any dust buildup. Again, your owners manual will tell you how you check, clean, and replace your air filter.
Since you may have to pull out your ice machine to check your air filter, it may be best to check it when you’re already cleaning the ice bin. When you put the machine back, make sure that the air gap around the machine is large enough so the ice machine doesn’t overheat. Never stuff cups or other utensils in the gap between your ice machine and another piece of equipment or the wall. This can decrease the airflow and reduces the life of your machine.
If you can keep up with these procedures, your ice machine can easily last a decade or even longer. Protect your investment by performing regular maintenance of your ice machine.