What’s tops on your list of things you never think about? Commercial ice machines might be number one for most of us.
But, as any maintenance manager of a commercial venue will tell you, every dollar spent in regular, thorough cleaning is two dollars saved in maintenance down the road.
Why do these machines need cleaning? As with any machine with moving parts and food grade items coming out of it, the environment around it is the main reason it needs to be cleaned.
For instance, an ice machine at the end of a hallway in a hotel might need cleaning less often than the ice machine in a burger shop or bakery.
That said, each business must decide their cleaning schedule based on how much use the machine is getting. Here are 5 tips to help you decide how often to clean out your commercial ice machine (and red flags to look for before you use one somewhere else!)
Cleaning Ice Machine Tips
1. The first thing to know about your machine is how long the water filter is expected to last. Unfiltered water can be used, but depending on your water source, the taste of the ice may be affected.
Filters need replacing at least once a year, but more often than not, every 6 months is better. A date written on the outside of the filter will help you remember when it was replaced last, and make for an easy visual reminder of the schedule.
Cleaning the machine when you replace the filter is a great way to keep things in ship shape!
2. Depending on the mineral content of the water entering the machine, evaporator grids, water troughs and distribution tubes will need descaling and cleaning at least once a year. Areas with high mineral content may even need this done on a quarterly basis.
3. Ice bins are often where contamination enters the most easily, and these should be cleaned out with a soft cloth and sanitized monthly. (Given the new COVID-wary climate business owners deal with, high use machines might benefit from a weekly clean.)
4. Nothing can replace the taste test. Eat a piece of your own ice every week.
If it tastes the same every week for 6 weeks, then it tastes different, it’s time to clean the machine.
Also, have a good look at the ice bin every day. Especially if more than one person is accessing that bin, a single spill of something other than water will contaminate the entire bin.
5. Any commercial kitchen environment will have a cleaning program that includes wiping down the outside of all machines used in cooking areas. Even if your machine is not near a cooktop or prep area, make sure all the high touch areas are cleaned every few days.
Most businesses that use ice machines have busy and slow seasons. Obviously, more frequent cleaning during busy times will allow you to delay some maintenance until the business is slower.
Remember, clean machines are happy machines!