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Commercial Kitchen, Commercial Refrigeration

Ice Machine Cleaning Checklist for Restaurant Refrigeration Service


ice machine maintenance

In a 2013 study by the Daily Mail of ice cleanliness at British food establishments, 6 out of 10 restaurants were found to be serving ice that contained higher levels of bacteria than the water in their toilets.

Experts attributed this finding to the likelihood that the toilets were regularly cleaned, whereas the ice machine cleaning and maintenance was neglected.

Have you been regularly cleaning and servicing your ice machine? Do you know how to clean an ice machine the right way? If you neglect ice machine maintenance or do it wrong, you’re putting your customers at risk for illness, and your restaurant at risk as well.

Keep your ice safe by making sure your ice machine is cleaned and serviced properly

Ice machine cleaning may seem like a simple matter; just empty the ice, wash it down, and you’re done, right? Wrong! Bacteria, viruses, mold, brown slime and mineral scales can build up in places you can’t reach without taking the machine apart. What’s more, the machine needs more than cleaning. To keep it producing ice reliably and at peak capacity, it also needs ice machine maintenance: inspection and service from a professional refrigeration service company.

Here’s what you need to know about proper ice machine cleaning and service. Make sure the service provider you choose is using the right cleaners and taking care of all these ice machine maintenance tasks.

Ice Machine Cleaning and Maintenance Checklist


Check the pressure in the water system.

  • Check temperature inside the unit.
  • Check the condition and operation of controls and wiring.
  • Check fasteners and look for corrosion.
  • Check water sensors, thermistors, water distributor parts, water hoses and water sump or reservoir, bearings, water valve and screen.


  • Turn off the machine, disconnect water supply and power connection.
  • Discard ice, drain water and disassemble the unit.
  • Inspect all parts that come into contact with water or ice for mold, slime and scale.
  • Clean evaporator plates of calcium, lime and iron buildup that can impede heat transfer and cause freeze-up.
  • Be sure your refrigeration service provider uses the right ice machine cleaning solution for the type of machine you have. Cube ice machines with nickel-plated evaporators require special nickel-safe cleaners to avoid damaging parts. Other types of machines require a mild phosphoric acid solution.
  • Flush the water system, then circulate ice machine cleaning solution through it to remove contaminants.
  • All removable parts must be taken out and cleaned with a solution and brush to remove mold and scale. Use a soft cloth on rubber parts like gaskets and O rings. (This is particularly important for nugget and flaker ice machines that have more moving parts.)
  • Don’t forget the storage bin! The drain should be pressure cleaned.
  • Remove grease and debris from condenser coil with a non-corrosive cleaner and brush. This increases air flow and keeps ice production at peak capacity.
  • After cleaning, all parts that touch water or ice must be sanitized with commercial solution or bleach to kill microorganisms, then thoroughly rinsed and allowed to air dry. IMPORTANT: Thoroughly wash hands before handling sanitized parts!
  • Inspect and replace air and water filters if necessary (at least every 6 months).
  • Wipe down the exterior. Also, make sure the area surrounding the ice machine is clear to increase air flow.


  • Reassemble and reconnect the water supply.
  • Adjust ice level sensor.
  • Observe 2 cycles and check the freezing and harvest times. Be sure to throw out the first batch of ice in case there is any residue from ice machine cleaning solutions.

Keeping your ice machine clean and your ice safe for customers is required by federal law. If you’re found to be in violation, you could be hit with fines of up to $500,000.

Don’t take chances on ice machine maintenance!

Be sure you choose an experienced refrigeration service company that understands how to clean an ice machine properly. Better yet, sign up for a service agreement so you won’t forget to take care of this important task. When scheduled as part of a regular refrigeration service plan, ice machine cleaning will cost you less. And you won’t have to worry about the health department shutting you down or being embarrassed in the media for serving dirty ice!

Think a refrigeration service agreement will cost too much? A good service provider can customize the plan for your business needs and your budget. To learn more, grab a copy of our free guide to Refrigeration Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your Food Service Operation.

Refrigeration Preventative Maintenance Contracts