Is Cleaning an Ice Machine Really That Important?
In an ice machine, the part that creates the ice is called the Evaporator Plate. An Evaporator Plate itself can cost more than $2,600, and this is not including labor to install. For most people, this is more than the cost of another ice machine. And if you don’t clean your ice machine regularly, you can destroy this plate. And, if you do clean your ice machine regularly, you can destroy this plate. Yep, you read that correctly, you can destroy this plate by cleaning it, and you can destroy this plate by not cleaning it properly.
Your check book isn’t the only one reason to clean your ice machine correctly and often. The other reason is your reputation. Neglecting an ice machine is a great way to make people sick. Black Mold loves to grow on the undersides of ice machines, and Mildew likes to grow everywhere else. Mold and Mildew can get in the ice and get consumed by customers. And those fans in the ice machine do a fine job blowing those mold spores into the air that you breathe.
When it dawns on people what can happen when they don’t clean their ice machines, they sometimes get over zealous and go on a cleaning frenzy. I’ve heard of people running their ice machines through “clean” for several hours.
Do not do this.
Running through clean longer will allow the cleaner to eat away at the Evaporator Plate, and over time, kill your ice machine.
How Often Should You Clean an Ice Machine?
Most manufacturers recommend that your ice machine is cleaned at least every 6 months, unless your ice machine is operating in a “yeasty” environment. In Bakeries, Pizza Places and Breweries your ice machine should be cleaned at least once every 90 days. Slime, mold and fungal spores
How Do You Clean an Ice Machine?
Ice machine cleaning usually gets broken up into three sections: Cleaning the Condenser, Cleaning the Interior & Cleaning the Water System and Evaporator.
Cleaning the Condenser
Its the condenser’s job to cool the refrigerant down. When its dirty, the dirt acts as insulation, and keeps it from doing its job. So cleaning the condenser can actually increase the capacity of the ice machine. In fact, cleaning a condenser is often all that’s needed for repair calls that involve the ice machine not making enough ice.
Condenser cleaning is usually done with a condenser brush or with compressed air. For extra-dirty condensers, Condenser-Cleaner is available. Condenser-Cleaner is not a marketing ploy made up by ice machine manufacturers. It’s designed to get the condenser clean without eating away at fins. The wrong cleaners can cause corrosion, and eventually, Freon leaks.
Cleaning the Interior
When we talk about cleaning the interior, we are referring to cleaning everything that’s not metal and doesn’t carry water. You just remove the service panel and look for mold and mildew to clean away. Remember to check the undersides for black mold, and always use the right cleaners. Lime-A-Way, and Nu-Calgon Nickel Free are the cleaners that are acceptable to most ice machine manufacturers. You can use a bleach solution for mold on the underside, just remember to rinse really well and always wear gloves and eye protection.
Cleaning the Water System & Evaporator
Exact step by step directions vary by manufacturer, but instructions can be found in your manual. If you dont’ have the manual, don’t stress, manuals are vastly available online now. Just do a search for (your model number) + manual. In the manual you will find your exact instructions. Below is a sample set of instructions pulled straight from a Cornelius Manual.
“1. Set the switch to CLEAN and allow the ice on the evaporator to
release and melt away.
2. Remove all ice from the storage bin.
3. Remove the water curtains, pour 1/2 oz. of ice machine cleaner
down the rear key-slot openings. The cleaner will drain into the
4. Return the water curtains to their proper operating position.
5. Add 3 oz. for a single evaporator, or 5 oz. for a dual evaporator of
“Calgon Nickel-Safe”or “Lime-A-Away”ice machine cleaner directly
into the water pan. Set switch to CLEAN, circulate for a
maximum of 15 minutes
6. Depress and hold the dump switch to allow the cleaner to drain
7. Fill the water pan with clean fresh water, circulate for approximately
3 minutes. Depress the DUMP switch and allow the water
to drain away. Repeat this procedure 3 times.
8. After third rinse cycle, place product power switch in ice position.
Allow product to produce one slab of ice — DISCARD THE ICE.
9. When clean cycle is complete, return cuber to normal operating
…NOTE: All ice machine cleaners labeled safe for nickel ARE NOT the brand CALGON NICKEL SAFE” 
Perhaps the most important step listed above is the TRIPPLE-Flush. The cleaner is caustic. It can eat away nickel plating, and it comes in contact with water and ice, so it’s critical that you flush everything out several times before you use it to make ice again. And cleaning you ice machine increases life expectancy, keeps customers healthy, and helps eliminate unnecessary service calls.
That’s all for today. We post articles every week. Articles about saving money, making more money, improving management and other restaurant hacks. If you’d like to receive new articles, like us on Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletter.
Cornelius /Operator Use and Care Guide “1” Series Ice Cube Machines on Ice