Even though an ice machine deals with water, it can still build up grime from repeated uses. Ice machines are often left out of their owner's cleaning plans, which decreases the unit's lifespan and the ice's purity.
How often does it need to be cleaned?
Your owner manual should have all the information you need to clean your ice machine model efficiently. It's advised to clean machines every three months, more often if the water you use is highly chlorinated, or has a lot of debris.
You also need to consider the environment in which the machine is. If it's near any yeast sources (such as in a bakery, or a kitchen), for example, it should be cleaned very often because yeast thrives in humid environments.
Before you start
Unplug the machine and put a "Do Not Use" sign. You will be working with chemicals, and whatever ice is served before total sanitation will contain cleaning solutions.
Check what type of evaporator plate you have in your owner's manual. If the evaporator plate is nickel-plated, the cleaning solutions should be nickel-safe. Stainless steel or tin-dipped evaporators can be cleaned with cleaning solutions with 30% or less phosphoric acid.
You should first remove all ice-contact parts from the machine. Anything in direct contact with water needs to be inspected and cleaned of any signs of grime or debris or else it will inhibit and contaminate water flow.
Wash the parts in hot detergent water. Clean nylon and rubber parts with a cloth damped in detergent water, and then rinsed thoroughly. Afterwards, place them in a sanitizing solution for half a minute.
You should pay special attention to the scale and filters. Grime build-up on the scale can cause ice to stick to the evaporator plates and hinder their performance. Any debris on the water filter endangers water purity. Likewise, a dirty air filter will result in poor ventilation, lower ice output and machine overheating. Clean your filters often by rinsing them with water, and replace them every six months for optimum machine performance.
Clean the storage bin and dispensers by wiping them down with a cloth. The ice cooler should be wiped down every week to prevent ice cubes from getting an odd smell.
After you reassemble the machine, wipe all exposed surfaces and let air-dry.
The first sign of your machine being a breeding ground for yeast is brown slime. Unfortunately a quick scrub won't make it go away; you need to do a full cleaning with an yeast-killing cleaner, or else the bacteria will just grow back.
Run the machine through 2-3 cycles, and dispose of the resulting ice. You have to do this to ensure that you flush all the cleaning chemicals, and that the ice dispensed is not contaminated.
Cleaning will make your ice machine run more efficiently, and will ensure a longer working lifespan for it. Refer to your machine's manual to do the best job possible. Contact resources such as Ice Machines Australia for further tips and suggestions.