How to Clean a Commercial Ice Machine: Free Cleaning Checklist Template

August 28, 2020
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Many hospitality businesses have an ice machine in their premises and like any appliance, regular maintenance and cleaning is crucial to keeping it in good condition. Cleaning procedures are perhaps even more important to get right now than ever before, especially as hospitality businesses reopen following COVID-19. Furthermore, if the business has been shut for some time it is essential that all machinery is properly cleaned before reopening, including the ice machine.

Those in hospitality should pay particular attention to the maintenance of an ice machine for the sake of their customers too. As ice is classed as a food, it falls under the same cleaning rules and should be included in the business’s HACCP plan. Neglecting your ice machine can cause a build-up of bacteria which could have dangerous effects for your customers and your business. 

Why is it Important to Clean a Commercial Ice Machine?

All businesses that sell food and drink have a duty to meet high standards of cleanliness and food safety by law. As ice is a food product, ice machines need to be checked and cleaned as routinely as any other kitchen equipment. 

Often we think of ice served in drinks as being the same as a glass of tap water – clean and safe. It easily falls within the temperature ‘safety zone’ (the danger zone being between 8 °C and 60 °C) and so we don’t think of ice as harbouring or carrying dangerous bacteria. However, ice can become contaminated more easily than you may think. 

By applying a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points approach to the process of obtaining ice, you will see that there are many critical control points in play, from its production, storage, handling by all staff members, to moving it about the building to the places it is required such as the bar and the kitchen. There are many variables and occurrences where the ice could become contaminated before it reaches the customer, or where contaminated ice could contaminate other food items. 

Where does bacteria in ice come from?

Some of the main sources of contamination are mould, fecal bacteria, dirt, pests, salmonella, norovirus and E.coli. These sources and bacteria can develop in ice machines or from the handling of the ice cubes. Take a look below to see how this can happen. 

Moulddrop down menu

Ice machines create environments of moisture, and eventually airborne particles from kitchens, such as flour, sugars and grease, will enter the machinery and provide nutrients – developing the ideal conditions that mould and slime needs to thrive.

It is easy to spot mould and slime – black spots and patches indicate mould, and pinkish residue indicates slime. The appearance of these indicators will tell any health inspector that the ice machine hasn’t been cleaned for some time.

Fecal bacteriadrop down menu

As disturbing as it sounds, this can happen easily enough, and is usually the result of a staff member not washing their hands properly after using the toilet and before getting ice.

You can’t see this level of bacteria but it can quickly cause foodborne illness. To prevent this from happening, make sure staff are well trained on the importance of handwashing. You could also implement a policy where hands are washed immediately prior to obtaining ice, as well as using only the correct scoop for removing ice from the machine. Staff should never use their hands to gather ice. Scoops should also be cleaned regularly, or stored in a sanitising solution.

Dirtdrop down menu

If you have an air-cooled ice machine there will be a filter to prevent dirt and dust from entering the system. This filter can become clogged up and so it too requires frequent cleaning. Any air the machine draws in has the potential to draw in contaminants which, in turn, could cause the machine to underperform. Furthermore, dirty ice cubes will be immediately visible to customers and could badly damage the business’s reputation.

Pestsdrop down menu

While pests don’t usually seek out cold places to make nests, certain parts of the ice machine regularly run at high temperatures, such as the compressor. Pests such as mice or ants may be attracted by food in the kitchen, and seek out a warm place along with a steady water supply to make a nest. Being an ice machine does not exempt it from providing pests with a place to call home. Regular cleaning and applying good food hygiene and storage practices will minimise the chances of this happening.

Salmonella, norovirus and E.colidrop down menu

Bacteria and viruses can survive even in temperatures below freezing. They are potentially very dangerous as they can make your guests and staff sick with serious digestive problems. Norovirus in particular is one of the most common causes of foodborne illnesses and it has a high transmission rate, research shows it is responsible for 380,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK a year.

To prevent this kind of bacteria and microbial contamination in your ice machine, regular cleaning, staff training and not allowing staff to work when ill will all help. Ensure that the ice machine isn’t used for any other purpose – such as storing bottles or glassware in the ice bin to cool them down. Putting anything into the ice bin will be a source of contamination.

Bacteria in ice can also develop when the system is not in use. As many businesses in the UK shut during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a strong chance that ice machines were not always shut down properly, and some may have stagnant water in their systems. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for legionella bacteria that typically multiply in water temperatures between 20 °C and 45 °C. Before using the machine to make ice, it must be thoroughly cleaned and flushed through. For more information  on cleaning stagnant water, take a look at our article How to Clean Stagnant Water: Guidance on Managing Legionella Bacteria.

Cleaning Commercial Ice Makers

As we have seen above, there are many ways ice can become contaminated either inside the system or as it is collected and transferred from the machine to the bar or kitchen area. 

In order to keep your ice safe and optimal, it is important you maintain cleanliness of the machine, the equipment and the area around it. You should also make sure that there is a maintenance record and that all checks and repairs are up to date. 

Staff training is equally as important and all staff should understand the dangers of contaminated ice and how they can take steps to prevent it. Training should be given to staff so they understand the following:

  • How to remove the ice safely. 
  • The importance of handwashing and that they should never use their hands to remove ice.
  • Never use the ice bin for chilling bottles or glassware.
  • Don’t put unused ice back into the bin.
  • Always make sure the scoop is clean before putting it in the ice storage bin, and always handle it correctly.
  • How and when to clean the machine and equipment.
  • How and when to report any issues detected with the machine.

When cleaning a commercial ice machine, you should always follow the manufacturers’ guidance, but most will recommend a thorough, deep clean at least every 6 months. 

Other cleaning tasks that should be done daily include a visual inspection of the machine and making sure the area around it is clear from debris, that the handle or touch point to access the machine is clean and sanitised, and that the scoop for the ice is cleaned daily and/or stored in a food safe sanitising solution when not in use. 

Weekly cleaning tasks for your ice machine include cleaning the filters, emptying the storage bin of all ice and cleaning the inside, and keeping an eye out for mould or slime build up.

Free Ice Machine Cleaning Checklist Template

To help keep your ice machine clean and safe, you can use a cleaning schedule and checklist to ensure the machine is cleaned regularly. This will allow everyone to see when the machine was last cleaned, and give staff responsibility for ensuring routine cleaning is completed. 

When using a checklist log for staff to record when and who cleaned the ice machine, include details such as the date and time and leave a space for any observations – such as mould build up or more if cleaning chemicals are needed. Be sure to monitor this checklist for compliance and information.

Remember, regular cleaning will protect the health and safety of your customers and your staff, and could prevent a food safety threat from emerging. In order to assess how often each cleaning task for your ice machine should be completed, consider how many people have access to the machine and how frequently it is used. You can use HACCP to determine the critical control points, and how you can control them through a good cleaning schedule.

We have provided a free checklist for you to download and fill in on the button below. 

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