Ice is a food, so the FDA requires you to handle and store it safely. Ice bins, where ice is stored before use, function simply compared to ice making machines, but they are uncanny in their ability to house slime, bacteria, mold, and other unwanted substances. These growths, collectively known as biofilm, thrive in the dark, wet habitat of an ice machine bin. Biofilm, as well as the bacteria introduced by human contact with the bin, are not things you want to be on the ice consumed by your customers or employees.
Luckily, ice bins are also simpler to clean than ice machines. Ice bins should be cleaned routinely on an ice machine cleaning schedule, though we suggest cleaning your ice bin more often due to how much human interaction there is the with the bin and due to any environmental factors (more on that later). Keep reading to learn how to thoroughly clean your ice bin so it can continue to store ice safely.
*This blog does not include information for ice machines mounted on dispensers.
How Does Ice Get Dirty?
Contamination of ice can happen in a variety of ways:
- Incoming water
- Airborne contamination (dirty/dusty, environmental contaminant, airborne algae from yeast caused by baking, brewing and open alcohol containers)
- Unsafe ice handling
- Dirty ice machine
Preventing contamination requires both everyday regular cleanings and periodic deep cleanings.
Regular cleanings should be done every night by ice machine owners or staff to prevent contamination of high-traffic areas. Cleaning should focus on the surfaces that are regularly exposed to human contact. This type of cleaning helps prevent contamination of the ice storage bin caused by ice handling practices.
Deep cleanings should be performed twice a year to ensure the harder-to-reach areas of the bin are clean. Since deep cleanings require you to reach hard-to-reach areas, they are best performed by a professional.
Deep Cleaning an Ice Machine Bin
The industry standard for ice machine and ice bin deep cleans is minimum twice per year. However, some ice equipment should be cleaned more often. For example, ice machines and bins in environments with a high yeast content – breweries, bakeries, sandwich shops – usually require cleaning quarterly or more. Yeast is a serious culprit in the formation of bacteria and other growths in ice machines and bins.
For information on how to clean the entire ice machine, read these brand-specific guides:
Ice Bin Components
The Ice Bin
The large ice-holding container is called the ice bin. The bin capacity for holding ice varies vastly from a few gallons to hundreds of pounds.
Ice Bin Door
During an ice machine deep cleaning, the bin door needs to be descaled, disinfected, and sanitized according to the instructions below. The bin door refers to the door that is used for accessing the ice. Your ice machine may also have sliding doors up higher where clumped ice can be broken up from the top. These doors can usually be removed, so you can thoroughly clean their front and back sides.
The baffle or deflector is a shield that keeps the ice from spilling out the door whenever someone opens the bin by directing ice to the back of the bin, so it doesn’t build up against the door. They are normally made of plastic but may be composed of stainless steel when attached to a stainless-steel ice bin.
On most Hoshizaki or Scotsman units, you can remove the baffle to clean. Removing the baffle enables you to clean the backside of it. To remove the baffle, you may need to unscrew three to six thumb screws.
You can also clean a large, wider, or unremovable baffle while it’s in place. On most Manitowoc units, the deflector is not meant to be removable.
Bacteria growth will build up on the drain, so we recommend descaling, disinfecting, and sanitizing it. In normal environments, we recommend cleaning this monthly. However, in high-biofilm environments, it should be cleaned weekly.
Ice Transport Carts
Although carts that transport ice are not technically a component attached to the ice bin, they should be descaled, disinfected, and sanitized in the same manner as the bin. They are important food contact surfaces and are equally or more likely to get dirty since they likely encounter more bacteria on their ice transport journey)
Most ice bin door hinges are either inside the door or are located on the outside of the ice equipment. This means they are not a food contact zone and do not need to be descaled, disinfected, and sanitized during a deep clean.
The legs of the ice machine also do not need to be cleaned, as they are not a food contact surface.
Identifying Your Ice bin
Most bins currently in place in businesses across the U.S. are one of the following widths:
- 48″ wide bin
- 30″ wide bin
- 22″ wide bin
Though there are larger bins on the market, the size of the bin does not affect the cleaning process other than that larger bins may take longer to deep clean.
Steps to Cleaning the Outside of Your Ice Machine Bin
You should clean the exterior of your ice bin at least once a week. Cleaning daily is even better. Simply work this task into your employee’s daily cleaning schedule or make sure your janitorial staff has it on their list.
Using a gentle cleanser and clean, soft cloth, wipe down all exterior surfaces of the ice bin. You can also use an EPA-approved disinfecting agent to eliminate any bacterial or viral pathogens.
Clean and sanitize the ice scoop. Reminder: Only use the ice scoop to collect ice from the bin. When it’s not in use, store it in a holster (not in the ice bin). Never use hands or glasses to scoop ice out of the ice bin!
Before You Start Cleaning Your Ice Bin Interior
It’s unlikely you are cleaning the ice bin without cleaning the ice machine too. There are certain steps that should be completed before you begin cleaning the bin (e.g. turning off ice production), which you can read in the branded guides linked above. Please note: mixing ice machine cleaners and descaling solutions can produce harmful gases, so descaling and bin sanitation should always be performed separately.
Remove All Ice from the Ice Bin
Before cleaning the inside of the ice bin, remove all of the ice. If you are concerned about depleting your business’s ice supply by emptying the bin, there may be some solutions an ice machine technician can employ to preserve or store the ice. (If you’re an Easy Ice subscription customer, we have a replacement ice program that ensures you never run out of ice.) However, if you intend to clean the bin yourself, we highly recommend removing the ice before cleaning to avoid the dangers of customers or employees consuming ice contaminated by cleaning products.
How to Descale Your Ice Machine Bin Interior
Mineral deposits can build up on ice equipment, including the bin. These substances are also referred to as limescale or scale for short, calcium carbonate, or calcium deposit. Scale should be fully removed during the descaling process of each deep clean. For descaling, you can use any EPA-approved disinfecting agent (manufacturer Hoshizaki recommends Lime-A-Way and Scale-A-Way products). Make sure to follow the instructions on the label.
To descale your ice bin, follow these instructions:
- Remove all the ice.
- Remove any visible grime or debris by wiping the interior and exterior with warm water and a cloth.
- Saturate the bin’s surfaces with a scale removing solution.
- Leave solution on for at least 20 minutes and then wipe or scrub away scale. If scale will not wipe away, spray again, and leave this round of descaler on for another 20 minutes. Continue until all scale is removed.
- Make sure to rinse the area thoroughly before proceeding to the disinfection stage.
How to Disinfect Your Ice Machine Bin Interior
Reminder: non-food contact surfaces like door hinges, bin legs, and exterior of the ice bin do not need to be disinfected and sanitized.
The food contact surfaces of the bin, which include the inside of the bin, the drain, the baffle or deflector, all doors, the inside of any ice transport carts, and the ice scoop, must be disinfected. Follow these steps:
- Wipe down the area with the bleach solution according to the dilution rates for disinfection. Based on the product you purchased, you should be able to look up the dilution rate that meets disinfectant criteria. This solution differs from the sanitization solution, which has a lower concentration of chemicals.
- Thoroughly soak the surfaces. Let the disinfectant solution sit on the equipment for at least 10 minutes. This is called “wet contact time,” and 10 minutes is the minimum required time for the solution to remain on the surfaces.
- Rinse the area with water, and let it air dry before sanitizing. The rinse is crucial, as this higher concentration of solution must be fully washed away before it comes into contact with ice again.
Print & Post this Cleaning Schedule!
How to Sanitize Your Ice Machine Bin Interior
Following the disinfecting stage, all food contact components and surfaces of the ice bin must be sanitized as well. Remember, the sanitizer solution has a lower dilution of chemicals, which allows it to safely stay and air dry on the machine. Look up the sanitization rate of dilution for your product.
- Wipe the area with the sanitization mixture.
- Do not rinse off the solution. Instead, let it air dry completely before beginning ice production again.
Cleaning is Time Consuming. Let the Ice Machine Experts Handle It.
Easy Ice subscribers pay a low monthly fee to have an ice machine from a top manufacturer installed in their business. Then the ice maker is serviced, maintained, and repaired by our expert technicians, ensuring they never have to deal with an under-functioning or dirty ice machine. Business owners love this no-fuss access to the ice their employees and customers need.
If you already have an ice machine, you can maintain production and potentially even lengthen the life of the unit with professional maintenance and cleaning from well-trained ice machine technicians. Our techs undergo extensive training and are held to the highest standards. In short, they are the best in the industry. Contact Easy Ice to find out if our expert ice machine care team services your area.
If you’re unsure what size industrial ice maker and bin you need for your business, our Ice Machine Experts are on hand to answer any of your questions. Contact us today to get started with our program.
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