Infectious diseases like coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, do have the ability to transfer from a dirty ice machine to customers and employees. While ice machines are not an environment where viruses can flourish, ice can carry germs if users don’t practice proper ice handling techniques. To protect your business from coronavirus and other contagious diseases, we’ve put together a guide of best practices everyone should follow.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
Everything we know about coronavirus so far suggests that it is transmitted from person-to-person. Airborne respiratory droplets from an infected person can pass the disease to other people or onto surfaces for a short while. While we don’t exactly know how long the disease can survive on surfaces, current evidence suggests it is between a few hours to days.
Like all diseases, there is no way to guarantee your business is 100% sanitary. Still, by following best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidental contamination, which can lead to a customer or employees member getting sick.
Employees Must Wash Hands and Limit Unnecessary Contact
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the leading organization tasked with preventing the spread of infectious diseases. They have compiled a list of best practices to help stop the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus:
- No handshakes or hugs – use other methods to greet one another without contact
- Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email or text
- Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes
- Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, food prep surfaces, and handrails regularly
- Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning
Stress to employees that they need to spend at least 20 seconds washing their hands with soap and water. Employees must be particularly conscious of washing their hands after using restroom facilities, touching their face or caring for another individual, and handling money from customers.
If an Employee is Sick, Have Them Stay Home.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Employees showing any of these signs need to stay at home. Even an employee showing mild symptoms could be contagious. Symptoms for at-risk individuals can be much worse, so it’s important to think about their safety.
Prevent Coronavirus with Safe Ice Handling Practices
The inside of an ice maker bin is cold and made of inorganic, antimicrobial material. The surface of an ice cube is not an environment where viruses can thrive, but that does not mean that mean a person can’t get sick from an ice machine.
According to David Covell, Health Commissioner for Lorain County, Ohio and President of the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, “As is with most of the diseases that might be associated with an ice machine, mostly the danger is someone dishing that ice out with their hand.”
If an individual coughs or sneezes into their hand and touches the bin door, dispenser button, or the ice supply itself, they can transfer the virus onto the surface. From there, the disease could be transferred to the next user or into a customer’s drink.
Restaurant ice machines commonly include an ice bin to store the ice.
Here are a few tips you can follow when using an ice maker and bin:
- Always keep the ice bin door closed when ice is not being used.
- Require employees to wash their hands prior to scooping ice out of the bin.
- Always use an ice scoop to dispense ice. Do not scoop using glassware.
- Store the ice scoop outside of the bin.
- Sanitize the ice scoop with a mixture of 2 tsp chlorine bleach per gallon of water (you can also sanitize the scoop in your dishwasher).
Ice dispensers are popular types of hotel and hospital ice makers. These machines utilize a button or lever to dispense ice directly into glassware, rather than having to scoop ice by hand. Users still need to practice caution when using these machines. Users who are sick can transfer the disease to the button or lever if they press it by hand.
It’s not realistic to instruct a person to disinfect the area every time a user touches it. Still, there are things you can do to encourage sanitary practices.
“We have a big saying here in our mission statement,” Covell says, “We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”
Placing a supply of disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizing stations near the machine can encourage users to wipe the area down or sanitize their hands after every use. This makes it easier for employees to keep the area sanitary and decrease the chances of contamination.
Disinfect and Sanitize Your Ice Equipment and High-Use Surfaces
Disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces will eliminate bacteria and viruses like COVID-19 that can cause people harm.
There are many approved cleaners the EPA suggests using to combat viral contaminants. Across all industries, bleach is the most widely used and cost-effect disinfectant.
There is a difference between disinfecting and sanitizing. Disinfecting requires a stronger concentration to kill germs. You must rinse the area of any remaining cleaner, especially if it’s a food contact surface.
Sanitizing means using a lesser concentration to kill off the remaining microorganisms on the surface. When sanitizing, allow the solution to air dry.
Cleaning the Exterior of Your Ice Equipment
- Pre-wash any soiled area with warm water.
- Wipe the area with a solution of 8 oz of bleach per gallon of water (or other EPA approved cleaner)
- Let the solution sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Rinse the area thoroughly with water and let air dry.
- To sanitize further, spray the area with a mixture of 2 teaspoons of bleach to one gallon of water.
- Let air dry.
Cleaning the Inside of Your Ice Bin
- Use a spray bottle to saturate the contaminated surfaces.
- Wipe the areas to remove the debris and make sure to rinse the area well.
- Once you’ve wiped the bin down after disinfecting, reapply the solution to sanitize.
- Leave the mixture to air dry.
Finally, make sure you also clean your ice machine’s air filter regularly to decrease the growth of biofilms in the ice machine.
Keep Your Business Safe from COVID-19 and Other Diseases
Keeping customers and employees safe should be a top priority. Following CDC guidelines and staying diligent with a regular ice machine cleaning schedule is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus.
At Easy Ice, we professionally clean and sanitize all our ice machines twice a year to hinder the growth of biofilms that can make people sick. Our professional ice machine service also helps in cleaning slime, scale, or sediment as well. We ensure our ice machines are always up to the safest standards as part of our all-inclusive ice machine subscription program.