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 the surface of an automatic ice machine is not the best environment where viruses can flourish, ice can carry germs if users don’t practice proper ice handling techniques. At Easy Ice, we help to maintain a clean and safe ice supply with professional cleaning, but employees must also follow some best practices to limit the spread of pathogens. 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?
Coronavirus is generally 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.
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.
Clean Your Machine the Right Way!
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 industrial ice maker’s 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. Parts of the door, such as the handle need daily cleaning to kill off any contagious pathogens that may have been transferred from an employees hands.
We’ve comprised 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 we provide here at Easy Ice. These machines utilize a button or lever to dispense ice directly into glassware, rather than having to scoop ice by hand. Many of our customers in healthcare and elementary education prefer these types of ice machines because they’re more hygienic – but 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 a 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 an EPA approved ice machine cleaner (follow the instructions on the label)
- Let the solution sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Rinse the area thoroughly with water and let air dry.
- To sanitize further, follow the instructions on the product’s label for “sanitizing” and spray the area.
- Let air dry.
Cleaning the Inside of Your Ice Bin
Below is a quick overview of how to clean your ice bin. Find a detailed guide to commercial ice bin cleaning here.
- 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, sanitize, and service ice machines twice a year to hinder the growth of biofilms that can make people sick. We clean ice machines inside and out, removing individual ice machines components and disinfecting and sanitizing them individually to ensure cleanliness. This also helps reduce slime, scale, or sediment to ensure the machine’s performance. We guarantee our ice machines are always up to the safest standards as part of our all-inclusive ice machine subscription program.
As the Co-Founder and COO of Easy Ice, John Mahlmeister has been working in the commercial ice machine industry since 2009. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the only national provider of full-service ice machine subscriptions in the industry. Since Easy Ice was founded, the number of ice machines under its management has grown to over 30,000 units across 47 states, with no signs of slowing down.
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