We’ve all encountered mold or slime in our sinks, showers, and bathtubs, but did you know that ice machines are susceptible as well? If you want to know how to clean mold from your ice maker and prevent it from forming, it’s key to understand that ice machines require special care.
Here at Easy Ice, we’re not just the ice machine experts—we’re mold and slime experts as well! We have cleaned over 30,000 ice machines and counting. Not only do we clean ice machines on a daily basis, but we also work to prevent mold and slime from forming. In this article, we’ll discuss what causes slime and mold in automatic ice machines and how to clean an ice maker when mold and slime are present.
The origins of mold and slime
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An industrial ice machine and ice bin provide the perfect environment for microbial growth to flourish. It’s dark, damp, and employees tend to forget to clean and sanitize the ice bin in the ice maker every week. Often, no one wants to use harsh chemicals or get into the nooks and crannies of the removable parts of your portable ice maker. The cleaning process might seem unnecessary, but neglecting your ice maker can backfire in a commercial environment.
That’s because restaurants, bars, and other environments have nutrient-rich air that allows an ice maker’s mold and slime to grow exponentially. As sugar and yeast enter the air from the beer, wine, bread and other food, an ice maker and ice bin can start to harbor mold. As these particles saturate the air, they enter your ice machine, providing an endless supply of food and moisture for mold and slime.
That said, it’s not always human error what causes the ice maker to take on mold. We’ve seen workplaces where a pristine ice machine accumulates significant mold growth in just two weeks. It’s not that the owner or employees are neglecting the ice maker, the ice machine is simply installed in an area that promotes rapid mold growth. It’s often convenient to do so, and no one realizes they’ve made a serious mistake putting the portable ice maker where they have.
Common places are next to a prep station where employees mix dough or in an area where brew masters ferment beer. Any area where a lot of yeast is used is going to attract mold, which brings a lot of problems if the portable ice maker is nearby. It’s easy to accidentally transfer mold spores to the ice scoops until you end up transferring them to the ice bin. From there, it’s just a matter of time until your ice maker starts to harbor mold.
Mold is such a common issue, that we perform a detailed site survey before installing any ice machine. If we identify a particularly challenging work environment, we work with customers to provide solutions on how to prevent excessive mold growth. Making ice doesn’t have to be a hassle when you have the right assistance to keep your ice maker clean.
What are the risks of contaminated ice makers?
The presence of mold in a portable ice maker poses serious health risks, particularly when it results in the production of dirty ice. The inside of an ice maker is a humid environment that can easily start to harbor harmful residues on its interior surface. If the machine isn’t properly cleaned regularly or if you handle removable parts improperly, contaminated ice can get someone sick and result in health violations.
In some cases, people try to service their ice maker with dirty hands, only to deposit small amounts of bacteria in the system. But whether the issue is a lack of clean water or poor handling, dirt in your ice maker can start a process that ends up with harmful mold and slime in the machine. These molds can contaminate the ice cubes produced by the machine, leading to potential health hazards for anyone consuming the ice.
When ice makers start to harbor dirt, it opens up the potential for harmful bacteria to thrive. This can lead to all sorts of health risks, as pathogens like E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella can survive in the ice produced by these machines. This poses a significant threat, especially in environments where the ice maker isn’t cleaned regularly.
For example, a study in Chicago found that producing ice with a portable ice maker in one-fifth of tested bars and restaurants tested positive for unsanitary ice cubes. A University of Texas study even showed that E. coli and other dangerous bacteria can survive in ice cubes, regardless of whether you serve them in warm water, hard liquor, or soda.
Impact on machine functionality
Beyond health concerns, a dirty ice maker can suffer from functional issues. Accumulations of dirt, mold, or mineral deposits can contribute to internal mechanical issues. The more you take care of your ice makers, the more you’ll be able to depend on them working how they’re supposed to. You need to regularly clean ice makers with soap and warm water if you want clear, high-quality ice.
Risks to business and reputation from a dirty ice bin
For businesses, the implications of a dirty ice maker extend to customer health and business reputation. Serving contaminated ice can lead to customer illnesses, negative reviews, and even reports to health authorities, impacting the establishment’s reputation and profitability. In severe cases, it might lead to legal consequences or temporary closure for health code violations.
Danger to immunocompromised individuals
Anyone can get sick from mold, but it poses the greatest danger to people who suffer from an immune condition. People with asthma are at a higher risk of experiencing attacks when in a building with mold, as the spores can float around in the air and trigger an episode.
Pregnant mothers and individuals with AIDS or other immunocompromised conditions are also more likely to suffer harm from the bacteria inside dirty ice cubes.
One of the challenges with portable ice makers is that mold and slime are often invisible to the naked eye. Even seemingly clear ice cubes that seem clean can harbor bacteria from within your appliance. You need to take all due steps to keep the ice machine clean.
Regular cleaning and maintenance of portable ice makers are crucial. Ensuring that the ice machine is clean not only prevents the growth of mold and slime but also ensures that the ice produced is of high quality. This includes routinely cleaning all components of the ice maker, such as the water reservoir, ice tray, and any removable parts.
Wash the removable parts with soapy water and leave them out until they’re completely dry, with no traces of dirty water anywhere. Throughout the process, you should review the owner’s manual to make sure you’re following the specific cleaning instructions the manufacturer recommends. Regular maintenance is important for any appliance, so you shouldn’t neglect your ice maker.
Benefits of a clean ice maker
Whether you’re operating a home ice maker or running a business, keeping your ice maker clean is vital. It safeguards health and hygiene by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, but it also ensures your ice maker works better and provides clearer ice for better-tasting drinks. Most importantly, taking good care of your ice maker can stave off a health code violation.
A clean ice maker can reduce health violations
Health violations are something no restaurant owner wants to get. Even small infractions can lead to a bad health score if an inspector finds enough of them.
The FDA defines ice as food, so health inspectors don’t take kindly to slime and mold in an ice machine. Ice makers and storage bins are one of the first places health inspectors look because of how challenging it can be to maintain them. If they find traces of poor maintenance or contaminated ice balls, you can quickly end up in trouble.
Depending on the health inspector or your city’s health laws, the presence of mold or slime could lead to a critical violation. Citations are extremely bad for business. If your sanitation score is posted publicly, as it is in most cities, you could face a severe loss of customers.
For many locations, cleaning your ice machine every six months will keep mold and slime at acceptable levels—but every work environment is different. Challenging environments need more professional cleanings, and many require employees to perform light cleaning every two weeks.
In addition to knowing how to clean an ice machine, there are steps you can take to reduce contamination in your ice maker. We work with all of our customers to limit mold proliferation through increased cleanings and preventive measures.
How to clean an ice maker to prevent mold
Cleaning areas at the first sign of mold is one way to limit the growth, but if it’s growing at a rapid pace, you’ll spend a lot of wasted energy trying to keep it at bay. There are other areas of your ice machine you can clean to help preventing mold from growing in the first place.
At Easy Ice, we recommend cleaning air filters every week. Keeping your air filters clean is one way you can help prevent the growth of mold and slime. Air filters trap many of the particles they feed on. At Easy Ice, we recommend employees clean air filters every week to prevent a dirty ice machine. Air filters are easy to clean. Simply spray warm water on them and rinse away any dirt. After they’re clean, allow the filter to air dry.
Another way to prevent growth is by installing an ozone generator. Ozone is a naturally occurring gas that is generated by sunlight and lightning. It works 3000 times faster than chlorine and disperses into the air as clean oxygen, so it doesn’t require rinsing.
Ozone is a powerhouse sanitizer that hinders the growth of not only mold and slime, but other, more harmful contaminants.
How to Clean an Ice Maker: Mold and Slime
What if you already spot growth in your machine, though? The best way to clean mold and slime from your ice maker is by using a disinfecting and sanitizing ice machine cleaner recommended by the EPA. When cleaning the inside of your ice bin, make sure to follow the instructions on the label for both disinfecting and sanitizing. Also, make sure to turn your ice maker off and empty your bin of ice so your cleaning product doesn’t contaminate your ice supply.
Here’s how to clean mold and slime from your ice maker:
- Spray your EPA-approved cleaner and saturate the contaminated surfaces
- If needed, wipe the areas to remove the contaminants
- If disinfecting, allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes, then rinse the area thoroughly
- After rinsing, follow the instructions for “sanitizing”
- Apply the solution to the area
- Important: Do not rinse after sanitizing. Leave the mixture to air dry
Professional cleaning further prevents mold and slime buildup
Why not prevent mold and get professional cleanings in one ice machine service? Generally, businesses don’t have the time and energy to keep up with routine cleaning. At Easy Ice, our professionals know exactly how to clean an ice maker thoroughly and install an ozone system to limit mold and slime. The amount you spend on a professional cleaning service will more than make up for the potential impact of a bad review or a health inspection violation.
Our all-inclusive ice machine rental program comes with the best commercial ice machines from Hoshizaki, Manitowoc, and more. We also include professional cleaning, maintenance, and ice machine repairs for a low, monthly cost. If you have a particularly challenging work environment, we can also include optional ozone generator installations to any of our ice machine subscriptions.
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