The Real Scoop About Ice Scoops

Reading Time: 3 minutes Ice Safety


How does ice become unsanitary? It’s often human error stemming from improperly using ice scoops or placing foreign objects in the ice bin. Of course, if you’re not following sanitation guidelines for your commercial ice machine, contaminants can accumulate in the actual machine. But the main culprit usually lies in the ice bin and the way ice is scooped.

Many businesses that have ice machines choose a standard hinged ice bin for ice collection instead of a commercial ice and water dispenser. Ice bins are great if you need to scoop large amounts of ice into other vessels, like coolers (for freight companies, contractors, drivers, etc) or bar wells.

When you’re using an ice bin, the way you scoop ice and where/how you store the scooper is key to keeping your ice supply safe. Here are a few tips:

  • Never leave the scoop in the ice bin!
  • Human hands should only touch the handle of the scoop, not the part that actually scoops the ice.
  • Never scoop ice directly with your hands.
  • Store the ice scoop in a harness.
  • Frequently sanitize the ice scoop.
  • Never store anything but ice in the ice bin (ice scoop, soda, beer, glasses, food, etc…)

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Shockingly, our Health Inspector friends tell us they’ve seen raw meat stored in the same ice that is served to customers in drinks! This is a huge health and safety hazard! They’ve also found glassware in the ice bin (to chill) and glasses being used as ice scoops. This is doubly dangerous! Not only are you cross-contaminating the ice, but the possibility of a glass breaking and infiltrating the ice adds another hazard.

As our CMO and co-founder, John Mahlmeister, remarked “Not to make light of serious matter, but do you remember where Mr. Chow spent the night in the movie Hangover 2?— Yep, in the ice machine!”

To keep your ice clean and safe, No Foreign Objects in the ice bin (people included)! Bottom line, if you’re using a hinged ice bin, Only use a sanitized, properly stored ice scoop for removing ice.

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We recently read about cock roaches found in a university dormitory’s ice bin (yes, that’s gross!). How they got there, no one really knows. But our guess is they infiltrated through an open ice bin.

For better control of ice sanitation, an ice dispenser is the solution. This is the type of dispenser you see in hotels and convenience store soda stations. For our friends at the dorm, a dispenser is probably a better option than a hinged ice bin.

And that’s the scoop on ice scoops.

If you need a commercial ice maker, bin and/or dispenser, we can help you out with that! Questions or comments about ice safety, ice bins? Let us know and we’ll give you more scoop from our expert team of Iceologists.

Our team is available to help you get started today!

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9 Comments on “The Real Scoop About Ice Scoops”

  1. Does an ice scoop have to be in a covered container when nor in use? This is in a commercial kitchen in a clubhouse.

    1. Hi Trona,

      Ice scoops don’t necessarily need to be in a “covered” container, any clean, small container that protects the scoop from accidental touching will do. Some ice machines have a scoop holder attached to them for this very purpose.

      Staff should never touch the shovel part of the scoop. Also, at no point should the handle of the ice scoop touch the ice supply, so make sure the scoop is stored outside of the ice bin.

      Staff should also sanitize the ice scoop at the end of every workday. A quat-based sanitizer works well. You can also conveniently sanitize ice scoops in the dishwasher if you want.

      Hope this helps!

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  3. While inspecting an ice machine I lifted the hinged door and a frog jumped out (the machine was outside at a fish camp). Keep the door closed or you’ll have a frogsicle or something worse.

    1. That’s too funny – until you think about consuming that froggy ice! Thanks for sharing, Chris.

  4. We have a large ice maker and bin with a hinge lid in our church kitchen. It is licensed as a commercial kitchen.
    Recently a group that had rented the space put two large containers of grape juice in the ice bin. (We have two commercial refrigerators, 1 side by side and 1 large walk in cooler)
    Why they put it in the ice bin is beyond me.
    We emptied out all of the ice.
    What else should we do?
    We now have a sign that says Do not put anything in the ice bin.

    1. Hi Jaci,
      You did the right thing by removing all the ice. It wouldn’t hurt to perform an ice bin clean. The details of that are in this blog
      If you have the ice maker and bin professional cleaned twice per year (this is what the manufacturer recommends), the tech will do a thorough disinfection and sanitization of the bin. Or you can follow the instructions in the blog I linked to do it yourself. If you don’t take any further steps, I would keep an eye on the bin and inspect it for slime or mold, which can indicate it was contaminated by the juice jugs.

    1. Hi Nancy!

      Good question. Since online retailers sell ice scoops that are NFS-approved, you’d think the answer is yes. Due diligence tells us there is no NFS approval needed on your ice scoop. However, they should be sanitized daily with a sanitizer solution of bleach and water, stored in a separate container out of the ice storage area, preferably dedicated to the ice scoop and if cracked, replace with a new scoop immediately. But you probably already knew that!

      Let us know if we can help.

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