Ice makers have become popular in recent years, and there’s nothing better than being able to help yourself to a glass full of ice straight from your fridge-freezer or from your portable ice maker for a cooling drink on a hot summer’s day!
Because all of the magic happens out of sight, you’ve probably never thought about how your ice maker works. But like all appliances, your ice machine needs to be kept clean and hygienic so you can have fresh, pure ice every time.
Whether you have a portable countertop ice maker or one integrated into your freezer, you only need a few accessible items to make a cleaning solution that will give you a spotlessly, germ-free unit to enjoy ice from. All you need is water and either vinegar or lemon juice to make an effective and natural cleaning solution!
The good news is that you don’t need to spend time thinking about how to clean an ice maker, as we have provided all the top tips and information you need below to make the cleaning process straightforward.
Why Does an Ice Maker Need Cleaning?
You’d be forgiven for wondering why an ice machine might need cleaning when all that happens is fresh water is placed inside it. But there are two main reasons for which you need to keep your ice maker clean.
The first is that water contains minerals — which is especially true for hard water areas. Over time, the minerals from the water can build up inside the water reservoir. This sediment can cause damage to the ice machine but can also start to smell.
The other way you can end up with issues in your ice maker is if any small particles of food or bacteria get into it. These can cause mould to develop, which is unpleasant and will affect the taste of the ice you consume, potentially making you ill.
How to Know When an Ice Machine Needs Cleaning
As a rule of thumb, you should clean your ice maker every six months, but if you see any of the following things, it’s time to give it a thorough wash.
Less Ice Is Being Produced
If you notice that the unit is producing less ice or taking longer than normal for the ice to appear, there could be a blockage somewhere in the ice-making process that needs unblocking and cleaning.
A Bad Smell in the Ice
If your ice has an unpleasant odour or tastes bad, it is important not to use it. It could be that the water filter needs changing or that mould has developed inside your portable ice maker. This could make you ill if you consume it, so it is best to throw it away and replace it when the machine is clean again.
Cloudy or Dirty Ice
If your ice is discoloured, it may be that dirt or mould has got into your ice maker. Although this isn’t a common thing to happen, you shouldn’t use the ice if it looks unpleasant. Dump it out into the bin and start again once the ice machine is completely clean.
Clean Your Ice Maker
Firstly, it is best to get organised and get everything you need. That way, you can make cleaning the machine a quick and easy process. Then it’s just a case of following a few basic steps to get your ice maker back in perfect working order.
We’ve listed below some of the equipment you could use to make your ice machine cleaner:
- Soapy water
- White vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Cleaning solution
- Clean cloth
- Spray bottle
The steps you need to follow in cleaning your ice maker depend on its type. We have set out cleaning tips for a portable ice maker and a built-in ice maker in a fridge-freezer, which are the two most common types of ice makers people have at home.
There are also commercial ice makers that restaurants and bars have, and we will cover these as well.
Freezer Ice Maker
The first thing to do is remove the ice basket and throw away the ice that is still in it. Place this to soak in a bowl of warm water and a mild detergent mixed together. While the ice basket is soaking, wipe down the inside of the freezer with a cloth and clean water.
Wash the ice basket thoroughly, rinse and drain and either leave to air dry or pat dry with some paper towels.
To clean your ice tray, fill it with a mix of fresh water and white vinegar or lemon juice, and place it into the freezer to freeze. Once the ice cubes are frozen solid, place the tray under warm water as this will mean that the ice melts faster, and you can remove the cubes quickly.
If the tray has any dirt or marks remaining on it, use a soft brush and mild detergent to remove them. Then, rinse the tray and place it to drain.
Portable Ice Maker
A portable countertop ice maker is simple to clean, and the first step is to empty out everything from the unit.
Once you have done it, add a solution to the water compartment of as much water as vinegar, so one part each. Once this is done, set your portable ice maker on an ice cycle. Once the vinegar ice cycle is complete, empty all of the ice out into the sink to melt and run another cycle, but this time just add fresh water into the water reservoir.
Empty this round of ice into the sink as it may still retain the taste of vinegar. After this, your ice cycles should taste completely normal. If you are unsure about using vinegar as your cleaning agent, using a solution made up of fresh water and lemon juice is another great option. Simply add this cleaning solution to the water reservoir rather than the vinegar solution.
Remove the water line and give this a good wash and rinse to ensure that it does not harbour any germs or build-up. Make sure that you rinse and drain all parts well, as without doing a thorough rinse, you could be putting contaminants back into the machine!
You can clean the exterior of your portable ice maker with a cloth and warm water.
Commercial Ice Maker
A commercial ice maker will most likely have a clean cycle included in the machine’s programmes and will have a recommended cleaning solution that you should use.
In a catering environment, such as a bar or restaurant, quality standards and safety are held to a higher standard. Most machines in these settings have to be cleaned regularly and with the correct cleaning solution.
Maintaining your ice maker is important, whether this is one found in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator or a portable ice maker. Making sure that the machine is cleaned regularly will mean that you always have fresh ice whenever you want it.
If you have an ice maker on a holiday property or haven’t used it over the winter months, the water and resulting ice can become stale and unpleasant. When this happens, it is best to follow just a few basic steps of emptying the ice storage bin and following the cleaning steps set out above.
Water and ice can absorb the odour of food left in a refrigerator, so it is often a good idea to throw the first batch of ice down the drain and add fresh water to the machine and make a new batch before using it if it has been a while between uses.
If you regularly add fresh water to the water reservoir and use an appropriate cleaning solution, then you should avoid problems with your ice maker.
Making sure that you replace the water filter when the machine alerts you to need a new one or if you follow a regular six-month cleaning schedule will also help you ensure that your ice tastes fresh at all times.
Enjoy Ice Cold Drinks as Fresh as When You First Purchased Your Ice Maker
Is there anything more refreshing than making an ice-cold drink full of cubes from your ice maker on a hot day? But when you make that cold drink, what you want to enjoy is the flavour of your beverage, not a slightly stale tang from the ice!
To ensure that you never have this situation, you need to set up a regular cleaning schedule so that the unit is always fresh for when you want more ice. If you have been wondering how to clean an ice maker and whether you own a portable model or a built-in one, we hope that we have provided you with all the advice and information you need.
An ice maker cleaning solution can be as straightforward to make as using water and white vinegar or lemon juice. You can also use soap and water for cleaning any removable parts from your ice maker, such as the water line and the exterior.
The water reservoir of your ice maker is cleaned by the cleaning solution as your portable ice maker runs through a couple of cycles. It couldn’t be much simpler.
Cleaning your portable ice maker once every six months to ensure the water reservoir is free of any build-up is all you need to do to have clean and fresh ice available at the press of a button!
Start Cleaning Your Ice Maker
Well, that’s all for today’s guide. After reading through our tutorial, we hope that you are able to clean your ice maker properly. So, have you ever cleaned an ice maker? Do you have any useful tricks? Please let us know in the comments section below!
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Tom is a former chef turned full-time food blogger. He has always been passionate about food, and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen and sharing his recipes with others. Tom’s blog is one of the most popular food blogs on the internet, and he has won numerous awards for his cooking. When he’s not blogging or cooking, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.