The FDA defines ice as a food, and just like food, you need to store and safely handle ice. Choosing to ignore proper ice handling and storage practices expose your customers to foodborne illnesses that will damage the reputation of your business. If you want to keep your ice clean and safe, the best thing to do is regularly clean your ice bin.
Light Cleaning vs. Deep Cleaning Your Ice Bin
There are a few ways your ice supply can become contaminated:
- Incoming water
- Airborne contaminants (dirt, dust, airborne algae from yeast caused by baking, brewing beer, and open alcohol containers)
- Improper ice handling
- Unclean ice bin
Preventing ice contamination means your staff should perform regularly scheduled light cleanings of your ice bin. In addition, hiring a professional ice machine technician to deep clean your ice machine should also be a top priority.
Light cleanings are routine checks and washes performed by you or your staff. These cleanings should be performed every night as part of your business’s cleaning schedule. When cleaning, focus on the areas of the ice bin that see the most human contact. This should be your first line of defense in combatting ice contamination.
Deep cleanings are cleanings performed by a qualified ice technician. Ideally, you should get two per year, but if your workplace has a lot of dust or yeast in the air, you will likely require more. Deep cleanings cover more than just your ice storage bin. Technicians will also open the ice machine up and clean vital ice machine components to ensure the machine continues to function properly.
How to Clean Your Ice Bin
Let’s go over the process you or your staff should follow when performing a light cleaning. We’ll also go over the areas a technician focuses on during a deep cleaning. Finally, we’ll show you how to clean the exterior of your ice machine, which can also lead to ice contamination if neglected.
When performing regular cleaning on an ice storage bin:
- Cut the power to the ice machine.
- In a bucket, create a mixture of 1 oz of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.
- Soak a clean washcloth or sponge with the mixture.
- Wipe any surfaces of the bin that see human contact. That Includes:
- The lid
- Inside of the bin near the lid
- The baffle (the piece of plastic inside the ice bin. It deflects ice to the back of the bin.)
- Don’t rinse. Let the mixture air dry. The mixture needs time to sanitize by disintegrating algae and yeast as it dries.
Deep Cleaning from a Technician
Professional ice machine technicians employ many techniques to clean your ice machine and ice bin. It’s all dependent on your work environment and the type of ice equipment you have.
For example, technicians will often empty the ice storage bin and store the ice in bags if you own a small bin. For larger bins, they might cover the ice supply while they clean to protect the ice from the cleaners they use.
Ice machine cleaners and descalers can create harmful fumes when mixed. Another reason a qualified technician should perform deep cleanings.
Technicians have a wide range of cleaners and descalers they may use, but Hoshizaki suggests using Lime-A-Way and Scale-A-Way products.
If you notice light scale buildup in your ice bin, you can get away with cleaning it yourself by following these steps:
- In a spray bottle, mix diluted de-scaling or de-liming cleaners according to the bottle. Spray in the interior of the bin with the solution.
- Scrub the bin’s interior with a brush or clean cloth.
- Make sure to get the corners of the bin where scale deposits can form.
- Rinse the area with clean water.
How to Clean the Exterior of Your Ice Bin
You should aim to clean the exterior of your ice bin once a week – but the more often, the better!
- Spray a soft cloth with a gentle cleanser and wipe down the entire exterior of the bin.
- Let the cleaner air dry.
- Clean the ice scoop with a quat-based cleaner. You can also toss the scoop in your mechanical dishwasher.
Keep Your Ice Clean by Regularly Cleaning Your Ice Bin
It’s your responsibility as a business owner to protect your customers from foodborne illnesses they might contract from a visit. Health inspectors will quickly shut down your restaurant or bar if you don’t clean your facility and make it safe for your guests. Worse yet, a complaint from a customer who got sick at your business will damage your reputation.
You can maintain a sanitary ice bin by adding routine ice machine cleaning into your daily cleaning schedule. Also, don’t forget to get a professional service to deep clean and maintain your ice machine regularly. By following these steps, you can ensure you and your staff have clean ice year-round.