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  • Writer's pictureDanny Klos

Cleaning a commercial ice machine & using the right ice maker cleaner

Updated: Apr 11

Cleaning a commercial ice maker is commonly overlooked by many owners of commercial ice machines, and how to properly clean a commercial ice maker is even more of an in-depth process than most people realize. Taking the time to properly clean a commercial ice maker can take hours, and when done incorrectly, it can cause many problems and potentially cost a lot of money to repair. When a commercial ice maker is properly cleaned and maintained a commercial ice machine can easily last 15 years or longer. A commercial ice machine that is not properly cleaned and maintained may only last 4-7 years, depending on water quality.

Dirty nugget ice machine with scale build up

Water flowing through commercial ice makers can leave scale deposits inside your commercial ice machine. This limescale is made up of calcium and magnesium and can cause your ice machine to stop properly working by causing restrictions of water flow through the water pump, distribution tubes, inlet valves and water dump valves. Having you commercial ice maker professional cleaned and serviced on a semi-annual basis is recommended by all ice machine manufactures and may void any warranties if not properly maintained.

Types of ice machine cleaner and ice machine sanitizer

Customers often ask if they can use lime-a-way or vinegar to clean their ice machines. Although Hoshizaki does approve the use of lime-a-way, we prefer to use a higher quality cleaner that is specifically made for commercial ice makers. The best commercial ice maker manufactures like Manitowoc, Koolaire, Scotsman, and Ice-O-Matic ( use nickel plated copper to make their evaporators. Using the incorrect cleaner on an ice machine can quickly ruin an ice machine. Using vinegar or lime-a-way on any ice machines other than Hoshizaki will absolutely ruin the commercial ice maker. Nickel plated evaporators made by the aforementioned ice machine brands require the use of nickel safe ice machine cleaner to safely remove scale build up in your commercial ice machine.

Commercial ice machine cleaner for manitowoc ice machine

Hoshizaki ice makers are the exception to the rule. The metal used to create evaporators in a Hoshizaki ice machine is stainless steel. Because of this, Hoshizaki has approved the use of lime-a-way to clean their ice machines. A major downside of using stainless steel to create ice machine evaporators is the quality of heat transfer. Using stainless steel requires more energy and more time to freeze water and harvest the ice. This can increase the operational cost of Hoshizaki cube style ice machines when compared to other brands that do not use stainless steel. Another downside to using stainless steel is that they usually take up more space. It is not uncommon to see a Hoshizaki ice machine take up 45% more space than a different brand dice / half-dice style ice maker. When cleaning a Hoshizaki ice maker, we recommend using a higher concentration of commercial grade ice machine cleaner.

Nugget, cubelet, pearl, gem and flake ice makers, sometimes also known as Sonic ice, Chick-Fil-A ice or chewable ice require a specific ice machine cleaner. These style ice makers use plated bronze which can be easily damaged by using the wrong chemicals. Manitowoc, Scotsman and Ice-O-Matic ice machines require the use of metal safe ice machine cleaner when the time comes. Manitowoc Flake, Chiplet, and Nugget ice machines have a bronze evaporator & Manitowoc SM undercounter models use a tin-plated evaporator. These evaporators cannot handle the harsh concentration of a nickel safe evaporator and the warranty will become voided if the wrong cleaner is used. If you are unsure what cleaner to use with your ice machine, please call Tri-Point Refrigeration and we will help guide you to the correct cleaner.

Hard water scale deposits in a commercial ice maker are an unavoidable problem. Having your ice machine professionally cleaning is the solution. After a commercial ice maker has been properly disassembled and thoroughly cleaned, the ice machine now needs to be sanitized. Professional grade ice machine sanitizer can be used on all brands and models of commercial ice makers. Ice machines not only build scale but also slime and mold. Microscopic food particles, grease, yeast, sugars, and flour in the air end up making their way into nearby commercial ice machines. This creates an endless supply of nutrients for mold and slime and causes tremendous growth inside ice makers. Using professional grade ice machine sanitizer on a semi-annual basis will help keep this mold growth at bay. Ice machines that are properly cleaned and sanitized will last much longer and provide years of great service.

Cleaning a commercial ice maker

When determining how to properly clean your commercial ice maker following the manufacturer's guidelines is always a good option and should be followed closely. Each commercial ice machine manufacturer will have proper cleaning instructions on their websites. You can find the cleaning instructions for Scotsman here: (

Although following the manufacturer's instruction to a tee is the best option, good maintenance guidelines for any commercial ice maker can help reduce ice machine failures.

  • Cleaning the condenser often is a great way to keep your ice machine running optimally. Brush the condenser down with a hot grade and don’t use too much pressure, the coil is delicate, and you do not want to bend the aluminum fins

  • Change the water filter on a regular basis, this will help keep limescale build up out of your ice machine and keep it performing well

  • After you clean the ice maker according to the manufacturer’s specifications, don’t forget to sanitize it. This will also help remove the mold inside the ice machine.

  • Don’t forget the ice bin, the bin drain can get clogged with mold, dirt, cardboard, and foreign materials and cause the bin to fill up with water. Washing down the inside of the bin with ice machine cleaner, rinsing and then clearing it will sanitizer will remove mold growth and help prevent it from growing back so quickly.

  • Don’t use scrub pads such as brillo pads, steel wool and S.O.S pads, this will cause micro scratches in the plastic, giving mold and scale an ideal place to start growing again and near impossible to get clean in the future. Using a soft microfiber cloth is the best option when cleaning out a commercial ice maker

  • Having your ice machine cleaned and inspected by a reputable ice machine service company is always recommend making sure nothing is overlooked keeping your ice machine running optimally

extremely moldy manitowoc ice machine

Regularly scheduled basic maintenance on your commercial ice machine is always a good idea, but sometimes you may find yourself in need of ice machine repair or ice machine service. While a basic cleaning of the condenser and ice bin will help increase the lifespan of your machine, a professional deep cleaning on a semi-annual basis will help remove limescale build up and mold in the toughest to reach places of your ice machine, keeping it operating at the highest efficiency and keeping your ice free from slime and mold.

When cleaning and servicing your commercial ice machine, Tri-Point Refrigeration will completely disassemble your ice machine, clean hard to reach and difficult to remove scale deposits and remove mold and slime with ice machine sanitizer. Tri-Point Refrigeration is a full-service commercial ice machine and refrigeration company serving customers in Lubbock and Austin, Texas. Call us to today in Austin at (512) 651-4565, For Lubbock customers call (806) 686-0050.


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