Ice Machine Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Ice Machine Preventative Maintenance Checklist

With everything you have to keep track of as an owner or manager of a restaurant or foodservice company, it can be tempting to let the maintenance of your maker fall by the wayside, but as the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The consequences of doing so, however, can be disastrous. Because the FDA classifies frozen water as a food, both your ice and ice machines are just as subject to inspection as your refrigerator and the perishable items held within. That being the case, your restaurant or facility might be hit with poor health inspection grades if your ice is found to be laden with bacteria; your company could even be put at risk if a customer becomes sick thanks to an improperly-maintained machine. Thankfully, it need not be complicated to ensure that your maker remains clean. By following the below steps, you can be confident that the ice you’re serving your customers is every bit as safe as it is refreshing.

Follow Ice Machine Maintenance Schedules

The first thing to keep in mind is the frequency with which your ice machine needs maintenance. Though this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, you should expect to conduct this maintenance at least two to four times a year; your owner’s manual can provide information specific to your model regarding the method and frequency of its maintenance. Other manufacturers provide their maintenance guidelines on the machine itself; Hoshizaki ice machines, for example, include a label on the inside of the front panel that includes instructions on how to properly clean your model. Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s guidelines no matter the style of your machine, as not doing so may cause damage to the unit.

Proper Cleaning and Sanitizing

It’s not enough that your ice machine looks clean; as any responsible foodservice purveyor knows, the real danger comes from what you can’t see. Though some bacteria growth common to ice machines is visible - anyone who’s opened up their unit and found slime or algae on its components can attest to that - you can’t assume that your machine is free of microbes just because you can’t see their presence. As part of its regular maintenance, the following parts of the machine must be both cleaned.

  • All elements of the water system
  • Air filters (for air-cooled models)
  • Evaporator plates (if the buildup of calcium, iron, or lime is present)
  • Condenser coil
  • Condenser fan blades

Most of the cleaning process can be conducted using a solution engineered for ice machines; your sanitation services provider should have one available. Be sure to pick a variety that is 30% or less phosphoric acid, as a concentration higher than that may do damage to the stainless steel elements of your units. Removable parts should be brushed clean, as should the condenser coil. A cloth can be used on rubber elements like gaskets and O-rings. Once all parts are clean, those that come into contact with water or ice must be sanitized with either bleach or a commercial solution, rinsed, and allowed to air dry. Make sure that your hands are thoroughly washed when handling these parts post-sanitization to avoid infecting them with bacteria all over again. Be sure also to circulate ice machine cleaning solution through the water system while its parts are removed and to flush it with clean water. Finally, reassemble your machine, give its exterior a good wipe down with a basic cleanser, and check to make sure that your unit has plenty of room to breathe; limited airflow can lead to malfunctions and poor performance.

Ice Machine Inspection List

While you wait for the sanitized elements to dry, be sure to...

  • Check the unit’s temperature
  • Check that the controls and wiring are undamaged and operating properly
  • Check fasteners for functionality and corrosion
  • Check the external filter system and change its cartridge if needed
  • Check inlet water valve screens for blockages

Doing so will help keep your machine clean and functioning at maximum efficiency. You can service some of these elements on your own if you discover any issues; blockages in inlet water valve screens are easily cleared with ice machine cleaning solution and freshwater, for example, and changing the cartridge on your external filter system is typically a simple and straightforward task. Issues in other areas, however, speak to larger problems that should be handled by an experienced technician - especially if they threaten the safety of your employees (as might be the case with faulty wiring or loosened fasteners). If you encounter any issues of this nature, be sure to call a technician post-haste to limit downtime and ensure that your business remains a safe place to work.

Make Ice Machine Maintenance a Priority

Commercial ice machines can often seem like remarkable pieces of machinery. Just plug it in and leave it to create the ice you need to cool your customers’ drinks or pack your perishables. As with any other machine, however, your ice maker needs regular maintenance to ensure that it remains a valuable asset to your business. Though it may seem like a hassle, a little bit of extra work now is worlds better than sick customers or a broken part later. Looking for more info on how to keep your ice maker in tip-top shape? Our friendly customer service representatives are always available to answer any maintenance questions you might have.


  1. comment authorCarly Mckeen Jul 20, 2019

    Thank you for stating that you need to check that the controls and wiring are undamaged and operating properly on your ice machine. My ice machine has been having some problems and making weird noises, and I don't know what to do. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind when trying to fix my ice machine.

  2. comment authorOlivia Smart Dec 16, 2021

    Thank you for your advice to call a technician if you notice something like faulty wiring with your ice machine. My friend has been wondering when she will need to call someone to take care of her machine instead of her. I'll be sure to mention this to her so that she can be a little more aware of what she might expect.

  3. comment authorJohn Oliver Feb 7, 2023

    You're welcome! These tips are great additions to the preventative maintenance checklist. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensuring the ice machine runs smoothly and efficiently, and it can also help to prevent costly repairs and downtime.

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