Ice Sanitation & UV Ice Machine Sanitation Buying Guide

When you are working in a commercial area, you need to keep things clean. Granted, you should keep them as clean in the comfort of your own home as well – but when you are dealing with them on a public level, sanitation is even more of a concern.

One bit of impurity on your ice machine, and you risk your clients saying they will never set foot in your restaurant ever again. This obviously does not bode well for your business.

For this reason, you should be particularly attentive when it comes to ice sanitation. To ensure that your business is going smoothly, not only do you have to follow the proper steps – but you also have to ensure you have the right tools. The more careful you are, the less you risk your restaurant being closed for health violations.

The Need for Ice Machine Sanitation

Some people may be thinking: why do you need to bother so much with ice machine sanitation when practically, you are dealing with clean water? Well, that is not entirely true.

Ice machines indeed keep the ice cold for refreshing drinks – but at the same time, they are bacteria breeding grounds. It’s where salmonella, legionella, and E. coli can grow at their finest. Ice is no longer as refreshing when you consider the deadly effects brought by slime, yeast, and mold.

Luckily for business owners, there are many technologies nowadays that can help them get rid of any unwanted visitors in their machines – while ensuring that they run smoothly, at their full power.

A machine that is clean will have a smoother, shorter freezing cycle. Basically, when the compressor gets clogged and dirty, it no longer runs as efficiently – and the ice freezes much.

This is why you should install some sanitization technologies into your machine – to ensure that your machine stays as clean as you are freezing the water. However, you need to mix it with proper cleaning techniques to ensure that it is running at its best.

Types of Ice Machine Sanitation Systems

When it comes to ice sanitation systems, there are two options that you could go for: the ozone and UV systems. Here’s how you break them down:

Ozone Systems

An ozone system is one of the most popular options since you can install it directly into the incoming water line of the machine. These units can release minute ozone quantities – infusing them in the next batch’s water. As a result, the ozone will kill the bacteria before it has the chance to get trapped into the ice.

Furthermore, as we already breathe ozone every day, it is not harmful to us in any way. It is actually very healthy. It’s like water photosynthesis, only that this time, the water is cleaned instead of the air.

Plus, traces of ozone from the ice will go in the dispensers and bins – cleaning everything around before it reaches the beverage of the consumer. And considering that these systems will also take out the chlorine, the water will be even healthier. No more weird odors or yucky taste.

Generally, one cartridge is enough to sanitize up to 50,000 gallons of water – and you can easily replace them if you need a new one. There are systems that have the ability to sanitize the water before it even has the chance of entering the machine – therefore keeping your machine clean for longer.

You still have to do regular maintenance and cleaning – but at least, it will not be that often. Plus, since such cartridges can last up to 12 months (if used moderately), then it will also save you a lot on the costs.

These systems are easily attached to the unit, and it will be easy for you to reduce the risk of illness caused by food and bacteria. Plus, their indicator lamp will tell you precisely when you have to replace the cartridge – a feature that is very convenient in a busy restaurant.

In this category, you have both expensive and affordable products, but they are just as efficient. They have the same ability to clear up the bacteria before it even reaches the unit – therefore making it much easier for you to maintain it. As a result, you can choose the system that best fits your needs and budget.

UV Light Systems

UV light systems are not that new on the market – but the technology is certainly more advanced than the one used for ozone systems.

With a UV light system, the air is recirculated over UV lights – where the nitrogen, oxygen, and water vapors create gases with free electrons, ions, ozone, and hydroxyl radicals.

It might sound very complicated – but in fact, it’s very safe and quite simple. These gases will work to “attack” the bacteria, inhibiting their growth before they have a chance to freeze. Once the water has frozen, these ions will return to their vapor form – therefore, repeating the cycle. Since these units work round the clock, you will have to do a checkup once every year.

You can choose a large system, used for machines that produce around 400 lbs of water per day. This is the perfect option if you have a big restaurant with heavy duty work.

Most of these products come with a pre-installed UV lamp that will kill off the bacteria present in the water – therefore, providing your customers with ice cubes that are free of impurities.

To make your choice much easier, here are a few broken down pros and cons that you might want to remember.

Ozone Systems- They are not toxic for the water
- Devoid of any taste
- They can efficiently clean up the bacteria in the water
- They need a little maintenance
- It is directly dissolved in the water
- You have to be very careful with the doses 
UV Systems- They need little to no maintenance
- They kill off a wider array of microorganisms
- Generally, they are very simple to use
- They do not always kill microorganisms that are scarcely mobile
- They have a fairly complicated internal structure that may break over the year
- They are quite expensive

As you can see, both systems have their own pros and cons – but according to most consumers, a UV ice sanitation system is one of the most efficient ones. However, you will have to replace it quite often compared to other units. At the same time, it has a better ability at killing off a wide array of microorganisms.

For example, there are advanced systems that can prevent the apparition of slime and mold in the ice machine while needing no maintenance. All you will generally have to do is the yearly checkup and you will be all set.

However, both systems are there to make things easier for you. They tell you precisely when you have to replace the cartridge, they do the cleaning for you – and most importantly, they allow you to go ahead with your business without having to worry about health issues.

Cleaning Your Commercial Ice Machine

You may have the latest ice sanitizing system – but if you do not know how to clean the ice machine, when to clean it, and how to ensure that the water is clear of any contaminants, then you might have a problem.

To make things easier for you, here are some steps for you to ensure that your water is sanitized, and ready to break the ice – or make it, in this case.

Water Quality

Let’s say that you already have a very efficient ice sanitizer at hand – but the water is not actually that “trustworthy”. You need to ensure that the water you use to make ice is free of any contaminants and that it is safe to drink. If the water coming from your water supply is way too contaminated, you may want to invest in water filters as well.

To prevent disease cases such as Giardiasis, Cryptosporidiosis, or Legionnaire, you might want to go for carbon filters – since they have the best ability to pull contaminants from the water. Used together with a sanitizing system, even contaminants such as chlorine or parasitic cysts will stand no chance.

Clean the Machine

When you are cleaning your ice machine, you should do it by the book – and not just flimsily wipe it just to say that “it was cleaned.” When you do your regular maintenance, you should take the unit apart in as many small pieces as you can, and wipe (or soak) them clean.

When cleaning, you should first take out all the ice that has remained in storage. After that, check the drain lines and ensure that they are all clean. One piece of advice for you would be to use quaternary ammonia – for its deep ability to clean while not leaving any toxins behind.

You can mix the ammonia with water and add it into a spray bottle. Once the ice machine is serviced, take the bottle and spray it over the surface. The ammonia will dry by itself – and since it is not toxic, you will not even have to rinse it. This should prevent the bacteria from growing inside the ice tank.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

When the slime starts gathering, you might be tempted to use a harsh chemical to ensure that it all goes away; however, you might be faced with the exact opposite effect to “good.”

Some parts of the ice machine are very sensible – and the improper use of chemicals may lead to permanent damage. Plastic parts and hoses may use stronger chemicals every now and again – but it is recommended that you remove them beforehand.

You should also ensure that you use only the right ratios of the chemicals – and don’t use more of it “just in case.” Most of the time, if you use too much chemical for longer than 30 minutes, the cleaner’s pH will become unbalanced. Also, make sure that you are always wearing protective gloves when manually sanitizing your ice machine.

Use the Right Tools

When sanitizing your ice machine, you might want to ensure that you are using the right tools – and by this, we don’t mean the actual sanitizing system. We mean brushes, cleaners, and anything else you might need to give it a proper scrub.

Ideally, you may want to use pads that are just mildly abrasive – but you can also use a nylon brush if you have to. If you have smaller nooks and crannies that you need to clean, you may also use a toothbrush to get things done.

Precautions for Proper Ice Sanitizing

You know how to pick your ice sanitizer, and now you also know how to sanitize your ice machine. However, unless you handle the ice properly, the ice sanitizing system will not be able to function at its best.

Most recommendations are usually mentioned in the unit’s guidelines. However, there are some pieces of advice that strictly rely on common sense – and a lot of practice. To ensure that your unit, along with the sanitizing system, is not damaged by “too much practice,” you may want to learn about certain precautions.

The following list includes tips that you might want to consider when handling the ice in a sanitary manner.

  • In most big restaurants, a great amount of bacteria usually ends up on the hands of the worker. For this reason, you may want to wash your hands each time before you handle the ice. This way, you won’t nullify the effects you were trying to achieve with the ice sanitizer.
  • When using an ice scoop, you should only touch the handle – and avoid touching any other parts of the scoop. This way, you will not risk the bacteria spreading over the ice. This should also include not handling the ice with your bare hands.
  • Refrain from returning unused ice into the ice machine. Since the ice has already been sanitized when it was in liquid form, all efforts to keep the ice bacteria-free will have been nullified.

Of course, the sanitation of the equipment should also be considered. Here are some precautions that you may want to keep in mind:

  • The doors to the ice machine should be kept closed at all times – except for when you are removing the ice. Failing to do so will not only make the ice melt faster – but it will also allow the bacteria to creep in.
  • Remove any extraneous tools near the ice storage chest, since it may lead to airborne bacteria sent into the ice. Once the bacteria have set over the ice, it may be fairly hard to remove – unless you make another batch of ice.
  • Consider cleaning the storage chest every month, even if you own an ice sanitizing system. If you cannot do it so often, try to at least go every month through a deep clean.
  • Microbiologic sampling should also be something to consider if you want to be thorough. It is not completely necessary, but it may give you further insight into what type of ice sanitizing system you should purchase. For example, if you are dealing with bacteria that are much trickier to clean, then you might want to go for a UV sanitizing unit.

Following these steps will prevent the bacteria to get into the ice once it has already been formed. Since the sanitizing system only kills the bacteria when the ice hasn’t already been formed, you can’t do much about the microorganisms that have been trapped already.

You should also train your employees to properly watch for safety concerns. If they notice any bacterial growths on the bin or believe that the ice smells funny in any way, then they should immediately throw away the ice and scrub the unit clean. Considering that bacteria thrive in the cold, it is much better to be safe than sorry.

Final Thoughts on Ice Sanitation

An ice machine sanitation system is something crucial for every self-respecting business since it ensures that your customers are safe from any harmful bacteria. Regardless of the type that you choose to go for, you will not be disappointed – because each one is just as efficient.

Granted, UV sanitizing systems are slightly more expensive than the ozone ones – but that’s because they are more efficient at eliminating those hard-to-kill microorganisms. If you have performed a microbiologic sample and the result revealed such microorganisms, then you might want to invest in a stronger UV system.

Nonetheless, regardless of the type that you go for, you should make sure that you follow the proper cleaning protocol. You may have one of the latest ice sanitizing systems – but if you don’t clean the ice machine properly or do not handle the ice as you should, then you will be back at square one.

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