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Lack of Sanitation Practices for the Ice Machine | Ecolab Food Safety Solutions

Lack of Sanitation Practices for the Ice Machine

By Cindy Rice, RS

Ice machines are usually reliable tools that we don’t think about much- seemingly independent pieces of equipment running in the background without a peep. They are connected to your water supply, fill up on their own, and are there for you when you need ice day in and day out for beverages and cooling foods. However, poor sanitation of ice machines and ice equipment can be the source of many problems in food establishments, if we don’t pay attention.

proper ice sanitation


The Problem

  • Illnesses may result from ice made with contaminated water
  • Ice can be easily contaminated with bacteria from people’s hands or dirty scoops
  • Dirty ice machines (e.g., mold, soil) exacerbate the problem and can contaminate ice itself
  • Unclean ice machines are frequently cited violations by inspectors
  • Lack of clear guidance or consistency in manufacturers’ recommendations exists for maintaining ice machines
  • Dirty ice is a common target for “splashy” media stories, leading to consumer outrage

ice sanitation and ice handing for restaurants

Reasons Why This Happens

Many factors contribute to unsafe ice machine conditions, resulting in contaminated ice used in foods and beverages, potentially posing a risk to consumers. This is either due to lack of proper equipment or staff training, but here are some common missteps by staff:

  • Ice scoop stored in the bin itself, or on unsanitary surfaces
  • Handling ice with bare hands, resulting in pathogen contamination
  • Using a glass to scoop ice, posing a risk of breakage and physical contamination from glass shards
  • Lack of clean, designated bucket to transport ice
  • Lack of a regular cleaning schedule for ice machines
  • Lack of training on the importance of handling ice safely and keeping machines, scoops and buckets clean


Best Practices

Here are some best practices to make sure that your ice machine stays clean, and the ice inside crystal clear and contamination free:

  • Designated ice buckets, ergonomically designed for employee safety and ease of use
  • Store ice scoops on clean hanger or holder
  • Nothing is stored in bin except clean, untouched ice (i.e., no soda cans, or containers that need chilling)
  • Have a monthly cleaning schedule for ice bins and replace filters on a regular basis
    • Use an Ice Wand to help reduce mold, slime
    • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance
    • Have a written Standard Operating Procedure specifically on safely handling ice and proper use of the ice machine. Train staff on these protocols

    Following these simple practices will ensure that your ice is clean, your beverages are delicious and equipment will be working efficiently.