Viral TikTok Exposes Shockingly Common Dirty Ice Machine Dangers

Dirty Ice Machines TikTok
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Article contributed by John Mahlmeister, Easy Ice

A TikTok user calling himself The Ice Man has gone viral for uncovering and sharing alarming video footage of filthy commercial ice machines in businesses including restaurants and hotels. The Ice Man is an HVAC technician who uses TikTok videos to educate the public and business owners about the importance of ice machine cleaning and the ugly results of neglected, uncleaned ice machines. His videos have 3.3 million likes and counting.

In addition to being the subject of an embarrassing TikTok video, these businesses could be endangering customers and employees with contaminated ice. Let’s dig into the risks associated with dirty ice machines and how to properly clean yours.

Dangers of Dirty Ice Machines

Ice machines are dark and damp. This kind of environment is ideal for the growth of slime and mold. If ignored, large buildups of mold, slime, scale, and sediment may form. These substances are difficult to remove, can cause ice machine breakdowns or reduced ice production.

Slime and mold are gross, though they aren’t dangerous to users. They can result in health inspection violations and negative customer reviews, so it’s important to keep the ice machine free of these substances.

Every human interaction with an ice machine presents a possible risk of transferring bacteria to the unit where it can then be transferred to another user. Studies have found bacteria like gram-negative bacilli and Candida spp can be transferred to commercial ice machines through normal use. Bacteria-contaminated ice can cause infections or illness, including E. Coli, Hepatitis A, Norwalk Virus, and Legionnaires’ disease. Protect your customers and employees by following the best practices for cleaning ice machines.

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Proper Ice Machine Cleaning

The exterior surfaces of ice machines and ice and drink dispensers should be regularly cleaned everywhere they come in contact with humans.  Employees can wipe down these surfaces with a disinfectant solution, rinse it away with water, and then apply a sanitizing solution, which should be left to air dry. This will reduce bacteria transfers.

The primary places scale, mold, and slime grow are harder to access, like the inside of the ice machine and ice bin. These areas require more extensive cleaning called deep cleaning.

Manufacturers recommend a minimum of two deep cleanings per year. Ice machine deep cleaning should be performed by a trained technician. These in-depth processes require access to all internal ice making components and involve three important stages: descaling, disinfection, and sanitization.

Frequency of deep cleaning is determined by numerous environmental factors. Mold and slime form more quickly in environments with high levels of airborne contaminants, like yeast and flour. Thus, businesses like breweries and bakeries need to deep clean their ice machines more often. Other factors may cause ice machines to get dirty faster, such as a high amount of grease from cooking, old pipes that transfer sediment, and improper, unsanitary usage from customers or employees.

How to Descale, Disinfect, and Sanitize an Ice Machine

Some business owners or managers clean their own ice machines to save money. It should be noted that professional cleaning usually pays for itself in the long run. Professionals are equipped to do a better job at deep cleaning, can make recommendations based on any visible issues with the ice machine or in the environment, and can diagnose small issues that prevent future repairs.

Below is an overview of the deep clean process meant to guide ice machine owners as to what should be performed in a professional deep cleaning. If you intend to clean your own ice maker, research the exact steps for your manufacturer and model.

Deep cleaning involves three separate steps that should be performed in order: Descaling, disinfecting, and sanitizing.

Descaling: Scale builds up quickly and should be removed entirely to prevent it from getting out of control. Scale remover, also called a descaler solution, is an acid and should be handled with care. Descaler solution can contaminate ice supply, so be sure to remove all ice from the ice bin and turn off the ice machine prior to beginning this process. Use descaler solution in accordance with the instructions to clean ice machine parts, including the evaporator assembly, water reservoir, water distribution tubes,  drop zone, and ice bin.

Disinfecting: Use a quat-based cleaner, EPA-approved food grade bleach, or similar cleaning product. Follow the instructions on the bottle for disinfectant dilution rates when mixing the solution. Apply the disinfectant to all ice contact surfaces on the inside of the ice machine, to the exterior of the ice machine including bin door handle and ice scoop, and to the entire inside of the ice bin. Depending on the ice machine model, this will likely require you to take it apart. Thoroughly  wet surfaces and leave the solution on for 10 minutes minimum (called wet contact time). Because disinfectant has a higher chemical to water ratio, the solution must be thoroughly rinsed from all ice machine surfaces after the wet contact time.

Sanitizing: Use the same cleaner you used to disinfect the ice machine and mix it according to the label directions for sanitizing. This should be a lower ratio of cleaner to water, which is why it’s safe to air-dry on the ice machine. Fully saturate the same components and surfaces you cleaned in the two previous steps. Allow the sanitizer to air dry on the ice machine before turning the unit back on. If cleaning a nugget or flake ice machine, discard the first batch of ice.

Clean Ice Machines, Clean Bill of Health

High-traffic commercial appliances, including ice machines, can be contaminated by human usage and can become dirty from countless environmental factors.  It’s the responsibility of business owners to follow the cleaning recommendations of manufacturers and professional ice machine techs. It’s fun to imagine being TikTok famous, but let it be for your stellar service or gourmet goodies – not for having a filthy ice machine.

John Mahlmeister Easy IceJohn Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, and Denver. Since its founding in 2009, Easy Ice has rapidly grown the number of ice machines under management to 25,000 units across 47 states. The Easy Ice commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, and backup ice. For more information, please visit, or on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter

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