Preventing an Ice Maker Takeover

Thanks to the internet, including “The Ice Man” TikTok videos, most people know that restaurant ice makers can contain some nasty things. Though many folks still appreciate a cold beverage, knowledge of things lurking in ice makers has them inspecting the ice in their glass more closely. Business owners should take heed of consumers’ new, improved knowledge and work harder than ever to keep ice machines clean, safe, and sanitary.

With all the concerns floarting around  learn what substances are likely to grow on ice makers, and how they can be prevented or removed. Keep reading to find out.

Mold and Slime

Mold and slime can easily grow in an ice maker because they only require two things: moisture and a food source. The moisture is, of course, present. So once a food source is introduced, these substances begin to flourish. Mold and slime feed on sugar and yeast, but the “food” doesn’t have to be introduced on purpose or even through negligence. They can be in the air, such as at a bakery, brewery, or restaurant, and get sucked into the ice maker through its vents. 

Mold looks like black patches on the inside of the ice maker or bin. Slime is typically a pinkish color, though when it’s left untreated, it can turn brown, black, or green.

Slime or mold can grow in the ice maker’s drop zone. As ice passes through the drop zone, it can come into contact with the residue and carry it into the ice supply. Mold and slime aren’t particularly harmful to most people, but they are gross. They are also a source of health inspector violations.

Solution: Keep up on cleanings and maintenance performed by a qualified service technician. A preventive maintenance visit is recommended every six months for regular environments and more often for environments with high quantities of airborne contaminants such as flour, yeast, sugar, grease, and dust. Such environments may even benefit from an ozone generator, which is approved by the FDA to sanitize the air.


Bacteria, including Salmonella, norovirus, and E. coli, can get into the ice maker. The results go far beyond grossness, as ice contaminated by bacteria can harm humans. These three cause digestive issues that could even prove fatal for vulnerable populations.

Bacteria can get into the ice maker a variety of ways, including:

  • Employees not washing hands after using the bathroom, then handling ice

  • Splashing from foreign beverages or foods being poured into the drink dispenser tray

  • Storing anything in the ice bin other than fresh ice

  • Storing ice scoops or handles on the floor or in a dirty area

  • Scooping ice with anything other than designated, sanitized ice scoop

Solution: Do the opposite of the list above to ensure ice stays sanitary. Prioritize daily cleaning and sanitizing for the high-touch areas of the ice maker and the ice scoop. Require employees to clean their hands after using the restroom (and before scooping ice if possible). 

Dust and Dirt

Dust and dirt can get inside an air-cooled ice maker (the most popular style of unit) through the condenser vents. Air that gets pulled into the machine can carry dust, dirt, and other debris with it. The air filter is unfortunately not 100% effective at catching incoming particles. This is especially true when the filter gets clogged with grease or other substances.

When dust and dirt get sucked into the ice maker, they adhere to the condenser. This layer of substance on the condenser acts as an insulator and traps heat. An overheated condenser must work harder to help the ice maker produce ice. This places undue strain on the ice maker, causing it to wear faster. Eventually, a neglected condenser will break down and cause expensive repairs.

Solution: Clean and replace the filter per manufacturer recommendations. Have an experienced technician perform a deep cleaning and preventive maintenance every six months minimum. 

Take Care of the Ice Maker and It’ll Take Care of Customers

Ice won’t attract customers to a business, but lack of ice due to a dirty or malfunctioning ice maker will certainly repel them. Avoiding unnecessary health inspector violations, unhappy customers, and lost business is as simple as giving the ice maker the maintenance it requires and caring for it well in between. That’s also the best way to keep your business off The Ice Man’s TikTok page.