a person in a black hat and gloves holding ice cubes falling out of an ice machine

How to Clean an Ice Maker

In the scorching heat of summer, or even the mild thirst of mid-winter, there’s a quiet hero in our homes and offices – the ice maker. This unsung marvel, which keeps our drinks chilled to perfection, often goes unnoticed until, suddenly, the ice it churns out isn’t as pristine as we’d like it to be. While the pleasure of a crisp cold drink is irrefutable, what’s less evident to many is the hidden world inside these machines: a realm that, when neglected, can harbor unwanted bacteria and mold. Just as a journalist would not leave their tools of trade unchecked, neither should we overlook this crucial appliance. This guide dives deep, uncovering the why’s and how’s of maintaining a clean ice maker, ensuring that every cube that drops is as safe and refreshing as the first. Welcome to the chilly but necessary world of ice maker hygiene.

Understanding the Types of Ice Makers

In the heart of many kitchens and businesses, the ice maker stands as an indispensable fixture, a modern-day convenience that has seamlessly woven itself into our daily lives. Yet, with the variety of options available in the market, distinguishing between different types can seem as slippery as holding a melting ice cube. Whether you’re contemplating an upgrade, a first-time purchase, or just quenching your thirst for knowledge, this article will elucidate the primary types of ice makers, highlighting their unique features and functionalities.

Built-in or Freestanding Ice Makers

These are the titans of the ice-making world. Often designed for environments that require a significant ice output, these machines are ideal for spaces where frequent access and volume matter.

Features and Advantages

  • Standalone Operation: These units operate independently and don’t require an adjacent freezer, making them a dedicated ice production facility.
  • High Capacity: Most models are known for their impressive ice output, catering to businesses or large gatherings with ease.
  • Variety of Ice Options: From gourmet ice perfect for whiskey to the standard cube for cocktails, these machines often provide multiple choices.


  • Space Requirements: Given their standalone nature, they’ll occupy more space than their counterparts.
  • Cost: These tend to be pricier due to their capacity and features but are an excellent investment for those with higher ice demands.

Portable Ice Makers

Imagine having a personal companion that ensures you never run out of ice on road trips, camping excursions, or during those backyard barbecues. Enter the portable ice maker.

Features and Advantages

  • Compact Design: Designed for mobility, these ice makers are lightweight and compact, making them perfect for on-the-go scenarios.
  • Quick Ice Production: In a matter of minutes, these devices can produce a batch of ice, ensuring you’re never left waiting for long.
  • No Permanent Water Line Required: Simply pour water into the reservoir, and the machine gets to work.


  • Limited Capacity: While they’re fast, their storage and production volume aren’t designed for large parties or prolonged usage.
  • Electricity Dependent: While portable, they still need an electric outlet to function.

Ice Makers within Refrigerators

For many, this is the most familiar type – the built-in ice maker within the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.

Features and Advantages

  • Integrated Design: As a part of your refrigerator, it doesn’t occupy additional space.
  • Automatic Water Line: No need for manual water input; it’s directly connected to the refrigerator’s water supply.
  • Consistent Supply: Regularly produces ice so long as the freezer is operational and has water supply.


  • Limited Styles of Ice: Most in-refrigerator ice makers produce a standard type of ice cube or crushed ice.
  • Maintenance: Being integrated into the fridge means that issues with the ice maker might affect the overall operation of the refrigerator.

By understanding the distinctions and unique offerings of each type of ice maker, choosing the right one becomes less about guesswork and more about catering to specific needs and preferences. Whether you prioritize volume, portability, or convenience, there’s an ice maker out there ready to serve up the cold, refreshing cubes or flakes you desire.

General Cleaning Supplies Needed for Ice Makers

The gentle hum of an ice maker at work often serves as a comforting backdrop in kitchens and bars. But to ensure that each ice cube remains pure and clean, periodic maintenance and cleaning are essential. Delving into the process might bring up an important question: What are the necessary supplies for this chilly task? The tools you’ll need are more common than you might think, and they play a pivotal role in keeping your ice tasting fresh and free of impurities.

1. Warm Soapy Water

The backbone of many cleaning endeavors, warm soapy water acts as a gentle yet effective solution to break down grime, dirt, and mineral deposits.

  • Usage: A drop or two of mild dishwashing liquid in warm water is often sufficient. Ensure it’s adequately mixed, creating a slightly sudsy solution.

2. Clean Cloth or Sponge

An essential sidekick to your soapy water, a clean cloth or sponge serves to wipe down surfaces and ensure effective cleaning.

  • Usage: Dip the cloth or sponge in the soapy solution, wring out excess water, and wipe down the parts of the ice maker. Ensure that you rinse the cloth frequently to avoid redistributing dirt.

3. Soft Brush

For those stubborn areas or places where a cloth just won’t reach, a soft brush can be your best ally.

  • Usage: Gently scrub the nooks and crannies, ensuring all dirt and mineral deposits are loosened and removed. It’s especially useful for ventilated areas or external grills.

4. Vinegar or Specialized Ice Maker Cleaning Solution

Over time, mineral deposits can accumulate, especially in regions with hard water. To counter this, a descaling agent like vinegar or a specialized cleaning solution is indispensable.

  • Usage: Check the manufacturer’s recommendations. While some machines might be okay with a simple vinegar solution (usually a 1:1 ratio with water), others might require a specific cleaner.

5. Towel for Drying

Post-cleaning, it’s essential to ensure that the ice maker is dry to prevent mold and mildew.

  • Usage: A clean, absorbent towel can quickly dry larger surfaces and components. For best results, allow parts to air dry after towel drying.

6. Soft-bristle Brush or Toothbrush

For those minute, hard-to-reach areas where even a soft brush might be too bulky, a toothbrush comes to the rescue.

  • Usage: Dip the brush in the cleaning solution and gently scrub areas that require detailed attention. It’s especially handy for small crevices and corners.

Armed with these supplies, the task of cleaning your ice maker becomes straightforward and effective. Remember, the purity of the ice it produces is a direct reflection of the care and attention given to the machine. So, the next time you hear the delightful clinking of ice cubes in a glass, you can sip with the assurance of its cleanliness.

Safety First: Before You Begin Cleaning Your Ice Maker

In any cleaning or maintenance endeavor, safety isn’t just a priority—it’s a necessity. The act of cleaning an ice maker, while simple, does involve electrical components and water, a combination that mandates precaution. Whether you’re new to the process or just need a refresher, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with some key preparatory steps. Before diving into the cleaning regime, let’s ensure you’re starting on a safe footing.

1. Unplug the Unit or Turn It Off

The very first step—and arguably the most important—is to disconnect the ice maker from its power source.

  • Why it’s crucial: Working on an active electrical appliance, especially one involved with water, poses a risk of electric shock. Turning it off or unplugging it not only ensures your safety but also provides a more comfortable environment for a thorough cleaning.
  • Pro tip: If you’re unsure where the plug is or how to turn off the machine, refer to the user manual. For built-in units, there might be a dedicated switch or button to shut off the ice-making function.

2. Empty the Ice Bin and Let Any Remaining Ice Melt

Before delving into the cleaning, it’s essential to start with an empty canvas, so to speak. The ice bin, often the recipient of both fresh ice and old remnants, should be entirely ice-free.

  • Why it’s crucial: Cleaning an ice maker with remaining ice not only makes the task more challenging but can also dilute cleaning solutions and spread impurities.
  • Pro tip: To speed up the melting process, consider placing the ice bin in a sink filled with warm water. If the bin isn’t removable, you can use a hairdryer on a low setting to aid in the melting, but always exercise caution to avoid water splashing on the dryer.

Remember, as with any appliance, your ice maker deserves care and respect. Ensuring safety before you begin isn’t just about protecting the machine—it’s about ensuring your well-being during the process. With these foundational steps in place, you’re now primed to embark on a thorough, effective, and most importantly, safe cleaning journey.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide for Ice Makers

Maintaining the hygiene of your ice maker is not merely about aesthetic appeal; it’s about ensuring that each ice cube remains pure, refreshing, and safe for consumption. For those ready to roll up their sleeves and dive into this cleaning venture, here’s a comprehensive guide, broken down into easy-to-follow steps.

a. Exterior Cleaning

The exterior of your ice maker is its first line of defense against dirt, dust, and other potential contaminants. Keeping it pristine is essential for the overall hygiene of the machine.

  • Wipe the Exterior: Using a clean cloth dampened with warm soapy water, gently wipe the entire exterior surface of the ice maker. This step removes dust, fingerprints, and any other external blemishes.
  • Clean the Vents: Over time, vents can become clogged with dust and debris. Ensure they’re unobstructed by gently cleaning them with a soft brush. Proper airflow is crucial for optimal ice maker performance.

b. Interior Cleaning

The interior is where the magic happens, and it’s also where impurities can find a home. Regular cleaning is key to ensuring that the ice produced is of the highest quality.

  • Ice Bin Cleaning: Remove the ice bin and clean it separately using warm soapy water. This ensures that old ice remnants and potential mineral build-ups are cleared away. Once cleaned, rinse and let it dry thoroughly.
  • Wipe Down the Interior: With a damp cloth, methodically wipe down the interior walls and base of the ice maker. This action removes any ice residue or water stains.
  • Detail Cleaning: For corners, crevices, and other hard-to-reach areas, a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush dipped in warm soapy water works wonders. Gently scrub these areas to ensure comprehensive cleanliness.

c. Cleaning the Ice Making Components

This is the heart of your ice maker. Regular cleaning ensures the ice produced is not only clear but also free from any off-tastes.

  • Prepare the Cleaning Solution: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Alternatively, if you’re using a commercial ice maker cleaning solution, follow the manufacturer’s dilution recommendations.
  • Run the Cleaning Cycle: Many modern ice makers come equipped with a cleaning cycle. If yours has this feature, pour the cleaning solution into the water reservoir and initiate the cleaning process. For models without this feature, manually apply the solution to the ice making components, letting it sit for a few minutes to dissolve any mineral deposits.
  • Rinse Thoroughly: After cleaning, it’s imperative to rinse all the components with clean water, ensuring no cleaning solution residues remain.

d. Water Reservoir Cleaning (for portable ice makers)

The water reservoir is the source of your ice, so keeping it spotless is paramount for producing high-quality ice.

  • Empty the Reservoir: Start by ensuring that the reservoir is completely emptied of any leftover water.
  • Cleaning Time: Using the vinegar solution or the commercial cleaning solution, thoroughly wipe down the reservoir. This action ensures any lingering water impurities or residues are removed.
  • Rinse and Dry: After cleaning, rinse the reservoir with clean water. Allow it to air dry or pat dry with a clean towel.

With these steps completed, your ice maker should not only look spotless but function at its peak, serving up crystal-clear cubes for your cooling pleasure. Remember, regular maintenance not only prolongs the life of your ice maker but also guarantees the purity and taste of every ice cube it produces. Cheers to clean, refreshing ice!

Descaling Your Ice Maker (For Hard Water Areas)

While the gentle hum of an ice maker churning out those crisp, refreshing cubes can be music to one’s ears, if you reside in an area with hard water, there’s an unseen challenge your machine grapples with: scale build-up. Hard water, laden with minerals like calcium and magnesium, can lead to deposits accumulating in your ice maker, affecting its performance and the quality of ice. Let’s delve into the why, what, and how often of descaling your ice maker.

Importance of Descaling

Scale build-up doesn’t just affect the efficiency of your ice maker; it can also compromise the taste and quality of the ice produced. Here are some compelling reasons for regular descaling:

  • Efficiency and Longevity: Mineral deposits can hamper the ice maker’s ability to freeze water quickly. Over time, this can strain the machine, leading to potential malfunctions or decreased lifespan.
  • Taste and Quality of Ice: The minerals can influence the taste of the ice cubes, giving them an off-flavor. Additionally, the build-up might cause the ice to appear cloudy or discolored.
  • Energy Consumption: As the ice maker has to work harder due to the mineral obstructions, it might consume more energy, leading to higher electricity bills.

Recommended Descaling Solutions

There are multiple solutions available for descaling, but here are some of the most effective:

  • White Vinegar: A natural acid, white vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits. A solution of equal parts water and white vinegar can be used for the descaling process.
  • Lemon Juice: Another natural alternative, the citric acid in lemon juice can also help in breaking down the mineral build-up.
  • Commercial Descalers: These are specialized solutions available in stores or online, designed explicitly for ice makers. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these products.

Frequency of Descaling

The regularity with which you should descale your ice maker largely depends on the hardness of your water. However, as a general guideline:

  • Hard Water Areas: If you’re in an area known for its hard water, descaling once every 2-3 months is recommended.
  • Moderate Hardness: For areas with moderately hard water, descaling every 6 months should suffice.
  • Soft Water Areas: In regions with soft water, you might only need to descale once a year.

In conclusion, while the process of descaling might seem tedious, its importance cannot be overstated. Regular descaling not only ensures that your ice remains pure and tasty but also that your ice maker serves you efficiently for years to come.

Reassembling and Restarting Your Ice Maker

Having meticulously cleaned, descaled, and ensured that every nook and cranny of your ice maker is spotless, the final step beckons: reassembling and reigniting its frosty magic. This phase is just as crucial as the cleaning itself because a proper reassembly ensures optimal performance and the safety of your appliance. Here’s how to seamlessly transition your ice maker back to its operational state.

Ensure All Parts Are Thoroughly Dry

Before anything goes back into its original place, it’s imperative that every part, whether it’s the ice bin or the smallest component, is thoroughly dry.

  • Why it’s crucial: Any lingering moisture can lead to mold or mildew growth. It can also interfere with the machine’s operation, potentially causing malfunctions or impacting the quality of the ice.
  • Pro tip: While wiping parts with a dry cloth can expedite the process, allowing them to air dry for a bit ensures complete dryness. Positioning them in a well-ventilated area can also speed things up.

Replace the Ice Bin and Any Other Removable Parts

With everything dry, it’s time to piece the puzzle back together.

  • Steps: Begin with the larger components, like the ice bin, ensuring they’re snugly and correctly in place. Follow with any other removable parts you might have cleaned separately. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guide or manual to ensure correct placement.

Plug in or Turn On the Ice Maker

The moment of truth! It’s time to restore power to your ice maker.

  • Safety first: Before plugging it in or turning it on, double-check that your hands are dry and that there’s no water near the outlet or power source. Once assured, plug in or switch on the machine.

Run a Few Ice-Making Cycles and Discard the Ice

Even with meticulous rinsing, there’s always the slim possibility of some cleaning solution residue lingering. To ensure your ice remains pure:

  • Steps: Allow your ice maker to run a few full cycles. Once the ice is produced, discard it. This ensures that any potential remnants of the cleaning solution are flushed out, and your subsequent batches of ice are pristine.

With these steps completed, your ice maker isn’t just clean; it’s primed and ready to serve up batch after batch of refreshing ice. The diligence invested in the cleaning process now rewards you with the peace of mind that every ice cube produced is clean, clear, and of the highest quality. Cheers to your next chilled beverage!

Tips for Maintaining a Clean Ice Maker

A crystal-clear ice cube tumbling into a glass is not just refreshing to the taste but a testament to the purity of the ice maker producing it. Maintenance isn’t a one-time affair but a continued commitment to the health and hygiene of the machine. For those wanting to keep their ice makers in peak condition, here are some invaluable tips to ensure every cube remains as pristine as a winter’s first snowflake.

Routine Cleaning Frequency

Consistency is the key to ensuring the longevity and performance of your ice maker.

  • Recommendation: Depending on usage and water quality, consider cleaning your ice maker either monthly or bi-monthly. If you notice any drop in performance or quality of the ice, it might be a sign to ramp up the frequency.

Signs that Your Ice Maker Needs Cleaning

While a set routine is advisable, it’s also essential to be vigilant and look for signs that might indicate it’s time for a clean.

  • Cloudy Ice: Clear ice is a hallmark of a well-maintained machine. If your cubes start looking cloudy, it might be a sign of mineral build-up or other impurities.
  • Off-taste or Smell: Any unusual taste or odor emanating from the ice is a clear red flag.
  • Reduced Efficiency: If the ice maker starts producing ice at a slower pace or the cubes are smaller than usual, it might be signaling the need for a clean.

Using Filtered Water to Reduce Mineral Build-Up

One of the most effective preventative measures lies in the quality of water you feed into your ice maker.

  • Benefits: Filtered water is devoid of many of the minerals present in regular tap water. Using it can significantly reduce the rate of scale build-up, ensuring smoother operation and cleaner ice.
  • Consideration: While filtering is beneficial, remember that filters need regular replacement to function effectively. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding filter changes.

Storing Ice Correctly to Avoid Contamination

Once produced, the way you store ice plays a pivotal role in its purity and longevity.

  • Use Clean Bins: Always ensure that the ice storage bins or containers are cleaned regularly, preventing any mold or mildew growth.
  • Avoid Direct Contact: When retrieving ice, use a scoop instead of bare hands. This reduces the risk of introducing contaminants.
  • Keep It Covered: If your ice maker doesn’t have a sealed compartment, consider storing ice in covered containers. This protects it from airborne particles and contaminants.

Remember, a well-maintained ice maker doesn’t just guarantee the purity of every cube; it ensures that the machine stands by your side, summer after summer, party after party. By adopting these tips, you’re not just caring for an appliance; you’re upholding a standard of quality and hygiene with every chilled beverage you serve.

In Conclusion

The art of maintaining a pristine ice maker extends beyond the occasional cleaning. It’s an ongoing commitment to quality, hygiene, and the pure joy of savoring a refreshing drink, perfectly chilled. By understanding the nuances of your ice maker, regularly tending to its needs, and being vigilant about its performance, you ensure that this unsung hero of many gatherings remains efficient and enduring. After all, in a world that often moves at a breakneck pace, there’s a profound simplicity and pleasure in pausing for a moment, hearing the clink of ice, and taking a deep sip of your favorite drink. Cheers to the countless moments of refreshment and relaxation your ice maker provides, and to the care you invest in preserving its excellence.


The recommended cleaning frequency varies depending on usage and water quality. However, as a general guideline, monthly or bi-monthly cleanings are advised. Always watch for signs like cloudy ice or reduced efficiency, which might indicate the need for more frequent cleanings.

While you can use tap water, using filtered water is preferable. Filtered water contains fewer minerals, reducing the likelihood of scale build-up and ensuring cleaner, clearer ice cubes.

Off-tasting ice could be a result of several factors: mineral build-up from hard water, mold or mildew presence, or remnants of cleaning solutions. Regular cleaning, using filtered water, and ensuring all cleaning agents are thoroughly rinsed can help avoid this issue.

Descaling is crucial, especially if you live in hard water areas. Mineral deposits from hard water can hamper the ice maker’s efficiency and affect ice quality. Depending on the hardness of your water, descaling could be needed anywhere from every 2-3 months to once a year.

A solution of equal parts white vinegar and water works well for many ice makers. However, there are also commercial ice maker cleaning solutions available. Always ensure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning to remove any cleaning solution residues.

Cloudy ice often indicates the presence of impurities or air bubbles trapped during the freezing process. It can result from mineral-rich hard water, a need for descaling, or a fast-freezing cycle that doesn’t allow gases to escape.

While ice can be stored, it’s best consumed within a few days for optimal taste and quality. Over time, ice can absorb odors from the freezer or develop a stale taste. Regularly using and replacing your ice ensures the freshest quality.