If the ice cubes begin to shrink or an odor rises from the water dispenser when it is used, then the ice maker water line may need a good cleaning. Bacteria can grow undetected in water lines when they aren't cleaned regularly, particularly if the appliance works in humid or warm conditions.
When you clean the refrigerator water line with vinegar or other natural ingredients, it can clear the tubing and kill the bacteria that may be lurking along the lines.
Bacteria in Refrigerator Water Dispenser
The appliance's water filter removes impurities from the tap water that flows through the lines. The water lines behind the refrigerator provide clear, cool water for the ice machine and dispenser. When the filter isn't changed often, the ice maker water line can get clogged or backed up with bacteria.
Before you begin to work on the appliance, turn the power and water off. Either unplug the refrigerator at the wall or under the sink or turn off the power to the unit at the circuit breaker. Turn the water valve off, which is either behind the refrigerator at the base of the wall or in the garage or basement.
Clean the Ice Maker Lines
Remove the ice maker line from the machine by unscrewing it and leaving the dispenser line attached to the nozzle on the door. Lift the water reservoir, which is typically behind the crisper. Empty any water in the reservoir and clean it out with a solution of 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water.
According to Discount Filters, the reservoir needs to be flushed with plain water a few times before it is reconnected to the tubes. Push the cleaned reservoir into the tubing until they lock.
Flush the Water Lines
Drain the line to the ice maker with clean water and reattach. Grab a bucket and put the water line into the bucket and flush it with straight vinegar. This will kill any bacteria that may be hiding in the water line. Flush each of the lines with plain water a few times to clean.
After hooking the ice machine line back up to the appliance, let the ice maker complete one cycle of cubes. Throw the first batch of ice away because it may have lingering odors from the cleaning process.
When to Flush Water Lines
Taking the water lines that run along the back of the refrigerator off is a good idea to do once a year. However, a simple flush of the water system can keep the lines clean as well.
Whirlpool notes that most refrigerators' water systems should be flushed each time the water filter is changed. By doing these two things together you can hold bacteria at bay and ensure that the appliance continues to work well. The water filter should be changed every six months.
To flush the water system after changing the filter, fill a gallon jug about three times with water through the dispenser. Let the machine cycle for 24 hours before using the water so that the appliance has a chance to cool the water.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.