If cubes from your ice machine begin to develop off flavors, you don't need to hire a high-tech ice machine cleaning service. Instead, reach into your pantry for the vinegar bottle. Vinegar comes in a wide variety: apple cider, white, red wine, rice and balsamic, to name just a few. While these all have their virtues for culinary purposes, distilled white vinegar with its high acid content is your best option for cleaning purposes. Even when diluted, vinegar eats away the scale scum that accumulates in ice machines, eliminating the need for toxic chemicals.
A Basic Cleaning Mixture
Mix 2 cups of white vinegar, 2 tbsp. of lemon juice and a cup of water in a spray bottle. Put the lid on the spray bottle and swirl the mixture around for a minute. The lemon juice is optional, but it helps remove any moldy smells. If the ice machine is really dirty, you may need to use full strength vinegar for the initial cleaning. Afterward, regular cleanings with a dilute solution should suffice.
Commercial Ice Machine
Turn off the ice machine and empty all the ice out of the bin. Spray down the inside of the ice maker with the vinegar mixture. Wait 5 minutes and respray the ice maker thoroughly. Let it set for another five minutes. If your ice machine is equipped with a wash cycle, set it for five minutes. If the ice maker doesn't have a wash cycle, fill another spray bottle with water and spray down the inside with water. Turn on the machine, dump out the first couple trays of ice and it's ready for use.
Portable Ice Machine
Turn off the ice machine and remove the ice-holding bin. Remove the drain cap on the bottom left side of the ice machine's exterior and drain out all the water. Spray down all the parts inside the machine, including the ice-making rods, using the vinegar mixture. Wipe down all areas inside with a clean dry rag, then spray the inside several times with water.
Replace the ice bin, screw on the drain cap and fill with the required amount of water. Turn on the ice machine and dump the first two trays of ice. Turn off the ice machine again and drain the water. Replace the drain cap, refill the ice maker with water and turn on the ice machine. Even a self cleaning portable ice maker will benefit from occasional manual cleaning.
Refrigerator Ice Machine
Pull the rod on the ice maker up toward the inside of the refrigerator until it stops moving up. This makes the ice maker turn off. Dump the ice out of the bin and replace the bin. Carefully pour a cup of hot water into the ice maker so the ice in the tray melts. Repeat if necessary until the ice in the tray is totally melted. Remove all the water from the ice tray with a clean, dry rag. Spray down the ice maker with the vinegar mixture, let the spray sit in the ice maker for about five minutes, then rinse the ice tray with warm water. Pull the rod arm down and start the ice maker again. Dump the first couple trays of ice.
Sue Stepp is an artist, teacher, writer and farmer. She has won awards for her artwork in drawing, painting, jewelry design and doll-making. Stepp has taught classes for over 19 years in public schools, private classes, recreation centers, churches and at Hobby Lobby. She has a Bachelor of Arts in studio art/education.