Keeping Your Ice Storage Bin Clean and Sanitary

Ice is considered food by the FDA and must be as sanitary as anything else you serve at your restaurant to avoid food-borne illness. Keeping your ice storage bin clean and spotless is one of the factors that keeps ice safe. Ice bin cleaning is the simplest task for laymen (non ice machine professionals) as a step to keeping your ice sanitary.

It is important to remember that ice can become contaminated in a variety of ways:
•  incoming water
•  airborne contamination (dirty/dusty, environmental contaminant, airborne algae from yeast caused by baking, brewing and open alcohol containers)
•  unsafe ice handling
•  dirty ice bin

These different contamination methods suggest different cleaning techniques. One cleaning should occur on a frequent schedule and focus on the surfaces that are regularly exposed to human contact.  We’ll call those Regular Cleanings.  This cleaning is important to deal with the contaminants that are introduced to the ice storage bin through ice handling practices.

The second, deeper cleaning should be performed twice a year to ensure the harder-to-reach areas of the storage bin and its drain are adequately cleaned.  We’ll call those Deep Cleanings.

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Deep cleaning of the bin is similar to the deep cleaning of an ice machine and is best performed by a professional. Our commercial ice machine subscribers receive two of these intense sanitations per year as part of regular maintenance. If you own your commercial ice maker, find a reputable ice machine technician to perform the deep-cleanings every 6 months. Note: if your ice machine is in a dusty or yeasty environment (warehouse, bakery, brewery), you’ll need more frequent cleanings.

Steps to Clean Your Ice Bin – Interior:

Regular Cleaning:
•  Soak a clean washcloth or sponge with a mixture of ½ oz. of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.  Wipe down all surfaces of the ice storage bin exposed to contact.  That generally includes the lid, the inside of the bin near the lid, and the “baffle” which is the angled piece of plastic inside the bin that deflects the ice towards the back of the bin when it falls from the ice machine.  You will see it when you crouch down and look upwards once you’ve lifted up the lid to the bin. Turn off the ice machine.
•  It is important to leave the mixture to air dry on the surface as that allows enough time for sanitizing. – Let you chemicals do the work! Bleach mixture will disintegrate algae and yeast as it dries. If scale is an issue, address first, using de-scaler. Remember, these 2 solutions do not play nice together! Be cautious.

Deep Cleaning:
• There are numerous techniques to Deep Cleaning the bin depending on the environmental circumstances and bin type/size.  Small, reach-in bins can be emptied (store ice in bags in walk-in freezer). For large ice bins, existing ice must be securely and sanitarily covered.
• It is important to separate the de-scaling and sanitation steps due to the possibility that harmful gases may be created by mixing de-scaling and sanitizing solutions.
• Our ice machine partner, Hoshizaki, recommends Lime-A-Way and Scale-A-Way products. Use a spray bottle to distribute diluted de-scaling and de-liming products into interior of ice bin – using recommendations on bottles for dilution details. Then scrub the ice bin’s interior with a nylon brush or clean cloth. Get into all those corners!
• Rinse the surfaces with clean water.
• Sanitize interior of ice bin with bleach and water solution: 1 oz. of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. Use a spray bottle and wipe down with clean rag.  Again, do not rinse the sanitizing solution from the surfaces, as prolonged contact will allow for better sanitation.

Steps to Clean Your Ice Bin – Exterior:
•  Cleaning the exterior of your ice bin should be done At Least once per week. Daily is even better. Simply work this task into your daily BOH cleaning schedule.
• Using a gentle cleanser and clean soft cloth, wipe down all exterior surfaces of the ice bin.
•  Clean and sanitize the ice scoop. Reminder: Only use the ice scoop to collect ice from the bin and store in a holster (not in the ice bin). Never use hands or glasses to scoop ice out of the bin!

Keeping your customers and employees safe from ice-borne contaminants is easy when ice bin and ice machine cleaning are part of your regular cleaning regimen. And it’s even easier when you’re an Easy Ice customer!