Does Ice Carry Germs? What You Should Know

Now more than ever, it’s important to receive an “A” grade for your company’s health inspection. With COVID-19 cases rapidly growing around the country, customers want assurance that the businesses they are supporting are doing everything possible to maintain safe and healthy practices.

ice machine

What many don’t realize is that ice machines are one of the most frequent causes of a less-than-perfect health inspection. Ice machine violations can cause hefty fines and 5 points in violations.

Through our experience managing over 20,000 ice machines, Easy Ice takes sanitization and routine maintenance seriously. The idea that germs can’t live on ice is a misconception. While there are certainly some germs that don’t survive in a cold environment, there are many others that do. Below are our tips to keep your equipment up to code, germ free, and help you earn that perfect inspection report card.

Germs Most Common in Commercial Ice Makers

The Norovirus, E. coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, and Legionnaire’s Disease can all cause serious health issues if they infect someone from your ice supply. Studies show that diseases such as E.coli and salmonella can survive in freezing temperatures and can infect a host by attaching to an ice cube. The good news is that bacteria and viruses don’t grow on inorganic surfaces like ice, but ice can certainly act as a transportation system if they are introduced to the ice machine through improper practices by staff.

How Do You Prevent Germs in Ice?

The best way to prevent germs in ice is by performing routine sanitization and disinfection techniques, while always making sure your staff is following proper ice safety handling practices.

Best Practices

Ice Bins and Ice Scoops

If you have a machine with a bin, make sure that your staff washes their hands before scooping ice. When using an ice scoop, you should only touch the handle of the scoop and never the end of the shovel. Be sure to store the scoop outside of the bin in a clean container so that there is no risk of the handle touching and contaminating the ice supply. When closing every night, the scoop should be cleaned with bleach or a quat-based sanitizer. Employees should never use their hands, a cup, or glassware to retrieve ice. The outside of a cup or glass is not sanitary and if it touches the ice supply, germs can be transferred.

Routine Cleaning

All ice machines require routine cleaning and sanitizing to ensure biofilms don’t grow on the outside or inside of the machine. These biofilms can act as an organic surface for certain disease to survive. At Easy Ice, we advise that you schedule regular professional cleaning and preventive maintenance, but ice machine owners should perform light disinfecting of high-use areas as well.

Cleaning the exterior of the ice machine is important because it’s exposed to the environment and the hands of users. If users touch the exterior of the machine, they can easily transfer those contaminants to your ice supply when serving. The inside of the bin also needs cleaning and sanitizing at least once a week. Mold and slime love a dark, moist environment to proliferate.

Chlorine bleach is a widely used and cost-effective way to disinfect and sanitize your ice machine. The EPA has a list of other approved ice machine cleaners for killing bacteria and viruses.

Disinfecting and Sanitizing Bins and Exterior

  • Disinfecting an Ice Maker’s Exterior
    • Pre-wash any soiled area with warm water
    • Wipe the area with a solution of 8 oz of bleach per gallon of water (or other EPA approved cleaner)
    • Let the solution sit for at least 5 minutes
    • Rinse the area thoroughly with water and let air dry
  • Sanitizing an Ice Maker’s Exterior
    • To sanitize further, spray the area with a mixture of 2 teaspoons of bleach to one gallon of water
    • Let air dry
  • Disinfecting an Ice Bin
    • Use a spray bottle to saturate the contaminated surfaces
    • Wipe the areas to remove the debris and make sure to rinse the area well
  • Sanitizing an Ice Bin
    • Once you’ve wiped the bin down after disinfecting, reapply the solution to sanitize
    • Leave the mixture to air dry

While routine cleaning by your staff is crucial, ice machine cleanings by professionals are essential to the safety and wellbeing of your staff and customers. Many parts inside an ice machine can attract mold, slime, and other biofilms. These parts are not easy to reach and often require dismantling areas of the ice machine. A qualified ice machine technician is the best person for the job. Ice machine technicians will ensure that the entire ice machine is cleaned and sanitized using acid-based cleaners that eliminate microbial growth and other biofilms.

By John Mahlmeister, the Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Easy Ice. Easy Ice is co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, and is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and Orlando. Since its founding in 2009, the Company has rapidly grown its ice machines under management to 25,000 units across 47 states. Easy Ice’s commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, backup ice, and peak demand ice. The Company operates under three brands: Ice Masters in Kansas and Missouri; Automatic Icemakers in Chicago; and Easy Ice in all other cities and states. For more information, visit
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