How (and Why) to Clean Your Ice Maker

Fred's Appliance
February 10, 2020
Refrigerator Repair

There is no room temperature drink that isn’t made infinitely better with a few ice cubes in it. It takes the “just okay” glass of tap water and elevates it to ice cold and refreshing. Unfortunately, there may come a day when the otherwise pristine ice cubes once dispensed from your ice maker come out leaving your glass of water with a little funk to it. Unfortunately, even if an area is cold, it does not necessarily mean that the area will stay clean forever. However, if you know the signs to spot that your ice maker needs to be cleaned, it is a pretty easy job to work into your household maintenance routine.

Signs That Show Your Ice Maker Needs Cleaning

Ice maker cleaning is not just good for the longevity of the overall appliance, but it is necessary for quality when it comes to the actual ice it produces. If you are looking for signs that you need to clean your ice maker, then you will want to look out for the following:

  • Ice produced from the ice maker has an unpleasant smell or taste
  • The ice cubes are smaller in size than normal
  • The ice cubes come out softer than normal
  • Otherwise, clear ice is now cloudy (Note that some ice makers do always produce cloudy ice)
  • You can see visible mold or mildew in the machine or ice chute

Although the temperature is freezing in your ice maker, mold and mildew can still grow in the moist area. Furthermore, your water quality (such as unsoftened hard water) may encourage a scaly build-up that can affect the function of the machine. If you neglect to clean your ice maker and leave these problems unchecked, it will result in potential health issues from drinking contaminated ice. However, a secondary concern would also be that the build-up can wear out an ice maker more quickly.

How to Clean an Ice Maker

It is recommended that you clean your ice maker every six months for optimum performance. However, if you remember to clean your ice maker once every year, you are doing better than most appliance owners. It is a task that is really easy to forget right up until the symptoms of a dirty ice maker start to show. Unfortunately, those are just when the problem gets bad. You were likely still ingesting contaminated ice before the taste or smell changed.

If it is well past time for an ice maker cleaning, here is how you can get it done quickly and painlessly.

Unplug Your Refrigerator

While cleaning your ice maker doesn’t require you to interact with any electrical parts, you will still want to turn off your refrigerator or your ice maker if it has a separate shut off. The worry here is not so much water exposure to dangerous electrical parts, but rather that the ice maker might kick on while you are cleaning it.

While cleaning your ice maker is usually a good time to clean and fully defrost your freezer as well, if you do not want to shut down your entire refrigerator, you can also turn off the water inlet valve to your refrigerator, disconnecting the hose, and draining the water from it. This will prevent the ice maker from starting if it lacks a disconnect arm.

Cleaning the Ice Maker

While you can look for cleaning products made specifically for ice makers, if you don’t want to worry about any added chemicals, you can make your own solution. Using 10 parts water to one part white vinegar, you can add this homemade solution to a spray bottle and get to work. You want to spray down and fully saturate your ice maker, getting into as many of its nooks and crannies as possible. You can take a soft cloth and wipe down the visible parts as well. This is particularly important on areas where there are visible mold.

Ideally, you want to clean your ice maker often enough that there is no visible mold. The vinegar in your cleaning solution will help prevent mold growth over time as well.

Clean the Chute and Basket

A lot of random debris tends to gather in the ice basket over time. You will want to take it out and give it a solid bath in warm soapy water. As for the ice chute, this can be a target for unexpected mold growth since no one ever looks inside it. Be sure to wipe it down with your vinegar solution. The vinegar acid works to kill mold and mildew as well as deodorizing everything once the vinegar smell dissipates.

Test Your Ice Maker

If the freezer is still on, you will want to wipe away excess moisture so it doesn’t freeze up. However, if your appliance is off, you can let your ice maker air dry to give the vinegar more time to disinfect the appliance. Once done, you can now plug in your appliance and/or reconnect your ice maker to the water.

It should kick on immediately and start filling with water. You will need to wait until the ice maker actually freezes ice before you can test it. Your first batch may have a sort of odd flavor due to residual vinegar. However, that should dissipate over the next few batches. You can take your first batch and dump it out if the taste is too cloying. If the taste doesn’t go away, you will want to unplug your ice maker and spray it down with freshwater multiple times in order to rinse it.

Need Help?

While cleaning your ice maker is something that is well within the realm of every appliance owners, there are problems that you might not feel so comfortable handling in terms of repair. If your ice maker or any other appliance is manifesting problems and you aren’t sure you can fix them yourself, contact us. The professionals at Fred’s Appliance Repair are ready to come to your aid to keep all your appliances in working order.

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