How to Clean a Countertop Ice Maker Using Things You Already Have

published Mar 26, 2024
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Pouring a glass of cold brew coffee
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whoever first thought of freezing water into cube form deserves all the praise — there’s nothing better than a refreshing, ice-cold beverage. Dropping ice cube after ice cube into your drink — be it water, soda, or a cocktail — just makes it all that much more crisp and delicious, doesn’t it? Well, when your ice tastes right and your ice maker is squeaky clean, that is. 

Whether you want to supplement your refrigerator’s ice cube maker with extra ice for a party, or you need a countertop ice maker because your fridge doesn’t have one, there’s one thing you need to know: Keeping your ice maker clean and fresh is the only way to have good-tasting ice that isn’t full of bacteria. Is doing so as daunting as it sounds? No. Fortunately, Joelle Battista, the head of culinary marketing at Designer Appliances, is here to help. Battista shares her top tips on how to clean a tabletop ice maker

Why You Should Clean Your Countertop Ice Maker

Not only does cleaning a tabletop ice maker help ensure the quality of the ice it’s producing, but it also helps maintain the appliance’s functionality and increase its lifespan. “It prevents the buildup of mineral residue from the water used, eliminates bacteria or mold growth, and results in cleaner, better-tasting and more hygienic ice,” Battista says.

How Often to Clean a Countertop Ice Maker

Don’t worry — you won’t have to clean your portable ice maker after every use. Battista recommends cleaning it every three to six months, although she notes that this frequency depends on both how often you use it and the quality of the water used. “If you use tap water that’s rich in minerals, the ice maker should be cleaned even more frequently, like every six to eight weeks,” she says. This is because mineral buildup can damage an ice maker over time — and no one wants an empty ice bucket in a pinch!

How to Clean a Countertop Ice Maker in 6 Easy Steps

What You’ll Need to Clean Your Countertop Ice Maker

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

1. Prepare the Ice Maker for Cleaning

Before you can start cleaning your ice maker, you need to make sure it’s ready. Unplug it and completely drain the water reservoir.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

2. Run the Solution Through the Machine

Pour cleaning solution — either ice machine cleaner or Battista’s recommended one-to-one white vinegar and water solution — into the water reservoir, plug the machine back in, and run a full cleaning cycle. “This step is essential for breaking down any mineral scale buildup or impurities stuck in the tubing,” Battista says.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

3. Scrub the Interior

There are probably some hard-to-reach areas of the machine you’ll want to scrub, especially if it’s a smaller machine. Grab a small brush or toothbrush so you can work the cleaning solution into those, too.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

4. Rinse It Out

Rinse out the cleaning solution with clean water. “This removes any remnants of the cleaning solution, which may affect the taste of the ice,” Battista says.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

5. Dry It Off

Completely dry the machine. Battista recommends either letting it air-dry while open, or wiping it down with a soft cloth. “This prevents water spots and potential mold growth from excess moisture,” she says.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

6. Prepare the Machine for Its Next Batch of Ice

Refill the water reservoir with water. Voilà! “The ice machine is as good as new,” Battista says.

What If You Notice Mold in Your Ice Maker?

If you see specks of mold in your ice maker, stop using it — it needs an immediate deep-clean before it can be put back into service. Battista says you can follow the same cleaning instructions listed above, but instead, create a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water (unless the interior is made of stainless steel). “After cleaning, it’s crucial to then rinse the machine thoroughly with clean water to avoid any residue that might contaminate the ice,” she says. If your machine is made of stainless steel, standard bleach will erode and ruin the material; instead, opt for chlorine-free bleach when cleaning stainless steel

Nugget Ice Makers vs. Countertop Ice Makers

The good news is, cleaning a nugget ice maker is the same as a countertop or portable one. “Both require regular cleaning to remove mineral scale buildup and to ensure the unit is free from bacteria or mold,” Battista says.

Expert Picks for the Best Countertop Ice Makers

Ready to purchase a countertop ice maker? Here are a few ice-cold suggestions from Battista.

Battista’s #1 pick: “A versatile, high-performing option,” she says. “It’s compact, quick to make ice, and simple to operate.”

Battista’s #2 pick: She says this ice maker is “known for its efficiency and the ability to produce both small and large ice cubes.”