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Proper water treatment is essential for commercial ice machines to maintain the quality of ice produced as well as the performance standards for ice production and energy consumption, while minimizing maintenance and extending the lifespan of this necessary and costly equipment.


Proper water treatment and maintenance practices are essential for ensuring that commercial ice machines produce high-quality, clean, and safe ice for use in food service establishments. Regular monitoring, appropriate filtration, and adherence to best practices help minimize equipment downtime and maintain the reputation of your business.


There are two distinct types of commercial ice machines, the first is a cubed ice machine that is occasionally referred to as a “fractional ice maker” because it uses a fraction of the water expended to produce ice cubes. The standard equipment uses a refrigeration circuit with an evaporator that is either vertical or upside down. The evaporator is the component where heat from the water is transferred to the refrigerant that is circulated by the compressor. As the heat is removed from the water, it begins to freeze onto the surface of the evaporator. Because the evaporator design of these cubed ice systems are vertical or upside down, and the water is being continuously circulated, physics dictate that the pure water will freeze first while the water circulating becomes more and more heavily saturated with the total mineral content that was introduced at the beginning of the freeze cycle.

At the end of this freeze cycle a “harvest” is initiated to collect the ice from the evaporator and allow it to drop into the storage bin. This heavily mineralized water that has been circulating from the water sump across the ice forming on the evaporator, is pumped down the drain and discarded prior to the start of the next ice making cycle or batch.

For this reason, commercial cube ice machines can handle a higher mineral content within the water that is used to make ice cubes, but the life cycle of this expensive equipment can be cut short if we ignore water treatment. Commercial ice machines are susceptible to corrosion, scaling, and contamination if the incoming water is not properly treated.


The second type of commercial ice machine is a flaked ice machine or auger driven unit. These units make softer “chewable” ice that is made with 100% of the incoming water. This type of ice has become known as “Sonic” ice in areas where the popular drive in restaurants are located.

Because this style of ice machine makes ice with 100% of the feed water, some care should be used when selecting proper water treatment. Auger driven flaked ice machines cannot achieve their full design life cycle when connected to hard water (5 grains per gallon or greater) supply sources.


Proper filtration is the primary step in water treatment for ice machines. It helps remove suspended particles, sediments, and impurities that can affect ice quality and equipment performance as well as the chemicals that are used to treat the water by your local municipality. Consider using a high-quality water filter that is appropriate for the specific water conditions at your location. Common types include sediment filters, carbon filters, and multimedia filters.



Water softeners are used to reduce water hardness caused by high levels of calcium and magnesium ions. These minerals can lead to scaling in ice machine components, such as evaporators and water distribution systems.

If your water source is hard, consider installing a water softener in the water supply line to a cubed ice machine. If you have a flaked ice machine, salt-based water softeners ARE NOT RECOMMENDED. For these auger driven machines, salt-based water softeners can create a multitude of service and repair issues as the softened water becomes difficult to finish the ice making process and slushy ice is difficult to handle and dispense.



RO systems are highly effective at removing dissolved minerals, ions, and impurities from water. They can provide high-purity water for ice production, but care must be taken to ensure that the RO water does not become aggressive or corrosive. It may be necessary to buffer RO water for pH control or to ensure that it does not deteriorate neoprene or rubber seals in valves, pumps or other ice machine components and sub-assemblies. RO systems are especially beneficial in areas with high total dissolved solids (TDS) or to control mineral content in auger driven flaked ice machines. However, RO can be overkill when selecting a water treatment option for cubed ice makers.



Bacteria and other microorganisms can grow in ice machine components, leading to contamination. This process can be supercharged by the presence of airborne bacteria or yeast as in a bakery, or bar environment. These can make implementing a water disinfection system, such as an Aqueous Ozone Generator, a critical part of your food safety program to help mitigate microbial and biofilm growth. Ice is a food and care should be taken to regularly clean and sanitize ice machine components as part of routine maintenance to ensure the safety of your food service operation.



There are two parts to “cleaning” an ice machine; descaling the ice making surfaces of any lime scale build up and, sanitizing the machine to ensure no harmful pathogens are left behind after opening the system. Regular maintenance of the ice machine is essential to prevent scale buildup, algae growth, and bacterial contamination. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing the ice machine, including the ice bin, evaporator, and water distribution components.



Regularly monitor water quality parameters such as pH, total dissolved solids (TDS) or electrical conductivity (EC), and hardness. Test the ice produced by the machine for taste, odor, and appearance to ensure it meets quality standards.



Install the ice machine in a clean and well-ventilated area to minimize the risk of contamination. Avoid placing it near potential sources of contamination or chemicals. Make every effort to install the ice machine in a location that allows for ease of service access and access to any water treatment filters or ozone generators.



Consider entering into a preventive maintenance agreement with a professional service provider like WaterWise who specializes in commercial ice machines. We can provide routine maintenance, cleaning, and inspections to keep the equipment in optimal condition.


To locate an authorized service dealer, or order replenishment cartridges, please contact us today via our website or call 866.551.0510

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