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Why is an Ice Cream Machine Always Broken? What to Do About It

Asides bad water and careless usage of these machines, there is perhaps a good reason why ice cream machines seem to be broken almost more often than they are working. These soft serve machines tend to go through a daunting cleaning cycle that can last hours.

Note that the process isn’t simply wiping down the machine, but involves a detailed process that includes using a sanitizer/warm water mix to clean at least seven removable parts. There are also two irremovable parts that must be scrubbed for at least 60 seconds, before the entire outside of the machine is wiped down with a sanitized towel.

Note that during this labour – intensive process, the machines won’t be able to serve up any frosty cravings and if the crew is busy serving customers cooking food, or cleaning other parts of the restaurant, the machine will have to stay idle, unassembled, inoperable, and tagged broken.

In addition, if these soft serve machines have just been cleaned and reassembled, some employees claim there is a good chance they will tell customers it is down, just to avoid going through the process again, especially since the process of cleaning it again can be very stressful.

Also note that these soft serve machines go through a four – hour heat cleaning cycle every night to get rid of any bacteria lingering on the inside — and some employees in may choose to start that process early to get a head start on closing up. If that is the case, note that the machine will be said to be broken.

Basic Steps to Clean and Maintain an Ice Cream Machine

Regular cleaning and sanitization of ice cream machines helps ensure food safety and also ensure that they serve you for a long while. Have it in mind that one drop of that heavenly mix will create a haven for bacterial growth.

However, before you start, research local health codes for cleaning commercial ice cream machines. Most will require a daily or twice weekly disassemble and clean. To clean your ice cream machine, follow these simple steps outlined below.

  1. Empty the machine

The first thing is to pour and empty any unused mix from the freezing chamber. Then wipe out any impacted ice cream that has hardened out of reach of the scraping blades. You have to make sure there is a clear pathway for water to pass through the machine completely. Flush it a few times until the water comes out clear.

  1. Carefully take the machine apart

At this point, take out your owner’s manual and locate all of the parts that are suggested for removal when cleaning. Completely disassemble the ice cream maker, removing any detachable parts that come in contact with the ice cream.

Note that commercialise cream machines come with dispensing handles and tips that come in contact with fingers and ice cream regularly. These tips and handles should also be disassembled and removed during every cleaning session.

  1. Splash and Scour

Pour a mixture of hot soapy water into the freezing chamber of your machine. Most modern ice cream makers now come with a wash cycle setting; run this if your ice cream maker includes this feature. If it does not, a kitchen scrub brush with a handle is recommended to clean all of the inner moving parts.

Include a tablespoon or so of bleach to kill any residual microbes and permit the parts to drench for 30 minutes, or until the water has cooled.

  1. Degrease the coil

If the coil has a build-up of grease and dirt, you will have to use a degreaser and then wash the coil off. When you wash the coils of your commercial ice cream machine, ensure to cover the condenser fan motor and any other electrical components that might get sprayed.

Note if the coil has a build-up of dry dust and lint. The best way to clean that is to wash it thoroughly with water. Also, open the side and back panels of your commercial ice cream machine and inspect the inside for debris.

  1. Reassemble

Finally, wipe down your machine, parts with a perfect, dry towel, and reassemble your machine according to your owner’s manual. Check the drive belts and make sure they are in acceptable condition and changed following the right tension, and ensure the drive pulleys have accurate adjustment.

You should keep spare parts like O – rings, seals, gaskets, food – safe ointment, sleeves, bushings, and beater blades. These things will wear out and require change at least thrice a year.

Basic Ice Cream Machine Maintenance Tips

If you are responsible for the upkeep of your soft serve machines, it is imperative you understand certain maintenance tips. Note that every ice cream machine brand, make and model is unique. But there are some general tips that apply to all soft serve machines – no matter their brand, or how large, small, new or old they are.

  1. Know how to correctly operate your machines

It is very important you and all of your employees know how to safely and correctly operate your ice cream machines. If you do not completely understand or know about your machines, ask a certified ice cream machine technician for advice and guidance.

Note that most ice cream machine manufacturers in the United States offer training sessions. The trainer might arrive at your shop in person, and train you on how to clean, maintain, and use the ice cream machines that you purchased.

  1. Test your water quality

Have it in mind that water is the leading cause of ice cream machine failure. This test takes just a few moments and costs only a few dollars. Once you know what you are dealing with, you can look for the proper water filter.

  1. Buy and install a water filter

If you are going to do one thing for maintenance, this is it. Note that a good water filter will not only filter out debris which can clog your machine, it will filter out impurities which will slowly wear away the more expensive components of the ice machine.

Have it in mind that scaled build up cannot be repaired and the replacement cost of an evaporator can cost almost as much a new ice machine.

  1. Always clean the machine

Note that most ice cream machines have a clean cycle. With or without special cleaners, run this cycle at least once per month to flush the system and impurities from the machine. Read the product manual for more detailed cleaning steps.

  1. Don’t expect your employees to automatically know how to clean your ice cream machine

Even if your employees have experience using and cleaning ice cream machines, they won’t necessarily know how to safely use the specific machines that are in your shop.

Note that you don’t want your employees to get hurt, your machines to fail, or your customers to be provided with ice creams that are not top – notch as a result of improper handling or maintenance of your machines by your employees.

  1. Be careful with chemicals

Remember to only use chemicals approved for your ice machine. Most evaporators are nickel plated and cleaning solutions will strip the plating causing the metal to flake off rendering the ice machine useless. Always read and follow your user manual to determine which chemicals can be used.

  1. Do not use an indoor rated ice machine outdoors

Have it in mind that indoor machines do not have the same insulation as outdoor models and cannot handle the fluctuating or extreme temperatures. They are also not made or rated for outdoor electric use and are not protected against bugs and rodents which love the warm and cozy environment of an ice maker.


It is important that everyone who owns, manages, or is in charge of an ice cream machine understands the equipment’s safety and maintenance requirements.

There are several reasons why your machines can pack up and affect your business. The most important thing for your business is for your machine to function correctly and safely at all times. Also important is the method by which the machines are cleaned.

If you don’t understand anything about your soft serve machines, or you think they need repair, don’t hesitate to call and ask for help.