Have you always wanted ice on demand? Sure, you could spend your money on bags of ice, or you could get a portable countertop ice maker that makes ice cubes in under 10 minutes! The only problem with these handy devices is that you need to clean them periodically.
You can clean the scoop and basket of a portable countertop ice maker in the sink with soap and water. The internal basket needs to be washed with a cleaning solution or a mix of distilled white vinegar and water.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to clean a portable countertop ice maker in greater detail, how frequently you need to wash the machine, and when you should descale it.
What Is a Portable Countertop Ice Maker
A portable countertop ice maker is exactly as its name suggests. It’s a countertop kitchen appliance that turns water into ice cubes. You plug it into a standard wall outlet, fill it with water, and wait until the ice cubes are ready.
Now, how do you use this machine?
You simply fill the basket to the line with water. The machine will pump water to the cooling prongs that are filled with refrigerant. As the water touches the prongs, it will instantly turn to ice.
Eventually, when the ice cubes are fully formed, they will fall off the prong and land into the ice basket. The weight of the ice basket will determine whether or not the machine should continue making ice. When the basket is full, the ice maker will stop what it’s doing until the basket has room for more ice cubes.
The great thing about portable countertop ice makers is that they work a lot more quickly than conventional freezers. The refrigerant-filled cooling prongs can turn water into ice in as little as 9 minutes, whereas a freezer takes between 90 and 120 minutes to complete a freezing cycle.
Compared to freezers with built-in ice makers, portable ice makers produce more ice in much less time. Also, standalone ice makers are a lot more affordable since you won’t have to purchase an entire refrigerator unit to get ice on demand. Finally, it’s portable, so as long as you have a source of electricity and an outlet to plug the machine in, you can have freshly made ice cubes whenever and wherever you want!
How to Clean a Portable Countertop Ice Maker
Like any kitchen appliance, portable countertop ice makers require periodic cleaning. Since portable ice makers do not come with filters, the user must use distilled water to prevent the buildup of minerals and stains.
However, there will eventually be a time that you should clean the portable ice maker. Before we get started, here’s what you’ll need:
- Kitchen sink or bucket for draining
- Cleaning solution
- Clean rags
- Silicone brush
- Spray bottle
1. Shut off and unplug the ice maker
While we’re cleaning the ice maker, we want to make sure that there is no electricity flowing into the machine. Also, if you just got finished using the machine, give it 15 to 30 minutes to cool down before proceeding. After the machine is ready to clean, move it to the side of a sink or place a bucket near its drain port.
2. Drain the machine
Even if there is no ice in the machine, there’s probably a good chance that there’s a bit of water inside the water reservoir. You can remove the standing water by untwisting the drain plug and tilting the machine so that all of the water flows out. The drain plug is usually located on the side of the ice maker. When the reservoir has been drained, make sure to cover the drain port with the plug.
3. Remove the ice bucket and scoop from the machine and wash them in the sink
We are going to use a chemical cleaner to clean many of the internal parts of the machine. So, make sure you remove every detachable component and set them aside. For the ice bucket and the scoop, you can transfer them to a basin of soapy water and wash them by hand. A bit of dish soap and scrubbing with the soft side of a sponge should do the trick.
4. Add water and cleaning solution to the water reservoir
Let’s begin cleaning the machine. Now, you have to add fresh water to the reservoir, along with an appropriate cleaning solution. Follow the label’s instructions to see how much of the cleaning solution to add to your machine. Reinstall the ice bucket and proceed.
5. Plug the machine back in and run an ice cycle
Restore power to the ice maker and allow it to make ice with the water and cleaning solution. Obviously, we do not want to consume ice cubes. Whenever the ice bucket is filled with ice, dispose of the ice cubes and allow to continue making ice until it the reservoir is half full.
6. Unplug the machine and wash the unit
Unplug the ice maker and remove the ice bucket. Wash the bucket in soapy water again to get rid of the cleaning solution residue. Now, take a clean rag and moisten it with the remaining cleaning solution inside the ice maker. Wipe down the interior of the ice maker with the rag until there are no solids left on the reservoir, the prongs, and the glass-panel lid. You can also use a silicone brush to scrub the hard-to-reach areas.
7. Drain and rinse the machine
Remove the drain plug and remove as much of the remaining water as possible. Fill a spray bottle with water and spritz the interior of the ice maker, allowing the water to exit the drain port. Continue doing this until the hard-to-reach areas are rinsed thoroughly. Give the machine a final rinsing by adding fresh water to the reservoir, making sure to get the sides to the bottom of the lid.
8. Plug in the machine and run another ice cycle
Finally, we want to restore power to the machine and run an ice cycle to flush out the remaining cleaning solution from the prongs and motor. Remember: do not use this ice to cool your drinks since it may contain trace amounts of your chemical cleaner. After 1 or 2 cycles, your portable countertop ice maker should be thoroughly cleaned and ready to make more ice!
Non-Chemical Cleaning Solution for Portable Ice Makers
If you don’t have a cleaning solution or if you don’t want to introduce harmful chemicals to the machine, you can swap it out with a 1:1 mix of distilled white vinegar and water.
This solution offers the benefit of also descaling your machine while getting rid of dirt and debris. Simply follow the instructions mentioned above but swap out the cleaning solution for this vinegar mixture. It may take a few more ice cycles to clean the entire inside, but in the end, you won’t have to flush the machine as many times.
How Frequently Should You Use a Portable Countertop Ice Maker?
You can figure out how often you need to flush your portable ice maker’s system by opening the owner’s manual and looking at the maintenance section. Most manuals will suggest that you wash the machine once every 2 to 6 months, depending on how frequently you use it.
If you use the machine regularly and outdoors, then you might want to wash it once every 2 to 3 days. If you haven’t used the machine in the last six months, it would be a good idea to flush it thoroughly before turning it back on.
How to Descale a Portable Countertop Ice Maker
Scale is calcified debris found inside all sorts of kitchen appliances and fixtures. This is mainly a problem in appliances that use heated water or homes that do not use a water softener. However, no matter how clean and mineral-free your water is, you should still descale your portable ice maker.
You’ll know when to descale your ice maker when its ice becomes more opaque than usual. The ice may also give a slightly sour taste to your drinks, but with periodic descaling, you’ll never taste the chalkiness of the calcified buildup.
You can descale your ice maker by using a reliable descaling agent, such as the PruTru Descaling Solution, and following the instructions on the label. This particular product works as both a cleaning solution and a descaler, so it will remove the chalky substance from the prongs and motor while cleaning the entire system.
Alternatively, you can use the same vinegar solution (1:1) described above to descale your machine. Again, it won’t introduce harmful chemicals to the ice maker, and you won’t have to flush the machine as many times before making safe-to-consume ice to cool down your drinks.
How to Use Self-Cleaning Feature in an Ice Maker
Many ice makers come with a self-cleaning feature that can be activated by pressing a button. Basically, you just have to fill the basin with a mixture of water and your go-to cleaning solution before letting the machine do its thing. Read the owner’s manual to learn how to use the self-cleaning solution without causing damage to the ice maker.