How to Clean Your Portable Ice Maker (Simple Guide with Photos)

How To Clean Your Portable Ice Maker

Easy to Follow Directions on How to Clean Your Portable Ice Maker

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If properly maintained, your portable ice maker should last for many years and be a great benefit to your home.

An important step toward maintaining your portable ice maker is making sure that it’s cleaned regularly. If you’re not careful, mold or harmful bacteria can grow inside your ice maker and make you sick.

Can Bacteria Grow in Ice Makers?

All ice makers get surprisingly dirty over time. It’s because it provides the perfect location for bacteria and mold to grow. Bacteria and viruses can live in freezing temperatures, meaning they can be transferred to your ice.

The best way to keep bacteria and mold from a portable ice maker is to make sure that it stays clean.

Mold Growing in a Portable Ice Maker
Dirt, mold and grime can grow anywhere on your portable ice maker

Cleaning your ice maker at least once a month (more if you can) ensures that your ice is always fresh, tastes great and that your portable ice maker works properly.

How Often Should A Portable Ice Maker Be Cleaned?

A portable ice maker should be cleaned every 3 to 6 months. If you notice the following warning signs you should also clean your portable ice maker:

  • Your ice smells funny
  • Your ice has a strange or unusual taste
  • You visually see dirt on the ice maker interior walls
  • The ice is smaller than usual or melts faster than it should
  • It’s cloudy in appearance (If you have an ice maker that produces clear ice)
  • Your ice maker isn’t working properly (Troubleshooting your ice maker)

My Top 3 Cleaners for Portable Ice Makers

Keeping your ice maker clean is vital to your well-being, and the quality of ice you serve to your family or customers. A great way to guarantee that your portable ice maker is producing the best ice possible is to use a quality ice maker cleaner.

There are three things that you should consider before you purchase a cleaner for your ice maker.

  • Ease of use
  • The price
  • Is it compatible with your portable ice maker?

It’s recommended before using any cleaning solution; you read the instructions on the back of the bottle. This will give you all the necessary steps for proper use. Below are my top three portable ice maker cleaners.

Essential Values Ice Machine Cleaner OUR TOP PICK

For all residential & commercial types of ice makers; Including countertop, freestanding, undercounter & built-in

Affresh Ice Machine Cleaner

Safely removes scales and deposits on freestanding ice makers. This product can be used on the storage bin, evaporator and other parts. Affresh Ice Machine Cleaner is recommended by Whirlpool and KitchenAid brands.

Opal Cleaning Kit

The Opal Cleaning Kit is designed for routine Opal maintenance to remove internal and external scale and keep your ice tasting fresh!

Use the links provided to get the best price online on all the cleaning solutions above.

I love the Essential Values Ice Maker Cleaner because it’s both an ice machine cleaner and a descaler. It works very well with my portable ice makers.

I’ll be using the Essential Values Ice Machine Cleaner to clean my ice maker in this article.

Can You Use Vinegar to Clean a Portable Ice Maker?


Vinegar is a great natural cleaning solution for your portable ice maker. It’s not only natural, but it also dissolves lime and hard water that will cause your ice maker to malfunction. Just add two cups of white vinegar per cup of water to your ice maker or a spray bottle. Vinegar will kill 82% of mold species, including black mold, on porous and non-porous surfaces.

The problem with using vinegar for cleaning is that it’s slower than other cleaning solutions. If you are set on using a natural solution, then vinegar will do the trick. If your ice maker is extremely dirty and needs more care, then the solutions above will work well.

How to Clean a Portable Ice Maker

To help you properly clean your portable ice maker, I recommend that you follow these simple steps.

It doesn’t matter what portable ice maker brand you own, whether you’re cleaning an Igloo, Emerson, Magic Chef, Frigidaire, or a hOmelabs portable ice maker, the steps that I provide will be the same.

Let’s get started. Below are materials and tools you’ll need to clean your portable ice maker properly.

  • Portable ice maker cleaning solution
  • A cloth or rag
  • A coth for dying
  • Long brush for hard to reach places
  • Spray bottle
  • A container for holding water
  • Stainless steel cleaner (If your portable ice maker is stainless steel)

Unplug your portable ice maker before you begin cleaning, and move it beside your sink

When cleaning your portable ice maker, you want to make sure that it’s turned off and unplugged.

Unplug your portable ice maker
Unplug your portable ice maker before you begin

Unplugging your unit will protect it from getting damaged, and you’ll want to move it close to a sink so that you can begin draining the water in the reservoir.


Drain the water out of the reservoir using the drain plug on the side or under the ice maker

Before you begin to clean your portable ice maker, you’ll need to drain the remaining water.

Drain the water from your portable ice maker
Drain out all the water

On the bottom or the side, you’re going to notice a small plug.

On my portable ice maker, it’s a small screw cap with a little plastic plug inside the drain hole.

Bring your portable ice maker to a location where the water can drain into the sink, a bowl, or a bucket. Remove the drain plug and let all the water flow from the water reservoir.

Draining all the water from your unit may take a few minutes.


Use a cleaning solution to wash your portable ice maker

Put the drain plug back into the portable ice maker.

remove the drain plug from your portable ice maker
Return the drain plug to its proper place

Add water with a cleaning solution.

You can use a homemade cleaning solution using 10:1 water to vinegar or lemon juice in a small container.

I use the Essential Values Ice Machine Cleaner in this tutorial. The bottle’s label says to use 1/4 of the bottle (40oz or about 120 mL) in 1 gallon of water.

It’s 25 mL of Essential Value Ice Machine Cleaner per litre of water.
Essentials Values Ice Machine Cleaner label
The label of Essential Values Ice Machine Cleaner

Use a one-gallon container and add 1/4 (40oz or about 120 mL) of the solution to the jug. Mix it all together and then add the water and solution to the water reservoir (you will probably have to remove the ice basket to fill it up with water and then put it back inside the unit).

For a bonus tip, add water and solution to a spray bottle for those hard to reach areas.

Use a spray bottle for cleaning hard to reach places in your portable ice maker
Fill a water bottle with cleaning solution

Now, plug your portable ice maker back in.

Plug your ice maker back in
Plug your portable ice maker back in

Turn your ice maker back on, and begin the ice cycle.

Start the ice cycle of the ice maker
Start the ice cycle

This is going to take several minutes. As your ice maker produces ice, throw the ice away in the sink.

Throw away the bad ice in your portable ice maker
Don’t use the ice! Throw it all away

Allow the ice maker to cycle through the ice-making process several times – the more times it cycles, the cleaner it’s going to make your unit.

Make sure you have water and solution left in the reservoir to scrub down the ice maker later. I ran the ice cycle until the water reservoir was half empty (or half full depending on your perspective). The ice cycle ran for about 40 minutes.


Remove the storage basket and place it to the side

Remove the ice basket from inside the ice maker. You can place it to the side until we’re done cleaning the unit.

Remove the ice tray
The storage bin gets really dirty over time

While the ice basket is removed from the ice maker, it’s a good time to rinse it off with some soap and warm water. You’ll notice that it’s pretty dirty and needs a good washing.

Soak the ice bucket to make sure that's nice and clean
Rinse the ice storage tray in some soap water

You can add some warm water to your sink and let it soak for a while. Remember that your ice basket is in contact with your ice all day long. Your ice goes from the storage basket to your mouth – make sure the ice basket is clean.

You can let your storage basket soak while you’re cleaning the rest of the unit.

When the storage bin is done soaking, give it a good cleaning, rinse and dry it off.


Scrub down the portable ice maker

Next, turn off the ice maker and unplug it. I know, again!

Plug the ice maker back in
Unplug your portable ice maker again

The storage bin should be removed, and the cleaning solution cycled through the entire unit, it’s time to do a more thorough cleaning.

With some cleaning solution left in the water reservoir, use a cloth and wipe down the entire ice maker.

Wipe down the sides of the ice maker with a cloth
Wash down all the inside walls of your unit

The key to a complete clean is to reach the places that cannot be reached with a cloth. We can do this using two separate methods.

First, I use a spray bottle to spray deep inside the ice maker.

Spray the hard to reach areas of your portable ice maker
Use a spray bottle to reach far inside the ice maker

I have a small brush that I use to get into those really hard to reach areas. You can pick up the spray bottle on Amazon here, and the brush that I use on Amazon here.

Use a brush to reach places you can't with a cloth on a portable ice maker
Use a small brush to wipe down the hard to reach places

After completing these steps, your ice maker should be perfectly clean. You should even smell the difference.


Drain the water

For this step, drain the water out of the ice machine again. As we instructed above, remove the drain plug, and drain the water into the sink or bucket.

Drain the water out of a portable ice maker
Drain the water from the ice maker again

This may take a few minutes depending on how much water is left in your water reservoir.


Rinse your portable ice maker

With the drain plug removed from the ice maker, pour fresh water into the water reservoir, and let it drain directly into a bucket or sink.

In my kitchen, we have a removable tap, and I can rinse the ice maker with the tap.

Rinse with fresh water
Rinse and rinse again!

You can use a spray bottle with fresh water and spray the areas that you cannot reach.

Spray with fresh water
Use a spray bottle to rinse deep inside the ice maker

Repeat this step several times. Make sure you rinse and then rinse again!

Do not skip this step, or your ice will taste like the cleaning solution used to clean the unit. Rinse your portable ice maker thoroughly after washing it.

Drain the ice maker again while you are rinsing
Rinse and drain at the same time

Next, dry inside the ice maker. You’re doing to notice small pieces of debris that make it’s way to the bottom of the water reservoir.

Dry the ice maker
Dry inside the portable ice maker

Wipe away all those pieces from the bottom of the ice maker and do your best to dry it.

Now you can put the drain plug back in the ice maker.


Make ice again and throw it all away

Almost done. In order to ensure that all of the cleaning solution is gone, make more ice and just toss it into the sink.

Plug the ice maker in once again.

Plug the ice maker in again
Plug the ice maker in again

Now it’s time to run the ice cycle.

Start the ice cycle on a portable ice maker
Start the ice cycle again

Please don’t use this ice; dump it all into your sink. After several ice cycles, you can taste the ice to make sure there is no taste of soap or a cleaning solution.

Toss the ice out until you can’t taste the cleaning solution

If the ice tastes great, then you’re done.

Drain the water from the ice maker again, using the drain plug. After the water is drained, you can place the drain plug back and fill up the water reservoir with fresh water.

Don’t forget to wash the outside of the ice maker. Normally, dirt that lies on the exterior will eventually make its way into the interior. Plus, a shiny ice maker looks great in your kitchen.

You may need a stainless steel cleaner if the portable ice maker is stainless steel. I like using stainless steel wipes because they are easier to use and a lot faster. I picked some up on Amazon here.

Clean the outside of your portable ice maker
Clean the exterior of your portable ice maker

Success! Your ice maker is clean.

Simple Steps For Maintaining Your Portable Ice Maker

A regular maintenance schedule will help preserve your portable ice maker’s life and ensure that you’re making the highest quality ice possible.

Here are some simple steps to maintaining your portable ice maker.

It’s good practice to unplug your ice maker if you’re going to be away for a long time

I would suggest emptying all the ice and water, wipe down the walls of your ice maker with a cloth, and let it air dry before you leave on vacation or store away for the winter.

Storing a wet ice maker will cause mold to grow.

If you’re going to be away for more than a couple of days, what’s the point of your ice maker going through the ice cycle? It’s better to turn it off, empty the water, dry it off and store it away.

Always keep your portable ice maker clean

Another good tip for regular portable ice maker maintenance is keeping your ice maker clean. As mentioned above, cleaning your ice maker isn’t hard, but it does take time.

Make sure you take the time to wipe it down with a damp rag and let it air dry. Keeping your ice maker clean helps your ice maker to work correctly and your ice tasting great.

Ice makers can become surprisingly dirty over time, and wiping it down each week with a damp rag helps it to run as designed. You don’t always have the time to clean your ice maker as thoroughly as we mentioned above, but wiping it down and rinsing it out should be done on a weekly basis.

To ensure that your ice is always tasting its best, I recommend that you change the water in your water reservoir each day.

Wash your ice storage basket

Take the time to wash your ice tray each day to make sure that it’s free from impurities and bacteria. Your ice is sitting in that basket all of the time, so you want to make sure that you have taken the time to wash it with some soap and warm water. Seriously, it takes 5 minutes.

Add some warm water to your sink and place the tray inside the sink with the water. You want to be careful not to use harsh chemicals when cleaning any part of your ice maker because the taste of those chemicals will be transferred to the ice.

Don’t use any cleaning solution that would harm the ice maker

You want to make sure that you don’t use anything to clean your ice maker that will cause long-term damage.

It’s always good to use “ice maker-friendly” cleaners, and never use boiling water which will end up melting the plastic which is the main construction of your ice maker.

The best practice for cleaning your ice maker is a mild detergent and a damp rag. Use the cleaning solutions that we suggest above.

Descale your portable ice maker regularly

Lastly, a big problem with an ice maker is hard water. Often an ice maker needs to be cleaned from calcium build-up inside the unit. Calcium build-up can mess with the sensors and cause your ice maker to malfunction.

Essential values Ice Maker Cleaner and Descaler
Essential values Ice Maker Cleaner and Descaler

There are two ways to tackle this problem. I would suggest that you purchase a descaler from Amazon. Check out my TOP PICK for a portable ice maker cleaner above, it’s both a cleaner and a descaler.

The second way is to use a teaspoon of vinegar with some warm water. This natural solution will dissolve the calcium, and return your ice maker to good working order.


This post gives you a few ways that you can keep your portable ice maker clean, and working correctly.

Maintaining your unit is not difficult, but it does take some time.

You want to be consistently cleaning your portable ice maker because this can add years to your machine and improves the flavor of your ice.

I would say that it’s necessary to clean your unit every second week for heavy use, and a minimum of every month for regular use. You will begin to see signs when your portable ice maker should be cleaned (we listed those signs above).

This reminds me, I need to go and clean my portable ice maker.

If you have any other tips for keeping portable ice makers clean, let us know in the comments below.

Ice Maker Geeks are ice enthusiasts that review ice-making appliances, research ice-related topics, and do their best to help you make an informed decision before you make a purchase. Over the years of running this website, they have learned a lot and are excited to share that knowledge with you. The article you just read is just a small sample of the work that they have been doing over the last several years.

  1. I have a Contoure ice maker that was not used for a while and has a lot of mold in it especially the tray where the ice is made. Is there a way to clean the mold out of it with out taking the entire machine apart?

    • Hey Anthony,

      That’s a great question. I would add a mold remover to the water of the ice maker, and run the water cycle for a while until all the mold is gone. If possible use a small brush and wash down the walls of the ice maker. Also, rinse the machine several times before you use it. It’s important to make sure that all the mold is gone before you use it. Cheers.

      • Hi! I have an igloo and I try to clean it monthly. Usually some mold build up. Noticed today that the panel behind the ice modules had some build up that I couldn’t get out. What solution would dissolve it? Too narrow to get fingers in to clean.

  2. Is there a charcoal filter that needs to be replaced.

    • Not all ice makers have charcoal filters or filters at all. If your ice maker has a charcoal filter than you would have to change it when they recommend that it be replaced.

  3. Would it be okay to run a very diluted bleach cycle through my portable countertop ice maker?

    • Yes. You could. Use a highly diluted bleach solution. I would recommend using a lemon and vinegar homemade solution for general cleaning. For really dirty ice makers, I would use the products listed in this article.

      • I have an opal crushed ice maker that has a lot of hard water scale. Can I use vinegar and water to the scale and what is the best to clean buildup on bucket and tray?

  4. Hi can the top of ice machine be taken off to clean it?

  5. My ice maker manufacturer’s instructions (Frigidaire) strongly warn against touching or cleaning the metal “fingers” where the ice cubes are frozen, at any time. This might be something to warn people about so they don’t accidentally ruin their ice maker. With the model I have, it takes a lot of care to avoid wiping the “fingers” while trying to wipe the small cup that holds the water next to them during ice making. I wrap a rag around the end of a chopstick and secure it with a rubber band, since there isn’t much room for a hand without touching the metal fingers. You can also use a sponge with handle, used for cleaning fish tanks. In general, people should check their manufacturer’s instructions before attempting to clean their ice maker for the first time. Otherwise they could void their warranty.

    • I am not sure why touching the fingers would hurt anything. As long as you don’t press hard against them, a damp rag or cleaning solution should not hurt them at all. I’ve been cleaning my Igloo ice maker the same way for years and have never had a problem. If you didn’t clean those fingers, the dirt build-up would be terrible.

  6. Do the models with self cleaning features clean the hard to reach areas? Areas that you can’t see unless you remove the top.

    • Most of the time you shouldn’t have a problem with the self cleaning feature. Use a recommended cleaner for your unit and run the self cleaning feature every couple of weeks. You will notice if it’s not working as it should because you’ll see grim build up. It’s also important to read the operations manual to make sure that you are using the self cleaning feature properly.

  7. I have a fridgidair portable ice maker and the water pump will not stop pumping water. I can’t see any obvious problem. The unit is clean.

  8. I just bought a Frigidaire portable ice maker, but I don’t see a drainage plug anywhere!! How do I get Tge excess water out?

    • If you ice maker doesn’t have a built-in drain plug then the only way of draining the water would be to tip the ice maker over by your sink and pour the water out.

  9. Is the Keurig de-scaler/cleaning solution usable to remove build up? I ran a vinegar solution several times through my GE Profile Opal, but can still see some cloudiness in visible areas such as drain tubes. Thanks

    • You can try the Opal Cleaning Kit, which is produced by Opal to remove scale. I have been using the Essential Values Ice Machine Cleaner, and have seen some good results. Click here to see the product on Amazon.

  10. Advice needed on cleaning the condenser, radiator, & exterior components covered by the housing. The unit is a Magic Chef model MCMI30SST. Thank you.

  11. I’ve cleaned our portable unit with vinegar many times, but we continue to get black particles laying in the bottom of the water reservoir almost immediately. i’m thinking build up of something in the tubing but I don’t know what to do now. I don’t want to try to take the whole thing apart. I’d never get it back right. I’m an accountant type, unfortunately not mechanical. Everything else works fine. It is an “Improvement” icemaker. model 606780. purchased 11/22/18. I have the user manual but cannot find the receipt. I also cannot find an address or phone # for the company.
    Any ideas on how to get rid of our little black particles?

    • The particles could be just that – pieces of the tubing or grinding of gears inside the unit. I would do a deep cleaning, as I mention in this article, with a really strong cleaner. If the particles continue, I would replace the unit for a similar unit.

  12. Is there any particular reason the vinegar needs to be diluted, especially since it’s the least powerful agent mentioned in this article? It seems one would want a stronger dose because of that limitation.

    I’ve made “vinegar ice” to clean my ice makers many times, and I just use straight vinegar from the jug. Granted, the jug says it’s already diluted to 5% acidity. The only downside I’ve noticed is it takes more water-ice cycles afterwards to flush out the vinegar taste, which I don’t mind tolerating if it’s more effective.

    I know vinegar can be corrosive, but it is even in small doses over longer periods of time, so I’m wondering if there’s anything wrong with my non-diluting approach.

    Also: my Frigidaire’s ice maker’s manual very emphatically states not to clean the metal evaporator fingers, but it doesn’t explain why. However, if you stay away from them, it’s impossible to adequately clean the water tray (where I just noticed a significant mold accumulation I have to deal with). In this article, you clean in and around the fingers quite aggressively.

    Any clue as to why they are so opposed to cleaning the fingers? I don’t see how to do a good, thorough cleaning otherwise.

    • Diluted vinegar is important so that you don’t damage the plastic gears and sensors in the ice maker with the acid in the vinegar. Using vinegar that’s already diluted works the same way. I don’t use vinegar anymore. I changed to using Essential Value Ice Maker Cleaner. I find that this cleaner does a good job overall keeping my ice maker clean from hard water, mold, bacteria and other debris.

      As far as the evaporator fingers, I have always cleaned them because they get so dirty. I do use a silicone brush when I’m cleaning the fingers so that they do not get damaged. Pushing a cloth through those fingers could bend them which would destroy the unit. At the end of the day, you will have to decide what’s best for you and your ice maker. If you don’t want to use the silicone brush, then use the method I suggest in this article where you fill a bottle with cleaner and spray the fingers down. This should work as well. Cheers.

      • I was a bit confused when reviewing Amazon’s descriptions of the non-vinegar products mentioned in this article. They all seemed to focus on descaling but I didn’t see any of them described as killing mold, whereas we all know vinegar does both.

        Are you saying all the descalers also have disinfectant/anti-microbial properties even if they don’t openly tout them?

        If they do everything vinegar does but more effectively, I might consider them in the future. I’ve just stuck with vinegar because it’s the only thing I know of that’s reasonably non-toxic and does all of these things.

        I wish my manual explained why the fingers should not be cleaned. You really can’t clean the unit well without also cleaning those, and I don’t see how I could damage them just by spraying them and using a silicone brush (which I ordered and just showed up today!).

        Since you’ve clearly had good results cleaning yours, I think I’ll ignore that particular piece of advice in my manual. Otherwise, there’s no way I could get rid of the mold in my water tray and I’d have to just dispose of the unit, which is only about 6 months old.

        • I use the Essential Values Ice Machine Cleaner for a regular clean. Normally, there isn’t any mold when I clean the ice maker every month. If there is a sign of mold, I will use a vinegar/lemon juice mixture to clean the unit or a mold killer.

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