Another mold-cleaning project arose quite suddenly for me today in our new home. Since we are not the first owners of this home—it’s actually over 20 years old—that also means that most of the appliances aren’t new either. While they were purchased in the last 2 years and were well-kept, they all needed a good cleaning prior to us moving in, and some even needed further cleaning prior to us using them for the first time. Call me crazy, but I only like my own family’s funk on things that I’ll be using every day. Anyhow, I thought I had done a stellar job of cleaning everything until today. Womp, womp. I bent down to pick up a piece of ice off of the kitchen floor—as it had escaped the icemaker when I was filling my water bottle—only to look up and see that the ice dispenser’s “trap door” that opens and shuts when dispensing ice, and its lid were full of mold and mildew.
Yep, we had been using that ice. Yep, I gagged a little. No, I wasn’t going to let it go. I was going to clean that dispenser, and I was going to do it right away. I cleared my schedule and got my tools. This one was going to be both cosmetic and clinical.
Before I move on to tell you about how I properly cleaned the icemaker, I want to make sure you realize how important it is to clean this overlooked everyday appliance for mold.
Mold in the icemaker lets bacteria and fungus grow into germs that may make people ill. That is why cleaning the inside and outside of an icemaker is important. To reiterate this, the University of Texas performed a study found that “ice cubes can contain salmonella, E. coli, and shigella, even when mixed with hard liquor, soda, and water. So, no matter the drink or substance inside of the cup, these bacteria can be living in the ice and then get a person sick from drinking one of these bacteria. At one point over 5,000 people became ill because they had contaminated ice in their drinks. The icemaker had not been cleaned properly or often enough, causing thousands of people to become sick.” Obviously, this particular case is extreme, but regular maintenance done to the machine helps it to avoid high build up in your tubes that then can cause your icemaker to contaminate people.
Here are the ways that an icemaker can become dirty and the areas that need to be tended to when cleaning it:
- Dirty hands touching the ice and the inside and outside of the icemaker
- Not changing the water frequently enough
- Not removing the older ice
- Not cleaning the insides of the machine
- Dirty water can also freeze up and then become ice that people are using
- Dust can carry bacteria and begin to build up, if you leave your icemaker open
It is important to note that fungus becomes dormant when frozen and awakes when temp is right—like when it begins to melt in your beverage. So, even though it may be “asleep” inside your icemaker, it will still be able to make you sick, if you are actively using the ice. It is also my opinion that ice is better for you if water is purified in filter inside your refrigerator, before it even starts to become ice in the icemaker. Water without harsh chemicals or impurities simply tastes better. Older refrigerators may not have that, but most, if not all current models have a filtration option on the water and ice dispensers. Let the filter be your first defense, and let your cleaning for mold skills be your muscles and back-up. Enough of my tangent…
So now, I will outline the exact products and tools that I use to clean our icemaker.
Tools I Used:
3 % Hydrogen Peroxide (Just the drugstore variety, nothing special.)
Pure Castile Soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s), or dish soap
First, I start with the inside of the machine. Open your refrigerator or freezer, wherever you need to access your icemaker. Turn it OFF, so that while you are removing parts and cleaning it, it is not making ice. You don’t want any new ice being made until the cleaning is finished. Unlatch or release the part of your machine that houses the ice. Remove the tray of ice and dump its contents into the sink.
While at the kitchen sink, use warm water and your Castile or dish soap to thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the ice tray. Spray the inside and outside with the EC3 spray and lay it out on a clean dish towel to air dry.
Now, open up your refrigerator or freezer door, where the ice slides through to the outside. Use the EC3 spray and a paper towel to spray and wipe all through the inside and outside of the area until clean. Because the spray is all natural, and contains no harmful ingredients, you will not need to worry about any residue getting in your ice cubes and causing any sickness or harm. Also, the spray will not only clean the bacteria and mold present, but will work to prevent future growth.
Now, for the hard part—the outside of your icemaker. Depending on what type of ice dispenser you have, this may take some mechanical know-how. Ours has a clear plastic overlay that I needed to clean in order to remove all of the existing mold. Yours may not, but make sure to get to all of the areas that touch the ice.
Open the “trap door” where the ice comes out. If you are able to remove it, go ahead, because it will make it easier. Mine is not removable. Squirt the EC3 spray all over and wipe thoroughly with your paper towels. Now, dip your Q-tip into the hydrogen peroxide. Wherever you see visible mold, or mildew, apply the peroxide. It will kill the mold and have a bleaching effect—which the EC3 does not. You may even need to rub quite a bit to get all of the discoloration to fully fade. If you are able to detach this piece, rinse under warm water. If now, soak some paper towels in warm water and wipe the remnant peroxide away. Then, spray it with EC3 spray again, and wipe down with a clean paper towel. Reattach this piece to the refrigerator or freezer, if you took it off.
Then, I also squirted a Q-tip with the EC3 and dipped it in the peroxide, and stuck it up inside the water dispenser hole to de-mold and clean that too. Run another Q-tip under warm water, and “rinse” off the excess by rubbing around inside the water dispenser hole and few times. You can rinse and repeat this, until you feel you have removed any residue from the EC3 and peroxide. I also removed the catch tray under my ice/water dispenser. I washed it at the sink in warm water with the Castile Soap. I also squirted it with the EC3 spray, and wiped with the paper towels.
Finally, I took my now dry and empty ice tray, and reinserted it inside the icemaker. Then, I turned it on, so that it could make fresh ice. Clean at last!
I think it’s a good idea to repeat this process a few times a year to help keep you and your family safe and healthy.
So, who’s ready for some iced tea? With my clean ice, I know I am!