How To Properly Clean And Sanitize Your Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine

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Listeria monocytogenes. Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Staphylococcus aureus.


If these pathogens scare you, can you imagine if you found these things lurking in your soft serve ice cream machine!

This risk is real and there have been many documented cases of people getting severe food poisoning from eating Listeria-contaminated soft serve ice cream.

Preventive Steps

As an owner of an establishment that offers soft serve ice cream on the menu, what preventive steps can you take to avoid harbouring such deadly micro-organisms in your machines?

Well, it’s starts with the basics. CLEANING AND SANITIZING.

Because dairy products are susceptible to pathogens that can multiply to very dangerous levels in very short periods of time, prevention and proactive steps are essential at keeping these guys away from both your food and your customers.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Is Critical

Furthermore, Listeria is known to live on the metal surfaces in soft serve ice cream machines. This makes frequent cleaning and sanitizing of your machines even more critical.

How frequently you clean and sanitize your machine depends on your local area’s health code guidelines. Check with your local inspector and health department to know what the rules are.

Daily Cleaning

Some health departments require daily cleaning and sanitizing while others require it to be only three times a week.

Keeping in the mind the manufacturer’s recommendations for your machine, here are ten general guidelines to follow when keeping your soft serve machine clean and pathogen free…

Cleaning and Sanitizing:

Drain all leftover mix remaining in machine into a clean, sanitized container. Refrigerate this immediately or discard it based on your local area’s guidelines.


Using a cold water rinse, flush out freezer barrel and supply tank. Drain thoroughly. Rinse again with warm water and drain again.

Take apart all removable parts and prepare them for cleaning by rinsing them out.

Prepare a hot cleaning solution based on manufacturer’s directions and carefully wash each part with an appropriate brush that is designated only for cleaning this machine.


Rinse all removable parts with clear, warm water and drain.

Allow the washed parts to air dry overnight.

Ensure the washed parts are stored in a place that will not be contaminated by airborne dust, pests, and food. Avoid hand contact as well.


Prepare a manufacturer-recommended sanitizing solution, such as a chlorine solution of 100 ppm or quaternary ammonium compound of 200 ppm that is strong enough to eliminate all illness-causing pathogens.

Soak the washed removable parts in this sanitizing agent for two minutes and then allow to air dry.

Caution: Use only manufacturer-recommended sanitizing agents. Unauthorized sanitizing agents can potentially damage your soft serve machine.

Reassemble the machine.

Add sanitizing solution to the hopper and run the machine for a few minutes to allow the solution to reach the freezer cylinder.

Check your manufacturer’s manual for exact times.

While the solution is running through the machine, sanitize all other outside surfaces, such as the tank and lid, with a brush that is used only for this purpose to prevent cross-contamination.

Drain sanitizing solution completely from machine. Do NOT do a final rinse with tap water once the machine is sanitized and drained.

Refill machine with fresh mix and draw off the first portion of mix in order to push out the remaining amount of sanitizer that may be left in the machine.

By taking these necessary and essential steps to prevent and eliminate all sources of food contamination in your soft serve machine, you can be confident that the ice cream you serve is not only delicious but free from bacteria as well.


Foodborne illness investigation underway: A third case of ice cream-related Listeria in 12 months

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