Ice Cream/Gelato Freezers: Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

Here, John Orr, technical service manager, Refrigerated Specialist Inc. (RSI), Mesquite, Texas, provides tips on both cleaning and maintaining ice cream/gelato freezers.


  • Milkfat and butterfat are components of ice cream and frozen custard mix and will accumulate on the interior surfaces of the machine and its parts. Fats are difficult to remove and contribute to milkstone buildup. Milkstone is a white/gray film that forms on equipment and utensils that come in contact with dairy products. This will accumulate slowly on surfaces because of ineffective cleaning, use of hard water or both. It is a porous deposit that will harbor bacterial growth and eventually negate sanitizing efforts. Once milkstone has formed, it is very difficult to remove, even with general purpose cleaners. Buildup can lead to high bacteria counts and a food safety dilemma. It is best to control milkstone on a daily basis to prevent potential
    bacterial growth.
  • In addition to food safety issues, milkstone can cause premature wear to machine parts, which can lead to costs for replacement parts or more expensive repairs if parts are not replaced once they have become excessively worn. Deliming can be used to remove thick layers of milkstone, but the chemicals are dangerous and can damage machine parts, so this should be a last resort.
  • Remember, cleaning is the removal of materials from a surface and is a prerequisite for effective sanitizing. An unclean surface will compromise sanitizing efforts. Sanitizing will only kill bacteria effectively on clean surfaces. After ensuring that the machine is clean and sanitized, it can be reassembled for use.
  • Most seals, O-rings and some wear parts will need to be lubricated using FDA-approved food-safe lubricant (Petrol-Gel ) prior to reassembly. This provides a proper seal and prevents excessive wear.
  • On a weekly basis, remove side covers from machines and use a damp, soapy washcloth to clean any mix that might have spilled inside of the unit. Be sure to properly disconnect power prior to removing covers. At this time, also visually inspect the machine for belt wear, rear seal leakage or other problems.
  • On a monthly basis, clean the condenser coil of the refrigeration unit either by blowing out with compressed air or using a vacuum with a nylon brush. Proper airflow is a necessity for proper freezing and a consistent product.