Regular cleaning and sanitizing is critical with frozen dessert equipment. Operators should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, using the appropriate tools and chemicals, to ensure a long service life.

Soft-Serve Machines: For easier maintenance, disassemble and clean heat treatment units every two weeks versus daily. These machines go through a timed heating and cooling cycle each night that kills virtually all bacteria in the dairy product.

With the exception of heat treatment systems, soft-serve machines need to be taken completely apart, cleaned and sanitized each night. Certain parts can run through the dishwasher using food-safe sanitizers. Rinse the items prior to use. Use soap and water to wipe off the outside.

Soak the dispenser caps daily. Like refrigeration systems, regularly clean and check a soft-serve machine’s condenser. With water-cooled equipment, operators should make sure the water supply valve is completely open and there are no kinks in the water hoses.

Changing scraper blades on a regular basis represents a critical maintenance item. When scraper blades are not in good condition, they leave a film of frozen product on the cylinder walls. This layer builds up and acts as an insulator, increasing product freezing times. In soft-serve equipment, soft product from the refrigeration system will run longer and overbeat the product.

These units require regular routine tune-ups on the seals and gaskets every six months. Replace torn door seals as well as draw handle and auger shaft seals. If this maintenance is neglected, ice cream mix can leak out of the freeze chamber to the back of the machine, potentially compromising the motors and gear box.

Compressor failure on a unit that’s more than 10 years old signifies that it’s time for a new machine. The same is true for irreparable leaks.

Ice Cream and Gelato Equipment: With batch freezers, local health departments require cleaning, sanitizing, inspection and lubrication of moving parts and seals on a daily basis to prevent bacterial growth.

Milkfat or butterfat, components of ice cream and frozen custard mixes, will accumulate on the machine’s interior surfaces and parts. Fats are difficult to remove and cause milkstone buildup, a white/gray film that forms on equipment and utensils that come in contact with dairy products. This can accumulate slowly due to ineffective cleaning, use of hard water or both. 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 as well as cause premature wear of machine parts.

Most seals, O-rings and some wear parts will require lubrication using FDA-approved food-safe lubricant prior to reassembly. This provides a proper seal and prevents excessive wear.

On a weekly basis, remove machine side covers and clean spills with a damp and soapy towel. Any mix that might have been spilled must be cleaned up from the inside of the machine using a damp, soapy towel.

Clean the unit’s condenser coil monthly either by blowing it out with compressed air or using a vacuum with a nylon brush.

Most manufacturers suggest replacement of rubber parts on a quarterly basis and common wear parts, such as blades, springs, belts and bushings, on an annual basis.