A survey was undertaken in response to a report of a clinical infection which had been related to an ice-making machine on a hospital ward. A detailed study of the ice microflora of 27 ice-making machines was performed. In a subsequent survey, ice samples (N = 194) from establishments such as bars and hotels were examined for bacterial indicators of hygiene. Samples from hospital ice-making machines yielded low numbers of a wide range of potentially opportunistic micro-organisms, many of environmental rather than clinical origin. For ice sampled in the community, the total aerobic plate count (TAPC) at 37 degrees C for 95% of the samples was < 500 cfu/mL, and at 22 degrees C 75% had < 500 cfu/mL. Examination for coliforms showed that 69% of samples contained no coliforms, but 20% contained > 100 coliforms/100 mL. Escherichia coli was detected in three samples but in very low numbers. This report investigates the relevance of ice machines to the control of hospital infection, the hygiene of ice in the community, discusses the microbiological quality of ice and proposes possible guidelines.