Any business owner who owns a restaurant, grocery store, or commercial food establishment understands the importance of grease trap cleaning. Although, not all managers, supervisors, or business owners know how to properly clean them. Having proper cleaning techniques for grease traps is essential since it prevents unpleasant odors, backups, or overflows within the plumbing system.
Grease traps are vital in any kitchen establishment, this is because it protects the sewer system and the city main from getting clogged up with the abundant amount of grease. As a matter of fact, the majority of cities require the installation of grease traps. Not only do cities enforce grease traps in restaurants, but, your city will likely have regulations in place for how frequently you should have your grease traps professionally cleaned.
Issues both legal and professional can occur if your business does not properly clean grease traps on a regular basis. Pointing out the fact that when your grease traps are not cleaned properly by a professional it can lead to issues with backups in their immediate area as well as blockages in the sewer system. All of these are considered major issues since they can result in a plumbing emergency. This can cause a catastrophic collapse of your business, forcing you to close for two main reasons. First, you were unable to follow local city health guidelines, and second, you are unable to cover the costs of the plumbing emergency.
Here are just a few examples of why grease traps need to be cleaned regularly by a professional.
What Is a Grease Trap and Why Do They Need To Be Cleaned Regularly?
A grease trap is a plumbing device that is designed to intercept the majority of grease before they enter the sewer system. However, it is a little more complex with restaurants as well as food and beverage establishments. Essentially, a restaurant-grade grease trap is installed in plumbing systems that prevent grease, oil, hair, lint, and other solid materials from entering the plumbing system where they cannot be processed.
As mentioned above, grease traps are required for many restaurants and when they are not cleaned regularly they can cause a variety of problems. Problems range from blockages in the sewer system, backups in the immediate area, and overflows within the plumbing system all of which are important. Although, grease traps need to be cleaned regularly so they do not generate a foul odor. A foul odor can create a lot of problems compromising the health of your customers and staff. This odor can also lead to the infestation of insects, mice, and rats forcing you to put your kitchen operation to a halt – costing your business time and money.
How Restaurant Grease Traps Work
A grease trap is exactly what it says it is, essentially trapping all fat, oil, and grease (FOG) from going down your drain. When residue like FOG goes down your commercial kitchen sink, the grease trap allows the water to sink to the bottom and drain into the main water supply. While the grease remains at the top, where it can be accessed and removed.
Cleaning Your Commercial Grease Trap
Cleaning out that disgusting large amount of FOG is an unpleasant task, but the job must be done- and regularly. While this task might seem troublesome it’s quite simple, requiring very little physical effort and taking only a few minutes of your time. Before you get started you first will want to arm yourself with the right tools.
- Rubber gloves – For protection
- Nose plug or gas mask – To repel against strong odors
- Coveralls – To protect clothes from FOG
- Crowbar and wrench – To lift the grease trap lid
- Scraper – For cleaning the tank
- Shop Vacuum – To suck all the FOG out
While it is best to hire a professional for commercial grease trap cleaning, it is still important to know when your grease trap needs to be cleaned and the parts your commercial grease trap consists of. It’s also important to know that you can hire professionals to collect your used cooking oil that hasn’t gone into the grease trap. Below, we have provided a list of parts you will come across cleaning your grease trap:
- Lid – The lid is often removed with a crowbar or wrench during cleaning but keep in mind that some grease traps are attached with bolts. Smaller restaurants often have molded plastic traps which are snapped off during cleaning.
- Baffles – The primary function of the baffle is to separate the flow of wastewater in the grease trap tank. Since all FOG is lighter than water, they rise to the top of the tank allowing clean sewage water to pass.
- Outdoor Trap – This type of trap will have a PVC pipe fitting which is called an “outlet T”. The piece of PVC allows the grease trap to do its job by letting the water leave the trap without letting any of the food solids or grease flow into the sewer system.
When done in the right way, having a clean grease trap can ensure proper hygiene in your plumbing as well as your restaurant. Here is the best way to clean your grease trap.
- The first thing you will want to do is make sure the water inside the grease trap is cool. Doing this will make sure that the grease floats to the top making it easier for you to scoop up.
- Next, you will gently detach the lid of the grease trap with a wrench or crowbar.
- Once you have detached the lid, take a shop vac and suck out the floating grease at the top. Before you go any further, make certain that all dishwashers and turned off so your grease trap does not fill up. Lastly, you will want to monitor your shop vac regarding how full it is getting.
- After you have sucked up all the grease within the trap, begin to use your scrap off the grease from the lid, sides, and baffles. Don’t forget to remove any dense solids that are stuck to the trap and top that off by going over those areas with your shop vac.
- Now that the majority of the grease is removed, it’s time to give that grease trap of yours a shine. Use soap, warm water, and a scrubber to clean thoroughly.
- Now you have cleaned your grease trap; however, it’s important to test whether the grease has been fully eliminated. Drain a gallon of clean water to see if the water flows through. If the water fails to flow through there is a blockage in between the pipes meaning you will need to call for emergency plumbing repairs.
- If all of the following goes well and water flows through the pipes then reinstall the lid and dispose of the grease waste.
The Importance of Keeping Your Grease Trap Clean
One of the most common reasons grease traps need to be cleaned regularly is for the health of your restaurant staff as well as customers. Importantly noted that when grease sits in these traps, it slowly rots and turns rancid. This results in strong odors and becomes a health risk that could lead to health violations.
Grease traps play a significant role in promoting a safe and healthy work environment; however, grease traps need to be cleaned regularly to effectively work. Failure to perform grease trap cleaning can result in serious consequences. Best case scenario, your grease trap simply starts to have malfunctioned. Eventually, over time you will be cleaning up food and spills from the overflow of FOG. Worst case scenario the grease ends up making it past the drain, flowing into your sewer system. It’s very important to have your grease trap cleaned regularly. Clogs, floods, fines from health inspectors and other authorities, and backwashes can be very costly for many restaurant owners.
Signs That Your Grease Trap Needs To Be Cleaned
As a restaurant owner, you have a lot of responsibility, especially to your employees and customers. Not to mention, ensuring that your providing exceptional food and service which leads to the importance of hiring a professional for commercial grease trap plumbing. You still need to know the signs to look out for when your grease trap needs to be cleaned:
- Slow-moving drain – If your grease trap is full it is very common that your restaurant sink and drains are draining slowly or not at all.
- Foul smells – When your commercial kitchen has an unexpected lingering odor smell in the air, it usually can lead to the occurrence of a full grease trap.
- Grease is 25 percent of total liquid depth – The time your grease traps reach more than a quarter of the way full, it’s recommended that you seek out commercial grease trap cleaning.
- Grease is leaking – In the event that your restaurant finds grease leaking out of the sink, the pipes, or water lines, this is often a sign that it’s full and you need it cleaned.
How Often Should Your Grease Trap Be Cleaned?
The frequency of grease trap cleanings varies with how often the kitchen produces FOG. However, the majority of grease trap cleanings should be performed every one to three months. If your restaurant, cafeteria, or large commercial kitchen produces a large amount of FOG it is a good rule of thumb to set up regular cleaning.
Having a Professional Clean Your Restaurant’s Grease Trap
Hiring a professional commercial plumbing service to clean your grease trap is very important since they are knowledgeable about the ordinances and service your restaurant has to ensure full compliance with local guidelines. This also allows you to focus on what you do best creating an amazing dining experience for your loyal customers.
Grease Trap Cleaning Schedule
As previously mentioned, having your grease trap cleaned every one to three months is essential for ensuring that your plumbing system is running properly. Scheduling monthly or quarterly a professional plumbing service that specializes in grease trap cleaning and emergency plumbing allows you to do what you do best provide exceptional customer experience and food.