Proper Grease Trap Cleaning Keeps Your Commercial Kitchen Running Smoothly
Keeping your grease interceptor properly maintained prevents a myriad of issues in commercial kitchens, from unpleasant odors to shut-downs and even fines. It’s estimated that across the United States, millions of dollars are spent each year on unclogging sewer pipes from fats, oils and grease also known as FOG.
FOG is derived from vegetable, plant or animal sources during cooking. It presents itself as yellow grease results from deep frying. Brown grease contains FOG that floats or settles into solids. Both types of FOG pose substantial environmental consequences when disposed of incorrectly.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the annual production of collected grease trap waste and uncollected grease entering sewage treatment plants can be significant and range from 800 to 17,000 pounds per year, per restaurant.
Routinely cleaning and maintaining your fryer equipment and grease traps not only helps keep a commercial kitchen a safe and healthy place to cook, but it also helps preserve our local waterways.
The EPA reports that commercial kitchen owners or operators who adopt FOG reduction activities as part of their capacity, management, operation and maintenance program are likely to reduce the occurrence of sewer overflows and improve their foodservice operations and customer service.
With so much riding on commercial kitchen grease interceptors, it’s critical to keep them in prime condition to help restaurants avoid environmental consequences and ensure that they have one less thing to worry about.
The grease trap (also known as a grease interceptor) is a plumbing device designed to capture FOG before it enters the wastewater system. There are two primary types of grease traps. Interior grease traps are usually located in the kitchen near the sink or dishwasher and tend to hold smaller amounts of FOG.
Exterior grease traps are located outside your commercial kitchen, underground and tend to be much larger, sometimes holding thousands of gallons. Many cities require grease traps to be used in commercial kitchens due to the critical role they play in preventing costly sewer problems.
Routine Grease Trap Cleaning
A report by the EPA to Congress on combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows concluded that grease from restaurants, homes and industrial sources are the most common, accounting for 47 percent of reported blockages.
As water from your 3 compartment sink passes through your grease trap, FOG will start to accumulate and make it more difficult for water to drain. This causes the trap to fill up. By having grease trap cleaning performed regularly, you prevent the trap from overflowing and avoid expensive plumbing bills.
Regularly cleaning your grease interceptor also reduces odors, which can hurt your business. You should also consider installing a food scrap collector to prevent food waste from clogging your grease interceptor prematurely.
Grease Trap Cleaning Frequency
Cleaning frequency varies depending on the size of your trap and the amount of grease used in your kitchen. Generally, most cities require restaurants to clean their trap frequently enough to maintain less than 25 percent FOG accumulation.
This usually results in grease trap cleaning at least once per quarter and sometimes as frequently as once a month. A grease trap cleaning company can help you determine your cleaning frequency after inspecting your grease trap and establish a grease trap maintenance schedule.
Installing a food solids separator to capture food particles before they flow into your grease interceptor can help cut down on the need to clean it as often.
Consequences of Infrequent Grease Trap Cleaning
Failing to clean your grease interceptor at the proper interval can be detrimental to your commercial kitchen’s operations. Not only do you increase your risk of smells, but you could also incur additional fees when your trap is not cleaned.
FOG hardens as it accumulates, making it more difficult to remove and increasing the time it takes to clean the trap. Cooking fats, oils and grease coat the inside of your pipes and can lead to drainage issues or overflows, indicating that the incoming or outgoing line is likely clogged. Depending on where the clog is, it’s possible you’ll need to contact a plumber to clear out the lines. Overflows also put you at risk of being fined by the city.
Most vendors will charge overage fees if your cleaning takes significantly longer than expected due to a frequency lapse. One way to prevent problems with infrequent grease trap cleaning is by installing a wet waste interceptor to capture food solids before they clog your grease trap.
The Grease Trap Cleaning Process
When a grease trap service technician arrives to clean your grease interceptor, they’ll use a pump to remove the contents, and scrape the sides to remove any accumulated FOG. They’ll also measure the contents to determine how much FOG has accumulated since your last cleaning. If your accumulation measures more than 25 percent, you may be asked to reassess your cleaning frequency.
Once your trap has been completely pumped out, the technician should complete a FOG report noting the details of your service and provide you with a copy. Some cities require copies of FOG reports once the grease trap cleaning process is complete and many grease trap cleaning vendors can submit this for you.
Maintaining your grease trap is an important part of managing your restaurant and there are important steps you can take to control FOG. Preventing environmental consequences, lengthy cleaning processes and added costs will ultimately foster a safe and productive environment for both your employees and customers.
To prevent food solids from clogging your grease trap, consider installing The Drain Strainer. Invented by a former restaurant owner, The Drain Strainer is an effective and affordable commercial garbage disposal that keeps food solids from clogging your drains while still allowing your sinks to drain quickly. It also creates an air gap so that if the sewer ever backs up, the waste water backflow can’t make it into your 3 compartment sink.
Eliminate future plumbing problems by installing The Drain Strainer and put less of a strain on your grease trap system.