Kitchen stove and fryer baskets in commercial kitchenOwning and operating a commercial kitchen requires a fair bit of knowledge. Restaurant owners and managers must remain current on multiple aspects of the business to ensure the safety of customers and employees. As someone in charge of a commercial kitchen, you may ask yourself, “How often do you need to clean a grease trap?” While it can be easy to overlook, grease trap cleaning is an important step in maintaining a kitchen, and you shouldn’t neglect it.

Arrow Sewer and Drain provides commercial plumbing services throughout north and central New Jersey. Here, our experts explain what grease traps are, their purposes, and how often you should clean them.

What Is a Grease Trap?

A grease trap is an essential element of any commercial or industrial kitchen. It’s a plumbing device that prevents fats, oils, and greases (FOG) commonly produced by food establishments from passing into the municipality’s sewer system. Even if commercial kitchens work to minimize the amount of FOG that ends up in their drainage systems, preventing all of it is unrealistic. Grease traps exist for this very purpose: to trap and intercept FOG before it reaches the main sewer.

A grease trap accomplishes this by separating the various layers of waste that travel into a restaurant’s water and drainage systems. Because FOG is less dense than water, it rises to the top while wastewater remains at the bottom with the solid food debris.

When to Clean Your Grease Trap

Grease trap manufacturers suggest cleaning your device at least once every three months. Restaurants and commercial kitchens may need to clean their grease traps more frequently depending on the size of the grease traps and the amount of grease disposed of daily. A good rule of thumb when determining how often to clean your grease trap is the quarter rule. When a quarter of your grease trap is composed of FOG, you should clean it. The reason is that once your interceptor surpasses one-fourth capacity, it’s less effective at eliminating grease from wastewater.

Besides capacity, grease traps often produce other telltale signs that indicate it’s time for a cleaning. The accumulation of rancid fats, cooking oils, and foods can create foul odors. These unpleasant odors will create unsettling working conditions for employees. They can even impact customers’ dining experiences.

Slow drainage is another sign that your grease trap is full and requires cleaning. As FOG builds up in a grease trap, it solidifies. This decreases water flow and can potentially lead to clogs. Furthermore, when grease backs up in the trap, it must find alternative exits. You may notice grease in places you shouldn’t, such as pipes, water lines, and sinks.

Grease Trap Best Practices

While grease traps act as a final line of defense to keep FOG from entering your drainage systems, there are several other precautions you can take, including:

  • Use strainers: Strainers help reduce the risk of solid food and solidified grease entering drainage pipes and grease traps.
  • Never pour grease down sinks: Even with a grease trap, you should never pour grease directly down sink drains or toilets. Not doing so keeps grease out of your internal plumbing and may also reduce the frequency of cleaning.
  • Cover grease containers: It’s always best to keep grease containers covered, especially when located outside. Uncovered containers can fill with rainwater and eventually overflow, sending fats, greases, and oils into storm drains.
  • Wipe cookware before cleaning: Before rinsing kitchen utensils or loading them into the dishwasher, dry wipe them first. This reduces the amount of grease entering the trap.

Learn More About Grease Trap Cleaning

Failing to clean a grease trap regularly can cause a variety of issues for a commercial kitchen. At Arrow Sewer & Drain, we recommend not waiting to clean your grease trap. Our family-owned and -operated business has over fifteen years of experience helping commercial companies maintain plumbing systems.

Additionally, we are pleased to offer emergency plumbing services to commercial and residential clients throughout north and central New Jersey. For more information about grease trap cleaning and how often it should be done, contact us today.

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