How Often Should a Commercial Grease Trap be Cleaned?

   Cleaning a grease trap costs time and money, both valuable commodities to a business owner. However, cleaning and maintaining your grease trap is essential to running your restaurant or commercial kitchen. So what’s the magic number? Read on to learn more about how often your grease traps should be cleaned.

How Often Should You Clean Your Commercial Size Grease Trap?

     Most manufacturers recommend that grease traps should be cleaned every 1 to 3 months. Just how often will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of the grease trap and the amount of grease disposed of on a daily basis. To determine how frequently to clean your trap, use the ¼ rule. When a quarter of your grease trap is filled with fats, oils, and greases, or FOG, it needs to be cleaned. Once your interceptor surpasses that capacity, it’s less effective at eliminating grease from wastewater, allowing other problems to follow.

     There are two common signs that your grease trap needs to be cleaned. One of the signs is that you will start to see fruit flies around the openings of your floor drains. The second sign is a foul odor caused by the accumulation of rancid fats, cooking oils, and foods. The odor is often strong, permeating throughout the kitchen, and even making its way into a restaurant’s dining area. Another sign that your grease trap is full is slow drainage. When FOG accumulates in your grease traps, it begins to solidify. This buildup decreases water flow and may eventually lead to clogs as well. You may also notice grease in areas you shouldn’t, like sinks, water lines, and pipes. This indicates that grease is backing up in the trap, and finding alternative exits.

     Even if your grease trap isn’t ¼ full, you may still need to clean it. Some cities and counties have regulations in place to dictate the time between grease trap cleanings. Failing to follow these guidelines could result in fines or lost business, so it’s important to do so regardless of trap capacity.

Best Practices for Keeping a Grease Trap Clean

Rather than waiting until a grease trap is overcapacity, causing problems like clogs and odors, it’s best to put these practices in place:

  • Cleaning Your Grease Trap Regularly – Depending on where you live, this may be law, but even if it’s not, keeping your grease trap clean helps your commercial kitchen to run more efficiently, with no shutdowns that reduce productivity or foul odors that disturb guests.
  • Recycle Waste Cooking Oil – This is both an eco-friendly and budget-friendly solution. Rather than paying to have your used cooking oil pumped and dumped, you can actually make money by recycling it with a company that will turn it into biodiesel fuel.
  • Dry Wipe Cookware and Dishes Before Cleaning – Using this method before rinsing in the sink or loading it into the dishwasher reduces the amount of grease entering the trap, which leads to less frequent cleanings.
  • Use Strainers in Drains – Solid food can cause problems in pipes in the same way FOG can. Strainers reduce the risk of solid food and solidified grease getting stuck in pipes, and it’s easier to remove these solids from strainers before they make their way into grease interceptors.
  • Don’t Pour Grease Down Sinks or Toilets – Avoid putting grease directly down sink drains or down toilets when possible. This keeps grease out of your internal plumbing and may also reduce the frequency of cleaning.
  • Cover Outdoor Grease Containers – If you store your grease containers outside, be sure to cover them. Uncovered containers can fill with rainwater and overflow, sending fats, greases, and oils into storm drains.

Using Bacterial Cleaners to Maintain a Clean Grease Trap

     Biological cleaners are a safe choice for commercial kitchens and restaurants concerned about using harsh chemicals and cross-contamination. There are many enzyme-based cleaners on the market today, but unfortunately, they only liquefy FOG, allowing it to flow downstream where it can resolidify, often in an outgrowing pipe. Bacterial cleaners, on the other hand, are extremely effective at degrading FOG in grease traps. Rather than liquefying the waste, they completely digest it, converting it to water and carbon dioxide that can freely flow through pipes and into the sewer line.

     Because bacterial cleaners completely digest fats, oils, and greases, they won’t accumulate as quickly. Foul odors from rancid FOG are reduced, and pumping may be needed less frequently as well. With regular use of bacterial cleaners, your grease trap will work more effectively, too, resulting in fewer clogs and backups.

Cleaning Commercial Grease Traps

     When a grease trap isn’t cleaned regularly, it can cause a variety of issues for your commercial kitchen or restaurant, from foul odors that can make their way into the dining area to slow drainage in sinks and toilets. Don’t wait until a problem arises to clean and maintain your grease trap. Use the ¼ rule to determine when to clean it. If you find that you are cleaning your grease trap more frequently than you’d like, you may want to size up, but don’t wait longer than 90 days to clean your grease traps either. A bacterial cleaner can decrease the frequency of cleanings and help to eliminate odors. Regular use will help to maintain a clean grease trap and a productive kitchen.