Restaurant owners are in business to provide delicious food and service to their customers, not to conduct regular maintenance on their grease traps. However, grease traps perform an important role in any commercial kitchen, and forgetting to clean them could lead to some pretty unpleasant consequences for your employees and guests. It’s important to know the signs of a filling grease trap, and how to clean it before problems start to arise in your kitchen, restrooms, and dining area.
How to Determine if Your Trap Needs Cleaning
Slow Moving Drainage
Fats, oils, and greases (or FOG) typically enter your wastewater system as liquids, but will then begin to accumulate and solidify. Over time, then, you’ll begin to notice slow drainage, not just in your commercial kitchen, but in your restaurant’s bathroom sinks and toilets as well. This is a clear sign that your grease trap is in need of cleaning. Waiting could eventually lead to clogs and backups in your sinks and drains.
When FOG sits in your grease trap for an extended period of time, a foul smell will develop. If you notice an odor lingering in your kitchen—or worse, your dining room—a full grease trap could be the culprit.
Grease is Leaking
Grease will find its way out of your drains and pipes one way or another. If your grease trap is full or clogged, you may notice grease leaking out of your sinks, water lines, and pipes. When this happens, the grease trap should be cleaned as soon as possible.
The Trap is More than a Quarter Full
When your grease trap is full, cleaning will not only become more urgent but also more challenging. Instead, plan to clean your grease trap when it is only a quarter full. Doing so at this point could also help you avoid many of the unpleasant side effects listed above.
How to Unclog and Clean a Grease Trap
Regular cleaning and maintenance of your grease traps will help prevent slow drainage, foul odors, clogs, and leaks. Determine a time every week (or more frequently, if your traps clog quickly) to perform maintenance on your grease traps. Keep in mind, the job can get messy, so you’ll want to wait until your establishment is closed. Consider wearing coveralls to protect your clothing and a mask to help with the smell, as well. Then follow these steps to ensure your trap is cleaned properly:
- Once you’ve located the grease trap and removed the lid (slowly, so as not to splatter excess grease), you will need to measure the amount of grease currently in the trap. To do this, stick a ruler into the trap until it hits the bottom. Then record how many inches of grease are in the tank in the FOG report provided by the EPA.
- Next, you’ll need to remove the water inside the tank. Depending on how much water is present, you may be able to do this with a small bucket. If there’s a significant amount of water inside, a pump may be most effective at removing all the liquid. Set the water aside for later.
- Use a large bucket, shovel, or heavy-duty scooper to remove the FOG from the trap. Once the bulk of the grease is out, scrape down the sides and bottom of the trap to get as much out as possible.
- Scrub the interior of the grease trap and all its parts with a degreaser. Be sure to remove and flush the screens out as well.
- Once the trap is clean and reassembled, you can add the water to the trap again and replace the lid.
Keep Your Grease Trap Working Effectively
As a restaurant owner or a commercial kitchen manager, it can be frustrating when your grease trap is frequently clogged, slowing down the productivity in your kitchen and potentially creating an unpleasant experience for your guests. You can’t avoid the task of cleaning a grease trap, but you may be able to increase the time between cleanings without experiencing some of these side effects.
Consider using a bacteria-based product like Bio One to keep your grease trap functioning properly. When bacteria are introduced to the trap, they will begin working to completely digest the fats, oils, and greases in your trap. The food waste is then converted into carbon dioxide and water. Understandably, it can be challenging to remember to add the product to your busy commercial kitchen. Our auto-injection system will automatically meter the correct amount of Bio One into the drain lines to avoid clogs and backups. This could decrease the frequency of your grease trap cleanings and will allow you and your employees to focus on making delicious food for your customers.