When you got into the restaurant business, you probably never thought that you would spend a good chunk of your time doing routine maintenance and cleaning. Yet these tasks are necessary if you want to succeed in the food and beverage industry. A key example of a thankless but necessary task: cleaning and maintaining your restaurant grease trap.
A grease trap catches fats, oils, and grease before they enter the sewage system. Regularly cleaning this trap can reduce odors, prevent fires, and help you avoid plumbing problems. There are also a number of steps that you and your staff should take on a daily basis to prevent the accumulation of fats, oils, and grease in the trap, like properly disposing grease.
At Budget Branders, we know that running a restaurant requires more than just serving great food. We partner with restaurants across the country to offer them an easy, cost-effective way to market their business: custom-branded disposable products. Check out our top tips for cleaning and maintaining a restaurant grease trap below – and then reach out to learn more about how we can help your business soar with custom plastic cups, stadium cups, paper cups, paper bowls, and paper bags.
What Is a Grease Trap?
A grease trap is a plumbing device that is installed in commercial kitchens. These traps can be located inside of the kitchen or outside. Many cities require restaurant kitchens to have grease traps to prevent fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from entering the local sewage system and causing problems like blockages.
Grease traps – which may also be referred to as grease interceptors – work by trapping the FOG that rises to the top of wastewater before it enters the drain. Fats and oils are less dense than water, so they float on top. A grease trap slows down the flow of wastewater, separating it into solids on the bottom later, wastewater in the middle, and FOG on the top. A baffles system prevents the FOG from flowing with the water into the sewer pipes.
There are two primary types of grease traps. Manual grease traps are the most commonly-used in commercial kitchens. As their name implies, they must be cleaned manually. Automatic grease traps remove FOG automatically on a predetermined schedule, but still require some cleaning and maintenance.
While cleaning grease traps is an unpleasant chore, it is necessary. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FOG that is released into the sewage system causes 47% of reported blockages. Cleaning your trap regularly can help you avoid contributing to this problem, and can reduce the risk of expensive plumbing problems. It can also eliminate off-putting odors from accumulated FOG. You may be subject to regulatory penalties and even business closures if you violate laws and regulations related to grease trap maintenance.
Finally, grease build-up is a major cause of restaurant fires. If you fail to properly clean and maintain your restaurant grease traps, it can lead to a fire – which can cause you thousands of dollars in damage and lost business.
How to Thoroughly Clean Your Restaurant Grease Traps
While it isn’t a pleasant job, cleaning out the grease traps in your commercial kitchen is absolutely necessary. The process itself is relatively simple, but does require some equipment and physical effort to clear out the fats, oils, and grease that can accumulate in the trap.
Before getting started, you should gather some gear to protect yourself and make the job easier. This should include rubber gloves to protect your hands, a mask or nose plug to defend against odors, protective coveralls, a crowbar and wrench to lift the lid off of the grease trap, a scraper, a steel pot scrubber, dish soap, and a shop vacuum.
Once you have everything that you need, locate the grease trap at your restaurant. Depending on your set-up, it may be outside or inside. When a grease trap is outside, it is usually identifiable by a manhole-like covering or septic tank design, When it is inside, it is usually in the basement, under the kitchen sink, or under a metal flashing in the kitchen floor.
Keep in mind that some grease traps are so large that the job is best left to professionals. If your grease trap is between 500 and 2500 gallons, then you should probably outsource the job. A smaller grease trap can be cleaned by well-trained restaurant staff.
You should not attempt to clean out the grease trap while there is hot or warm water in the system. Cool water allows the fats, oil, and grease to float to the top, which makes it easier to remove. You should wait for at least 10 minutes after hot water has been released from a sink or dishwasher to start the process. While you are cleaning, make sure that the dishwasher is turned off and the sinks are not in use to prevent the grease trap from filling up while you are cleaning.
Open the grease trap using the crowbar. Be careful when taking off the cover, as you don’t want to damage the gasket that ensures a tight seal for the lid. If there are bolts, you may need to use a wrench or other tools to open the grease trap. Some grease traps have a molded plastic lid that can easily be removed.
After you get the lid off, remove the layer of greasy sludge at the top. Once this layer of fats, oils, and grease is removed, you’ll be able to get to any food debris and water remaining in the trap. You can then use a powerful shop vac to remove any remaining solids and water.
The next step involves using a scraper to remove any particles that are stuck to the trap’s baffles, sides, and lid. Once you have scraped everything off, use the shop vac to suction up the debris and any remaining FOG.
At this point, you should grab the dish scrubber, soap, and some tepid water. Thoroughly clean the baffles, sides, and lid. Once you have given the grease trap a good cleaning, thoroughly flush it out with clean water. You should then check your work by draining a gallon of clean water through the sink. The grease trap should allow the water to flow through without any obstruction.
If you notice a blockage, you may need to contact a licensed plumber to fix the issue. Otherwise, you can reinstall the baffle and lid. This process should be repeated every 4 to 6 weeks.
It’s important to note that grease is technically considered hazardous waste and should be treated as such. Regulations regarding grease disposal will vary by state and city. It’s best for you to dispose of grease in a designated bin or container designed for grease. Used grease can be recycled into animal feed and biofuel, so there are actually companies like SeQuential that will collect grease from your designated bin or container at no cost.
Maintaining Your Restaurant Grease Traps
Regular cleaning of your grease trap is critical to reducing bad odors. It also prevents the accumulation of hardened FOG, which is difficult and time-consuming to remove. In addition, if you don’t maintain your restaurant grease traps, you run the risk of clogs – which can cause drainage issues or overflows.
The most important part of grease trap maintenance is setting up and following a regular cleaning schedule. In addition, you can take a number of other steps to keep your grease trap in top working order.
First, set up a system to collect grease so that your staff does not pour it down the drains. Ideally, you should have bins for grease disposal and your employees should be trained to use those bins instead of pouring oils and fats down the drain.
Second, plates should be scraped into the garbage before being rinsed. This can help to reduce the amount of grease and food particles going down your drain. Similarly, garbage disposals should only be used for non-greasy foods like produce.
Third, have a plumber install screens under your sink drains. This can help to catch FOG before it enters your pipes. You should also have your grease trap regularly inspected by experienced technicians who are familiar with local health, safety, and environmental regulations.
Fourth, train employees on grease management practices. In addition to scraping plates and using a grease disposal bin, there are other steps that can be taken – such as using paper towels instead of rags to wipe up grease spills.
When you take steps to maintain your grease trap, it makes the chore of cleaning the trap that much easier. It also reduces odors and the risk of fire, and lowers the risk of plumbing problems.
Boost Your Restaurant’s Profile with Custom Branded Disposables
Running a restaurant is a lot of work – and it often includes tasks that are pretty disgusting, like cleaning out the grease trap. Whether you outsource the job or do it yourself, cleaning and maintaining the grease trap is vital to your restaurant’s success. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things that you can do for your restaurant that are a lot easier – like ordering custom branded disposable cups, bowls, bags, and more.
Budget Branders works with independently-owned restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to help them achieve their marketing goals. We sell high quality disposable products, each which can be branded with your name, logo, and/or slogan. All of our products are offered at prices and in quantities that make sense for small to medium-sized businesses, so you aren’t locked into buying (and storing) massive amounts of products.
To learn more or request a quote, reach out today by filling out our online contact form or hitting the live chat button on the bottom right of your screen.