What Is A Grease Trap?

Grease traps are required to be installed in every restaurant and eating establishment in the United States.  During the dishwashing process the hot water used, along with the dishwashing detergent, removes the grease, oil and fat from the plates, silverware and cooling utensils and is deposited into the buildings sewage system, which discharges into the public sewage system downstream.

Once the grease, oil or fat cools, it becomes hard and adheres to the pipes inside and outside of the building and can lead to sewer blockages and poor sewer system performance.  The purpose of the trap is to prevent grease, oil and fat, generated by the dishwashing process in the restaurant, from entering into the public sewer system serving the facility.  Grease traps are typically located on the exterior of the building, although smaller floor mounted grease traps can be found in some restaurants.

The grease trap works by separating the grease from the water, but to work properly they must be kept clean. The build up of sludge and hardened grease must be removed periodically for the trap to work properly.  The removal process is fairly straightforward with a pumping truck, operated by a trained technician, arriving on site and pumping out and cleaning out the trap.

Once the grease trap cleaning is complete, the waste is disposed of properly and all supporting documentation is provided to the owner of the restaurant.  It is important to note that a improperly functioning grease trap that allows grease, oil and fat to enter into the public system exposes the restaurant owner to heavy fines and other penalties.

Posted on behalf of Citywide Plumbing

The Importance of Cleaning Your Grease Trap

By its very name, we already know the function of a grease trap. However, like a septic tank, a grease trap also separates water from the grease when it solidifies as it cools. The water then can pass through a regular drain as normal but the solid grease remains. Trapping the grease helps to prevent sewer blockages that could result in sewage overflows, damage and extensive repairs. It should go without saying that, given the nature of accumulating grease, this system needs to be maintained (cleaned or pumped) in order to continue working effectively. For the best results, it is recommended that your grease trap be thoroughly cleaned about every 90 days, in order to minimize odors and prevent overflow.

While this is certainly something that can be done by the business owner, it can be messy and time consuming. Furthermore, government and environmental regulations for the disposal of wastewater are stringent. EPA requires that grease traps remain clutter-free and functional; failure to comply with EPA standards in this regard can be a criminal offense. Given these requirements, grease trap cleaning should be a regular part of a facility’s maintenance routine and is probably best done by pumping professionals.

In staying abreast of current regulations, your local grease pumping professional can ensure your compliance, avoiding potentially costly fines or penalties for illegal dumping or groundwater contamination. Additionally, most commercial grease pumping service companies have disposal alternatives that effectively recycle the waste into usable bio fuel. Your grease pumping professional will also record, according to EPA standards, the result of fatty oils and grease (FOG) pumped out. In fact, most companies will keep documentation of the complete history of your trap grease to ensure that its disposal is handled properly and according to acceptable regulatory standards.

Keeping Grease Traps Clean

Regulations in most states require restaurants, commercial kitchens, and other facilities that can introduce grease into the plumbing system to have a grease trap. A grease trap is a large box shaped device containing a series of baffles that that is installed in the wastewater line.

The grease trap traps and collects fats, oils and greases (called FOG) while allowing waste water to flow into the municipal sewer system.  A grease trap can be a small 40 to 50 gallon device installed in the floor of the kitchen or a larger 500 to 1,000 gallon tank buried in the ground outside the facility.

If your facility is required by state law to have a grease trap, you are probably also required to have the grease trap cleaned and emptied regularly. Not only is it the law, but a dirty grease trap can be the source of offensive odors and can also be a fire hazard.  If you have one the smaller types of grease traps in the floor of your facility, it is possible to clean it yourself (or have an employee do it), but grease trap cleaning is a nasty, dirty job.  In addition, you still have the problem of disposing of the accumulation of grease.

Cleaning the large grease traps is a job for a professional and the reality is that smaller grease traps should be professionally cleaned as well.  The pros use large pumping trucks and have the equipment and experience to quickly and efficiently clean large and small grease traps.  In addition, they will haul away and dispose of the old grease.  Most grease trap cleaning contractors will set up a regular cleaning schedule that will keep your grease traps clean, safe, and odor free while allowing you to focus on running your business.

Grease Trap Cleaning

If you are a restaurant owner or operate any type of commercial establishment that is required to have a grease trap, you are probably well aware that keeping the grease trap clean is a very important but unpleasant job.  Grease traps are installed in the drain lines of restaurants, commercial kitchens, and other establishments to trap grease and oils before they get into the municipal sewer lines.

When grease traps get too full, they not only stop doing their job and can allow grease and oil to get into the municipal sewer system but also cause wastewater backups into your kitchen or restaurant.  In addition, in some areas failing to properly maintain your grease traps can lead to citations and fines.  You can avoid these problems by having the grease traps cleaned regularly.

Some businesses with small grease traps can have them cleaned by an employee by hand, but most businesses are better off by having scheduled grease trap pumping by a commercial sewer septic and wastewater hauling company.  With regular service you can be sure that your grease traps will be professionally cleaned, stay in good operating condition, and that the waste grease will be properly disposed of.

The frequency of grease trap cleaning varies depending on your business and the size of the grease traps.  Weekly cleaning or every other week is common, but if the grease trap is usually more than half full at regular cleaning intervals you should increase the frequency.

It is a good practice to keep a log of the grease trap cleaning.  The log can help you establish an efficient cleaning schedule and may be needed for compliance with local rules and regulations.  Keeping your grease traps clean is not just good for the sewer system, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for your business.