Cooking creates a substantial amount of liquid and solid waste, particularly fats, oils, and grease (FOG). Whether you own a 5-star restaurant or small café, managing the output and disposal of FOG—specifically, keeping it out of your drains or sinks—is crucial to keeping your establishment running. FOG solidifies as it cools, which can result in wastewater backups, clogged/damaged pipes, and many other potentially costly issues for your business.
While at home, it’s easy to simply pour FOG into a jar or plastic container, but such management methods are not practical for most commercial kitchens. This is where a grease trap comes in handy.
Also known as a grease interceptor, a grease trap is a plumbing device that serves as an intermediary between your kitchen sink/drains and the main drain line that goes out to the sewer and local waterways. Normally made out of plastic or metal, these devices are specially designed to collect and separate FOG from wastewater.
How Does a Grease Trap Work?
Though there are many different types of grease traps, the basic functionality remains the same. Wastewater, FOG, and solid waste from sinks, floor drains, or dishwashers enter the inlet of the grease trap. As the wastewater enters the trap tank, solid waste will sink to the bottom of the trap.
As the wastewater cools, the FOG will solidify and separate from the water. Since fats, oils, and grease weigh less than water, the cooled FOG will float to the top of the grease trap tank, displacing the wastewater and forcing it through the outlet of the trap into the sewer line.
FOG and solid waste volumes will increase on a daily basis as you use your kitchen. Though the rate at which it increases depends on your establishment, it is still extremely important to have your grease trap regularly pumped and cleaned.
If the amount of FOG in a given grease trap exceeds 25% of your trap’s tank capacity, your trap will cease to collect FOG. Furthermore, if a grease trap becomes too full, it could potentially leak, overflow, or break down, resulting in bigger and more expensive issues.
When cleaned and regularly maintained, grease traps are one of the most effective methods for mitigating the flow of FOG into drain lines. If your grease trap is in need of servicing, call us today to schedule an inspection!
How can a customer keep a line from being clogged?
If your sinks, dishwashers, or floor drains are failing to drain, there’s a good chance that your pipes are clogged. An overflowing grease trap could also be an indication of a clog or blockage.
This can vary depending on your waste output and availability. At the very least, you should jet your pipes once a year to clear any waste buildup.
As a preventative measure, however, we recommend having your pipes jetted twice a year.
First and foremost, never pour oil or grease down the drain. Try to make sure any food remnants or excess fats and grease are scraped off of plates and into trash receptacles or compost bins, and not into a garbage disposal.
When available, we recommend collecting and recycling used cooking oil. For more information, see our FOG Best Management Practices!
A common misconception with some restaurants is that if you do not have a grease fryer, you do not need a grease trap. Unfortunately, this is not true. Even small delis and coffee shops can produce varying amounts of fats, oils, and grease, so it’s vital for every restaurant kitchen to have a grease trap.
This can vary depending on a number of factors, including industry, city regulations, and customer requirements/availability. Pierce and King County have enacted strict regulations/penalties on how often and thoroughly commercial kitchens clean and maintain their grease traps.
In most cities, it has been mandated that FOG levels in your grease trap tank never exceed 25% tank capacity. For some businesses, this means weekly cleaning, whereas others may only need their traps cleaned on a monthly basis.
Yes, restaurants can clean their own grease traps. In fact, we provide barreling services for customers interested in self-cleaning.
However, employees often do not clean them properly, or to acceptable city standards. Some cities do allow for self-cleaning with quarterly professional cleaning. Check your local city FOG regulations to see what is allowed.