The Most Common Grease Trap Cleaning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Commercial food service establishments, including Portland’s restaurants, are required to have grease traps. Grease management areas must have hard plumbing from areas like sinks, dishwashers, and drains that lead directly to a grease trap. Owners have to keep maintenance records on file.

Grease traps are necessary to prevent FOG from getting into sewer lines where they can cause blockages and damage. Even with a working grease trap, it can’t be installed and ignored. Check out the most common grease trap cleaning mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

  1. Failing to Clean Your Traps Between Inspections

Grease traps must be cleaned regularly, or they will become clogged and fail to work properly. How often should you clean it? It depends on how much oil you use when cooking. You can also talk to the city’s sewer staff for guidance.

A good rule of thumb is to have your trap cleaned and inspected every month. This is a general guideline, however, as a restaurant that only serves fried foods, such as a fish and chips shop, may need more frequent cleanings.

When you clean your grease traps, gather several buckets. Turn off the water to the sinks or dishwasher that feeds into the trap Disconnect the grease trap from the sewer lines to prevent FOG from going into the sewers where you could end up paying costly fines. Use a wet vac to suction out any FOG and gray water. As you fill the wet vac, empty the wastewater into buckets.

Use the recommended cleaning solution and scrub all surfaces, including baffles. Once it’s clean, reconnect the trap to the sewer line and turn on the water. Make sure everything is flowing properly. You then have to get rid of the FOG and gray water. 

  1. Failing to Properly Dispose of Cooking Oils and Grease

In addition to cleaning your traps regularly, you also need to dispose of the wastewater properly. You can’t just pour it down the drain, as you’ll just be refilling your grease trap. In a small kitchen, you could mix it with clay cat litter, but it’s best to have it trucked to a wastewater treatment plant. 

Oils from cooking fryers go into cooking oil recycling containers. They should be placed outside the door. If oil is spilled, clean it up instantly. Don’t leave it for the rain to wash away to stormwater drains. It will end up in rivers and the ocean where it harms plants and animals.

Before washing pans or pots that contain oily ingredients, use paper towels to wipe them as clean as you can. This keeps grease from going down the drain.

  1. Failing to Train Your Employees on How the Grease Trap Works and Is Cleaned

Any of your employees who work in the kitchen need to be trained to understand how the grease trap works and what to do if it’s not working properly. They need to know that putting grease from fryers into the drains is a massive mistake that can be costly to your business. 

All new hires need to be shown where cooking oil recycling bins are located and how to safely pour oil into the recycling containers for cooking oil. Go over how to clean a grease trap and show them where the supplies needed for cleaning it are located. 

Even if you have a small kitchen staff and can’t easily pull someone off a line, never leave a newbie alone to clean the trap without supervision for the first few weeks. Make sure they’re getting adequate training to avoid mistakes.

Create a printout that covers the steps needed during the cleaning process. Once you’ve finalized it and know it’s perfect, have it laminated. Hang it near the grease trap for easy reference.

  1. Choosing the Wrong Type of Grease Trap

Make sure you’re using the right type of grease trap. In a small deli, a big grease trap isn’t necessary. In a pub that serves fries all day and night, a larger grease trap is essential. You might want a grease interceptor if your establishment works long hours with a lot of greasy foods, such as a doughnut shop. 

A grease trap usually works best with lower flow rates. Grease interceptors handle high flow rates, often more than 50 gallons per minute. If you have high flow rates, consider talking to a grease trap repair and cleaning service to determine the best option for your needs.

As you decide which grease trap is best, think about where it will be placed. Is it going to be under a sink, in another room, or in the ground? How often do you want to clean it? If you don’t have time to clean it each month or every couple of weeks, a grease interceptor may be the best choice.

  1. Using the Wrong Cleaning Agents

The wrong cleaning agents can damage pipes and seals. Homemade mixtures are always a bad idea as some people don’t realize that certain ingredients create toxic fumes. It might seem cheaper, but it’s not if your employer is harmed in the process. Bleach and ammonia are two that can be extremely dangerous if mixed. 

How do you know which cleaning agent is best? You might get answers by looking at the company’s website. Find out who made your grease trap and look at their guides. If that doesn’t help you, call a grease trap specialist for advice.

  1. Failing to Protect Your Employees When They’re Cleaning

When working with heavy-duty degreasers and cleaners, make sure your employees are equipped with masks, safety glasses, and gloves that protect the eyes, skin, and nasal passage. 

A commercial grease trap cleaning solution contains warnings against eye and skin contact. Most cleaning solutions use biodegradable enzymes, but others have harsher ingredients like sodium hydroxide that your employees need to use with care. 

Read labels on cleaning products and make sure the necessary steps are taken to protect your employees during the cleaning process. When cleaners are not being used, have a safe place to store them that’s away from foods and cooking utensils.

  1. Failing to Have Your Trap Cleaned and Inspected Regularly

Regular cleaning by your kitchen staff is important, but so is regular cleaning and inspection. Hire Northwest Biofuel to clean and inspect your grease trap. As an added benefit, you’ll get cooking oil recycling that offsets some of the cost of the cleaning and inspection.

With Northwest Biofuel, you have your grease trap inspected and cleaned regularly, and you have proof to provide to the city. We also file the paperwork so you’re in compliance with the city. With regular cleanings and inspections, you’ll know if there are problems before they arise. You avoid costly fines and penalties that can eat into your profits.

We offer several other ways to save money on grease trap cleanings and repairs. Arrange to have us stop by outside of your restaurant’s business hours and leave us a key. That’s an instant discount when you arrange grease trap cleanings with Northwest Biofuel.

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