Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Grease Traps
If you own or manage a restaurant, you undoubtedly face a wide range of problems and decisions each day, from food quality and shift schedules to mechanical and technical problems. Some of these issues may involve the grease trap that collects and accumulates grease drawn off from kitchen sink water.
The more you understand about restaurant grease traps, from how they function and why they malfunction to what kinds of service they may require, the more easily you can keep your grease trap up and running for the life of your establishment. Start by examining the answers to the following frequently asked grease trap questions.
How Does a Restaurant Grease Trap Work?
Restaurants and other food service or processing facilities naturally handle fats, oils, and grease on a regular basis as a byproduct of cooking and preparation. These substances, combined with water, typically get poured down kitchen sinks and into an underground grease trap (or grease interceptor).
A grease trap consists of two large tanks, a primary tank and a secondary tank, connected by a crossover pipe. As the primary tank collects grease and water, the grease floats to the top and the water drains into the secondary tank. The secondary tank separates the substances further and feeds the water into the sewer line.
How Often Do You Need to Clean Your Restaurant’s Grease Trap?
Since the grease trap exists solely to hang onto greasy solids, the tanks obviously require periodic cleaning to free them from this accumulated material. You can expect that you’ll need to have your grease trap pumped out periodically to prevent all that grease from taking up all the available interior volume and clogging the system.
Many cities enforce ordinances detailing the points at which restaurants must schedule grease trap cleaning based on the amount of grease accumulated. The City of Groveland, for instance, requires inspections and cleanings at least every 120 days, or sooner if greasy solids have displaced more than 20 percent of the tank volume.
What Can Go Wrong With a Restaurant Grease Trap?
Greasy solids allowed to accumulate in a restaurant grease trap can cause one part of the system or another to develop a partial or complete clog, making wastewater drainage sluggish at best and impossible at worst. This blockage will only get worse until you get the grease trap and its lines inspected and cleaned.
The crossover pipe that connects the primary tank to the secondary tank can sometimes develop a clog. When this kind of clog occurs, the primary tank’s contents may rise higher than normal. Clogs can also develop if grease collects in the line between the sink and primary tank or the line running from the secondary tank to the sewer.
When Should You Suspect a Restaurant Grease Trap Problem?
Foul odors emanating from a restaurant sink often provide the first sign of a grease trap problem in the making. Even if the greasy water appears to pass through the system normally, grease and other food debris in the lines or tanks can produce a lingering, rancid smell. A leaky gasket can also allow this odor to escape.
Once grease has completely clogged the grease trap at any point, you may see excess grease oozing out from the lines or pipes. Grease and wastewater can also back up into the sink, another telltale sign that you need to get the grease trap professionally cleaned.
How Do Technicians Fix Grease Trap Issues in Restaurants?
Technicians who specialize in grease trap service can often fix a grease trap problem simply by cleaning out clogged grease. These professionals may use one of two methods to perform this task. They can pump everything out of the tank, leaving it dry, or they can extract only the grease and leave the wastewater behind.
If you’ve had your restaurant grease trap pumped using the dry method, don’t panic if you smell a foul odor immediately following this procedure. This odor doesn’t indicate a new problem. It should go away once you start adding new wastewater to the grease trap.
Your grease trap technicians can also remove grease that has clogged or narrowed the system’s crossover and drain lines. Depending on the location and severity of the clog, the technicians may flush out the grease with high water pressure (a technique called jetting) or force it out with a cable machine (a method known as rodding).
What Can You Do to Prevent Grease Trap Problems?
Regular inspection and cleanings can keep your restaurant grease trap from ever getting to the point that it requires more extensive service. As an additional preventative measure, keep your wash water temperatures below 144 degrees Fahrenheit so fats don’t liquefy and then turn solid as they cool back down.
Other common-sense kitchen practices can also help you avoid grease trap issues. Most obviously, kitchen employees should do everything they can to avoid putting grease down the sink in the first place. Whenever possible, dispose of grease in a separate container and throw greasy food debris in the trash.
If you need to install a new grease trap for your restaurant, schedule routine maintenance, or get an obvious problem corrected, rely on the experts at Rob’s Septic Tanks, Inc. Our technicians can cope with everything from grease trap issues and septic tank care to commercial plumbing concerns. Contact us today.