How to Determine When a Grease Trap Should Be Cleaned

A grease trap is a fixture that goes over the drains of commercial food prep facilities and restaurants, to keep solids, grease, and oil out of city sewer and water supplies. They are typically required by law in these facilities and they need to be cleaned regularly in order to allow water to run freely and to keep drains from clogging.

Most restaurant owners and other managers would probably prefer to not have this expense, since it doesn't increase their sales or bring in customers. However, since it must be done, consider a few factors to help you determine when a grease trap should be cleaned.

1. Note local regulations

Typically your city, county, or other municipality will determine when a grease trap should be cleaned and you need to go by their regulations at the very minimum. Usually this is required monthly, but certain locales may differ so don't make assumptions about your local regulations. Often they require you to have a log of when the grease trap has been cleaned and emptied, and failing to empty the trap or keep that log can result in hefty fines. Be sure you're familiar with these regulations, as that fine is often much more expensive than the cost of cleaning the trap.

2. Note the solids ratio

A grease trap will have a contraption that catches the grease and other solids at the top, and then allows grit and sediment to go through to the bottom. When the grease is 25% of the entire volume of what's in the trap, it's time to clean it. Allowing it to grow and expand past this point will mean that grit and liquids will not be able to actually drain away, and it makes cleaning it much more difficult each time. Most grease traps will actually have markings on the sides to note when grease and solids have reached that point, so watch these carefully.

3. Clean it as often as necessary

Considering the legal requirements and recommendations for cleaning a grease trap may be good, but it's also good to think about cleaning the grease trap when you think it's necessary, even if that's every few days. Restaurants that use a lot of grease and oil in their cooking or those that cook high-fat meats will often have more grease and solids in their trap than other facilities, and having your drain backup because the grease trap is full can be disastrous, especially if it happens during your busiest serving time. Cleaning a backed-up drain is also more expensive than cleaning the grease trap, so do this as often as needed to keep your kitchen running as it should (or call on a company such as No Fuss Liquid Waste).