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The Ultimate Guide to Grease Trap Maintenance for Annapolis Restaurants

As a restaurant owner, you know that the kitchen is the literal center of your business. Whether you’re testing new dishes or simply making an endless line of the Sunday Specials, this space is the epicenter of your day-to-day operations.

It’s hard enough dealing with ingredient shortages or trying to find staff to keep your business running smoothly in the front and back of the house. But backed up plumbing and clogged grease traps can be yet another reason you don’t make the month, quarter, or annual revenue goals.

While your business’ septic tank or system might not be top of mind at all times, it can absolutely derail operations if left neglected for extended periods. If you own a restaurant and you want to ensure that blocked or overflowing septic tanks aren’t the reason you can’t keep your doors open, here’s why routine grease trap maintenance in Annapolis, MD will always be a smart investment.

The Importance of Grease Trap Maintenance in Annapolis, MD

Before discussing the critical role of grease trap maintenance, it’s important to define what this item is, and why it’s so important for your food service business. As the name implies a grease trap is designed to filter waste within a restaurant’s sewage or drainage system.

What Are Grease Traps?

Specifically, it works to filter out grease from general water or liquid waste. It allows the fats, oils, and grease (FOG) to cool while ensuring that water is released back to the general waste system through a separate crossover pipe. Commercial kitchen grease trap cleaning in Annapolis, MD is critical since it prevents FOG material from settling into a business’ septic or sewer system where it would otherwise create blockages that can temporarily shut down your business and are expensive to remove.

In most cases, grease traps are regulatory requirements in most municipalities. In other words, you won’t be able to legally conduct business as an entity with a commercial kitchen without one.

The Ultimate Guide to Grease Trap Maintenance

As with any other structural object that keeps your business running, your grease trap needs routine maintenance as well. Since it’s designed to separate FOG from other solid and liquid waste, eventually it also needs to be emptied to prevent clogs and blockages.

Regularly Scheduled Grease Trap Maintenance

Experts suggest that your grease trap should be routinely cleaned every three months every quarter. However, more high-traffic establishments may find that they need to have their grease traps cleaned and inspected more frequently. Ultimately, your Annapolis Septic Service professional will determine the right timeline based on your business’ needs.

How to Clean a Grease Trap

Assuming you have a grease trap that’s large enough to require professional cleaning, your Annapolis Septic Service technician will locate the tank, remove the lid, and initially skim FOG off the top of the water. Any remaining solids and FOG will then be removed using an industrial vacuum. This is then followed by cleaning the grease trap and the tank to remove any lingering debris which can also contribute to odors and future potential clogs.

Periodically, your technician will flush the system to further remove debris and reassemble your grease trap so that it’s ready to be used again. Finally, working with a licensed professional like Annapolis Septic Service means that the waste extracted from your grease trap is disposed of properly.

The Benefits of Working with Licensed Professionals

Working with a licensed professional means that you have peace of mind. Specifically, because our technicians are experienced in grease trap maintenance, they can quickly and efficiently clean your grease traps — thereby minimizing downtime where your kitchen staff must halt activities.

Likewise, if a more serious issue is found, they can identify the problem as well as the solutions to solve it. Better still, by engaging in preventative maintenance, you have more flexibility with making smaller (and more affordable) repairs as opposed to an emergency service which can be more costly and pervasive. Annapolis Septic Service also offers preventative maintenance contracts that are designed to keep your kitchen running smoothly and put grease trap cleaning on an autopilot schedule.

Signs Your Annapolis, MD Restaurant Needs Grease Trap Service

Slow or Backed Up Drains

If your sinks are suddenly draining slowly and it takes forever for water to empty out of the basin, this is a good sign that there’s a blockage somewhere. Again, FOG accumulation is often the culprit in businesses that rely on commercial kitchens. But if it’s been there too long, it can harden and create blockages.

When 25% or More of the Total Liquid Depth is Grease

This is a highly technical telltale sign that your grease trap needs to be cleaned. Experts usually recommend that if solids and grease compose more than 25% of the total wastewater depth in your grease trap, it’s time for a professional cleaning.

This is a guideline and rule outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But it’s also imposed for health and safety concerns. Not only can an over-full grease trap encourage blockages or slow drains, but it can lead to other health concerns addressed further in this article. Creating a maintenance checklist can help you avoid exceeding and violating the EPA’s guidelines.

Strong Odors from the Kitchen

Yes, tasty dishes can create certain scents thanks to strong ingredients. But a gross odor that lingers no matter how clean you get your kitchen or frequently you take out the garbage is a sign that something’s lurking where you can’t see it — the grease trap.

You Discover Grease in Surprising Places

There’s a certain amount of leeway given to kitchens since anything from wayward plates to a too-enthusiastic sous chef can all create unexpected spills around prep stations and communal areas. However, grease that appears in unusual places along water lines — such as in the sink drain, sewer pipes, or natural flow lines for your septic system is a sign that the grease trap needs to be cleaned.

Specifically, it shows that there’s too much grease in the trap meaning that it’s backflowing to other areas of the septic system and making unwelcome appearances where you would rather not see it.

You’ve Fallen Off Your Maintenance Schedule

If you genuinely can’t remember the last time you’ve had your grease trap serviced, it’s safe to say that it’s been too long. Guidance suggests that at a minimum commercial kitchen grease traps should be cleaned every three months — with some establishments requiring a more frequent timetable.

The Cost of Neglecting Grease Trap Maintenance

Grease trap maintenance may not be something you put a lot of energy or thought into. But it is an essential task that must be completed to keep your kitchen — and ultimately your entire business — running smoothly. When business owners or managers neglect grease trap maintenance, issues can arise.

Clogged Drains

Unsurprisingly, a trap that’s full of FOG can lead to clogs. As a result, if you look into the grease trap, the FOG might actually look solid on top of the rest of the waste. This is because it’s been there long enough to harden and as a result, it reduces water flow through drains. That also means you might experience slow drains or even have frequent blockages and overflow. This not only slows down operations, but can lead to more costly repairs in the future.

Odors

Everyone knows what old sewage smells like. It’s not pretty, and it can be strong enough to send patrons running out of your restaurant. FOG-based odors are just as unfortunate but they’re easier to pinpoint because the stench is coming directly from the kitchen. Specifically, even if you clean the kitchen from top to bottom and everything else looks spic and span, if that odor persists, you’ve got a grease trap that most likely needs to be emptied.

Heightened Risk of Fires

This might seem like an unusual consequence, but neglected grease traps might increase the chances of having a kitchen fire in your restaurant. It might seem impossible since water is one of the main things that’s constantly flowing through a grease trap.

However, don’t forget about the FOG that’s also collected there. Left to itself for too long, it can release toxic gasses that are also quite flammable. Consider that the National Fire Protection Association estimates that more than 7,000 food service businesses catch on fire annually, with 61% of that number due to cooking equipment (which can include grease traps). Avoid becoming a statistic by having your grease traps regularly cleaned.

Loss in Revenue

If your grease trap becomes so clogged that you need to shut down for emergency maintenance, this represents an obvious loss of revenue. But if a fire breaks out because of that same grease trap, you not only suffer from temporary closures but also from the added expense of repairing any materials or equipment damaged in the fire.

Health Hazards

Similar to a heightened fire risk, spending extended periods around a FOG-clogged grease trap isn’t good for your employees or patrons either. Specifically, a clogged grease trap can encourage water contamination. This means that food borne illnesses might flourish in your establishment.

And that can lead to a two-fold problem. On the one hand, your poor business practices are literally making patrons and staff sick. But this also makes it a liability that at best will have you temporarily shut down by the health department, or cause civil suits

Best Practices for Grease Trap Maintenance

Routine maintenance is usually the best way to avoid an expensive emergency grease trap repair that causes widespread damage to your septic system. However, there are small things you and your staff can do between those quarterly (or monthly in some cases) professional cleanings to keep things running smoothly.

  • Wipe down surfaces to clean spills of all kinds
  • Clean wall splashes and mop floors to prevent slipping hazards
  • Be sure to routinely remove trash to control odors and prevent pests
  • Use drain cleaner once a week on floor drains to keep them in good condition

Grease Trap Maintenance in Annapolis, MD

A clogged grease trap can be a nightmare for restaurants. From creating foul odors that raise patrons’ eyebrows to clogging drains and slowing productivity in the kitchen, there are plenty of smart reasons to not ignore this critical kitchen component until it’s too late.

A licensed technician from Annapolis Septic Service can provide prompt, knowledgeable service that meets federal and local guidelines while helping clear your grease trap to get your kitchen back into its usual flow. If you’re seeing signs that your grease trap might be overflowing or can’t remember the last time you had it cleaned — don’t wait. Contact us today for a consultation.