Grease traps are required by law in most commercial kitchens as they help keep fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from clogging up the municipal sewage system. These traps do require periodic cleaning. The following are signs that you need to schedule a cleaning sooner rather than later.
1. Bad Odors
Your grease trap shouldn't produce a lot of odors when it is clean and working properly. Foul odors occur only when the trap is overfilling with grease or if it has become clogged to the point that water isn't draining out as it should. Decomposing food is trapped in the water and FOG, which leads to foul odors that won't disappear until the trap is cleaned.
2. Frequent Clogs
As grease builds up in the trap, it will eventually constrict drainage from the sinks. This means that water will drain more slowly and sinks may sometimes clog up completely. Clearing the trap should get the water moving again. If grease has backed up enough to coat the inside of the drain pipes, then you may also need to have the pipes cleaned out along with the traps.
3. Drain Backups
A blocked grease trap can eventually impact all the drains in your building, even those that aren't used for food waste. Water may back up into other sinks and fixtures, so you might find greasy residue coating the inside of a bathroom sink and not just the dish sink. Cleaning the trap and drains is necessary to get the water draining again.
4. Measurable Buildup
Generally, you shouldn't be able to see a lot of grease when you look into your grease trap. If you can see a thick layer of grease building up and forming a cap over the trap, then it's likely time to get the trap cleaned out. As a rule of thumb, you don't want the residue to build up more than a quarter or so of the traps capacity, or you chance a blockage.
5. Code Requirements
Many municipalities have health code regulations that determine how often a grease trap needs to be cleaned. It may be monthly or every few months, depending on your average amount of business and the local code. This means that code may require cleaning even if the trap is not full yet, but failure to maintain the cleaning schedule could result in a failed health inspection. For this reason, always clean at least as often as code requires.
Contact a grease trap cleaning service if you have concerns about your grease trap.