How to Maintain a Grease Trap

grease recycling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Grease trap maintenance is the process of regularly pumping, cleaning, checking for damaged parts and checking the functioning of a grease trap. This should always be done by experts who do this every day. Grease trap maintenance by D&W Alternative Energy ensures you have the proper documentation required by municipal authorities and that you remain in compliance with all regulations. Regular maintenance will ensure that problems are identified and corrected before they become large and costly.

The grease trap cleaning process

Given the cost of regular maintenance, it might be tempting to try to clean a grease trap yourself. But the cost of doing it wrong can be quite high. Non-compliance with regulations or having a dysfunctional trap part that you didn’t recognize when an inspector visits can be very costly. Hiring a professional to clean and maintain your grease trap is the best solution.

A professional will have the right tools to do the job properly, such as the pump and container to vacuum and clean your trap. At D&W we will also ensure that the walls and baffles are scraped of grease. D&W will also test the trap after cleaning to make sure it is functioning properly. Also, D&W performs oil collection and cleans grease traps so you need make only one phone call and you can save money by combining both services with us.

Most importantly, a pro will dispose of the grease properly in accordance with local regulations. One of the biggest challenges for a do-it-yourselfer is how to dispose of the grease from the trap. If you don’t dispose of the grease properly, you can be subject to a host of violations and fines, and depending on how it is disposed of, put animals, fish and humans at risk. Professional cleaning means no spills due to hand scooping of grease and solids. Our vacuum equipment will efficiently remove grease and solids efficiently from the trap.

Record keeping is critical in staying in compliance with local regulations. D&W provides you with a written/electronic manifest for all work performed on your grease traps. These manifests should be maintained as they are required by municipal authorities during inspections.

Grease trap cleaning should be done on a regular basis as determined by your grease trap cleaning company as often as once a month.

Types of grease trap cleaning

The two main types of grease trap cleaning are:

In pump and return, the grease trap cleaning company takes away the FOGs (fats, oils and grease) and returns the gray water to the trap. In a dry pump, the trap cleaner takes away the FOGs and the gray water leaving the trap dry.

Returning the gray water to the trap requires specialized equipment and a truck and typically will cost more than a dry pump, but leaving a trap dry can cause strong odors from the trap so many grease trappers will pump fresh water into the trap to prevent the smells.

How often a grease trap should be cleaned

There is no single answer to this question. High volume frying restaurants may need traps cleaned every couple of weeks. Others, with a sizable trap and lower volume may only need cleaning every few months. Your grease trap cleaner can give you an idea and then tailor his cleaning schedule to what he observes in your traps.

At the very least, your trap must be cleaned whenever the FOGs (the brown grease on top and the solids on the bottom) amount to 25% of the volume of the grease trap. If you don’t have it pumped a this point, it’ll eventually stop working properly. This is called the 25% rule. If a trap exceeds 25% FOGs, the FOGs can start leaking out with the waste water. The history of the 25% rule began in Hawaii. James Baginski, then Regulatory Control Branch Head, Department of Environmental Services, developed the rule after analyzing the performance of and testing grease traps. The Plumbing and Drainage Institute’s paper supported the 25% rule and it began to spread as a standard across the U.S., including the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

D&W cleans grease traps and collects and recycles used cooking oil. Contact us to find out how you can benefit by having us perform both services.

Grease trap inspections

Municipalities mandate grease trap inspections for your restaurant to be licensed to serve food to the public. That means an inspector will come check out your grease trap before your restaurant opens. They’ll also come periodically after your restaurant opens. A grease trap inspection occurs before a restaurant can open. Inspections can also occur at any time. It could be on a schedule or an inspector may show up because of a complaint. Failing an inspection is a serious matter and can do serious damage to the reputation of a restaurant.

What do grease trap inspectors look for?

Grease trap inspectors look for:

Your grease trap should only contain 2 lbs of grease for each gallon per minute of water flow

The metal fittings required to control water flow should not be corroded and functioning properly.

The inspector will check that the flow control valve is properly vented to allow air to mix with the wastewater as it enters the interceptor increasing separation efficiency.

Underground interceptors must be watertight with a secure lid to prevent groundwater from entering the trap and to keep grease from escaping out into groundwater and contaminating it.

The inspector will check to make sure that your garbage disposal line and grease trap pipes are completely separate. Attaching a garbage disposal might seem convenient but it will fill your trap very quickly which will require a pumping.

The inspector will check to see that the trap only handles grease, not other functions such as a toilet. Plumbing a toilet brings tissues, and other non-organic material into a trap and will quickly clog it.

The inspector will make sure that you’re adhering to the 25% rule.

The inspector will review your records inspections and cleanings to make sure you’re keeping up with maintenance to prevent problems. Each time your trap is pumped the pumping company should provide you with a written or electronic manifest indicating the work that was done, volume withdrawn and any issues noted. This manifest must be kept onsite in a file for inspectors to review. Different municipalities require different lengths of time for the records to be maintained onsite.

How do I prepare for a grease trap inspection?

First, you need to make sure you have copies of all the manifests documenting your grease trap maintenance. You can ask your grease trap cleaning company to do the following to help you prepare for an inspection. Then your grease trap maintenance company should:

Why does my grease trap smell?

A malodorous grease trap sets off an alarm in the mind of every restaurateur. Has my grease trap malfunctioned? Is it overflowing? Is there an impending disaster?

There are a number of reasons a grease trap can smell, and none should be ignored. Here are some of the reasons:

All of these situations require the immediate attention of the restaurant owner and the company servicing the grease traps.

My grease trap was just cleaned. Why does it smell?

An empty grease trap can smell as bits of decaying food can produce sulfuric gases. With no water in the tank there is nothing to absorb the odors and dampen the smell. 

Can I put trap waste into my UCO bin?

Never put trap waste into the UCO bin. UCO has to be filtered and heated to get it ready for the transesterification process to make biodiesel. Putting trap waste into your UCO bin contaminates the UCO. The contamination can be so bad that your UCO collector can’t use much of your UCO. That’s why they typically do not offer rebates for grease trap contents. There are methods of recycling trap brown grease but it is a different process than for used cooking oil. The two cannot be combined. The grease trap contents will sink to the bottom of your storage tank and separate into brown sludge and water. Not only will your UCO collector not suction water and brown sludge into his truck, it will sit there indefinitely. It can even contaminate your oil, rendering it useless. Then he won’t even pay you for the used cooking oil.

What do floods do to grease traps?

Floods can pose grave risks to grease traps. Debris, water and other contaminants can lodge in your grease trap causing it to malfunction leading to serious plumbing problems for your food service establishment. If you neglect your grease trap, especially after a flood, it can harbor bacteria, mold, rodents and other pathogens, posing a danger to your employees. And if the grease trap is not functioning, your whole kitchen may start to stink.

After a flood you should do the following:

Why is my grease trap always full?

Grease traps can be full for a number of reasons. One, they might not be pumped and cleaned on a schedule appropriate for the size of the trap and the volume of oil and water from the restaurant. A pipe coming out of the grease trap may be clogged and backing up the contents into the trap. A flow valve may not be functioning correctly. There may be damaged baffles.

It is possible the grease trap looks full but is not. A trap is considered full under the 25% rule if the depth of the sludge on the bottom and the grease on the top measure over 25% of the depth of the trap.
The most surprising reason a grease trap can be full is that not all grease traps have been installed properly. Surprisingly D&W has run across a number of grease traps that were installed backwards. That is, the pipes from the kitchen are attached to outtake pipes on the grease trap rather than the intake pipes, making it unable to move liquid out of the tank.

Get a Free Consultation

We’d love to discuss your oil, grease, and automation needs. Drop us a line and we’ll work to find the best service offering to fit your needs, no obligation!

Contact Us