Drains and Plumbing

Dealing with Grease Traps and Household Grease Disposal

If you've ever had a grease clog in your kitchen drain at home, you're probably amazed at the amount of fats dealt with by restaurants—hundreds of pounds, gallons and gallons of bacon fat, hamburger grease, mayonnaise and miscellaneous oils that, untended, would ruin the sewer systems of our towns and cities in an instant. If a little bit of fried hamburger grease can bring your kitchen sink to a grinding halt, how can restaurants handle all the fats they use every day?
But restaurants, from the diner to the fast food place to the chi-chi bistro, have better ways of dealing with fats than pouring them into old coffee cans and putting them into the trash. The grease trap was invented to take care of the fats, oils and greases (abbreviated as FOGs) that come from food preparation.

Grease traps do more than prevent FOGs from entering the sewers in mass quantities: they provide a way to recycle greases, which can be used to make fuel. Some owners of diesel driven trucks and cars have discovered that a low tech filtering process can transform kitchen grease into clean, useful fuel that leaves a scent of French fries, not crude oil, behind. Recycling kitchen grease makes sense, and when it's in large quantities, is makes a lot of sense: someday, the whole world may be powered by fats! If you have a grease trap, you can call a recycler that specializes in FOGs: at intervals, they will come and take the grease away for filtering and refining.

Grease traps work by providing a storage and collection area for kitchen greases that would otherwise wind up clogging up drains and creating havoc in the sewers. They are either designed on site to conform to the building code, or they can be purchased as entire units. They are designed to let in water, to let the grease float on top, and to provide a place for solids, which will drop to the bottom of the tank. The trap should be designed so that when water that enters the trap is warm, it cools before leaving the trap. When the water cools, the fats that may have been melted in the water also cool and harden, separating from the water to float on top of the trap. If the fats stay melted in warm water, they will move out of the trap with the water and enter the wastewater drains.

Grease traps can be underground tanks or areas inside the building, depending on the size and location of the restaurant as well as the local building code requirements. Building codes also determine the requirements for the size of a trap, which is important because an overloaded trap won't work correctly. It's also important to have the grease trap installed by a reputable company: some estimates say that around one-quarter of grease traps are installed incorrectly.

Grease traps are usually cleaned every other week or once a month, depending on the size of the trap and the amount of grease used in the kitchen. Most restaurants establish a cleaning schedule and assign it to employees—it's one of the more unpleasant duties of a restaurant worker. The solids on the bottom of the tank as well as the FOGs from the top are removed in regular cleanings. Sediment and greases are disposed of in containers usually stored outside, and are protected from spilling. Grease trap cleaning and maintenance is important: if grease traps aren't cleaned when they should be, they stop working, and the grease as well as the water flows through the trap and into the wastewater lines.

Failing to maintain a grease trap can result in violation of building codes, city ordinances and food safety regulations. It can result in fines and in costly plumbing repairs. There are companies that specialize in cleaning grease traps, so the harried restaurateur doesn't need to bother with it. Otherwise, the cleaning may be relegated to bussers, dishwashers or waitpersons who have received proper and thorough training.

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Natural Drain Cleaner for Clogged Drains

The first thing you need to know before working on a clogged drain is that the drain cleaners you see advertised on TV or on the supermarket shelves are made of dangerous chemicals that will eat through rubber gloves, skin, certain kinds of pipe, wood and anything else they touch. If their fumes are inhaled, they can cause damage to the lungs, nose and mouth. If they are eaten, they will kill, even in small amounts. Even when they are used "properly", they can ruin septic systems, pollute groundwater, and destroy pipes.

For a more healthy and safe alternative, try a natural drain cleaner, such as Drainbo, that is made from natually occuring bacteria that will fix a clogged drain, but won't hurt your drain pipes or the environment.

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