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Grease Management Tips for Restaurant Cleanliness & Fire Prevention

Grease is one of those things that can harm your restaurant. No, not the musical. We’re talking about food-related grease, the hot liquid and cold solid material that can clog your drains and cause flames to rage out of control.  The fact is, grease buildup is one of the top hazards that can affect restaurants and other commercial kitchen establishments everywhere. If you have accumulated grease, it’s only a matter of time before you face trouble of your own. There is hope, however. Excess grease can be prevented once you know the proper steps to follow.  Here is all you need to know about this food waste material and how to avoid expensive fines, closures due to fire, as well as bodily injury and death that can all be caused by the buildup of grease.   

Hazards of Indoor Grease Buildup 

The average restaurant produces copious amounts of waste in the form of grease on a daily, week, monthly, and yearly basis. While it’s easy to let grease management fall by the wayside, especially as you deal with all the stress that comes with running a busy restaurant, forgoing the grease cleanup is a mistake. These are some of the issues you are likely to run into if you allow the grease to pile up out of control. 

– Enhanced Risk of Bodily Harm

Grease can easily find its way onto your tile floor. When that happens, watch out. Employees can slip and slide and even fall down, leading to an expensive liability issue. OSHA regulations for restaurant safety require you, as the restaurant owner or manager, to create a safe working environment that is free of hazards like the accumulation of grease that could then go on to cause injury or death.  If an employee is injured on your greasy floor, all that person has to do is file a complaint with OSHA while claiming damages. Do you really want that expense or knowledge that you could have prevented the employee’s injury by cleaning up all the grease? The lesson? Keep the floors and entire establishment grease-free to prevent injuries and future lawsuits.

Plumbing Backups

While it’s true that grease becomes liquid during the cooking process, the substance hardens when it cools. Before you know it, you have a gelatinous mess on your hands. If that mess finds its way into your plumbing system, you face a heavy clog. To make matters worse, when your business’s plumbing is affected, the problem could go on to clog the local sewer system, causing a stinky mess that isn’t easy to clean. Unless you want number two all over your commercial kitchen and dining areas, cleaning grease buildup should become your number one priority.

FOG Fees

Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) should all be disposed of properly. FOG programs around the country exist to monitor restaurants and other food establishments for the purposes of ensuring sanitary conditions and the appropriate disposal of FOG. These programs also require you to properly service and maintain all Grease Management removal equipment.  If you don’t comply, you could be hit with expensive FOG build up fees.

Environmental Damage

You might wonder how to grease buildup inside your business could possibly be an environmental concern. However, the cost to the local ecosystem becomes clearer when you consider the following. Your standard rooftop grease collector maintains about four quarts of grease. Your kitchen exhaust hood sends about a quart of grease to the rooftop collector each month. If you only change out the grease pad every year when the inspector comes around, you could find yourself dumping around eight quarts of grease onto your roof each year. The moment it rains, all that grease could flow off your roof and into your rain gutters, subsequently finding itself into your storm drain, and then into the streams and rivers. All that grease can quickly go on to kill plants, fish, and other wildlife.  Keep the environment clean by keeping your restaurant free of excess grease. 

EPA Penalties 

The unauthorized discharge of grease-tainted stormwater is against the law. You could be subject to fines from the Environmental Protection Agency if you don’t keep up with the buildup of grease in your rooftop collection system. 

Foul Odors

The longer grease remains in your kitchen, the worse it’s going to smell. Your goal is to keep a clean and pleasant-smelling environment for your customers to enjoy a meal. Having an unpleasant odor wafting from your kitchen isn’t going to cut it and could lead to declining business and negative reviews.  Keep your restaurant smelling like the delicious meals you serve by keeping excess grease at bay.

Pests

Lingering grease can attract mice, rats, drain flies, roaches, and other nasty vermin.  The fact is, a buildup of heavy grease is a serious sanitation issue.

 Increased Fire Risk

Aside from cleanliness, the heightened fire risk is by far the most important reason to Grease Management in your commercial kitchen. Grease is highly flammable. When it builds up, the risk of dangerous fire significantly increases. When a fire ignites, you face restaurant damage and injury, or even loss of life. The financial drain on your business could be enormous, not to mention the emotional toil on customers and staff. Your reputation could be harmed, and your bottom line could be affected for months, if not years, into the future.  Keep the risk of fire at an absolute minimum by cleaning the grease inside your establishment on a regular basis. 

The Step by Step Guide to Cleaning Excess Grease Buildup 

You now have plenty of reasons to maintain a grease-free environment for customers and staff. Here are a few steps to follow to ensure that happens now and in the future. 

Clean Your Grease Traps

Your kitchen’s grease trap doesn’t just catch grease, but it also catches oil and fat. Remember FOG? Oh yeah, your grease trap’s full of it. It’s up to you to empty it out every once in a while. If you fail to clean the trap, all that grease can find its way into the local sewer, and we’re right back to a sewer backup.  You can clean a grease trap on your own. You can even get your staff to do the job for you. However, only a professional can ensure that the grease trap is opened, cleaned, serviced, maintained, and sealed properly. A wrong move can leave a grease trap that isn’t properly cleaned or that isn’t well-maintained, giving you problems sooner or later.  Most grease traps have to be opened carefully, with specialized tools so that you don’t break the gaskets. All that gunk needs to be removed and then properly disposed of. You can’t just dump all that FOG down the drain, nor should you toss it into the garbage. You can get fined for that, which is another case for getting professionals to do the job on your behalf. Professionals can also repair parts and replace them as needed, making sure your FOG excess is always collected and that all the waste in the local sewer system stays right where it belongs.

How Often Should Grease Traps Be Cleaned?

Your restaurant’s grease trap cleaning frequency will vary depending on the size of your trap and the amount of grease your staff use in your kitchen. Most cities require restaurants to clean the trap so that they maintain less than 25% FOG accumulation. For most establishments, this equates to a thorough cleaning at least once per quarter and sometimes as frequently as once per month. 

Grease Trap Buildup Warning Signs

You should be aware of indicators that can tell you when your grease trap should be cleaned and/or maintained. One warning sign to look for is a drain system that doesn’t go down as fast. Backed up drains are almost a sure sign that there is too much grease in your trap.  Another warning sign is a strong and foul odor. FOG waste produces an extremely unpleasant odor after sitting stagnant for extended periods of time. You need to ensure you remove them frequently. Cleaning grease traps properly, and having professionals do the job, will prevent these foul odors from accumulating inside your restaurant.  Finally, if your sewers are backing up, that could be an indication that your grease trap is full and needs to be cleaned out. 

Vent Hood Cleaning

A dirty ventilation hood can be a major fire hazard. You can also get fined by your health inspector for having blocked or soiled ventilation components. Your staff should be engaging in nightly, weekly, and monthly cleaning duties. One of those duties is likely the cleaning of the grease filters on the vent hoods. But how well is your staff inspecting the hoods to ensure they are free of all grease and debris? You can maintain the cleanest vent hoods and keep the health inspector happy with regular vent hood cleaning by experienced professionals. A vent hood cleaning service will ensure that every inch of your unit is clean and well-maintained. Most importantly, the service will keep you code-compliant. Those codes exist to keep your restaurant, personnel and customers safe from foul smoke and dangerous fire. For those reasons and more, you will sleep easier knowing that your vent hoods are cleaned by those who know the value of cleaner and more breathable air. 

Cooking Oil Pickup 

It’s not just grease you have to worry about. You also should think about any cooking oil your kitchen is producing to excess. It can be dangerous to leave used cooking oil just hanging around. Talk about a fire hazard! A single spark can pose a dangerous situation to your building, staff, and loyal customers. For this reason, ensure that you are removing used cooking oil on your premises, and that you are following all local rules and regulations while doing so. You can ensure that your restaurant follows the law by calling on certified professionals who regularly work with FOG related removal. Removing used cooking oil doesn’t have to be a messy job. In fact, professional services exist whose reputation depends on fast, clean, and courteous pickups of all types of substances, including used oil and grease. 

Clean Your Kitchen Floors

Grease doesn’t have to spill in a puddle to cause a fire or slip hazard. Grease can accumulate on your kitchen floors for a long time. This results in a sheet of grease that must be removed if you hope to leave your restaurant safe for staff and customers alike. Your kitchen floors are especially susceptible to grease buildup after the grease trap has been cleaned and maintained.  While your staff are undoubtedly keeping your floors somewhat cleaned with their nightly sanitation duties, a professional cleaning on a regular basis can give you much better peace of mind. Professional floor cleaners use powerful degreasing agents. They also use heavy duty machines like floor scrubbers and carpet steamers. Removing grease can be done with your wait and kitchen staff, but professional services will make sure your floors are always cleaned to your satisfaction.

Now, For Major Grease No-Nos

So far, we have covered steps you can do to keep grease buildup from becoming a problem. Now we are going to discuss a couple things you should never do to keep your restaurant clean and free from grease buildup.

No Pouring Grease Down the Drains!

Everyone in your kitchen should know that you should never pour grease down the drain directly. However, you are essentially doing that very thing when you allow food waste of any kind to grace your drain system. All waste should be disposed of properly, in the garbage bin, particularly solid food waste. Don’t rely on garbage disposals and always empty your drain strainers.  The goal of your kitchen staff should be to minimize at all costs the amount of food that sneaks into the grease trap.

Don’t Leave Outdoor Oil Storage Containers Unsecured

If you recycle cooking oil and leave that oil stored in outdoor containers, make sure they are always properly secured. These containers should always be locked away and maintained so that they are far from wastewater systems. These protocols ensure that the grease and oils never enter the natural environment. Locking the containers also keeps thieves from stealing and selling your used oil and build-up grease. 

Don’t Let the Grease Buildup Get Out of Hand 

You now know the damage that can be done to your restaurant if you allow grease and FOG altogether to accumulate to excess. The restaurant cleaning professionals at Aps-Hoods want to talk to you if you have heavy amounts of grease and wish to make your establishment cleaner and safer for everyone involved.  Your staff and customers deserve an environment that is sanitary and that prevents slips, falls, and deadly fires. Let us provide you with a free quote and we can ensure your grease stays at a minimum for maximum health and safety. Call now in Denver, Colorado

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What Do Commercial Grease Trap Cleaning Services Entail?

Image Source Like most restaurant owners, you probably have an equipment maintenance checklist that includes checking equipment for failure and ensuring appliances are working efficiently for maximum energy savings. However, if you don’t have a proper cleaning checklist, you should get one fast. Cleaning a commercial kitchen involves a ton of elbow grease and the knowledge to know which areas to clean for proper food and environmental safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite commercial kitchens as the source for more than 50% of all foodborne outbreaks. This means that thoroughly cleaning your commercial kitchen can actually help to spread airborne illness. Proper cleaning of a commercial kitchen must involve the countertops and other hard surfaces, all the appliances and other equipment, your exhaust hoods and vents, as well as the floors, walls, and ceilings. Before you finish your list, there is a critical component to commercial kitchen cleaning that we failed to mention: Grease traps. If your kitchen’s grease traps aren’t cleaned on a regular basis, you could find yourself with a mess on your hands, not to mention a major fire hazard.

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The Importance of Cleaning Your Commercial Grease Traps

A grease trap that is regularly cleaned is vital to the health of your restaurant business. Grease traps that aren’t cleaned thoroughly can produce foul odors, which can offend even the most laid back of restaurant patrons. Dirty grease traps can also cause you to commit expensive state and federal code violations. For those reasons, you will want to ensure that you put into place a regular grease cleaning schedule that will keep your patrons happy and your restaurant profitable.

What is a Grease Trap?

A grease trap is a plumbing device that is designed to intercept grease and other solids before they have a chance to enter the wastewater disposal system. While some wastewater does contain a small amount of oil, grease traps keep large amounts of oil, fat, and grease from clogging the septic tank and sewer lines. Commercial kitchens produce a ton of oil, fat, and grease, sometimes on a daily basis. When these particles enter the grease trap from the commercial kitchen’s outflow, the solid food particles sink to the bottom while the grease, oils, and fat float to the top. The grease-free water is fed into the septic system, leaving the grease trap accumulating more of the gunk all the time. Since these substances can solidify when cooled, the mixture of them can cause blocked drain pipes. A grease trap also manages to keep the septic and sewer lines cool while preventing a dangerous fire from occurring. However, grease traps can only work effectively when they are cleaned regularly. That’s because a buildup of grease is one of the most dangerous problems you can encounter in a commercial kitchen. When you combine the grease buildup with sparks and flames that regularly occur in a high-pressure kitchen, dangerous and deadly fire can result. The good news is that you will likely be reminded to regularly clean your commercial grease traps, as state and local codes, and even some insurance companies, along with the local fire department, will often have schedule requirements for proper grease exhaust cleaning. Learn more about: All You Need to Know About Restaurant Hood Maintenance to Protect Your Investment

How Frequently Does Your Grease Trap Need to be Cleaned?

The schedule you adhere to for proper grease trap cleaning varies, depending on your restaurant type, size, and other factors, such as your hours of operation. Generally speaking, you should plan to have your commercial grease trap cleaned every thirty-days if your establishment uses wood or charcoal grills, char-broilers, and if your doors are open 24/7. Many hamburger restaurants need a schedule like this due to the high rate of table turnover and cooking production. All those burgers produce a ton of grease, which needs to be cleaned out every month. Every sixty-days is the required commercial grease trap schedule for the average restaurant. This includes cafeterias, hotel kitchens, hospital kitchens, and your local family restaurant. Since the grease traps aren’t overflowing on a monthly basis, every two months might be an acceptable schedule for your needs. Check with the local code authorities to determine if this schedule is right for your restaurant or other commercial kitchen business. Many fast food locations have become very efficient with their grease trapping and cleaning, which means that these types of establishments can often get away with ninety-day grease cleaning schedules. A thorough scrubbing every three months should keep the grease traps clean and the cleaning process affordable for restaurant owners. For pizza restaurants, convalescent hospitals, snack bars, and oven hoods, every 120 days or once every four months should suffice for proper grease trap cleaning.

How is a Grease Trap Cleaned?

For best results, you should always hire a professional commercial kitchen cleaning service to thoroughly clean your grease traps. Only a reputable company will have the training, tools, and abilities to clean your grease traps so they are always up to code. If your grease traps aren’t cleaned as well as they could be, you could face a load of problems. For one, your insurance company might revoke your insurance. You also face serious liability and litigation from fires that were caused by you not ensuring that your grease traps were properly cleaned. Hefty fines or a personal injury court case could put you out of the commercial kitchen business entirely. The National Fire Protection Association or NFPA states that the majority of restaurant fires start when cooking appliances flare into the kitchen exhaust system. When you consider that grease fires burn as hot as 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, a grease fire can spread quickly through neglected exhaust systems that are laden with grease. The fire could then travel to the roof, where more business-killing damage can be done, not to mention the threat of injury and loss of life. Nearly 11,000 commercial kitchens are damaged by fire every year, resulting in over $160 million in damages. Make sure yours is not one of them with proper commercial grease trap cleaning and maintenance. Depending on the company you hire, your grease traps will be cleaned with a variety of high-pressure tools and precision techniques. Each team that is hired to clean your kitchen knows there are pipes and ventilation shafts that can become traps for grease, oil, and debris. These areas need to be cleaned just as thoroughly as your grease trap to prevent future problems. Unless your time schedule was specified by fire and other coding authorities, your grease traps should be professionally cleaned at least every four to six weeks. Failure to clean your grease trap can cause all those solids to enter the wastewater, causing blockages that could then flood your restaurant with foul-smelling sewer water. If that does happen, it will take at least two days to sanitize your commercial kitchen establishment, leading to an expensive and unnecessary shutdown. When the professionals show up to clean your commercial grease trap, the first thing they’ll do is assess the type of grease trap you operate. ( Learn More About Grease Trap Service in APS-HOODS ) There are four essential types of commercial grease trap.

Hydromechanical Grease Interceptor (HGI)

A hydromechanical grease interceptor is a small grease trap that is usually located in cabinet space underneath a sink. This type of grease trap provides passive oil trapping and is the least expensive to install. The drawback to the HGI grease trap is that it requires frequent cleaning, which might end up costing you more in cleaning and maintenance costs in the long run.

Automatic Grease Removal System

This type of grease trap features an automatic mechanism for removing grease from the tank, where it’s kept in a separate container. While these systems can be a good alternative for the HGI, they make it a little harder to prove that your commercial kitchen skims FOG (Fat, Oil, and Grease) regularly.

Gravity Grease Interceptors (GGI)

These grease traps separate water, solid waste, along with fat, oil, and grease using the force of gravity. The tanks are constructed of metal, concrete, or a strong plastic and are designed to collect wastewater while separating FOG. When the FOG is collected, it floats to the surface while the solids sink to the bottom. The wastewater flows into the sewer network or the water treatment plant, and the grease is kept in the trap. If your establishment has a GGI, the grease will need to be pumped out regularly, or at least at the point where solids and grease become 25% of the overall tank’s contents. These grease traps are more expensive to install but require less maintenance than HGIs or their automatic system counterparts.

Maximum Retention HGIs

For restaurants that don’t have space for larger, more conventional grease traps, maximum retention HGIs are becoming increasingly popular. These grease traps are on the smaller side, and yet tend to trap more FOG per volume. Some units manage to trap up to 85% of their liquid capacity. The best part is that these systems require far less maintenance than your standard grease trap systems. Depending on the type of grease trap your establishment uses, here are some common ways a commercial cleaning company will keep your restaurant spotless and safe with proper grease trap cleaning.

Proper Cleaning Protocols for Commercial Grease Traps

The company will begin by removing the grease trap lid, typically with a crowbar or a wrench, as some traps are sealed with bolts. The cleaning professionals will need to ensure that the grease trap is completely cool before working on it. Allowing the liquids inside to reach room temperature will also cause the fats, oils, and grease to float to the top, which makes it easier to scoop out. The cleaning crew will first inspect the baffles, which are the parts of the grease trap that separate the flow of wastewater in the grease trap tank. If yours is an outdoor trap, there will be a PVC pipe fitting known as an outlet T. Without this device, the grease trap wouldn’t be able to do its job properly. The outlet T will ensure that the water leaving the grease trap is coming from the middle of the grease trap and that none of the solids are entering the sewer system. Cleaning a grease trap begins with removing the solid FOG that has floated to the top. This usually consists of a two-inch layer of thick sludge. The cleaners will use a scoop for this job until all the fats, oils, and grease have been lifted out of the tank. Only water and leftover food solids will remain after this part of the job is completed. Now comes time to use the heavy-duty grease trap cleaning tools. A powerful shop vac will be used to remove the residual solids and leftover water. During this process, the cleaning crew will need to ensure that the automatic dishwasher is turned off and that the sinks are not in use. Doing so will prevent the grease trap from filling up while the cleaning process is ongoing. Next, the commercial grease trap cleaners will scrape off the baffles, sides of the grease trap, and the lid. All excess grease will need to be removed before the cleaning crew can call it a job well done. Your grease trap will then be flushed-out with soap and a degreasing solution, in most cases, then clean water. By the time the crew is finished, you will be left with a clean and sparkling commercial grease trap. One of the primary reasons that a professional crew is often selected for grease trap cleaning is because these services have the means to safely remove any FOG collected. These services will typically offer grease trap cleaning in addition to vent hood, fans, ductwork, and HVAC cleaning, making sure your restaurant is free of fire-starting grease and other debris.

Want a Free Quote for Professional Grease Trap Cleaning?

If you want your grease trap to remain clean at regular intervals throughout the year, keeping you code compliant and your restaurant safe, you’ll want to call on the commercial kitchen cleaning professionals. Aps-Hoods proudly serves clients throughout Denver, Aurora, Centennial, Lakewood, Colorado. For safe and reliable commercial kitchen cleaning that will save you time and money, contact our grease trap cleaning professionals for a free quote. (image source)

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HVAC System: Summer is a Perfect Time for Adjusting by APS Hoods

Image Source Denver, CO – While commercial kitchens always run hotter than dining areas, in the summertime–restaurant kitchens become can become hazardously hot. Furthermore, restaurant owners find that their energy bills–from cooling, fan use, and unbalanced air, etc.–increase dramatically. This ends up leeching resources from their profits. It also makes summer an ideal time to fine-tune and check your commercial kitchen HVAC system professionally. Here are some common problems that may be plaguing your restaurant in the warmer months:

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Cool Air Is Pulled Out Through Exhaust Fan

Is your air conditioning bill incredibly high, while your establishment always seems inadequately cool? What may be happening is that your cold, conditioned air is being circulated out of your exhaust hood due to a lack of make-up air. Instead of just doing its job of pulling gasses and hot air from above the stove, the exhaust hood can sometimes suck out the desirable air from inside your building. This often creates a vacuum effect in your entire restaurant, where it becomes difficult to open doors without them slamming you upon closing. The solution to this problem is as simple as installing a makeup-air unit. This kind of unit in your kitchen will generate much needed negative air pressure that will disallow unpleasant smells from flowing out into your general building, while also not letting your air-conditioned air to so easily escaping through the vents.

Grease Filters Making Your Ventilation Ineffective

Spring, and especially summer, tend to be the busiest and most profitable month for any restaurant. People are out and about on the town, looking for new eateries to discover.  This brings many more people to your establishment than during the harsher seasons of the year. However, the increased amount of cooking also results in clogged grease traps, which may need to be changed out more often than recommended. Clogged grease filters can cause your kitchen to overheat. Then, your air will become unclean, as a dirty filter cannot function at top capacity. This will cause both the kitchen and dining area to become smoky or otherwise unpleasant in odor. Moreover, your air conditioning bill will rise ever higher, while your exhaust fan will need to work harder to compensate for all these issues. This makes for employee health dangers, customer discomfort/dissatisfaction, and higher bills for you! It is easy for even the most disciplined restaurant crew to forget to monitor their grease filters, but it is necessary to keep tabs on the situation to maintain the optimal function of your HVAC system. It is smart to schedule routine filter changes throughout the Spring and Summer when business really picks up.

Learn more about: Grease Management Tips for Restaurant Cleanliness & Fire Prevention

For an air balancing test to determine whether your cold air is being cycled out of your establishment or, for grease filter service, call APS Hoods. We will help your restaurant to remain safe and help you to save money on energy bills. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Millionairium and Farazandeh are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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