restaurant odor

Odor in the restaurant? Is it the grease trap?

The last thing any restaurateur wants is an odor in the restaurant and people asking “is it the grease trap?”  Have you ever had a customer complain about a foul odor? If you did, they probably assumed it was septic. Did they ever come back to your restaurant?

Probably not. And therein lies one of the many dangers of not effectively managing your grease trap.

What do grease traps do?

Grease traps trap used cooking oil, fryer grease and food debris and keep it from entering the municipal water system. But grease traps exist to trap limited amounts of these FOGs (fats,oils and grease). Oils, grease and food should never be poured down the drain. Oil and grease should be deposited in a used cooking oil recycling bin and picked up and recycled by a licensed collector such as CleanFri. Food scraps should be put in the rubbish.

How do grease traps get backed up?

Fryer oil is liquid at 350 degrees but begins to harden at 45 to 50 degrees, which happens readily in pipes in the walls and underground. If grease hardens in the pipes, gasses or liquids can back up the pipes into the restaurant. The bacterial breakdown of solids in your grease trap creates strong odors. This is one reason why grease traps must be pumped and cleaned regularly and never allowed to exceed 25% of their capacity nor to be left dry.

An odor should never be ignored. It is an indicator that something is wrong.

What causes grease trap backups?

A foul odor means something is wrong. A number of causes could be the culprit:

  • Broken gaskets around covers
  • A dry trap or interceptor 
  • A trap more than 25% full
  • A malfunctioning p-trap
  • A trap installed backwards
  • Clogged pipelines

If left unattended the problem could turn from odors to a flood of liquids. If the grease trap is under the sink then the backup spills into your kitchen creating a very expensive mess, possible fines, closure of the restaurant and lost revenues.  If you have a large grease interceptor, outside, then your parking lot or street may be flooded with noxious liquids. All of these scenarios are very damaging to the restaurant.

Municipal regulations for grease traps

Every municipality has a set of regulations governing the licensing and maintenance of grease traps.

Municipalities always require licensing, inspections, maintenance logs and specify penalties for non-compliance. Your grease trap cleaner can help keep you on the safe side of these requirements.

How to prevent grease trap backups

The very best way to prevent grease trap backups is to have regular maintenance and cleaning performed by a licensed professional like CleanFri.

CleanFri will perform regularly scheduled pumping, cleaning and grease trap maintenance. If the trap is more than 25% full they will adjust the schedule to ensure it never reaches that critical level. If there are damaged parts, baffles, covers or gaskets they will inform the restaurant and help arrange repairs. They will provide manifests for all the maintenance they do. They can even help you prepare for a grease trap inspection by the local health department.

Other signs that your grease trap isn’t functioning

Foul odors are the most frequent sign that something is wrong with the grease trap. But there are others. 

If the water in your kitchen sink is draining more slowly than usual it could indicate a grease trap problem or a clogged pipe. This requires immediate action and probably merits a call to a plumber.

If the water backs up and overflows into the kitchen or parking lot then the problem is very urgent.

Simple practices to protect your grease trap

A few simple practices that will protect your restaurant include:

  1. Train employees to:
    -never pour oil down the train
    -put food scraps in the rubbish
    -never ignore a foul odor
  1. Have traps pumped and cleaned regularly
    -at least every 3 months and
    more frequently if your provider finds it is merited
  1. Have the pipes cleaned/jetted twice per year

Want to learn more?

Give us a call or fill out a form to learn more or get your used cooking oil service started as soon as you need it!

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