In the restaurant industry and some homes, grease traps are mechanisms that are installed between the drains in a kitchen and the outer municipal sewer system. As the name suggests, the purpose of the trap is to stop grease from leaving the premises and getting into the wider sewer system where it can potentially cause a large amount of problems that are not easy to repair. The traps are primarily used in restaurant settings and can also capture food particles that are washed down the drain, although the unit is not really designed to handle large amounts of food, which can reduce its effectiveness. One of the most important aspects involved in using a grease trap is cleaning the unit to ensure that it does not clog and remains functional.
The size of most grease traps is determined by the amount of water that will be flowing through the trap each minute. The trap itself is really just two compartments that have a tube in the center allowing water in the middle of the first compartment to flow into the second compartment. This removes grease because fats and oil are lighter than water and float to the top, while food waste is heavier and will fall to the bottom, leaving mostly clear water in the center of the tank. The traps can be fairly small when serving only a single sink, or they can be incredibly large and mounted outdoors like a septic tank. Depending on the exact area, there might be regulations that dictate many aspects of grease trap operation and cleaning since the trap can affect public sewage lines.
Cleaning grease traps is not as simple as cleaning some other kitchen equipment. The first thing to understand is that the grease and food inside of the trap cannot be dumped into a drain or any location where it might enter the public sewer system. This means that the grease must be placed either in a container or disposed of over an absorbent material. In both cases, the material must still eventually be taken to a proper disposal location in accordance with local regulations. The process of getting the grease out of the trap can involve using shovels, special cleaning utensils, or even just pulling out the waste with gloves. For larger traps, it is common to have a commercial removal company come and use powerful vacuums to draw out all of the grease and food. In certain areas, a professional cleaning at least once a year is actually mandated by law in order to protect the sewers.
There are several steps that can help to extend the life of a grease trap and to reduce the frequency of required cleanings. One is to ensure that as little food and grease goes into the drain as possible. Another step is to keep all of the pipes and drains clean so that water can flow freely into the trap. Finally, there are enzymes that can be added to a grease trap that will decompose fats and foods so they eventually are washed away into the sewage system safely.