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How To Clean Your Residential Grease Trap

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The job of cleaning a grease trap is not for the faint of heart; it is dirty, smelly and hard work. However, if your home has a grease trap, then it is important that it be periodically cleaned to prevent backups and to keep foul odors from overtaking your home. Below is more information about how grease traps work as well as what you need to do to keep your grease trap well-maintained:

How grease traps function

In the 21st century, grease traps are primarily used in commercial food preparation facilities and restaurants, but they are commonplace in residences built before the advent of modern waste treatment plants, especially in certain locales such as Chicago. Residential grease traps serve a simple role: the retention of heavy fats and solids that make their way out of a home's sewage effluent. Grease is a leading cause of sewage line backup, and if it isn't effectively processed, it can cause massive problems for a home and the sewer network beyond it.

Residential grease traps are typically buried, cylindrical structures constructed of concrete or brick that are usually around five to six feet deep. One inlet pipe is located near the top of the grease trap with an outlet pipe near the bottom. As grease and oil laden water enters the trap, the lighter fatty materials rise toward the top while the water separates and sinks toward the bottom; the water then is piped away from the trap into the sewer system. Over time, the grease accumulates inside the trap and eventually must be removed. Otherwise, problems such as slow draining, sewage odors and even backups into sinks can occur.

How to clean your residential grease trap

The first step in cleaning a residential grease trap is to locate the access cover, if you aren't aware of where it is. Typically located behind the residence near the kitchen, the trap will be covered with a metal lid similar to a small manhole cover. Once you find the lid, you can begin the process of cleaning:

1. Gather your tools and materials - To clean a grease trap, you will need to assemble a few relatively simple tools and materials:

  • Catch basin scoop and eight-foot handle

  • Heavy-duty garbage bags

  • Trash can

  • Garden hose with spray nozzle

  • Pry bar

  • Flashlight

  • Old clothes

  • Gloves

  • Face mask

2. Wear protective equipment - Be sure to wear old clothes that you don't mind getting dirty, and put on a pair of sturdy work gloves to protect your hands as you work. In addition, you may find a face mask useful to help minimize the strong odor of the rotting greasy debris.

3. Remove the grease trap lid - Once you are prepared to work, carefully move the grease trap lid away from the top of the trap. You may need to use a pry bar to provide leverage on the lid, especially if it hasn't been moved in some time.

4. Evaluate the grease trap - After moving the lid out of the way, take a careful look inside the trap to search for signs of entangling debris or other obstacles. Remove anything present that will get in the way of your work.

5. Scoop out the grease - After placing a garbage bag into a trash can, dip the catch basin scoop down into the grease trap so the top of the scoop just barely breaks the surface of the water. Slowly pull the scoop up to capture grease and allow the water to drain through the holes on the bottom and sides of the scoop. Next, dump the contents of the scoop into the garbage can.

Continue to scoop from the top and slowly move deeper into the grease trap. As you move downward, the water should also evacuate the trap and leave you with only a small amount of grease and liquid at the bottom. If you take a break during cleaning, it is important to place the lid back on top of the trap or build barricades around it to prevent accidental falls into the trap. Be particularly careful if you have small children and pets that are subject to falling into the trap.

6. Clean the grease trap - Once you have removed most of the grease, use a spray nozzle and garden hose to blast away any residual matter and debris inside the trap. Scoop out additional grease if the need arises during cleaning with the hose.

7. Replace the trap lid - After finishing the cleaning, place the lid back on top of the grease trap and run hot water at your sink for fifteen minutes to help flush thin, oily layers inside the trap.

Contact a sewer and drain cleaning service in your area for additional info.