Grease traps are common in many restaurants, and they’re crucial to daily operations. If a problem happens with your grease trap or interceptor, then it can become an issue quickly. Your restaurant’s operations might come to a total halt, and that will cost you precious time and money. You need to know the signs of problems with a grease trap so you can be proactive about them and know when to call in professional cleaning services.

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Grease traps can form clogs in several different places, including the barrier wall, the inlet, or the outlet. The proper grease trap holds waste that heads down the drain. This trap has a connection to an inlet pipe, and all waste that heads down the drain has to flow through this particular trap. On the other side of that trap is an outlet pipe. It funnels liquid waste out to the local sewer system. A baffle barrier sits between the two pipes, and it’s what traps grease so it doesn’t get out through the outlet pipe. However, it does let water out. Solid waste is supposed to settle near the bottom of the trap.

Many grease traps are located outdoors and are covered by a manhole cover. Some grease traps are indoors and located under a sink. Under-sink traps are smaller, and the lesser capacity can lead to more problems. Inlet pipe clogs will eventually create backups that overflow into your kitchen. Outlet pipes might do the same, but they’re more likely to back things up into the parking lot. Clogs in either location are best left to a professional plumber. If you have an under-sink trap, you might want to relocate it outside.

Slow Draining

If the sink in your kitchen is draining slower than it used to, then you might have a grease trap issue. For that matter, any drainage areas around your kitchen that slow down are cause for concern. Solid food waste and other kinds of debris might have gotten in there and started a clog. Grease, oil, and fats can solidify over time, and that accumulation can start slowing down the flow of water in and out of your trap.

Foul Odors

Strong smells, especially unpleasant ones, coming from a grease trap might be a warning sign that something is amiss. Grease, oil, and fats will degrade over time. That can result in smells you don’t want to be sniffing after a while. Bacteria that break solid material down will make it spoil. Gases form and wander up into your kitchen. Then, your staff and even your customers might notice something’s wrong. Regular cleaning by plumbers helps prevent this. What might surprise you is that you could notice a foul smell right after a cleaning. That instance isn’t one to be worried about because it should pass quickly and actually indicates something was flushed out forcefully and effectively. As the trap fills back with water again, the odor should subside quickly.


If your grease trap is overflowing, then you’ve got perhaps the most obvious sign that it needs attention. Whether it backs up into your kitchen or escapes out its manhole cover outside, this is a very serious issue. You need to get a plumber out there as quickly as you can. Grease spills aren’t easy to clean. They have to be handled in a very particular way in order to keep them from spreading.

Debris in the Drain

Trash and food waste should go in garbage cans and not your drainage pipes. The standard grease trap pipe is 4 inches. That’s plenty of room for utensils, napkins, gloves, and solid food waste to wind up getting in. You need to train your team to minimize how much solid food waste goes in there to prevent situations that just didn’t have to happen in the first place. Don’t put cooking oil down the drain, especially if it’s hot. Putting drain covers in place should help prevent many issues.

Improper Service

Two things come into play here. First, you need to have your grease trap serviced on a regular basis. Second, it needs to happen by someone who does things right. Municipal regulations can vary a lot about grease traps, so you need a plumber or service technician who does things by the book at your location. Otherwise, you might face fines. Anytime that grease and various other waste constitute over a quarter of your wastewater in the trap, then you need to have servicing done. Your provider should make sure the t-pipe is free of damage and still intact. Rely on your service provider, but also make sure they’re servicing your grease trap right.

Maintenance Matters

While plumbers can clean out a grease trap and usually restore its functionality, prevention and regular maintenance can save you time and money. Grease traps that get clogged up don’t just stop your kitchen operations. They also prevent several notable hazards and risks your business should avoid.

It starts with plumbing problems. Even if you have someone take care of slow drainage and overflows, you’re doing damage to your plumbing materials. That makes things unsanitary and costs you property repairs later. If you’re renting or leasing your kitchen, you might be risking trouble with the owners.

Contamination can happen through water or fumes. Employees in your back areas might inhale them the entire day. Wastewater can contaminate your source of clean water, and that gets shared through cooking and drinking with both your staff and your customers.

Smells and odors can drift out of your kitchen and into the dining areas. Customers that pick up on them are likely to eat somewhere else, and employees getting sick can mean call-outs and even workers’ compensation claims. If these odors are detected outside, people might not even walk through your doors.

Grease is always a fire risk. It’s very flammable. A full grease trap is more likely to be a starting point for a fire, and it will spread fast if there is ignition. Even if you have employees on hand who know how to use fire extinguishers, there can be injuries and serious damage.

One thing all of these situations have in common is that they’re expensive. Whether it’s more labor, repair bills, or lost business, they all cost you money or revenue. If the health department fines you or shuts you down, then you’ve got even more to deal with in your budget.

Count on Professional Services

You need your grease trap to function well every single day. Professional plumbing services can restore it back to working order, and maintenance inspections can possibly prevent things from backing up in the first place. If you have a grease trap that seems blocked or is definitely so, then contact us at We Care Heating, Plumbing, and Air to see what we can do for you. Consult us for all your heating, cooling, air quality, plumbing, and drain services in Southern California.

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Author Bio: Rusty Cochran

Rusty Cochran - President of We Care Plumbing, Heating and Air ConditioningRusty Cochran is the President of We Care Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. We Care began humbly, operating in his family’s living room. Under Rusty’s strong leadership, We Care has grown from 2 employees to over 200 employees. We Care Plumbing, Heating and Air has gained recognition across the HVAC industry, receiving numerous awards and certifications, including being named the ACCA Contractor of the Year, The Map Presidential Award several times, Angie’s List Super Service Award, NATE certification, and multiple Dave Lennox Awards. LinkedIn Profile

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