How to Clean a Residential Grease Trap

by Michael Franco
A grease trap is shown positioned underneath a kitchen countertop with a sink that is connected to the trap via PVC pipe in an all white room, grease trap, trap, grease, sink, kitchen sink, kitchen counter, kitchen countertop, countertop, counter, white, all white, white background, grease trap underneath sink, faucet

Grease. It’s one of the natural byproducts of cooking and preparing food. Because of its propensity to clog drains and cause sewage line backups, however, it’s important to never pour fats, oils and grease down your drain ... Unless you have a residential grease trap, of course.

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While grease traps are used primarily in restaurants and other commercial kitchens, a residential grease trap can be a useful addition to your home. A residential grease catcher works much like commercial grease traps, only smaller. When FOG (fats, oils and grease) flows through your drain, they pass through a filtration system that catches the sludge and allows it to cool off and solidify. Home grease traps keep your drainage system running smoothly and, unsurprisingly, are better for the environment to boot.

Grease Trap Maintenance

Generally speaking, you should plan on cleaning out your grease trap once every three months, if possible. Traditionally, residential grease traps are large, cylindrical structures located outside and in the ground. However, newer models are typically made of plastic, and some are even located under your sink. Either way, regular cleaning and maintenance of your grease trap are essential to the trap’s ability to do its job properly. Because the bulk of grease traps are found outside, that's what we'll focus on here.

Now, cleaning a grease trap isn’t the most fun job in the world. Truth be told, it can be messy, smelly and time-consuming. That said, with the right mindset and some intestinal fortitude, you can save money by doing it yourself instead of hiring a professional. Moreover, keeping on top of your grease trap maintenance will ensure the job is a manageable task.

Do you have a home grease trap that needs cleaning? Follow this step-by-step process to clean your exterior grease trap and be ready to get down and dirty!

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What You’ll Need for the Job

Due to the nature of this job, you’ll want to make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the task. Make sure you are wearing clothes that you won’t mind getting ruined. Secondly, wear a face mask if possible. In case you didn’t know, grease traps contain decomposing food particles and other solid waste, which can get quite smelly. Other essential items for the job include a pry bar, a heavy-duty plastic trash bag, a small bucket, a steel pot scrubber and a garden hose.

Cleaning a Grease Trap: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Remove the Lid

Using a pry bar, detach the lid from the grease trap. If the trap hasn’t been opened in a while, prying it open could require some effort. Be careful: Around the lid of the grease trap are gaskets that can be easily damaged; you won’t want to spend any additional time, energy and money replacing them.

Step 2: Inspect the Trap

After you remove the grease trap lid, take a moment to evaluate the condition of the grease trap. Examine the gaskets and check for any signs of damage or leaking. If your trap is made of metal, check for signs of rust or corrosion. If anything seems wrong, schedule an inspection with a professional as soon as possible.

After you’ve taken a close look at the trap, insert a measuring stick or wooden dowel into the trap until it touches the bottom of the trap, making sure that the grease and oils clearly mark the stick.

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Step 3: Remove the Grease and Other Debris

Once you’ve evaluated the condition of the trap, begin by using a small mop bucket to remove standing water from the top of the tank and discard.

When the water has been removed, line a trash can with a heavy-duty plastic bag and use the small bucket to scoop the waste from the trap into the bag. After scooping all of the grease, oils, and other debris from the trap, scrape down the lid and the sides of the trap with the bucket.

Step 4: Clean the Trap

When all of the waste has been removed from the trap, use a steel pot scrubber along with some dish soap and warm water and wash the trap sides, parts and lid. This will allow you to remove any excess grease and oil left in the trap and will help keep any odors at bay. Finally, using a garden hose and spray nozzle, flush away any residual debris still left inside the trap.

Step 5: Replace the Lid of the Grease Trap

Once the trap is clean, reinstall the grease trap lid. Once it has been replaced, run your hot water for 15 minutes to fully flush the trap.

The Benefits of a Grease Trap for Your Plumbing

Although they typically aren’t required for residences, kitchen grease traps can be a useful addition to any sink drainage system. With a grease trap, you can rest easy knowing that you’re protecting your septic or sewer system from getting damaged or clogged by the accumulation of FOG. That said, residential grease traps come with required cleaning and maintenance to keep them running properly.

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