By Ron Bender
November 18, 2019
Throughout the country, residential and commercial kitchens will soon be crowded with family, friends and loved ones looking to share big meals for the holidays. All too often, however, those celebrations can take a turn for the worse if the proper precautions aren’t taken. With many of the festivities centered around cooking and baking heavier foods, it’s vital that resulting fats, oils and grease (FOG’s) are disposed of properly, or else the unwelcome gift of blocked pipes can make for a tough holiday season.
With a large increase in sheer volume of meals being prepared, facilities involved in institutional cooking are at the biggest risk of drain blockage. Churches, schools and businesses often hold employee parties and charitable meals to benefit those in their community. These kitchens, however, are not accustomed to cooking for the masses. To ensure that holiday meals are enjoyed by all—including the staff and facility managers—it’s important to consider the kitchen’s capabilities.
To prevent plumbing backups, unpleasant odors and wet floors, seasonal kitchen staff must be trained to carry out the following safe disposal practices.
Facilities can cut their drainage maintenance bills in half if kitchen staff is trained to never pour any oils or grease directly down a sink or floor drain in the facility. Turkey, ham and potatoes are all holiday staples, but the same ingredients that make our meals delicious also cause major drain issues. Fats, oils and grease quickly solidify when they reach room temperature, which can result in major blockages. Pouring these materials down the drain can also bring down hefty fines on facilities that are required to comply with local regulations meant to keep FOG out of the sewers. To avoid non-compliance fines and surcharges levied on businesses by local wastewater authorities, let the excess FOG cool before transferring it to another container and throwing it in the garbage. Staff and volunteers should also wipe down plates with an absorbent towel before rinsing them off to keep excess FOG out of the drains.
In fact, all food waste should be scraped from plates and cookware directly into a trash can before they are rinsed or washed.
A common misconception is that household or commercial garbage disposals are useful in keeping food scraps moving through the wastewater system. In fact, all food waste should be scraped from plates and cookware directly into a trash can before they are rinsed or washed. Otherwise, these solids will contribute to clogs and unpleasant smells, plus they put extra stress and strain on municipal wastewater treatment facilities and can bring non-compliance fines down on the business or institution.
Additionally, it is recommended that kitchens that are cooking large meals invest in grease traps or oil recycling boxes, which should intercept most FOG and other materials that might accidentally go down the drain before they enter the wastewater disposal system. By properly maintaining these grease traps and checking to see that all sinks and floor drains have effective particle screens on them, seasoned staff will keep kitchens flowing freely during the holidays.
During the cleaning process, hot water should be used for washing at all times. You won’t be able to prevent every bit of FOG from going down the drain, but hot water will help liquefy and drain any oils or grease that may have collected. Ideally this grease will then be collected in a grease trap, in order to prevent it from entering the drainage system.
At the end of the day, the biggest takeaway is this—the drain is not a proper disposal method. Fats, oils, grease, food scraps, paper products, cutlery and other common kitchen materials are meant for the trash can, not the drain!
But what should you do if you do end up getting a drainage backup?
Don’t wait for the holidays to be over before you act. Household and commercial drain cleaners use hydrochloric or muriatic acid, lye or other dangerous chemicals to eat the clog, but they also can damage your pipes and will harm the environment. Bleach will deodorize the drain but doesn’t work on clogs. Hot water, baking soda and vinegar can be effective but may cause unpleasant or dangerous reactions.
The best solution is to have a have a plumber remedy the immediate problem to mitigate any business or facility interruptions. Once the initial blockage is taken care of, schedule a thorough inspection of your drainage system, preferably using a drain line camera, to determine what adverse effects FOG or solids are having on your plumbing system. If FOG or food solids are determined to be the cause of the backup, it will likely be a continual issue moving forward. Have your drain system cleaned using high pressure jetting and implement a comprehensive preventive program.
Your home or facility’s drain health during the season of giving can make all the difference in seasonal celebrations. By being proactive, you too can do your part and make a positive impact on your community’s drain systems.
Ron Bender is the Vice President of Franchising for EnviroLogik.