In a hectic commercial kitchen, there’s almost nothing worse than a severe drain clog. Not only do most clogs look and smell horrific, but they can also impede normal daily operations. When drains are blocked and backed up, staff can’t wash dishes or keep their workspaces clean, which may affect a business’s bottom line.

Though clogged kitchen drains are one of the most common commercial drain problems, they don’t have to be a frequent problem in your kitchen. Preventing kitchen drain clogs is fairly easy, provided you implement a few simple practices, which you can learn more about below.

1. Place Food Waste in the Trash, Not in the Sink

In the middle of a hectic dinner rush, scraping food waste from diners’ dishes straight into the sink might be convenient, but doing that is a perfect recipe for drain clogs. Most food scraps contain some type of starch or oil, both of which can stick to the interior of the drain and accumulate over time.

As dishwashers continue to scrape food into the sink, incoming food scraps can get caught up in that sticky mess, further contributing to the formation of a drain blockage. Eventually, the sludgy grime that accumulates along the interior of the pipe will slow water drainage. And in a worst-case scenario, the food buildup will completely block the pipe.

To avoid clogged sink drains, make sure you educate your staff on the importance of tossing waste into the trash instead of rinsing it down the drain. Though the change may require a bit of an adjustment period to stick, your kitchen sink drains will remain far cleaner as a result.

2. Use Absorbent Cleaning Materials to Wipe Grease Off Dishes

Most restaurant meals contain a decent amount of fat, which can leave an oily residue on diners’ dishes. Though a small amount of grease or oil may seem like a non-issue, a high-volume commercial kitchen washes hundreds, if not thousands, of dishes each day. And with that many dishes running through the wash, leaving even a small amount of greasy residue on each one can eventually cause a drain problem.

But there’s a simple way to cut down on the accumulation of oily residue inside your commercial kitchen sinks. Simply ask your staff to use absorbent cleaning cloths to wipe oils, grease, and fat from dishes prior to washing them.

3. Never Pour Fatty or Oily Substances Down the Drain

Most restaurant owners (and employees) are well aware of the fact that oils and fats never belong in a drain. But when there’s a huge rush and staff are trying their hardest to keep up, sometimes, oily gunk finds its way into the sink rather than into the trash.

But if you want to minimize your risk of dealing with drain problems, notify staff that they should always place used fats and oils in disposable containers after allowing them to cool down. Those containers can be disposed of safely in the trash.

If necessary, post signage above sinks to remind employees. Keeping fats and oils out of your drains is that important. If you want to maintain healthy flow throughout your building's plumbing system, educate your staff on these other things that never belong in your drains, too.

4. Run Hot Water Down the Drain Daily

No matter how diligent you are about properly disposing of food waste and greasy ingredients, you cannot get rid of every bit of grease on each dish. You have to assume that a small amount of oil and fat will enter the sink drain each time a dish is washed. So what can you do about it?

As you’re closing and cleaning up for the night, run very hot water down the drain for a couple of minutes. The hot water will help liquefy and wash away any residue that is adhered to the interior of the drain throughout the day.

This nifty trick can also help restore flow in drains that have slowed a bit over time. If you’re dealing with a sluggish drain or two, check out these other tips for fixing slow drains.

5. Maintain Grease Traps

If your commercial kitchen has a grease trap, make sure you clean and maintain it regularly! Having a grease trap doesn’t automatically protect your kitchen from drain clogs — but having a CLEAN, properly maintained grease trap goes a long way toward keeping your drains clear.

To clean your grease trap, perform the following steps:

1.      Take the lid of the grease trap, being careful to remove it gently, so you don’t damage any gaskets.

2.      Insert a ruler into the trap to gauge the amount of accumulated grease. Jot down the number of inches of grease in the trap, so you can complete the required EPA reports.

3.      Use a bucket or pump to remove the water from the trap.

4.      When you’ve removed all the water, begin scooping grease out of the trap with a shovel, scooper, or bucket.

5.      Thoroughly scrape the sides, bottom, and lid of the trap to remove any remaining grease.

6.      Scrub the interior of the trap thoroughly and flush the screens.

7.      Pour the necessary amount of water back into the trap, reinstall any parts you had to remove, and then replace the lid.

6. Install a Commercial Sink Strainer

No matter how hard you try to stop them from sliding into your kitchen drains, small pieces of food will still end up in those pipes. But if you have a commercial drain strainer fitted into your sink setup, those foodstuffs won’t make it far enough into your plumbing system to cause problems.

There are a few types of commercial drain strainers, but most kitchens use a twist-handle waste valve, which functions as both a strainer and a stopper. It has a long handle that you simply twist to let the water out of the sink, as well as small holes in its surface that prevent food solids from flowing into your pipes.

Many of these types of strainers cost less than $100, and if you’re handy, you may be able to install one yourself. It’s a small investment to make that can go a long way toward preventing serious clogs and the costly plumbing issues they can cause.

7. Schedule Routine Kitchen Drain Cleaning Appointment

If you want to dramatically reduce your risk of kitchen drain clogs in your commercial building, you need to have those drains cleaned regularly.

How often is best? That really depends on the volume of waste your kitchen drains see daily and how diligent your staff is about keeping foodstuffs out of those drains. If you’re a high-volume kitchen, you’ll likely benefit from annual or biannual commercial drain cleaning appointments with a knowledgeable pro.

To learn more about when you should schedule commercial drain cleaning, check out How Often Is Commercial Drain Cleaning Necessary?

And if you’ve never had your commercial kitchen drains professionally cleaned, you may also want to read up on our most common commercial drain cleaning questions.

Need Commercial Kitchen Drain Cleaning in the Twin Cities?

Whether your commercial drains are slow or you’re facing a complete drain blockage, Drain Blaster Bill’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning can fix the problem. We specialize in a wide variety of commercial drain cleaning services, including floor drain cleaning, sink drain cleaning, toilet drain cleaning, commercial water jetting, and more to ensure your drains are free of debris and fully functional.

To learn more about our services, schedule an appointment, or request a free estimate, call us today at 763-913-8719. You can also get in touch with us via our contact form, and we’ll get back to you promptly.