Commercial kitchens move at a frenetic pace. Especially during peak service when it’s all too easy to end up “In the Weeds.” Of course, every little piece of food debris and accidental spill is destined to end up in one place, the floor drain. One minute you’re working on meal prep and answering tickets, the next minute you’re trying to slip in a pool of grease and water building up from a clogged floor drain.

Hey! It’s not the floor drain’s fault. The entire kitchen was designed and engineered to send water and free-flowing debris to it. It was doing its job just fine until something managed to clog it, and now you are in the middle of a major incident.

The Consequences Of Floor Drain Clogs in a Commercial Kitchen
Of course, we can’t forget that more than one restaurant has been temporarily closed by a food inspector who happened to show up in the middle of a drain clog. While the closure might have been temporary, the damage to those restaurants’ reputations in the community can sometimes be permanent.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of commercial kitchen floor drains have some sort of link to the rest of the building’s drain systems. This can mean that a floor drain clog can render dishwashing stations, commercial dishwashers, and even some steam cleaning devices inert. These seemingly simple things can turn into a major problem that can grind even a slow dinner service to a halt!

Best Practices To Prevent Floor Drain Clogs in a Commercial Kitchen

When it comes to clogs in commercial kitchen floor drains, a pinch of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Especially when you consider that preventing them is relatively easy when you install some simple kitchen rules and practices that everyone from the waiters to prep cooks, sous chefs, and night porters follow.

All Food Waste Goes in the Trash & Never in the Sink

It’s all too easy to let food bits hit and linger in a sink drain during a hectic dinner rush. This can even happen by accidentally scraping food waste from dishes straight into the sink. Unfortunately, a lot of food scraps contain some type of starch, fat, or oil which can stick to the interior of the drain and accumulate over time.

When hot water passes through the sink drain it can move it further and further down the line. Until one day it makes its way to the part of the drain system that is shared by the floor drain. Since water finds its own level, the first place this backed up water shows up is by coming up through the floor drain.

Spot Clean Dishes Before Placing in the Dishwasher

Another temptation that a lot of kitchen staff gives into is simply tossing dirty dishes directly into the dishwashers with chunks of food, grease, and fat on the plates. Especially since the person running the dishwashing station is usually the “New Guy” who isn’t experienced enough in the kitchen to know better.

Just like food going into the sink, grease and food scraps can get deposited in the drain system contributing to an eventual drain blockage. As time goes on all this sludgy grime that accumulates along the interior of the pipe will slow water drainage. In a severe case, this food buildup will completely block the pipe, which leads to the floor drain quickly backing up with grease-laden, slippery water.

Preventing floor drain clogs like this starts with educating every member of your staff on the importance of putting all food waste into the trash and never rinsing it down the drain.

Use Absorbent Cleaning Products to Remove Grease from Dishes

A lot of restaurant meals have more than a fair amount of butter, fat, and grease, which can leave an oily residue on the dishes. While it might seem like a small amount on a single plate, every little bit of grease or oil can build up over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of dishes that pass through a high-volume commercial in a single day. This means that even a small amount of greasy residue on each one can eventually result in a drain problem.

The best way to prevent a small problem like this from blowing up into a major floor drain clog is to have your staff use absorbent cleaning cloths to wipe oils, grease, and fat off all dishes before washing them. Then make sure to keep plenty of cloths on hand to ensure they aren’t getting overly saturated during the course of a single service. The cost of doing this far outweighs the cost of having your drains unclogged by a plumber at emergency rates during a dinner rush.

Fatty or Oily Substances Never Get Poured Down the Drain

A lot of experienced restaurant employees know that oils and fats should never be poured down any drain. Yet new employees, table bussers, and new-hire dishwashers often need to be trained and reminded to ensure that they place used fats and oils in disposable containers after allowing them to cool down.
Then these grease containers can be disposed of safely in the trash or given to a grease recycling service. Enforcing this simple practice with every person on your staff ensures that excess greasy cooking ingredients don’t find their way into your pipes. A lot of chefs and kitchen managers will even go so far as to post signage outlining the proper disposal of fats and oils.

Make Sure To Run Hot Water Down the Drain Each Day

Even with perfect diligence in properly disposing of food waste and greasy ingredients, there is bound to be a little grease and congealed fat that ends up in your commercial kitchen’s drain system. To help keep it from gradually developing into a serious drain clog, you can run very hot water down the drain for 10 to 12 minutes each night, with a little dish soap.

This hot water will help liquefy and wash away any residue that is adhered to the interior of the drain throughout the day. This is a task that should be included in the kitchen closing checklist at the end of the night or assigned to the night porter who deep cleans the kitchen to get it ready for the morning breakfast service.