If you have a septic system in your home, you may have heard about grease traps. Grease traps are handy plumbing devices that intercept with grease and solid waste before they enter the septic system. Oils from cooking, foods, and even your own skin can be harmful to your septic system. Septic systems thrive on living organisms that digest and treat regular household waste. Things like chemicals, oils, paint, and solid food waste should never be tossed down the drain, but you can install a grease trap if you don’t have one as an added precaution.

What is a Grease Trap?

A grease trap, grease interceptor, or grease recovery device, catches fats, oils, and grease (FOG) before they go into a wastewater disposal system. A grease trap is usually a large box-shaped device made of steel. It functions above ground, whereas a grease interceptor is generally much larger, made of cement, and works underground. Such traps are commonly used for restaurant wastewater disposal, but can be added to your home as well. It is an excellent addition to the drains you utilize in your kitchen.

How Does it Work?

When wastewater from your kitchen flows through the grease trap, the fats, oils, and grease rise to the surface of the matter inside the trap. They become trapped within a system of baffles, or steel walls within the trap. The grease trap controls the flow of water so that it can slowly make its way in one end and out the other while undergoing the agitation process, which is how the grease is separated from the water. There are usually two baffle walls that form a compartment to hold all the FOG that accumulates within the trap. Grease traps should be cleaned occasionally.

How is Grease Harmful?

Grease is an umbrella term that describes animal fats and vegetable oils, which don’t ever mix with water. Most wastewater contains traces of fats, oils and grease, which is 10-25% less dense than water. These oils enter the septic system and float to the top of your septic tank, forming the scum layer. Since the oils never mix with the water, they just accumulate, which leads to a thickening of the scum layer over time.

The FOG eventually hardens and can cause your pipes to rupture if you don’t regularly maintain your septic system, which is why it is legally required for restaurants to utilize grease traps to prevent FOG from rupturing the sewer system.

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