Not many jobs are as daunting as cleaning and degreasing a commercial kitchen’s exhaust system. It can be a massive undertaking that involves hood cleaning, filter replacement and maintaining dozens of other components. Where to start?
The obvious place to start is where the fires begin—under the hoods, in the filters just above the flames.
Filters must be mounted at least 18 inches above cooking equipment, because flames can climb within inches of the filters while cooking. These filters are the first line of defense in a fire. If they are not properly cleaned and maintained, the grease buildup inside the filters can turn them from barrier to hazard.
The “one easy lesson” to be learned here? Don’t let potentially hazardous grease buildups begin in the first place. Examining and replacing filters, grease management, grease trap cleaning and grease trap removal on a regular schedule is critical to ensure the smooth round-the-clock operation demanded of many commercial kitchens.
The exhaust hoods are always in the middle of the fire and the grease, as the heat, smoke and odors are pulled away from the cooking surfaces. Restaurant employees are often expected to wipe down the hood exteriors, but thorough cleaning is necessary and best left to trained and certified kitchen exhaust cleaning professionals.
As with grease traps, setting a regular maintenance schedule for hood and oven cleaning (and sticking to it) is always your first and best line of defense. The National Fire Protection Agency suggested this frequency:
Monthly – Systems serving solid fuel cooking operations
Quarterly – Systems serving high-volume operations, such as 24-hour cooking, charbroiling, wok cooking, etc.
Semi-Annually – Systems serving moderate volume cooking operations.
Annually – Systems serving low volume cooking operations, such as day camps, churches, seasonal businesses, etc.
The scope of this work should include:
- Disassembly, cleaning, and degreasing hoods, including hood filter tracts, grease troughs, and removable grease cups
- Removal of roof and/or wall mounted fans from ductwork to degrease the base, shroud, and blades
- Inspecting exhaust fans for loose or worn out fan belts
- Cleaning and degreasing all hood filters,hood parts and accessories, and replacing if necessary
- Cleaning all accessible parts of ductwork from exhaust fans to each individual hood
- Applying food-safe polish to stainless steel ductwork
- Thoroughly cleaning all affected areas (remove plastic, mop, remove any debris, etc.)
- Providing a complete, detailed written report of all work performed, and deficiencies in the exhaust system, and recommendations for addressing any problems
- Attaching a certificate showing company name, person performing the work, and date of cleaning to each hood serviced.
Letting your commercial kitchen cleaning fall by the wayside simply equates to more potentially flammable grease buildup, which in turn presents an extreme risk of fire, as well as foul odors. Setting a hood cleaning maintenance schedule and sticking with it is smarter, safer…and smells delicious!