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Grease clogs involving fats, oils and grease (FOG) can be a nightmare of a plumbing issue. Grease clogs build up slowly, limiting water flow down a drain before eventually leading to blockages and backflows. In addition to the inconvenience of a blocked drain, they are associated with foul odors and black mold.

FOG issues are not limited to private homes. Realistically, FOG is more commonly encountered in commercial and mass residential settings where cooking is done in larger volumes.

Three of the most susceptible environments for clogs of this nature are residential apartment buildings, schools and, not surprisingly, restaurants.

Figure 1. A sewer pipe clogged with FOG and debris. Figure 1. A sewer pipe clogged with FOG and debris. What is grease? Grease can be chalked up to the animal fats and oils in food products. These are 10 to 15 percent less dense than water and fat. In its natural state it hardens — and is a recipe for disaster in many facilities.

While each city varies in precise standards and regulations of oil and grease disposal, every restaurant or commercial cooking venue, such as a cafeteria, must comply with disposal policies because grease can be quite damaging. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulates the disposal of grease at restaurants and inspectors routinely find sewer pipes clogged with hardened grease. Cooking establishments are required to use a grease trap or interceptor to capture the build-up. When the mat of grease gets thick enough, the trap needs to be cleaned.

Fat and oil build-up cause about 47 percent of the 36,000 sewer overflows that occur annually in the United States. As more apartment buildings and food service establishments are added globally, the burden on sewer systems only increases.

Clearing the Clog

A drain-cleaning cable, or snake, is an efficient tool that can push through and break up solid objects, clearing common clogs. However, this is only a short-term solution when dealing with a grease clog because grease clogs are considered self-healing stoppages and their tendency is to close up as soon as a cable is removed. A snake is simply the wrong tool for the job!

The right tool to properly clear a grease clog is high-pressure jetting equipment. Water jetting utilizes the force of pressurized water to dislodge a clog. It scrubs the sides of clogged drains and breaks apart clogs to flush out residue.

Professional drain cleaners routinely use high-pressure jetting equipment to remove grease clogs. They are the most efficient, economical and environmentally safe way to clear FOG build-up from drains and sewer pipes. They also help reduce repeated FOG problems in the same line in the future.

Should I Call a Plumber or Service?

You certainly could. If this is a once-in-a-blue-moon problem you’re experiencing, then that would be the optimal choice for you. Hiring someone to waterjet your pipes could cost you anywhere from $400 to $800 per line.

One other cost you should be aware of is camera use by plumbers and services. Sometimes the service representatives will want to examine the interior of the line and explore the issue before and after water jetting, therefore tacking on additional fees. There’s another option, though.

Figure 2. Using the JM-1000 Mini-Jet as a self-service solution. Source: General Pipe CleanersFigure 2. Using the JM-1000 Mini-Jet as a self-service solution. Source: General Pipe CleanersA Self-Service Solution to Grease Clogs For Maintenance

The nature of the do-it-yourself problem solver includes choosing the right materials and tools to complete a project. While it may appear that buying your own water jet to clear clogs might be a lot of work, there’s actually a difference between DIY and self-service.

Buying your own waterjet is a self-service solution, distinguishable by its effectiveness and accelerated speed of service. DIY is sometimes labor intensive, whereas solving your own grease clogs on your own time, and at a minimal expense, is as convenient as a self-service bank or gas station.

General Pipe Cleaners provides a self-service solution for maintenance professionals looking to handle recurring grease clogs. At just 23 pounds, the JM-1000 Mini-Jet is the size of a toolbox. It provides 1,500 PSI of cleaning pressure at only 13 amperes to clear grease (as well as sand and ice) in 1.5- to 3-inch lines.

Each Mini-Jet comes equipped with a 30 ft. or 50 ft. x 1/8" hose for 1.5 to 3" lines , a 20-foot water-supply hose with a valve to control water output, a four-piece nozzle set, cord and an adapter for faucets to supply water to the unit.

The water jet works quite simply, even for someone who has no experience with clogs. Once you’ve set up the equipment, you can switch the valve so water flows through the unit, turn on the system and let the high-pressure water pull the hose down the line. All that’s required from you at that point is a simple back and forth (push/pull) motion that helps break down the debris in the pipe.

Other Factors

One other aspect to consider is that of pipe architecture. Certain pipe designs are more susceptible to clogs. If there is a hole, crack or leak in your pipe you will continue to have a clog problem, even after you use a waterjet. In this case you should call a plumber to tend to that issue.

In certain areas where pipes were installed many years ago, pipes can have a much smaller diameter than usual. If your pipes are back pitched, you will also experience persistent grease clogs. Back pitched pipes in a drain system can occur due to a lack of pitch, meaning when the line was initially installed, there was not enough elevation difference from the building to the connection of the public sewer for the drain to work properly on gravity alone. Eventually a line with this problem will fail, but in the meantime you’ll experience more clogs than typical because the pipe has a section that runs uphill as it leaves the restaurant, building or other venue. This causes water to pool upstream in the pipe, trapping debris and grease within the belly where it coats the pipe walls. While the only permanent fix is to open the concrete and re-pitch the pipe correctly, water jetting will be of great use until the build-up occurs again in another few years.

Decision Time

How do you know if you should make the investment? Think of it like this: All it takes is two clog-clearing jobs for the JM-1000 to pay for itself when compared to a typical plumber’s bill. On top of that, clogs can be cleared when they occur — no emergency appointment rates or waiting hours for the plumber.

When you buy a JM-1000 Mini-Jet to clear your clogs problems, you’re buying a total solution, not just a product. Contact us today to learn how General Pipe Cleaners can solve your toughest drain cleaning problems.