If you own a restaurant or other facility where food is cooked in quantity, then you know the importance of having a regular cleaning schedule for your kitchen hood and making sure your kitchen fire suppression system is in top-notch working order.
Cooking produces a number of effluents including grease, moisture, and smoke. With the exhaust fan on, each of these potentially combustible components is drawn up through the kitchen hood, through the filters, and into the ductwork, where it builds up over time. Once the buildup is sufficient, it becomes a fire hazard — which can only be prevented through a regular cleaning schedule.
It’s not hard to imagine how a fire can easily get started. A flame flares up on the stovetop and then gets into contact with the built up grease, which adds fuel. The fire is then drawn upwards by the exhaust fan into the ductwork and in a matter of moments, you have a fire on your hand.
The good news is that with a regular hood cleaning service you can reduce that hazard to almost zero. As a business owner, you will want to be sure you follow all state and local fire codes and are always in compliance with most recent NFPA 96 — Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations — guidelines.
When cleaning the hood of an exhaust system, it’s important to clean the complete kitchen exhaust systems (bottom to top). The surface should first be scraped clean and then washed clean with food safe caustic chemicals and then hot water pressure-washed.
Caustic chemicals are used to break down the grease, so be sure you have the proper safety equipment on hand to protect the worker. After the caustic chemicals are applied, then hot water is used to wash away the residue. Chemicals are generally applied either with a garden type sprayer, downstream injection through a pressure washer or with a chemical foamer.
Once the chemicals are applied, they sit on the surface of the grease for a period of time before being washed off with hot water. In extreme situations, where grease buildup is too heavy for a chemical application and a rinse, scrapers may be used to remove excess buildup from the contaminated surfaces prior to the chemicals being applied.
Specialized washers can be used to bring water to a boil and then the boiling water is applied under pressures up to 2000PSI. In most settings, heavy-duty tarps are first clipped to the hoods and then angled into plastic garbage cans to catch the grease run-off. As the cans are filled, the contents are disposed of in compliance with local disposal ordinances. The grease run-off should not be allowed to empty in the local drains as they almost certainly will cause clogging.
Depending on the type and sizing of your kitchen equipment a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule should be set up that ensures that excessive grease is not allowed to build up on your equipment.
Fire safety covers a broad spectrum of issues. To completely fire proof an area it’s important to cover all your bases. In an area such as a kitchen where cooking media is present, special attention must be paid to the higher potential for the occurrence of a fire. Part of addressing the issue of kitchen fire safety includes a hood suppression system, a clean hood, clean hood baffles, and a fire extinguisher specific to cooking media.
Hood cleaning is a major part of what keeps the hood ventilation system operational. Different kinds of cooking media release vapors into the air, and it’s critical to capture these grease-leaden vapors to manage fire risk. Kitchen hoods are required by fire codes to keep these combustible vapors confined to a limited area.
These vapors are molecular which means they will attach to anything they pass through leaving behind a residue. Hood cleaning prevents grease from building up over time in the ventilation ducts of the hood.
As you can imagine, if the grease residue is allowed to build up it becomes a source of combustion if not cleaned on a regular basis and in compliance with local fire codes.
A key part of hood cleaning involves cleaning the ventilation ducts. Cleaning the hood ventilation ducts allows for the free flow of air from the range top to the outside of the building. The old air, which is full of grease vapors, is constantly being replaced with new, clean air from outside via various inlets, which is the ventilation process. Regular hood cleaning keeps the ventilation process in top working condition.
The first line of defense in minimizing a fire hazard from vapors is to make sure the baffles are clean and functioning. Baffles function by forcing grease-saturated air to quickly and repeatedly change direction as it rises through the filter. Because the grease droplets cannot change direction as rapidly as the air carrying them, they end up condensing to the metal blades and then subsequently draining into the filter tray. A critical part of hood cleaning is to make sure that the baffles in the hood are clean so that the grease-saturated air can move freely.
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