When Drain Openers Aren't the Solution

Preventive Drain Care with Tammy Westerman

When your facility has drains, there’s often a dilemma of whether to treat preventively or wait until there’s a problem and then react.  To learn more about when it’s appropriate to utilize a preventive drain care program, we asked State Chemical’s Senior Vice President of Research & Development and resident drain care expert, Tammy Westerman some common questions about preventive drain maintenance.

Even before introducing a chemical, are there preventive measures that can be taken to avoid drain issues?  An important part of any drain maintenance program is the use of good workplace practices to prevent inappropriate materials from being flushed into the drain in the first place.  This includes proper bussing of food prep and food serving utensils to remove solid food before rinsing or ware washing; using tallow bins to pour used fryer oils and other fats used in cooking; also using mechanical devices such as drain screens to prevent large materials from going into drains and grease traps in areas with large amounts of fats, oils and greases (FOGs).

What are the benefits of a preventive drain maintenance program?  The clear benefit is not having unscheduled drain clogs or backups.  An additional benefit can be that malodor and drain fly problems are eliminated.

Do all drains need preventive care?  No, only drains with heavy soils – like those in food handling areas – or drains with a history of clogs or backups need preventive care.

How should a facility decide what type of drain maintainer they should use?  The first step is identifying the major soils going down the drain or causing the blockage problems.   The product should be chosen based on that determination.

Are there any regulations related to treating drains that facilities should be aware of?  Currently there are no Federal regulations, but often regional or municipal sewer districts regulate what can be discharged into the public sewer systems.  It’s important to do a little research and be careful to follow any local regulations when treating your drains and lift stations.

Are there any certifications for drain care products?  Yes, there are many, but two respected green chemistry certifications with drain care categories are the U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Program* and EcoLogo.

What is the advantage of choosing products that are certified with the U.S. EPA’s DfE program?  When you choose an U.S. EPA DfE certified drain product, you know the product has been screened by an independent third party and found to be safer for the environment and for the workers using it, while still maintaining the strictest performance standards.

What are the qualifications for a product to meet the Design for the Environment certification standards?  First, the product is manufactured from specific green chemical ingredients.  It also must meet physical parameters such as pH ranges and biodegradability of ingredients.  Finally, it has to meet performance criteria that show it works for the intended purpose.

How do biological (bacterial) drain maintainers work?  The bacterial strains produce a range of enzymes that catalyze (or speed up) the breakdown of fats, oils, greases, starches and proteins.  By breaking down these organic materials, the drain maintainers keep blockages from ever forming.

Are there any trends in the drain maintainer product category?  And how do you see these products evolving in the future?  There is a definite trend away from drain openers and towards preventive maintenance programs.  There is also a trend away from solvent products that merely dissolve the FOGs and towards biological products that breakdown the FOGs.  These biological products eliminate the issue of FOGs resolidifying in the public sewer system and causing issues.

Thanks to Tammy for providing insight on the preventive treatment of drains.  For more information on State’s drain care products, click here.  

*Since this blog post was originally published, the EPA has transitioned from the DfE program to Safer choice. For more information on the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Program, make sure to check out their page at: https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice