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Kitchen Exhaust System Cleaning Process: What It Looks Like

The Kitchen Exhaust System Cleaning Process is a vital procedure that significantly contributes to the safety and efficiency of any culinary establishment. This process involves the thorough cleaning of the kitchen hood, filters, and ductwork, which over time, accumulate grease, smoke, and other byproducts of cooking. These residues, if not regularly and properly removed, can pose serious fire hazards and impact the overall performance of your kitchen. Regularly undertaking this cleaning process not only ensures compliance with local health and safety regulations, but also optimizes your kitchen operations, reduces fire risks, and contributes to a healthier, cleaner cooking environment.

Understanding the Kitchen Exhaust System

In order to fully grasp the importance of cleaning your kitchen exhaust system, it’s vital to understand its main components and how they function together. The primary parts of a kitchen exhaust system are the kitchen hood, filters, ductwork, and fan.

Hood: The hood, also known as the canopy, is the part of the system that you see hanging over your stove or cooking area. It’s designed to capture and contain heat, smoke, and grease particles that rise from your cooking surface.

Filters: Located within the hood, the filters play an extremely important role. As the name suggests, they filter out grease particles from the smoke and heat that the hood captures. These filters are usually made of stainless steel or aluminum and feature a series of baffles designed to catch and hold grease particles.

Ductwork: This is the network of tubes that transports the captured smoke, heat, and grease from the hood to the outside environment. Ductwork can traverse a significant portion of your building, depending on where your kitchen is located relative to the outside.

Fan: The fan, or exhaust fan, is the engine that powers the entire system. It generates the suction that draws up the heat, smoke, and grease into the hood, through the filters, and along the ductwork to the outside.

All these components work in harmony to keep your kitchen environment clean and safe. When you cook, heat and smoke naturally rise. The hood captures this, and the fan pulls it into the system. As this mixture passes through the filters, the majority of the grease particles are removed. The remaining air—now much cleaner—is then transported via the ductwork out of your building.

Regular cleaning of each component is crucial to maintain the efficiency of the system and to prevent potential fire hazards. Grease accumulation in any part of the system can lead to decreased performance and increased risk. Hence, understanding each part helps in maintaining and cleaning them effectively.

Signs That Your Exhaust System Needs Cleaning

Regular maintenance is crucial for the longevity and efficiency of your kitchen exhaust system. Recognizing the signs that your system needs cleaning can help prevent serious issues such as fire hazards, health risks, and code violations. Here are some common signs that your kitchen exhaust system may need a thorough cleaning:

  • Visible Grease Buildup
  • Strange Smells
  • Decreased System Efficiency
  • Extended Time Since Last Cleaning
  • Frequent Triggering of Smoke Alarms
  • Visible Smoke

Remember, these signs are indicators that your kitchen exhaust system needs professional attention. Regularly scheduled professional cleanings can help prevent these issues and keep your kitchen running smoothly and safely.

The Cleaning Process

Keeping a kitchen exhaust system clean is not just a matter of aesthetics or efficiency; it’s a critical safety concern. The cleaning process is a multi-step procedure that requires professional knowledge and equipment. Here’s a detailed look at what the process entails:

Preparation: Before any cleaning begins, the kitchen area must be properly prepared to prevent damage and ensure safety. This involves covering kitchen appliances and other sensitive areas with plastic sheeting to protect them from water and chemical splashes. A grease containment system is also set up to catch the grease and grime that will be removed during the cleaning process.

Scraping: The first stage of the actual cleaning process involves manual scraping. Technicians use specialized tools to manually remove grease buildup from the hood, filters, and accessible parts of the ducts. This step removes the bulk of the grease accumulation, making the subsequent steps more effective.

Chemical Degreasing: After scraping, a chemical degreaser is applied throughout the system. These chemicals are designed to break down the grease that’s adhered to the inner walls of the ductwork and other hard-to-reach areas. The chemicals are typically allowed to sit for a while to fully penetrate and loosen the grease.

Pressure Washing: Once the chemical degreaser has done its job, it’s time for pressure washing. Technicians use hot water under high pressure to rinse away the loosened grease and chemicals. This is a thorough process that ensures all parts of the system, even those long stretches of ductwork, are thoroughly cleaned.

Inspection and Polishing: After the system has been cleaned, it’s inspected to ensure no area has been missed. Technicians look for any remaining grease or grime and clean up any residual mess from the cleaning process. Finally, the visible parts of the system, like the hood and filters, are polished, leaving your kitchen exhaust system clean, shiny, and ready for use.

Report and Recommendations: Finally, a detailed report is provided outlining the work done, noting any areas of concern, and offering recommendations for future maintenance or necessary repairs.

Remember, this process should be carried out by trained professionals who understand the intricacies of kitchen exhaust systems. They have the knowledge, experience, and tools to do the job safely and effectively. Proper cleaning not only ensures the longevity of your system but also keeps your kitchen safe and compliant with local fire codes.

Frequency of Cleaning

The frequency of cleaning your kitchen exhaust system largely depends on the type and volume of cooking operations. Here are some guidelines based on various cooking operations:

Systems Serving Solid Fuel Cooking Operations: Solid fuel cooking, which includes wood, charcoal, and other similar types of fuel, tends to produce a significant amount of smoke and particulate matter. As such, it’s recommended that these systems be inspected and cleaned monthly to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Systems Serving High-Volume Cooking Operations: Establishments such as 24-hour diners, fast food restaurants, or any place with constant cooking operations including charbroiling and wok cooking fall under this category. These systems should be inspected and cleaned quarterly due to the high volume of grease and smoke produced.

Systems Serving Moderate-Volume Cooking Operations: These are typical in places like full-service restaurants, where cooking is done regularly but not on a 24-hour basis. The recommended inspection and cleaning frequency for these systems is semi-annually, or twice a year.

Systems Serving Low-Volume Cooking Operations: These operations include places like churches, day camps, seasonal businesses, or senior centers where cooking is done infrequently or in smaller quantities. Given the lower volume of cooking, an annual inspection and cleaning should suffice for these systems.

Please note that these are general guidelines and individual circumstances may vary. Be sure to comply with your local health and safety regulations, as they may require more frequent inspections or cleanings. Regular professional cleaning not only ensures the efficiency and longevity of your exhaust system but also contributes significantly to the safety of your establishment by reducing fire risk.


Proper preparation and cleaning of kitchen exhaust systems are essential for keeping them running safely and efficiently. To ensure the best results, make sure to hire trained professionals who understand the intricacies of these systems and can follow the correct procedures for cleaning. Regularly scheduled cleanings should also be carried out according to recommended guidelines to minimize the risk of fire and ensure that the system is operating up to code. Taking these steps will help you keep your kitchen exhaust system in top condition for years to come.