17 Questions (And Answers) About Kitchen Hood Cleaning

Hood Cleaning picture from ABCO Fire Protection

I interviewed Allen Walker, a former hood cleaner turned manager, and I got to learn pretty much everything I ever needed to know about kitchen hood cleaning.
Let’s run through the 17 questions I asked him about kitchen hood cleaning:

1) Are kitchen managers aware about hood cleaning before they open/start working at a restaurant?
“99% of them… yes.
They know they need all their fire protection updated at some point. What makes a company attractive to kitchen managers is that they want a full-service fire protection company.
They want someone to clean the hoods, do the hood inspection, inspect the fire extinguishers, etc.
It’s one less headache to worry about.”

2) What triggers a kitchen manager to begin looking for a hood cleaning company?
There are four scenarios that mean it’s time to get a hood cleaning quote:
1) Fire Department Inspection returns deficiencies
2) Insurance company orders it (requiring paperwork)
3) Exhaust issues arise
4) Property manager is pushing it

3) Is the decision-making process ever started by a fire marshals’ inspection?
Yes, Oh yea! This is the #1 reason that begins the search for a professional hood cleaning company.

4) How do estimates or quotes work? How does that process start?
“Quotes start with customers calling/filling out a form online saying they need hood cleaning. Whoever takes that call, or reaches back out to them, will fill out an opportunity form.
This will go to the sales coordinator, she will assign a rep to come out and do a site survey, and from there we will give you a quote, and we will give you recommended frequency.”
And if you like, Allen will give you a call back to schedule a hood cleaning 🙂

5) What factors go into pricing?
“Size and quantity will affect price. We’ve done tons of standard jobs (10-12 foot hood, one story vertical duct, one fan and probably 8 filters) but we’ve also done giant jobs such as Ohio State University, which has ¼ miles worth of ductwork.
Another factor that goes into hood cleaning pricing is that if we are already there, we will charge you less.
For example, say you have a kitchen that’s twice as big as the standard size kitchen described above. We won’t charge you double. We are already there and it doesn’t take anytime to setup for the other 10 foot hood. Pricing in this situation may be 1.5x, but not double.”

6) How often does a hood cleaning need to be done?  
Hood cleaning should be done as highlighted in NFPA 96:

chart of NFPA 96 Table 11.4

Highlights from Table 11.4:

  • Solid fuel cooking involves cooking with wood. Burning wood leaves behind creosote, which is super flammable.
  • An example of a quarterly hood cleaning involves most fast food restaurants.
  • Semi-Annual and Annual cleanings are for companies with far less cooking than everyday cooking. Of course, you need to use a grease comb to determine if a cleaning is needed

grease gauge depth comb

How it works:
Go inside the exhaust and hold the comb against the metal horizontally. Then pull the comb towards you. Look at the comb and see where grease is left .
If there’s grease left on the teeth of the “Acceptable” mark, your hood cleaning cycle may need to be decreased. (ie. Going from quarterly to semi-annually)
If there’s grease left on the teeth of the “Cleaning Required”, a hood cleaning is required.
If there’s grease left on the teeth of the “Critical Depth” mark, your hood cleaning cycle may need to be increased (ie. Going from quarterly to monthly)

NOTE: Some counties are more lenient on inspections than others, but our advice is to play it safe and get your hoods cleaned once a year. That way you have your sticker, your documentation, and you can prove you’ve had your hood cleaned.

7) How long in advance does one need to schedule a hood cleaning with Protegis?
“We can come today! There is an emergency service charge for a cleaning within 24 hours. 25 hours out to 7 days  out is no problem. This can be flexible depending on your hours of operation.
We can collect your key/passcode, come back later at night, etc. to avoid the emergency fee, and still get your hoods cleaned. We have been in business for 40 years, insured and bonded…we can send you all the info. There are plenty of options.
We want to be flexible with you!
And we don’t want to steal your buns :)”

8) What are the best times of the day for a hood cleaning? When do we perform the most cleanings?
“It varies greatly depending on the restaurants scheduling.
Steakhouses don’t prep until 1, so we can come at 8am. Some are closed on Sundays or Mondays, so that works.
Nursing Facilities have dinner that’s done at 6pm, so we come after that.
For some 24 hour places, we will ask them when their slowest night is, and we’ll give them a 3 hour window during that time.
We have crews out 24 hours a day, we can handle ANY!!! scheduling needs a restaurant has.”

9) How long does it take to complete a full hood cleaning?    
Standard hood cleaning = 2 technicians and 2.5 hours.
Certainly this varies depending on many factors.
10) What gets cleaned during a “hood cleaning”?
We start by cleaning everything from the back wall up to the equipment line.
We also clean:

  • the canopy of the hood
  • the hood itself
  • the filters
  • the plenum (area behind the filters)
  • the duct work
  • and the exhaust fan

The difference with Protegis is that we are taking pictures. These pictures and documentation stay with Protegis (and you) forever. If insurance or the fire department needs to see it…we got it!
For an Protegis hood cleaning (since we are a fire protection company), we go through an assessment containing NFPA 96 codes. Our hood cleaners protect your hood from this perspective. Other companies just clean and leave…NFPA is not even a thing!
Our technicians will also recommend a change in your cleaning schedule if needed. If your grease accumulation has changed, or if you’re cooking at a different volume, they will recommend a cycle increase (or a decrease).
You will get a deficiency report as well, which will tell you if you need:

  • a rooftop grease containment
  • a hinge kit on the fan
  • or a fan access port

The difference is that we don’t clean and leave. It’s pictures, it’s a deficiency report, it’s code!

11) People have expressed interest in the cleaning of grease traps, is that a service we offer?
Yes. We will clean above ground grease traps (under dish tank before it goes into the drain.)
Restaurant grease traps, which live in the parking lot, need a vacuum truck…we, unfortunately, do not provide this service.

12) Do we provide Type-II hood cleaning?
Type 2 hoods are non-grease laden (Pizza ovens are a great example, but it’s basically an air duct.) It’s very hot! They don’t have suppression systems.
Type 2’s require monthly cleanings that need to be brushed out. They are very fire-happy and risky.
If we had to guess, about 80% of kitchen fires occur from a Type 2 wood burner hood.

13) Do we clean grills?
Yes. In fact, we clean all cooking equipment (fryers, grills, ovens, all of it)
14) Do we clean hoods in food trucks? 
15)  we leave a sticker of approval, or signed tag when we are done?
This is the sticker we will leave on a cleaned hood:

hood cleaning inspection sticker

This certifies the customer’s hoods are in compliance. It also shows the month and year the service was done. It also shows the next time the hood is scheduled to be cleaned.

16) What gets shown to a kitchen manager after the hood cleaning is complete?
They will get a visual inspection. They’ll inspect the hood, the filters, look up the duct (we do the visual inspection before putting the filters back).
From there, techs have pictures on the tablet, they will show him the inspection report, and say here’s everything I checked.
Then they go through all the pictures with him on the work acknowledgment that the kitchen manager will sign.
We can email all of this to the kitchen manager if desired.

17) Does the kitchen manager need to sign off when the job is complete?
No, they don’t, but preferably, we would like them to. Or, they can look at the job the next day and sign off on it through email.

Hopefully you’ve learned something new about hood cleaning that you didn’t know before. The important takeaway from this is to really understand what is being inspected and why.
There are certainly cheaper hood cleaning options available, but are they up to code so you’re safe from the fire department and your insurance company? And, is your hood cleaning company flexible?
Our ultimate goal is fire safety. Doing this the right way, and as conveniently as possible, is what our customers like about us most.