Playing with Fire – Six Kitchen Exhaust System Cleaning Pointers

kitchen grease duct fires

Almost 11,000 commercial kitchens are damaged by fire annually, according to the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaners Association (IKECA), the industry’s largest organisation dealing with kitchen exhaust system cleaning and certification.

By failing to do one’s kitchen exhaust system cleaning due diligence, restauranteurs are leaving themselves exposed and at risk of:

One event could end a once-thriving business very abruptly and permanently.


Fire dampers that are usually installed in other types of ventilation ducts to prevent fire spread are not permitted within a kitchen exhaust duct system in the USA or Australia for example. They do not work in kitchen exhaust because the grease on the downstream side of the damper will ignite beforehand, and irrespective of, damper closure. As a result, restaurants with improper/incomplete kitchen exhaust system cleaning (from the ventilation ducting to the roof fan) are at an elevated risk, even after any fire at the cooking station has been put out.

If a kitchen cooking station fire gets into the exhaust system and onto the roof, the restaurant owner may first hear about it when someone runs in yelling
‘You have a fire on your roof!'

ductwork fire was improper kitchen exhaust system cleaning to blame?

So here are six pointers that help ensure restauranteurs of all shapes and sizes get what they paid for and mitigate their fire risk:

Ensure your current service provider is thorough and that they are CERTIFIED by a reputable, non-profit accredited agency (i.e. IKECA)

To protect the safety of the restaurant owner’s employees and customers, as well as avoid code violations and potentially catastrophic losses due to a serious building fire, it is vital to avoid fly-by-night firms with no track record of cleaning kitchen exhaust systems to code. Check your service provider’s references, qualifications, insurance coverage and accreditations paperwork. Accredited agencies enforce a higher standard of ongoing education and rigorous testing that unaccredited, for-profit agencies do not.

Discuss any areas of INACESSIBILITY and SEALING

Inaccessible sections of ducting should be reconfigured by installing access panels that facilitate the cleaning of ALL areas. Ducting should also be sealed to prevent grease from leaking onto other areas of a building. Joints and seals must be grease tight; fully welded, rivet and soldered, or be sealed with a liquid mastic or sealant that is unaffected by water, grease or cleaning solvents.

Ensure the ENTIRE kitchen exhaust system is cleaned

Cleaning only what is immediately visible and inspectable is not enough. The ductwork from the hood to the roof is largely out of sight and out of mind, but a quality kitchen exhaust system cleaning company will clean those areas you can’t see just as thoroughly as the ones you can. If the entire system isn’t cleaned, any greasy residue that remains is a hazard that can rapidly spread a fire originating at a kitchen appliance up through the exhaust system onto the roof. Moreover, this ‘old’ greasy residue will continue to be extracted upwards and eventually, out onto the roof, where it will start affecting the structural integrity of the building.

Visually check the service provider’s work post-clean – DO NOT rely on photos in reports

Insurance companies include provisions that exclude claims if there is any sign of negligence involved in the event of a fire, which can include improper exhaust cleaning. Despite touting themselves as qualified kitchen exhaust cleaning companies, some are little more than small one-to-two man operations that lack the specialized tools, equipment, and expertise to adequately clean the entire system. The dangers of such an approach can be costly in terms of fire risk, loss, as well as potential liability and litigation.

If in doubt (or time-poor), SEEK HELP!

Want points 1-4 done right? Then, consider engaging the services of a consultant/auditor that works on your behalf and can be relied on to provide professional advice in your best interest. They’ll evaluate your duct cleaning quotes/reports/invoices and check for any deficiencies, violations, and provide a report identifying any areas of concern, along with a suggested course of corrective action! They can also tap into their extensive relationships with trusted kitchen exhaust cleaning companies to get a number of options and quotes for you to review against your business needs and budget. Using a consultant will save you time and money.

Get it cleaned, then KEEP IT CLEAN!

Kitchen grease filters are the first line of defense from build-up occurring inside the remainder kitchen exhaust system. At their best, however, they only capture between 20-40% of this airborne grease. It’s an ongoing problem that finally has a cost-effective solution. With Shepherd Filters, commercial kitchens everywhere now capture up to an impressive 98% of grease before it even has the chance to penetrate the rest of the kitchen exhaust system. Made from 100% bio-degradable and fire-retardant wool, you can rely on Shepherd Filters to ensure your system stays cleaner for longer.

Save time & money  |  Minimise fire risk & stay compliant  |  Avoid early equipment failure     

All whilst doing your part for the environment!


Contact us today to learn more.

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