Commercial Kitchen Hood Cleaning Code Requirements Explained

Restaurants must comply with the National Fire Prevention Association’s code 96, which is among the most important regulatory codes.

A fire marshal inspects commercial cooking operations in accordance with NFPA 96, the standard code. A key component of the code is how ventilation systems are cleaned and maintained.

In accordance with the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 96 (NFPA Kitchen Hood Cleaning Requirements), restaurant kitchen hoods and exhausts should be regularly cleaned by trained and certified personnel (NFPA 96-11.4).

The cleaning schedule they are mandated to follow is as follows:

  • Systems serving solid fuel cooking operations: Monthly
  • Systems serving high-volume cooking operations such as 24-hour cooking, charbroiling, or wok cooking: Quarterly
  • Systems serving moderate-volume cooking operations: Semiannually
  • Systems serving low-volume cooking operations, such as churches, day camps, seasonal businesses, or senior centers: Annually

How Often Do Commercial Hoods Need to Be Cleaned?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you inspect your hoods (not necessarily clean them) anywhere from once per month to once per year, depending on their frequency of use.

In contrast, a nursing home or church may only need to have their hoods inspected once a year, while restaurants and manufacturing plants will likely have to inspect theirs every 3-6 months.

However, NFPA 96 guidelines aren’t the only factor to consider. If grease builds up on your hood filters, you may need to clean them sooner than you anticipated.

Check the micron level of your buildup using a grease gauge (example pictured, used with permission from IKECA) to determine if it is acceptable or not.

You may also need to clean more frequently than required by NFPA 96 due to local regulations in your city or county.

NFPA Kitchen Hood Cleaning Requirements To Improve Fire Safety

NFPA Kitchen Hood Cleaning Requirements To Improve Fire Safety

The following is based on NFPA-96 section 11.6.1 (NFPA Kitchen Hood Cleaning Requirements):

Upon inspection, if found to be contaminated with deposits from grease-laden vapors, the entire exhaust system shall be cleaned by a properly trained, qualified, and certified company or person(s) acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction in accordance with Section 11.4.

In addition to the hood, filters, fan, and horizontal and vertical ductwork, the exhaust system includes all other components.

Further, section 11.6.2 of NFPA-96 states (NFPA Kitchen Hood Cleaning Requirements):

Hoods, grease removal devices, fans, ducts, and other appurtenances shall be cleaned to remove combustible contaminants prior to surfaces becoming heavily contaminated with grease or oily sludge.

It is extremely harmful to mechanical equipment to build up grease and particulate in the exhaust system, which poses a fire hazard and greatly reduces its efficiency and lifespan.

Most restaurant fires originate on the kitchen cooking appliances and flare up into the kitchen exhaust system, according to the NFPA.

Whenever cooking appliances are used, a significant fire risk exists if all the exhaust systems are not cleaned.

Hood Cleaning 101

Hood Cleaning 101

In compliance with NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and your local AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction), hood cleaning involves cleaning and maintaining the kitchen exhaust or ventilation system.

As part of a complete hood cleaning, maintenance is performed on the following (but not limited to):

  • Exhaust ductwork and fans
  • The underside of the hood
  • Hood filters
  • The Plenum (the open space that leads into the exhaust ductwork)

Cleaning maintenance of your hoods will vary according to how often and to what intensity you use them. It is important to keep three primary factors in mind when maintaining commercial and industrial equipment:

  1. What is the state of my hoods?
  2. What is the NFPA’s recommended inspection frequency for my hoods?
  3. Should I be aware of any additional local fire codes?

What is NFPA 96?

What is NFPA 96?

Commercial kitchen exhaust systems must meet the NFPA 96 standard for cleanliness and maintenance. Cooking equipment creates an inevitable fire hazard as vaporized grease solidifies into the ventilation ducts.

According to NFPA 96, the vent hood system should be cleaned by a certified professional on a regular basis, as well as the guidelines on what areas need to be cleaned.

Why NFPA 96 is Important:

NFPA 96 is Important

Between 2011 and 2013, 63.5% of reported restaurant fires were caused by cooking, according to the US Fire Administration.

It is most likely that grease will accumulate inside the ductwork of improperly maintained kitchen exhaust systems.

You can create a fire hazard inside of your hood, ductwork, and exhaust fan if you don’t properly clean your cooking equipment.

As a result, if a fire breaks out, all of these grease deposits would allow the fire to spread much further, damaging more areas of the building.


Depending on the type of cooking operation carried out by your business or organization and how often you use the appliances, you should clean your system more frequently.

In Table 11.4 of NFPA Code 96, you will find details on how often you should professionally clean your kitchen exhaust system based on the volume of your cooking:

NFPA Code 96 details the minimum standards on how often your kitchen exhaust system should be professionally cleaned based on cooking volume

How Much Does Hood Cleaning Cost?

You should consider the size and complexity of your ventilation system when determining the cost of hood cleaning. An NFPA 96-compliant hood cleaning typically costs $400-500 for an average commercial kitchen.

The cost of cleaning may be even lower. In relation to hood cleaning, it is important to keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

Many companies that offer discount hood cleaning are not certified to conduct NFPA 96 inspections by the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association (IKECA).

Further, these discount cleaning services tend to cut corners by cleaning only visible areas rather than removing panels to clean hidden areas.

The Dangers of Poor Exhaust Maintenance

It is important to maintain regular cleaning in order to remain compliant with regulations – which can result in expensive fines and closures – as well as to protect your equipment, personnel, and property.

It is fire that poses the greatest risk. There is a risk of grease catching on fire. In the event of grease buildup, a grease fire is more likely to occur.

The next issue is equipment damage. Filters become less effective as grease accumulates. Grease in the air collects on machinery and equipment more effectively when there is more grease in your filter.

Your equipment will have to work harder as this grease builds up, resulting in faster wear on machinery components.

There is also the health factor to consider. The air quality in the home is poor when hoods are dirty. Employee health is, in turn, affected.

This results in a greater number of sick days and a less efficient work force. The quality of your food products may also be diminished as a result of contamination.

Maintaining Compliance

Your facility, your equipment, and your staff are all safer if you keep up with a regular cleaning schedule. With an NFPA code 96-compliant kitchen exhaust system, you’ll never fail an inspection or face a shutdown.

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