What Is A Cleanout In Plumbing?

The plumbing in your home is an intricate web of essential parts. Various parts are critical for a correctly functioning system, from the P-traps beneath your sink to the drain lines running throughout your home.

A cleanout, which is an easily accessible section of pipe featuring a removable cover, is part of this system. If you’ve never heard of one, you’re not alone. We’re here to discuss these handy additions, so stick around to learn more!

What Is The Purpose Of A Cleanout?

The primary function of a plumbing cleanout is to offer easy access to sections of your home’s pipes. This makes it much easier to tackle clogs in awkward or otherwise unreachable places of the plumbing.

Although some clogs happen within easy reach of a drain, many of them occur in hard-to-reach areas of the plumbing system. So, with plumbing cleanouts, you can easily access the clogs and remove them without difficulty. 

Plumbing cleanouts feature a removable cover that exposes the inside of the pipeline. When a clog occurs, you can feed an auger or snake into the plumbing. Or, if your plumber needs to check for damage along the pipeline, they can run a camera through the cleanout to examine the hard-to-reach areas. 

Do All Homes Have Cleanouts?

No, not all homes feature plumbing cleanouts. While many modern homes have them, some older homes might not. If your home does have them, there may be several or just one. It depends on your home’s age and the system’s size. 

If your house doesn’t have any cleanouts, you might be able to have a professional plumber install a few for you. This project isn’t something you should tackle yourself since you could potentially damage your main sewer line, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair. But if you have sewer line coverage from a home warranty provider, it will ensure you won’t owe thousands of dollars for an untimely sewer line stoppage or pipe break.

Where Are My Plumbing Cleanouts?

Plumbing cleanouts are only located along the drain lines, but they can be indoors or outdoors. If you have a newer home, there’s usually at least one cleanout or more. Check along the drain lines, looking for a short stub or branch of the drain pipe.

The pipe will have a flat cap, usually with a nut at the center. If you see either of these, you’ve found a cleanout. Generally, they protrude from the ground, but in some cases, they might be buried a foot or so underground. So, finding them can be tricky if you don’t know exactly where they are.

Indoor cleanouts can be located on any drain pipe. You might have a specific type of P-trap in your home (curved section of pipe extending from the sink drain) that features a small cleanout at the low point of the trap.

If you have an older home, you might not have plumbing cleanouts at all. This is often the case in older homes with cast iron plumbing systems. In this scenario, your plumber will have to access the main drain or sewer line by removing a toilet and going through the toilet drain. 

How Do You Open A Plumbing Cleanout?

Canplas 193704AS PVC DWV FTG Cleanout Adapter with PL, White

Opening a plumbing cleanout is a straightforward task. There’s usually a square nut in the center of the cap, which operates like any other nut. Use a pipe wrench, adjustable wrench, or tongue-and-groove pliers to grip the nut and turn it counterclockwise. 

It should unthread just like a screw. If the nut doesn’t budge, it might be best to invest in a special cleanout plug wrench. These tools are inexpensive and give you a solid grip on the nut. 

When you open a plumbing cleanout, you’re accessing your home’s sewer or drain line. So, nasty things are bound to come out. If you’re trying to remove a clog, the wastewater in the pipeline might come out with quite a bit of force, depending on where it’s located. 

That said, it’s best to proceed cautiously when removing the cap on the cleanout. You don’t want to be showered in the pipe’s nasty sewage or drainage contents, so make sure you step away from the cleanout as quickly as possible when you remove the cover. 

Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, it’s best to have a bucket handy to catch the wastewater. Additionally, wear eye protection and vinyl gloves to protect yourself from the spray if it happens. You don’t want the gross, murky contents of the pipe all over your basement or contaminating the ground around your home. So, ensure you try to catch as much as possible in the bucket.

If there is overspray, clean it up with the appropriate cleaner, ensuring you clean the area thoroughly. Sometimes, the pressure in the pipe will inevitably cause a mess. If you end up with questionable drain or sewage water in the area surrounding the pipe, use low-suds detergent and warm water to clean it. 

After thoroughly cleaning the area with the mixture, combine eight tablespoons of bleach with a gallon of water and wipe the area down. Once you’re done, allow the area to air dry. 

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