What is the Purpose of a Sewer Cleanout?

sewer cleanout is a capped pipe that provides an entry point to clear blockages in the sewer line. A plumber can also insert a camera tool there to inspect the sewer line. It is much easier (and cheaper) to access the sewer line through a cleanout rather than removing a toilet or accessing the sewer line from the vent pipe on the roof.

What Does a Sewer Cleanout Look Like?

A sewer cleanout looks like a pipe with a cap on it. The cap usually has a square fitting on top that can be turned. Often plastic, the cap could be rubber or metal. The cap on the sewer cleanout prevents harmful sewage gases from leaking out into the house or property. There are three types of cleanout pipes:

  • Double Cleanout: This popular U-shaped cleanout allows for access in either the public sewer direction or the house direction.
  • Single Cleanout: This angled entry point provides access to the public sewer direction.
  • Test Tee Cleanout: This entry point gives access to both directions but can be harder to use due to its 90-degree angles.

Where is the Sewer Cleanout?

It’s helpful to know where the sewer cleanout is located in case you need to access it quickly to get a problem fixed. All the pipes in a house join together at the main pipe or stack. That large pipe runs out of the house laterally to the public sewer system or a septic tank. The sewer cleanout is usually located along the lateral sewer line.

Check where the sewer line exits the home, and look outside the house near that spot. The sewer cleanout is generally located less than three feet from the house’s foundation. The cleanout might be hidden in the bushes or the dirt though.

What if It’s an Older Home or the Cleanout is Missing?

In an older home, the sewer cleanout could be located on the stack in the basement, in a crawl space, or in the attic along a vent pipe. Some older homes don’t have a cleanout. If you can’t see a cleanout, a plumber can bring tools to help locate it. Or the camera that’s part of the tool can also help identify a good spot to install a cleanout if there isn’t one already there.

What Problems Can Happen?

If there is a blockage in the lateral sewer line, sewage could back up into the house. In the case of a blockage, you’ll want to know where your sewer cleanout is so someone can quickly clear the blockage. If there is a problem, turn off the water and stop using the system before calling a plumber.

How is the Sewer Cleanout Opened?

To access the sewer line and clear a blockage, first the cleanout needs to be opened. Some sewer cleanouts are opened just by twisting the cap off. For others, you’ll need a wrench to remove the cap. Put a bucket below the cleanout if you’re inside since water may drain from pipes in the house and come out.

How is a Blockage Cleared?

Once the cap is removed, insert a plumbing snake or auger into the sewer cleanout, and feed it through the sewer line to clear the blockage. A hydrojetting tool can also be inserted here if more power is needed to clear a blockage. A camera tool on a snake can be inserted if an inspection of the sewer line is needed.

If you have a sewer cleanout, an annual sewer line inspection and cleaning is a good idea, especially if you have large trees growing near your sewer line. S.O.S. Drain & Sewer Service is happy to help prevent or solve any problems with your sewers. Contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment.