A gurgling toilet, multiple slow drains, foul odors, or a backup of waste can indicate a clogged sewer line. Plumbers know how to address the problem directly by accessing the cleanout, a direct access point that lets them reach clogs under your home’s foundation or underground near the municipal sewer line. A sewer line cleanup should be handled by a plumbing professional, but it can save time and money if you know where the cleanout is.

What Does a Sewer Cleanout Look Like?

The cleanout is usually made of a white or black ABS plastic and may be 3, 4, or 6 inches in diameter. Older homes may have brass or cast iron drain cleanouts instead. While brass or copper drainage lines are rare, it’s important to know the type you have as it helps in finding and identifying the sewer line cleanout.

How to Find an Indoor Sewer Cleanout

If you live in a colder climate, your home is more likely to have a drain cleanout inside. To find it, follow the drainage pipes from your toilet, sink, or water-using appliance to the main sewage line where the cleanout will be. Indoor cleanouts are usually placed just before the main line reaches the foundation, on a T- or Y-shaped pipe fitting. It typically has a threaded plug with a square nut that may also have a plastic cap on top.

However, the cleanout is not always on the main sewer line. If you haven’t found it there, get your flashlight and check around clusters of drainage pipes in places like full bathrooms, where the sink, toilet, and shower have drains served by a capped plastic drain line. Other locations to check include the garage or utility room. If previous renovations have covered the main drain cleanout, consult with a plumber to locate it safely.

  • It’s a good idea to test the cleanout plug. Otherwise, the plug can become seized. Turn the square nut using a pipe wrench or pair of channel locks and clean any grime away. If the cleanout has an expandable plug, turn the screw in the center. Contact a plumber right away if you see water or feel pressure indicating the line has filled up in that location due to a potential blockage.

How to Find an Outdoor Sewer Cleanout

If you live in a warmer climate, the sewer cleanout is likely in your yard. Homes in colder climates with a slab foundation can also have an outdoor cleanout.

You can find an outdoor sewer line cleanout by checking near the municipal sewer line. Check close to the nearest manhole cover or curb that has concrete stamped with the letter “S”. If you have a septic system, look near the septic tank.

If the location of the cleanout isn’t obvious, estimate the direction of the drainage pipe by moving in line between the septic tank and your home. Homes served by a municipal wastewater system usually have drain cleanouts close by along the main line. The drain cleanout pipe should be somewhere in your yard and is usually back or white. A threaded plug seals it and has a square nut, plastic cap, or metal lid. The plug may have a label such as “S”, “C.O.”, or “cleanout”.

  • If you’re having trouble finding the cleanout, move any foliage, lawn decorations, or other items or materials that may be obscuring the pipe. In some cases, it can be covered by overgrown grass or be completely buried. If the cleanout is buried, stick a long screwdriver into the ground about 1 inch and feel for the top of the pipe.
  • Mark the location of the sewer cleanout with a metal stake and brightly colored flag. This gives you a reference in case of an emergency. As with an indoor cleanout, test the drain cleanout plug to make sure it’s functional, and call a plumber if something isn’t right.

Contact a Plumbing Technician

It’s generally not a good idea to use the cleanout yourself. This can result in expensive repairs, clean-ups, and restorations. The licensed technicians at Express Plumbing Heating & Air are experienced at accessing and using cleanouts in the Boise area. We can provide safe and effective sewer line cleanup when necessary and employ non-invasive sewer line repair and replacement methods. To learn more or schedule service, call (208) 398-0309 today.

Brad Jordan

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