DIY Plumbing: Unblocking a Drain Cleanout
By: Realtor.com Team
Drain cleanouts provide an entry point into home drainage systems so clogs can be removed or a camera inserted to inspect the system. They’re usually located on the large vertical pipes—otherwise known as the main drain—in a basement or crawl space
Designed so they can be opened and resealed, cleanout fittings are “Y” shaped and capped with a large metal or plastic disk molded with a square fitting to accommodate a wrench.
A cleanout may be blocked if you have more than one backed-up sink, bathtub or toilet in your house. If you’re having problems with multiple drains, your main drain may be blocked
Try taking on this DIY plumbing project before you call a plumber.
DIY Plumbing Project Overview
Timing: about one hour
Warning: After opening your cleanout, sewer gas will be able to get into your home. Open a window and place a fan near where you’re working to clear out the gases.
Things you need
- Large wrench (pipe wrench)
- Teflon tape
- Empty pail with a handle
- Garden hose
- Plumber’s snake or auger
- Power auger (optional—can be rented)
- Old newspaper
Spread old newspaper on the floor where you will be working. Next, hang an empty pail onto the cleanout fitting positioned so it hangs below the cap.
Now, use a large pipe wrench to loosen the cap. Turn slowly and try to control the flow of water that will come out of the drain as you carefully open it. After the water has stopped flowing, remove the cleanout cap entirely.
Feed a plumber’s snake into the drain opening, turning it as you work the cable up through the drain line. When the snake hits the clog, twist it so the tip can snag onto the blockage—then slowly pull the cable back out of the drain. If you don’t find the blockage going up the drain line (vertically), try pushing the snake down the drain line the other way (towards the outside of the house) to find the clog.
If your home plumbing snake can’t reach the clog, you may be able to clear it using a garden hose. Attach one end of the hose to a faucet, then slide the other end as far as you can into the drain line. Stuff old rags around the hose to close off the drain opening, then turn the water on full blast for a few moments. Hopefully, the water pressure will clear the blockage.
Powerful commercial plumbing augers are available for rent at many home supply stores. These machines have much longer cables and can reach further into a drain line. They also have more power than a hand-powered plumbing snake to clear a clog.
Once you clear the clog in your main drain, wrap Teflon tape on the threads of the cleanout fitting cap (to prevent any sewer gases from seeping into your home) and tighten it firmly back into the cleanout opening.
Source: Realtor.com; Image credit: drainage-engineers.regionaldirectory.us