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How Do I Remove A Stuck Cleanout Plug?

Dec 2, 2016

Clogged drains suck, and they’re an unfortunate part of any pipe’s life. One of the pipes homeowners are likely to end up cleaning are drain cleanout pipes. These pipes are used to unclog or clean out the system, and can usually be found at the main sewer pipe that leads away from your home, in plumbing fixtures and in garage and basement floor drains. Beneath their drain covers is a plastic or metal cap, also known as a cleanout plug, as well as a standard drainage pipe. That cap stops waste water from flowing into the cleanout, forcing it to pass directly into the sewage pipe. They also help to keep noxious fumes and dangerous sewer gasses from leaking out and help to keep pests and debris from finding their way back down.

Because of the trap inside the pipe and the way it’s shaped, it can be quite difficult to feed your plumbing snake down to clear a clog – instead, it’s far easier to pull out the cleanout plug and feed the snake down there instead. But what happens when you’re all geared up and ready to go and the cap just won’t come loose?

First things first, make sure you actually have all the supplies you need to unstick the plug and, if the situation calls for it, the supplies you need to replace an entire section of pipe.

  • Metal baking pan
  • Soldering torch
  • Slip joint pliers
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Pipe wrench x2
  • Nut Driver
  • Hammer x2
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Replacement cleanout plug
  • Replacement pipe
  • Replacement fittings
  • Teflon tape
  • Rust penetrant

Removing the Plug

  • Before you even think about breaking out the power tools, start by cleaning the area surrounding the plug of any debris, cobwebs, etc. and shield any wood in the vicinity of the pipe with your metal baking pan.
  • Once you’re ready, use the soldering torch to heat up the cleanout plug and its fitting – make sure to stop before it gets cherry red, and keep your fire extinguisher close by in case of an accident.
  • If that plan doesn’t work, give the pipe some time to cool. Once it’s ready, apply some rust penetrant to the area, take your two hammers and apply double blows – one hammer on each side, hitting simultaneously – around the fitting. The vibrations from the hammer blows should help the rust penetrant work its way in and loosen the plug, which will hopefully allow you to unscrew it. If you feel it starting to give, take your two pipe wrenches and attach one to the cleanout plug and the other to the fitting itself and twist as hard as you can.
  • If this works, don’t reattach the old metal plug when you’re done. Instead, get a new plastic plug and coat its threads with some Teflon paste before screwing it on. Make sure it’s tightly screwed on by using a pair of clip joint pliers.

Cutting the Plug Loose

If you’ve spent a decent amount of time – about 30 minutes – unsuccessfully trying to unscrew the cleanout plug, it’s time to break out the big saw.

  • Make sure your reciprocating saw has a metal-cutting blade before you turn it on, otherwise you’re in for a difficult time. Once you’re set, saw off the old fitting and the pipe that leads to and from the cleanout tee or wye.
  • Once it’s safely removed, use the old fitting as a guide to cut a replacement section of pipe and clue up a new cleanout, stub pipes and replacement wye. Your best bet is to use white PVC or black ABS pipes and plastic fittings for your replacement and use rubber mission couplings to join them together.
  • Slide both couplers onto the old pipe, then slide the vertical coupler into place as you hold the new pipe steady, making sure they’re nice and snug before connecting the horizontal coupler and tightening both.

This project may require a fair amount of plumbing expertise, so if you aren’t comfortable using any of these tools yourself it’s in your best interest to call for professional assistance to make sure that no one gets hurt and the job is done right the first time. At bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, our crew of plumbers refuse to settle for anything less than the very best, and won’t leave until the job is done right. To schedule your free home evaluation, give us a call at 888-794-0341 or find your nearest bluefrog Plumbing + Drain location by typing your city, state or zip code into our ‘Find My Location’ page.

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Categories: Plumbing, Drains

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