What Is A Cleanout In Plumbing?


When it comes to plumbing, there’s one important feature that often goes unnoticed but plays a crucial role in maintaining the system’s functionality – the cleanout. Although it may seem like a small component, a cleanout is an essential part of plumbing systems, serving as an access point for clearing clogs, inspecting pipes, and ensuring smooth drainage. Without this inconspicuous device, plumbers would face numerous challenges in their efforts to diagnose and resolve plumbing issues efficiently.

A cleanout in plumbing serves as a gateway to the intricate network of pipes that make up a building’s plumbing system. It facilitates easy access for plumbers to clean or unclog drains, inspect for damage or leaks, and perform routine maintenance. In addition to its practical use, cleanouts can provide valuable insights into the health of the plumbing system. They can reveal the presence of blockages, tree roots infiltrating pipes, or other issues that may require immediate attention. By utilizing cleanouts, plumbers can save time and money while ensuring the smooth functioning of a building’s plumbing system.

What is a Cleanout in Plumbing?

Understanding the Importance of Cleanouts in Plumbing

Plumbing systems are an essential part of any building, ensuring the safe and efficient flow of water and waste. Within these systems, cleanouts play a crucial role in maintaining and servicing the plumbing network. But what exactly is a cleanout in plumbing? In simple terms, a cleanout is a pipe or fitting that provides access to the plumbing system for inspection, maintenance, and clearing of clogs. It acts as a gateway, allowing plumbers to diagnose, clean, and repair any issues within the pipes.

Cleanouts are typically found at strategic points along the plumbing lines, such as sewer lines, drainpipes, and even vents. They are usually installed at locations where the pipes change direction or where clogs are more likely to occur, such as near fixtures or at the base of vertical pipes. Cleanouts are identifiable by their removable caps or plugs, allowing easy access to the pipe interior.

The primary purpose of a cleanout is to allow plumbers to clear obstructions, such as tree roots, debris, or sediment, that can accumulate over time and impede the flow of water. By accessing the cleanout, plumbers can insert specialized tools, such as augers or hydro-jets, to remove the blockage and restore proper flow. Additionally, cleanouts enable plumbers to conduct visual inspections using cameras, helping them identify any structural issues or damaged pipes that may require repair.

The Different Types of Cleanouts

Cleanouts come in various forms, each serving a specific purpose in plumbing systems. Some of the most common types of cleanouts include:

  • Main Line Cleanouts: Located outside a building, these cleanouts provide access to the main sewer line. They are typically found near the foundation or along the property line.
  • Vertical Cleanouts: Positioned at the base of vertical drainpipes, these cleanouts allow easy access to the drainage system for clearing clogs or inspecting for damage.
  • Horizontal Cleanouts: Installed along horizontal pipes, these cleanouts enable plumbers to reach clogs or perform maintenance without having to cut into the pipe.
  • Fixture Cleanouts: Found near fixtures such as sinks, showers, or toilets, these cleanouts provide easy access to the drainage system specifically for that fixture.

Depending on the needs of the plumbing system, different types of cleanouts may be installed at appropriate locations to ensure a comprehensive and accessible network. Proper placement and design of cleanouts are critical for maintaining the functionality and longevity of the plumbing system.

Installation and Maintenance of Cleanouts

Installing cleanouts requires knowledge of building codes and plumbing regulations. It is typically done during the initial construction or renovation of a building. Cleanouts are strategically placed at specific intervals, depending on the size and layout of the plumbing system. In some cases, a single cleanout may serve multiple fixtures, while larger systems may require multiple cleanouts to ensure efficient access and maintenance.

Once installed, cleanouts should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure their proper functioning. Routine inspection can help identify any damage or blockages in the cleanout itself, such as cracks, leaks, or buildup. Additionally, it is important to keep the cleanout caps or plugs securely in place to prevent debris or pests from entering the pipe.

Regular cleaning of cleanouts is also crucial for preventing clogs and maintaining the flow of water. Plumbers can use specialized tools, such as plumbing snakes or hydro-jets, to clear any obstructions that may accumulate in the cleanout over time.

Common Issues with Cleanouts

While cleanouts are designed to facilitate easy access and maintenance of plumbing systems, they can also experience problems of their own. Some common issues with cleanouts include:

  • Blockages: Cleanouts can become clogged with debris, grease, or sediment, impeding their functionality. Regular cleaning and inspection can help prevent such blockages.
  • Damaged Caps or Plugs: The detachable caps or plugs on cleanouts can become damaged or misplaced, leaving the pipe exposed to potential debris or pests. It is important to ensure these caps are securely in place.
  • Cracked or Leaking Cleanouts: Over time, the cleanout fittings or pipes themselves can develop cracks, leading to leaks or water damage. Regular inspection can help identify and address these issues promptly.

If any issues are identified with the cleanouts, it is advisable to consult a professional plumber who can provide the necessary repairs or replacements. Neglecting cleanout maintenance can lead to more severe plumbing problems down the line.


Installing cleanouts during the initial construction or renovation of a building is crucial for easy access and maintenance of plumbing systems. Cleanouts allow plumbers to clear clogs, inspect pipes, and perform maintenance, leading to efficient and reliable plumbing systems.
Regular inspection and maintenance of cleanouts are necessary to ensure their proper functioning and prevent plumbing issues. Consulting a professional plumber is advisable if any issues or damage are identified with the cleanouts.

“What is a Cleanout in Plumbing?” – Key Takeaways

  • A cleanout is a fitting in plumbing that provides access to the sewer line for cleaning and maintenance.
  • It is usually a capped pipe that is installed at strategic points along the sewer line.
  • Cleanouts allow plumbers to remove blockages, inspect the line, and perform repairs without digging up the entire line.
  • Regular maintenance of cleanouts is important to prevent clogs, backups, and other plumbing issues.
  • If you have a cleanout in your plumbing system, make sure you know its location and keep it accessible for easy maintenance.

A cleanout in plumbing is a crucial component that allows access to the drainage system for maintenance and repairs. It’s like a small capped pipe that is strategically placed in key locations along the pipe system.

When the pipes get clogged or need inspection, a plumber can remove the cleanout cap to access the system. This helps in clearing blockages, inspecting the pipes, and conducting necessary repairs without causing damage to the rest of the plumbing system. Cleanouts are an essential feature that ensures the smooth operation and longevity of a plumbing system.


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