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What’s A “Clean Out”?

Q: This will sound like a dumb question. I’ll never be a guy that works at Home Depot. There’s about a 4 inch PVC pipe with a screw on top sticking slightly out of the ground at the end of my yard. What is it?


A: There are no dumb questions. And if there are, you can bet I’ll be the one asking them.

What you see is called a “clean out”. Don’t worry about not knowing what it is. Lots of homeowners don’t. In home and business construction, proper plumbing code dictates that clean outs be positioned in strategic places in and around the building. The clean outs give easy access to the pipes should plumbers need to clear out an obstruction or clog in the pipes. It’s much easier for a plumber to run a snake down a clean out on the outside of your home than it is to snake from the inside kitchen sink.

Building codes dictate where clean outs are placed. Typically anytime there is a right angle in the pipes, a clean out is placed. You’ll find clean outs placed by bathroom sinks, laundry drains and your kitchen sink.

The clean out you found in your yard could be the main drain clean out. That one is the biggie. It’s the drain that empties into your city’s sewer system. You’ve heard the phrase, “all roads lead to Rome”? In plumbing, all drains lead to the main drain clean out. If that one is plugged, you’ve got a problem. Your showers, toilets, sinks or bath tubs won’t be able to drain. The reason for it being a larger pipe (like the 4” one in your yard) it to make it easy to get into in the event of a clog.

Of course, the hope is to never need to access the clean out. Being careful to do regular drain maintenance helps keep your pipes clear. Here’s some steps you can take:

Be careful what you put down the garbage disposal. Anything that is stringy or has lots of fiber, put in the trash, not down the disposal. Celery, potato peelings, pasta and rice (they can expand in a pipe and cause a clog) or coffee grounds. Be sure to run plenty of water down the drain after each time you use the disposal.

Once a month, slowly pour a gallon of boiling water down your shower drain. This will help dissolve any buildup in your pipes. DO NOT pour boiling water into a toilet. Toilet bowls tend to be cool and in the winter time, cold. The extreme heat of the water can crack the porcelain in your bowl.

Once a month pull the drain plugs out of your bathtub and shower to pull out any accumulated hair and/or soap residue.

In the event a clog is more than you can handle, your friends at Sinclair are always here to help. We’ve got the expertise and equipment to fix your problem and get those drains flowing freely! Call us at 806-749-COOL (2665)