A sewer clean out is a capped pipe which provides access to a sewer line, allowing people to clean out blockages in the sewer. In many regions, sewer clean outs can be found along the lateral sewer line, the sewer line which connects a home's plumbing to the municipal plumbing. Lateral clogs and the sewer clean out are the responsibility of the property owner. Larger sewer clean outs are also located at intervals along the municipal sewer line, so that water and sewer employees can clear blockages in the part of the sewer system which is the city's responsibility.
Most home owners are concerned with the clean outs on their properties. Sewer clean outs are often situated near each home on a property, and at the property line, providing several points of access. It is a good idea to know where each one is located, and to keep the surrounding area clear so that the clean outs can be accessed in a hurry. When a blockage does arise, quick access can be critical to prevent overflow. In regions which are prone to snow, a sewer clean out may be located in a basement, so that it will be accessible in the winter months.
The pipe can usually be opened by hand or with a wrench and cleared with the use of a plumbing snake or augur, a tool which consists of a long coiled cable attached to a large head. The head is shoved into the pipe and the coil is pushed, forcing the head through the blockage to clear it and promoting a free flow of materials through the sewer line. It is also possible to investigate a blockage with the use of a plumbing camera.
Homeowners should also alert renters to the location of the sewer clean out, so that the renters can reach it quickly in an emergency. If a homeowner does not know where the sewer clean out is, a city employee or licensed plumber may be able to locate it. In the event that one has not been installed, homeowners must usually apply for an installation license, and then hire a plumber to fit one, although some cities install them free of charge as a service to their customers.
The sewer clean outs on city property tend to have larger openings, reflecting the increased diameter of municipal pipes. City employees can use snakes and other equipment to clear blockages which have developed in the city's sewer system. If blockages recur in a particular area, city employees may ask neighboring residents to exercise more discretion about the materials they flush.
If a home's sewer connection appears to be backing up, the water should be turned off, and the cause of the backup should be investigated. The problem is often located in the lateral line, and a quick visit to the sewer clean out will resolve the issue. If the plumbing continues to be clogged, it may be time to call the city and report a sewer blockage on their side of the property line.