How To Remove a Stuck Cleanout Plug Yourself

By Subodh / November 21, 2013

There’s a stubborn clog in your drain and you can’t unclog it because your cleanout plug is also stuck. In the plumbing world, that’s what you might refer to as the perfect storm.

Usually, you would immediately resort to seeking the help of a professional plumber to do the job, especially if it’s already something you believe you cannot handle. However, if you learn how to fix it on your own, why pay for a professional?

It’s not rocket science, but somehow, removing a stuck cleanout plug yourself isn’t exactly a day at the beach either. But if you have a comprehensive guide to help you out, it just might be.

Follow these steps:

  1. Heat it first. Stuck cleanout plugs are a common plumbing problem mostly encountered in older homes because they’re rusted.
    To unstuck, start your cleanout plug removal by applying gentle heat to the plug. Make sure you don’t overheat the plug; you’ll know when you do because the plug will turn cherry red. Apply heat to the fitting as well to soften the old pipe dopes but make sure to clear away the cobwebs first.
    FYI, a pipe dope is any thread sealing compound, thread lubricant and anaerobic chemical sealant used to make a pipe thread joint pressure-tight and leak proof.
    If that doesn’t work, wait for the pipe to cool down then apply rust penetrant. After that, apply double hammer blows around the fitting.
    The blows will produce vibrations from the shock that will eventually break the corrosion. This will allow your rust penetrant to take effect.
  2. Cut the fitting. If the heating, rust penetrant and hammer blows do not work, then it’s time to saw off the rusted section. It’s best to use a metal cutting blade and a reciprocating saw.
    Les Zell, a master plumber with 25 years of experience under his belt suggests that you saw through the horizontal pipe, leaving about 1/4 inch of it uncut. Saw off the vertical pipe next. In The Family Handyman article, he said the horizontal tab prevents the vertical pipe from wiggling while you saw. You may finish the cut on the horizontal pipe after that.
  3. Replace the parts. Once the rusted parts are removed, it’s time for you to replace them with brand new plastic piping. Whether you we’re successful to remove the plug or not, it’s only wise to replace rusty parts to make sure clogging does not happen again very soon.
    Don’t throw out the old fitting yet, use it as a cutting guide to glue together the new cleanout adapter, stub pipes and replacement wye. Join the PVC fittings or black ABS and pipes with rubber mission couplings.
    Continue replacement by sliding both the couplers onto the old pipe. Make sure to securely hold the new pipe in place then slide the vertical coupler and secure the fitting. Connect the horizontal coupler after. Check and make sure to tighten both to the proper torque.
    Les suggests you don’t reuse your old metal plug. Better replace it with a plastic plug. Using Teflon, coat the threads with Teflon paste before installing it. Secure the plug with slip joint pliers and not with a pipe wrench.

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Many pipes in older homes are made of cast iron. Overtime, as they are undisturbed in the ground or basement they become rusted, corroded and their joints get stuck. This may cause your waste line to back up and it will become very hard to reach or even find out where the obstruction is.If you have a cast iron cleanout plug that is jammed and is preventing you to fix a problem in your plumbing, here’s another step-by-step guide to help you out.

Be sure to have these materials ready before you start: spray lubricant, 2 18-inch pipe wrenches, hammer, 2 pieces of 1” steel pipe, 24” each and a cold chisel. If you believe the pipes are blocked, it’s also wise to have a bucket ready and don’t forget to wear rubber gloves.

  • Start by spraying lubricant around the rim of your cast iron clean out plug. Spray directly into the threads. Wait at least half an hour to let the lubricant soak into the thread and loosen it before proceeding.
    If that doesn’t work, try tapping the rim of the plug with a hammer a few times.
  • With the use of an 18-inch pipe wrench, tighten the wrench onto the square nut you’ll find on top of the plug and around the drain pipe. Turn the nut clockwise. Make sure to support the pipe with one wrench while you do so.
    If the nut won’t turn, fit a 2-foot piece of 1-inch steel pipe over the handle of the wrench. This will give you more leverage. You might want to ask someone, a helper maybe, to hold the pipe steady while you try to turn the plug.
    As soon as it begins to turn, you can now remove the pipes and continue turning it with the wrench.
  • Tap the fitting with a cold chisel and a large hammer in a counter clockwise direction. This is useful if there is not enough room to use a pipe wrench.
    Hold your chisel in a 45-degree angle. Position the tip of your chisel as close to the outer edge of the rim as possible then tap it sharply.

Removing a stuck cleanout plug can be a major task, but not impossible. If you have a trusted guide, it’s possible to do it yourself. It may take time but in the end, trust that you will succeed.

This guest post by Tania Miner, an online marketing associate of Haendiges Plumbing – provides Los Angeles plumbing service. Tania’s interests range from providing improvement tips on bathroom faucets to kitchen sinks