If you live in an older home like I do, mine was built in 1968, then it is very likely that your home has pipes that have been repaired or replaced, and it is highly likely that you have a cleanout drain somewhere in your yard, that wasn’t originally there, when the house was first built…I have this as well, but my lawn guy didn’t see it.How to Remove a Stuck Cleanout Plug

The other day, my lawn guy accidentally mowed right over my cleanout drain and plug and chopped the top portion of the plug, the nut, right off, leaving a hole at the top. (show picture) And this is why I am writing today about how to remove a stuck or broken cleanout plug.

If this happens to you, it is very important to know that you do want to replace this old stuck or broken cleanout plug with a new one, as soon as possible, preferably the same day or so.  The reason being is that you do not want your cleanout drain to get clogged up with other debris or insects and small animals.  A very temporary fix is to put some duct tape over the hole, until you can replace it with a new one.

How to Remove a Stuck Cleanout Plug

Before we get into how to remove the stuck cleanout plug, there are a couple of things you will want to consider first:

  1. What is the size of the plug that you are replacing?  Is it a 2″, 3″, 4″ or bigger or smaller
  2. Is the plug “hex” a male or female
  3. Is it a slotted or flushed plug
  4. Is your cleanout plug made of PVC or is it a type of metal
  5. Is it just really, really screwed in tight or
  6. Is it actually stuck, stuck?

The answer to those questions are very important because they will determine the type and amount of tools you will need.  Here are the tools I needed to remove my stuck, 3″ cleanout plug:

  1. Measuring tape or ruler
  2. Cell phone (read more to find out why)
  3. Small set of vice grips
  4. Larger set of vice grips, a large crescent wrench, or a channel wrench, which ever you have or prefer
  5. Hammer, preferably a mallet when dealing with PVC pipe vs metal

The cleanout plug that I removed was just on really, really tight, and the top portion had been chopped off by my lawn guy, so that added to the difficulty of removing it as well.How to Remove a Stuck Cleanout Plug Instructions

Now that you have the proper tools, you want to make sure you buy the proper size cleanout plug from your local hardware store like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Tractor Supply, Ace Hardware, or McCoy’s Building Supply.  Most cleanout plug sizes range from 2.5″ to 6.”  To be sure, and this is where your cell phone comes in handy, I recommend getting a tape measure, measuring the width of the cleanout plug, and taking a picture of it with you iPhone, as seen in the picture to the right.

I recommend taking the picture like shown to the right, because I almost bought the wrong size, and I would have had to return to Home Depot, adding more time to this project.  I literally almost bought a 4″ cleanout plug, but because I had the photo with me measuring the width of the plug, I was able to compare them on the spot, there at the store, saving me lost time.

If you look at the image of my broken cleanout plug, you will see why there is a need for two different size vice grips or wrenches.  You need one that can fit into the hole at the top and one to tighten the new, replacement cleanout plug.

The job is fairly simple.  Use the smaller vice grips to fit in the whole to grip and lock in place.  Then proceed to unscrew the cleanout plug.  If you still can’t budge the plug, that is where the hammer or mallet comes into play.  On the sides of the adapter, which is consider the female part to the cleanout plug, which is considered the male part, bang the adapter all the way around, so that the vibrations help to loosen the plug.

Once the cleanout plug is removed, screw on the new cleanout plug by hand, and then finish tightening it with either the larger set of vice grips, the channel wrench, or the large crescent wrench.

What if it is Really, Really Stuck and it Still Won’t Budge?

If the above is the case for you then, like I mentioned earlier in this article, then you will need some more tools, more time, and depending on your level of DIY experience, may want to hire a professional.  You would have to dig around the cleanout drain adapter, cut it out and install a whole new adapter and possibly some more new pipe.  There are many more steps involved here so that won’t be covered in this article.

Camco RhinoFlex 6-in-1 Cleanout Plug Wrench

Cleanout Plug Wrench

One great thing that came out of this little project, and the writing of this article, is that learned about this new tool specifically made to remove most types of cleanout plugs.  It is called the Camco RhinoFLEX 6-in-1 Sewer Cleanout Plug Wrench.

  • Can use on 3″ or 4″ male or female cleanout plugs
  • Can use on slotted or flushed sewer plugs
  • Loosens any dump station cap with ease
  • Easy Grip Handle
  • Universal 6-in-1 tool

Now full disclosure, I have not personally bought this tool yet, but based on my research, it works on more types of cleanout plugs than others, it can be easily stored, and it was the least expensive, coming in at only $5.08. (Price can vary depending on availability)

In Summary of How to Remove a Stuck Cleanout Plug

This was one of the simplest jobs I have done so far, and I learned a whole lot about cleanout drains and plugs along the way.  I only needed 3 tools, the cost to replace the cleanout plug was only $2.43, and the time it took from start to finish, including driving to Home Depot and back, it took me only 30 minutes to complete the job.  Oh, and most importantly, I looked like a hero to my wife! lol  That’s a win-win for me! 🙂

I you have any questions or would like to share of your experience with a stuck cleanout plug, please comment below, we would love to hear from you.


To Getting the Job Done,

Jason Cancino

How to Remove a Stuck Cleanout Plug – A Lawn Mowing Accident

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