How To Clean A Sump Pump | DIY Guide

How To Clean A Sump Pump

Most homeowners throw in the towel after getting a sump pump. They believe the deed is done, and now the basement has become a secure vault. Although installing a sump pump is the brunt of the work, there are other little duties that follow. If you have already bought yourself a basement watchdog, then you can sit back for a while. However, you can’t slack off when it comes to maintenance.

So, the question is, are you cleaning your sump pumps correctly? Do you keep it under regular maintenance? If not, then we think it’s time you pay a little attention. Installing a super-efficient sump pump doesn’t mean that your responsibility is over. Even a high-end sump pump can fall on its face without due maintenance.

Therefore, it is essential to monitor and clean your pump from time to time. It should be at least once a year to avoid the clogged pipe or iron ochre (bacteria) inside the sump pit. However, if you are not sure where to begin, then we think you should look into our step-by-step process of cleaning the sump pump to give yourself a head start.

How to Clean a Sump Pump


Things You Need

  • A large bucket
  • Garbage bag
  • Hot water
  • Garden hose
  • A shop vacuum
  • A scraping tool (Plastic scraper or flat screwdriver)
  • Spray bottle
  • A plastic sheet
  • A sponge
  • Long-handle brush
  • Gloves
  • Flashlight
  • Any cleaning solution (soap, vinegar, or bleach)

Step by Step How to Clean a Sump Pump

 Keep the Water Flow Off

One thing you need to make sure of is to switch off all the connections that directly drain through your sump pumps, such as the washing machine. You don’t have to switch off the entire water connection. Only the fixtures that let water pass through your sump pump discharge pipe should be disconnected.

If disconnecting is not an option, make sure no one uses them while you’re working on the pump. Besides, try to clean the sump pump when there is no rain because it turns out to be a hazard if the water drains out while cleaning.

Turn Off the Power and Disconnect from Battery and Alarm

Afterward, the regular cleaning procedure is to shut off all the power connections. Never put your hands in without unplugging the power cords. Also, disconnect the backup battery and alarm because the wet surrounding might damage these internal electronic appliances. It means keeping all these accessories out of your basement to make sure they are safe and sound.

Check everything twice and move on to the next step.

Disconnect the Discharge Pipe

Now you are done removing the power cord. The next step is to unlink the pipe from the main pump. During this process, you have to be very careful in terms of loosening screws or fasteners. However, if you cannot separate the pipe smoothly, then it’s an indication of mold growth inside the tube. So, you need to follow some additional measurements to clean the pipe and prevent any further resurfacing of mold.

Let us see to clean the sump pump drain pipe quickly and easily.

  • Separate the pipe from the pumps main body
  • Put the pipe inside a bucket or take it out into your backyard
  • Take a garden hose and spray water inside it
  • Keep the pressure high for excessive blockage (debris)
  • Continue the procedure twice and rinse off the dirt draining pipe properly
  • For better outcomes use white vinegar to clean or bleaching water inside the pipe and rinse off (vinegar or bleaching solution prevents the growth of mold or bacteria)

Take Out the Pump from The Pit

Now it’s time you clean your pump. While most people try doing it inside the pit, it turns out to be less cleaning but more of a wrestling contest. So, always remove the pump from the sump pit. Even though it might be time-consuming, it is a thousand times better than washing the pump inside the pit.

So, wrap your pump with a plastic sheet and take it out into the backyard. Now you have enough space to clean your sump. Besides, you won’t be ruining your carpet or basement by spilling grime all over.

Get Rid of Sludge and Dirt from The Pump

If you have moved the pump, it’s time we dive into the next step.

  • To remove the first layer of grime, rinse off the pump with a hose properly (It will help to get rid of the first thick layer of dirt)
  • Now take a flat screwdriver or any scraping tool and start scratching the areas where you see the signs of mold (Make sure you get rid of any cake-like material from the body of the pump)
  • Take a warm cloth or sponge and rub it thoroughly (Continue the process until the pump is completely clean)
  • Finally, rinse off the pump again and take out all the remaining grime

Note: Take a closer look near the power supply as well as the body of the pump. These areas are essential, and if you let them get rusted, eventually, it will affect the sump pumps’ lifespan.

Disinfect the Pump

The next step is to disinfect the pump, so bring bleach or vinegar to continue this process. You can use any other disinfectant as well. Wipe the entire exterior with this cleaning solution and try to sanitize the entire pump. You may find growing bacteria (mold) or harsh stains inside the cracks, which can decrease your pumps’ endurance.

Moreover, try to clean the float switch and check valve because these are also essential components of the sump pump system.

Disinfect the Pit

Disinfecting the basin is another crucial step because this is where you keep your pump. So, it’s very easy for the pump to catch mold or grime from the sides, and the bottom of the sump pit gets messy over time too.

So, let us continue with cleaning your sump pump pits. You may check our DIY guide on how to clean a sump pit.

  • Use a wet vacuum or a shop vacuum to remove the remaining water from the pit
  • Now take a scraping tool and start scooping out the sludges and filths from the basin (if needed wear a face mask because the smell might make you feel nauseous)
  • Make sure you empty the wet vac after every time you use it
  • Use a long-handled brush to clean the sides of the pit (Move the brush in a circular motion for the best result)

Reconnect the Unit

The final step is to reattach all the components of the sump pump. Bring all of them in your basement and connect them with caution and patience. We have outlined a sequence, so you can follow accordingly without getting lost and confused.

  • First, place the pump inside the sump pits, and if you have a battery backup pump settle down both of them together
  • Now attach the discharge pipe
  • Carefully assemble the valve and floating switch
  • Then, plug in the other components such as the alarm and backup battery

Once you are done plugging in and placing everything, let us move to the next step that is testing the pump.

Testing the Pump

  • Bring a few buckets of water and fill your pumps basin
  • Turn on the power source and check whether its draining water or not

If you see your pump is shiny and also discharging water with the same flow as before, then you are good to go. Make sure you have connected all the parts appropriately.

Things to Consider

So, before you hop into the pump cleaning a sump pump, we’d like to reiterate some key points. Even if you miss a step, it’s alright. However, make sure to strictly adhere to the caution list below.

  • Shut off the power source and unplug the sump pump
  • Do not keep the wet vac full of dirty water overnight because later on, it gets tough to get rid of these molds and grime if these get stuck inside the vac
  • Dry out your pump and your basement before you start reattaching the pump
  • Always give a good wipe underneath the cracks
  • Don’t forget about cleaning the check valve and floating switch; however, you don’t need to disinfect these components
  • The rainy season is the least suitable time for cleaning the pump.
  • Collect all the necessary items before you start opening your pump

How often should You Clean a Sump Pump?

If your sump pump is working round the year then, it has to be maintained regularly. Ideally, it is best to clean your pump every 3- 4 months, preferably during late winter or in early spring. For example, if you are using the pump during spring then, clean it in summer. Also, there may be times where you will have to clean it during winter or when the snow melts.

Apart from this, see to it that you often run the maintenance of your pump. Test the pump after every six weeks. Pour a bucket of fresh water and check if it is running. Doing this will ensure that your pump is running smoothly without any hiccups. And, it also prevents any foul smell from building up.

Vinegar or Bleach: which one to choose?

If you are looking forward to cleaning your sump pump then, white vinegar would the best and the most economical way to go. It can easily remove the dirt and get rid of any foul smell. All that you have to do is mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a container and then use a piece of cloth to scrub the pump and the pit.

However, if you notice a strong putrid smell coming out of the pit, then use bleach instead. Add a quarter cup of bleach to a gallon of water and scrub down the walls of the sump pit. Later when you are done, pour down a quarter cup of bleach. This will dim the chances of any odor.

Will bleach damage the sump pump?

No, using bleach as a disinfectant does not damage the sump pump in any way. It is more effective than vinegar in removing foul odor from the pit and also helps in disinfecting the entire system.

Wrapping Up

We understand that you don’t want to keep looking over your shoulders. You want to lay back after installing a pump, but a little maintenance once in a while will go a long way. Over time, the pump, pit, and pipe will gather thick grime and iron ochre, whether you like it or not. This unwanted collection of pollutants will eventually affect the pump’s flow rate.

So, it’s essential to take care of the pump and clean it from time to time to keep the water discharge smooth and free of hiccups. Your pump will not function if it lacks regular maintenance. Besides, there is a high chance that your pump might get rusted in several areas if it remains unclean for ages.

Many of us are concerned about it but don’t know where to begin or how to do it. We hope our article on how to clean your sump pump has helped you get over the fear. It’s not a back-breaking task, follow the instructions properly, and voila.

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