How To Unclog A Sump Pump | A Comprehensive Guide 2021

In the fight against floods in wet weather, the sump pump is the king. But even a king can fall if proper precautions are not taken. If you leave your sump pump alone to deal with water without checking in from time to time, needless to say, it will get clogged and stop working efficiently.

In most cases, the sump pump can get clogged if the sump pit is not cleaned regularly. It gives way to a host of other issues that can be difficult to deal with. Thankfully, you can fix this easily by cleaning up the sump pit and, in some cases, the drain pipe from time to time.

There are also steps that you can take to minimize the chance of having a clogged sump pump. Regular inspection of the pump and installing an airtight lid for it goes a long way towards ensuring a functioning sump pump running in your basement.

I will explore why your sump pump might be clogging up frequently and teach you the ways you can prevent and solve the problem. After all, whenever the rainy season is around the corner, you need all the help you can get to protect your basement against it. I have guidelines on how to unclog a sump pump yourself.

How To Unclog A Sump Pump

How to Fix a Clogged Sump Pump

A sump pump that is clogged with mud, leaves, or sediments will not be able to discharge water effectively. Either it will discharge a small amount of water or no water at all, depending on the intensity of the blockage. But if you are willing to put in a bit of elbow grease, you can fix this issue yourself. Here are the steps to clear a clogged sump pump.

  • The first step is to get your tools in order. Cleaning a clogged sump pump does not require too much equipment. All you need are a set of waterproof gloves and enough lighting in the room to see properly. You might also want to keep a bucket nearby to deposit all the debris you extract from the sump pit.
  • In addition, you want to turn off the sump pump and unplug it from the power source. Make sure there is no power going to the pump or the float as it might electrocute you if you are not careful.
  • First, you want to check the sump pit. If the pit has a lid, lift it up and put it aside. This is where having a flashlight really comes in handy. You need to look inside the pit and see if there is any debris blocking the inlet.
  • If you do not regularly clean your pit, there is a good chance that the interior is jammed with sediments and sludges. You want to take your time and extract all the dirt you can bit by bit.
  • It might be hard to clean the pit with your pump taking up a huge chunk of space on the inside. So, it is a good idea to lift it out of the pit when you are cleaning it. I recommend taking it out back and hosing it down thoroughly.
  • Once the pit is clear of any obstacles, place your sump pump back in. Make sure the pump sits level on the ground, and there is no wobbling.
  • Test if the clogging has cleared by pouring about 5-10 gallons of water inside the pit. Your pump should now be able to discharge water efficiently without any clogging.

Tools that can Make it Easier to Clean a Clogged Sump Pump

Cleaning a clogged sump pump can be quite a bit of a hassle. When I was still inexperienced, I used to put off clean-up duties as long as I could without damaging my machine. Now that I look back, I was pretty lucky that my pump did not suddenly die out on me. But as I learned more about sump pump cleaning, I realized that I was making this task hard unnecessarily. With a few simple tools at hand, this job can become much easier.

That is why I would recommend you to keep a few items at hand so that you do not have to be afraid of cleaning your sump pump at a moment’s notice. Here are the things you will need:

  • A trash bag: to keep all the gunk and grime stored in one place
  • A flashlight: will help you check the drainpipe much easier.
  • A screwdriver set: even the most basic one might be all you need to clear clogs
  • A fresh filter: if you need to replace the old one.
  • A bucket of water: to test if the clog is cleared

You might also want to rent a shop vacuum if the task gets too messy.

How does a Sump Pump Get Clogged?

In most cases, the main culprit behind your clogged sump pump is an open sump pit. Most homeowners do not keep their sump pit under the lid, which can cause it to become clogged up with dirt and debris. It can even give way to a host of other issues, such as a constantly running sump pump which is even worse.

The common ways that a sump pump can get clogged are:

  • If you have an open sump pit, it can get clogged over time because of accumulating dirt and debris.
  • If your pump sits straight against the sump pit and if the pit is dirty, the mechanical parts of your machine will start to go dirty. It can also lead to clogging.
  • Every sump pump has a float switch that detects the water level and activates the pump if the water rises too high. There is a chance that it gets jammed or clogged if there is too much dirt in the pit.
  • If you are using a budget-friendly sump pump, and if the quality is not up to the mark, its mechanical components such as switches can get jammed. This is why you do not want to invest in a knock-off sump pump.
  • Although rare, the sump pump discharge pipe can also get clogged by small objects. This can cause your entire pump to become clogged as the machine will not be able to discharge water through the pipe.

How Do I Know if My Sump Pump is Clogged?

If you suddenly notice that your sump pump is running but not discharging the water, it is a significant sign that it is clogged. For the health of your pump, it is critical that you turn it off immediately. At this point, you have two options; either call a professional to come to inspect your machine or figure out the cause of the clog yourself. Unless you are comfortable with tinkering with your machine, you should call a plumber.

How to Clean A Clogged Sump Pump Drain Pipe

If the clogging is because of the drain pipes, cleaning the pit might make little difference. That is why I recommend cleaning out the drain pipes when you are planning to clean the sump pit. You will be killing two birds with one stone. However, cleaning a drain pipe takes a bit more effort and a few additional pieces of equipment. You want a plumber’s snake, a screwdriver, a high-pressure garden hose, and a hand siphon or a vacuum.

How to Clean A Clogged Sump Pump Drain Pipe

  • Start off with a primary inspection of the discharge pipe. Typically, the end of the pipe is outside the house. If your drainpipe has a filter on one end, remove it and look inside using a flashlight.
  • Using your vacuum or hand siphon, drain out any remaining water in the pit.
  • Next, you want to take the sump pump out of the pit and disconnect the pipe from the body.
  • Then use the plumber’s snake through the end of the pipe that you connect to your main pump. If you are lucky, you should be able to disjoint the object inside the pipe.
  • Then, use the high-pressure garden hose and run it through the same end of the drain pipe. You should notice water coming out from the other end along with whatever is blocking it.
  • If the plumber’s snake is not enough to clean the blockage inside the pipe, consider using hot water with the hose. It would help loosen the clog inside the pipe.
  • When you are done, simply connect the pipe back to your sump pit, and you should be all done. Remember to clean the filter of your discharge pipe before you put it back.

Pro Tip: If cleaning the sump pit or drain pipe does not fix the clogging, you should call a plumber right away.

How to Prevent Sump Pump from Clogging in the Future

The sad truth is there is no surefire way to prevent clogging in your sump pump. Like any machine, it will require regular maintenance. However, there are ways you can help minimize the possibility of a clogged sump pump. For instance, keeping your sump pit locked with an airtight lid is a good way to prevent additional buildup of dirt and debris inside it. Since most homeowners tend to neglect the importance of sump pump pit lids, clogging is a common issue with most machines.

Another way to minimize the chance of clogging is regular inspection. Remember, clogging builds up over time. And the sooner you detect a possibility of clogging, the faster you can address it. By cleaning it up sooner rather than later, you will be able to keep your sump pump healthier.

I always recommend checking up on your sump pump once every six months. This ensures that all the components of the sump pump are functioning correctly. Besides, once you get used to it, taking apart your sump pump system and cleaning it up does not take up too much of your time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a sump pump get clogged?

Yes, a sump pump can get clogged. If you do not maintain your pump from time to time, then you might have to deal with a clogged sump pump quite frequently. So it is a good idea to take some time out of your busy schedule and do a routine cleanup now and then to keep your pump in peak operating conditions.

Can you use Drano in a sump pump?

Drano is a type of chemical cleaner that contains bleach and sodium hydroxide as its main ingredients. Although it can break up clogs that form in the sump pump pipe, it is not a feasible solution in most situations. Experienced plumbers who regularly work on sump pumps suggest not to use Drano or other similar chemicals to clean sump pumps. Since the chemicals in these cleaners can damage the pipes or fittings in your machine, I would think twice about using them if I were in your shoes.

Final Thoughts

Nobody wants their sump pump to get clogged up, especially during the rainy season. That is why it is essential to know how you can fix it yourself in case of an emergency. I hope this guide could provide you with all the information you need to tackle any clogging issues that you might face with your sump pump.

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