Simple Steps to Clean a Sump Pump

As our tips and guides page suggests, the most common reasons for malfunction involving sumps and sump pumps which had not been cleaned for a long time. This is especially true for situations where there is a high amount of loose gravel and stones in the substratum of the basement, and these collect in the sump along with the water. Furthermore, as more and more gravel and debris collect in the sump, the depth of the sump is reduced, leading to the water rising faster. This leads to the sump pump being overworked. To avoid these issues, we have come up with a short list of simple steps to clean a sump pump.

steps to clean a sump pump

Cleaning the sump

While we would like to concentrate on the sump pump, it should not be forgotten that the maximum debris collects at the bottom of the sump and not on or in the sump pump itself (except parts of the impeller). Hence, before one starts on the simple steps to clean a sump pump, it is vital to clean out the sump itself.

  1. Remove the sump cover and disconnect the power of the sump pump.
  2. Disconnect the PVC pipe from the discharge and carefully pull out the sump pump from the sump. Expect some amount of water to come out with the pump.
  3. Place the sump pump in a bucket or plastic box and keep it aside.
  4. Use a wet/dry vacuum (not a dry or leaf vacuum) to drain any water that may be present in the sump. Note that while doing so, some small pieces of debris would also be pulled into the vacuum, so a sturdy wet dry vacuum is advisable.
  5. Once the wet vacuum has removed the water, shine a torch or flashlight into the sump pump. You will see a number of small to medium-sized pieces of debris at the bottom.
  6. Put on a pair of sturdy workman’s gloves and use a scraper or small shovel to pull out the debris and put it in a disposable plastic bag or bin. Note that there may be small insects and plants in the sump as well, and one should not bring one’s face too close to the sump surface for this reason.
  7. There may be liquid or semi-liquid sludge at the bottom, this needs to be cleaned out using a plastic cup. Wear a face-mask to avoid the powerful and unpleasant odors that may arise.
  8. Let the sump walls dry out for some time. Once they are dry, scrape the sides of the sump with sandpaper or any abrasive material that can remove the debris and possible algal blooms.
  9. Spray mild disinfectant into the sump as an added precursor to simple steps to cleaning a sump pump.

Since you would need a dry sump to carry out the above steps, it is advisable to carry out the above steps during the dry season.

Cleaning the sump pump body

  1. Take the sump pump out of the bucket/box and let the sump pump dry in the sun for some time. This will reduce the odors and dry out the sludge sticking to the sides and the impeller.
  2. Take a piece of sandpaper and scrub the sides of the sump pump thoroughly. While the best sump pumps have smooth exteriors that can be cleaned easily, some of the older ones will have nooks and crannies that require the use of special scrapers to clean out.
  3. Take a little mineral oil (like car engine lubricators) and apply it to the outer surface of the sump pump, such that a nice layer is created. This will create an added layer of protection against corrosion.

Cleaning the discharge and impeller

The last series of simple steps to clean a sump pump involve cleaning the lower parts of the sump pump, the discharge and impeller.

  1. Using the same procedure outlined above, use a sandpaper to clean out the interior and exterior surfaces of the discharge tube.
  2. While learning how to install a sump pump, you may have come across a small air hole located near the discharge. Clean out this air hole with a pin, such that you can see the other side of the surface through this small hole.
  3. Apply some vegetable oil – not mineral oil, since the discharge is made of plastic and not metal – on the exterior and interior surfaces to ensure smooth functioning.
  4. Locate the impeller and ensure that the debris in and around it has dried to a sufficient extent.
  5. Using a leaf vacuum with blower function set at a low air speed, carefully blow away the loose dry debris, till only the threads and other tenacious debris are left.
  6. Take a small putty knife and scrape away at the vents carefully till you can see through most of the vents. This will also dislodge some threads/hairs.
  7. Finally, pull out as many of the threads as you can, using a tweezer or similar tool if necessary.
  8. Blow some canned air into the impeller blades to remove residual debris.

Post-Cleaning Steps

  1. Once you’ve covered the major part of the simple steps to clean a sump pump, you need to replace the sump pump in the now clean sump.
  2. Once the sump pump has been lowered to the floor of the sump, reattach the PVC pipe to the discharge and reconnect the sump pump to the electric supply.
  3. Pour a bucket of water into the sump and observe whether the functioning of the pump has improved. If the cleaning has been properly carried out, the water will be removed at a faster pace.
  4. Replace the sump cover.


The simple steps to clean a sump pump are not exactly the most time-saving, since the cleaning process involves multiple steps. However, these steps are similar regardless of which product you choose using our types of sump pump – which is best choice guide. Furthermore, they need to be carried out at gaps of not less than 6-8 months, with the thorough sump pump impeller cleaning being required only about once a year. Thus, while the process may seem long and somewhat complex, the low frequency of the clean-ups ensure that keeping the sump pump in top shape is not a difficult task.



Bill is a DIY plumber, handyman, and homeowner with more than a decade of experience. He has replaced and repaired sump pumps, backup pumps, float switches, check valves, and many other things around his family home. An engineer and tinkerer at heart, he is always looking to see how things work and taking on new home projects that help him grow his skillsets. He is a husband and father of two boys, has a bachelors degree in Computer Engineer and minor in Mathematics and likes to make homebrew beer in his free time.

      Sump Pump Advisor