How to Clean a Sump Pump

Last Updated on by Anthony Brown

Sump pump pits need cleaning every so often. Ignoring cleaning your pump and pit puts you at a higher risk of clogs, floods and can let mold and other bacteria grow hidden under the pit cover.

Many people know that they need to clean their pit and pump from time to time but are not sure what to do. We put together an 8 step cleaning guide plus some recommended products to help you clean your pump and prevent clogs.

We recommend cleaning your sump pump at least every 6 months and giving it a quick check after a heavy storm or snowfall. If left uncleaned dirt and other debris that float in with ground water will build up and can ruin your pump – plus cost thousands of dollars in water damage. Live in an are a with heavy flooding or lots of ground water? If yes the we recommend giving your entire pump system a cleaning and drainage test every month

Best Sump Pump Cleaners

Cleaning your pump is never easy so we put together a list of a few of our favorite sump pump cleaning products to help you get the job done and kill any mold that is growing.

Cleaning with Vinegar

If you don’t want to deal with the harsh smell of bleach vinegar is also an effective disinfectant. The easiest way to use vinegar is to fill a spray bottle and bring a sponge with along with your scraper. The best kind vinegar to use is household vinegar, not the kind you use to cook with but that can also work if you don’t have any other bottles around.

Cleaning a sump pump with vinegar is a quick and easy way to clean the system and prevent clogs. It is also one of the best emergency cleaners because almost everyone has some vinegar in their house already!

Cleaning with Bleach

One of the most popular ways to clean – and disinfect – a sump pump is to wipe it down with hot water and bleach. Using bleach is a sure fire way to kill and bacteria and germs that may be living in the dark damp pit. You don’t need much bleach for it to be effective. Add a few cap fulls of bleach to your hot water and get to scrubbing!

Worried that bleach will damage your sump pump? Cast iron and thermoplastic sump pumps can safely be cleaned with bleach.

Cleaning the Drain Pipe

Cleaning the drain pipe is just as important as cleaning the pump and basin. Every few months you should pour a few buckets of water down the discharge pipe just to makes sure everything is flowing normally! It is also a good idea to disinfect as much of the exterior and interior of the pipe as possible. Remember – pipe problems can cause just as many repairs as pump problems.

Home sump pump

Step by Step Cleaning Guide

Not sure where to start when cleaning – follow our 8 step how to guide!

Materials Needed

  • A garbage bag
  • A bucket of hot water
  • Soap, Vinegar or Bleach
  • A Shop Vac
  • A scraper or flat head screw driver
  • A spray bottle or sponge
  • Plastic gloves
  • A flashlight

Step 1 - Disconnect from Power, Battery and Alarm

The first step to cleaning your pump is to disconnect the electricity and other accessories like back up battery and alarm. Things are going to get wet and we don’t want to damage the internal electronics – plus we are going to need to wipe down the entire unit with bleach or vinegar. The last the you wan’t to do is ruin your pump while doing regular scheduled maintenance and cleaning.

Step 2 - Disconnect from Discharge Pipe

The next step is to disconnect your pump from the discharge pipe. Carefully loosen any attaching screws or fasteners and the pump and pipe should slide apart.

If you feel resistance it may be a sign of moldy buildup in the pipe and pump exit. Make sure to clean this area with bleach or disinfecting vinegar to kill growth and keep it from coming back.

Can’t get the pump to separate from the pipe? Use a can of WD-40 to loosen things up before you damage your expensive pump!

Step 3 - Remove from Pit

One common mistake new homeowners make is trying to clean their sump pump while it is still in the pit. Cleaning the pump inside the pit only moves around the mess. If you want to get your pump and basin truly clean the best way to do it is put it inside a trash bag and take it out into the backyard. Once in the backyard you have a lot more room to clean plus you do not have to worry about spilling grime on your carpet.

Step 4 - Scrape Sludge and Rust

Once you are outside it is time to start cleaning your pump. The best way to start is use a sponge, warm cloth or even a flat head screwdriver to scrape away any mold mildew or material build up’s. Keep a close eye out for rust or other metal corrosion‘s – especially near the power supply and pump body. If you let a metal pump rust your will significantly decrease its lifespan!

Step 5 - Disinfect Basin

Disinfecting your sump pump basin is just as important as disinfecting your pump. Do Paris and other build up can collect overtime in the bottom and sides of your sump pump. Don’t forget to give your cover a good cleaning especially in the underneath cracks.

Step 6 - Disinfect Pump

After you have removed all of the mold and grime it is time to disinfect the pump and pump basin. Using bleach vinegar or other disinfectant wipe down the exterior of the pump. Make sure to disinfect the entire unit as mold mildew and other germs can live in cracks and crevices.

Step 7 - Clean with Shop Vac

Use your Shop Vac to remove remaining water and debris from the bottom of the pit. Cleaning all of the Leftover water and pump particles by hand is nearly impossible – with a a shop vac you can’t quickly and cleanly get your pump pit looking like the day you bought it. Always remember to empty the shop vac when you are done. Remember it will be full of dirty water mold mildew and palm particles so you do not want to let it sit overnight

Step 8 - Reattach and Test

The final step in the cleaning process is the reattach the pump. Start by reattaching the discharge pipe, then add any supports and finally plug in the alarm and backup battery. Once everything is in place fill your basin with a few buckets of water and make sure the pump works!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you clean your sump pump?
Your sump pump should be cleaned quarterly (3 to 4 months) in order to keep it working at its best and prevent smells.

Does a sump pump need to be cleaned?
Yes. An uncleaned pump will be less effective and can start to cause a stink in the basement.

Will bleach damage sump pump?
No. Bleach will not damage your sump pump and is recommended for cleaning and disinfecting.

Can I pour vinegar in my sump pump?
Yes. Vinegar is a good choice for cleaning the inside of your sump since it is similar to water and removes buildups.

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