How to Clean a Sump Pump

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    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 sump pit and pump from time to time but are not sure what to do. We put together an 8 step 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 area 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 – especially if you use it to drain your washing machine.

    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. These cleaning solutions will remove dirt, grime and mold with a sponge or cloth.

    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 of 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 – including check valve –  as possible. Remember – pipe problems can cause just as many repairs as pump problems.

    Step by Step Sump Pump Cleaning Guide

    Not sure where to start when cleaning – follow our 8 step how to guide to prevent sump pump odor!

    Materials Needed

    Regular Cleaning & Maintenance

    Cleaning your pump system should be a part of your regular maintenance. Not sure how to preform annual maintenance try our guide so you always have a clean sump pump!

    Step 1 – Disconnect from Power, Battery and Alarm

    The first step is properly disconnecting your pump from the electricity and other accessories like back up battery and alarm. Things are going to get wet and there will be standing water so 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 thing you want 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 sump pump 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 in the basement.

    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. If there is too much to remove by hand you can blast it off with a garden hose.

    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. Debris and other particles build up can collect overtime in the bottom and sides of your sump pump. Don’t forget to give your cover a good wipe down, 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.

    Also make sure to clean other parts like the check valve and float switch.

    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 to the power source. Once everything is in place fill your basin with a few buckets of water and make sure the pump works!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Sump pump maintenance is important. If you still have additional questions try the following FAQs.

    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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