12 May A cropped image of a man in boots cleaning a sump pump in the yard after learning how to clean a sump pump

How to Clean a Sump Pump

Posted by PlumbWize

A sump pump is a vital appliance in many homes. They help prevent basement flooding by expelling water out of the basement. This helps to keep basement humidity low, which translates into less water damage, corrosion, and mould growth. Another vital function of a basement sump pump is to remove standing water from outside the foundation walls and thus keep your foundation dry and solid. 

If your home features this device, you’re probably wondering how to clean a sump pump. In this guide, we’ll walk you through it step-by-step. You’ll also discover more about the other components of the system, including the sump pit and discharge line. 

Let’s get started!

Two sump pumps taken from the sump pit as a reference image for how to clean a sump pump

The Main Types of Sump Pumps 

The two primary types of main sump pumps are submersible sump pumps and pedestal sump pumps

The main difference between the two is the positioning of their motors. Submersible sump pumps have motors inside the sump pit, while pedestal sump pumps have motors that are above the sump pit, affixed to a stand. 

Regardless of which type of main sump pump you have, they have similar parts that are only configured differently. 

Getting to Know Your Sump Pump System [For Beginners] 

If you’re new to sump pumps and how they work, here are the parts that you need to be familiar with: 

  • The sump pit – also known as the sump basin, this is the dug-out portion of the basement that collects water. Typically, it is connected to a network of weeping tiles that divert water into this part, ready to be expelled by the sump pump.
  • The sump pump – this is the appliance itself that sits inside the sump pit. It is connected to the discharge pipe. 
    • The power source – this supplies electricity to the sump pump.
    • The float switch – as this part of the sump pump floats up (because of collected water in the sump pit), the sump pump is activated.
    • The motor and the impeller – these components work together to generate centrifugal force to push water up and out through the discharge pipe.
  • The discharge pipe – this is the pipe through which the sump pump expels water away. This pipe should extend to ten feet or more away from the house.

Should You Clean a Sump Pump? 

Provided that you learn about the do’s and don’ts of how to clean a sump pump from a reliable source, it is safe and highly recommended that you clean your appliance at least every six months, amidst regular conditions. After heavy rain or snowfall, it is advisable to check on the state of your sump pump and sump pit. Uncovered sump pits may accumulate more dirt and debris faster, which would then need to be cleaned more frequently.  

One final note we have in this section is that cleaning isn’t the only type of maintenance that sump pump owners need to do. To learn more about other sump pump maintenance pointers, check out our article: 8 Essential Sump Pump Maintenance Tips.

A dirty sump pit and sump pump that need cleaning

How to Clean A Sump Pump


  • DO clean your sump pump at least every six months. This helps slow down the wear and tear of your unit. 
  • DO clean the sump pump along with the sump pit and the discharge pipe. They all function as one system.
  • DO disconnect the power source of the sump pump any time you will reach for the sump pump with your hands. 


  • DON’T use appliances that can load the sump pit while the sump pit is being cleaned. 
  • DON’T use detergent. This can build up on the sump pump’s impeller and cause damage. 
  • DON’T use concentrated bleach or vinegar on your sump pump. When using the recommended cleaning compounds, follow the needed water dilution to keep your sump pump safe. 
  • DON’T disassemble the unit invasively while cleaning. 

Steps on How to Clean Sump Pump 

Preparation Phase

1. Turn off the sump pump and make sure that no one is using any appliances that will drain water into the sump pit (i.e. washing machine).

2. Take the sump pump out of the sump pit. 

3. Sweep up any solid debris that have collected in the pit like twigs, gravel, and leaves. 

Cleansing the Sump Pit, the Sump Pump & the Discharge Line

4. Prepare a vinegar-water solution in a bucket (one gallon of vinegar to two gallons of warm water). 

5. Pour this solution into the sump pit to cleanse the pit. Let the solution sit for 20 minutes. 

6. While the sump pit is being cleansed, go outside and use a garden hose to rinse the sump pump. 

7. Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to remove caked debris on the sump pump unit. Do NOT disassemble the unit.

8. Rinse the sump pump once more after removing caked debris.  

9. Put your sump pump back in the pit and reconnect it to the discharge pipe. Do NOT plug in the unit yet. 

10. Make sure that the power chords are dry, and then plug the unit in. 

11. Because the sump pit is full, the sump pump will activate. This will cause the water-vinegar solution to be processed by the sump pump     and sent through the discharge pipe. The whole system will be safely cleansed by this diluted solution. 

Rinsing the Sump Pit and Sump Pump

12. Once the sump pit is cleared of the solution, inspect for any wet debris that remains. If so, unplug the sump pump, remove it from the pit, and use a wet vacuum to finish the job. 

13. Lastly, rinse the entire system with two gallons of clean water.

14. While the sump pump is rinsing the clean water, check on its operation. Is the floater able to move up and down? Does the sump pump     turn off after all the water is discharged?

And that’s it! You have a clean sump pump and sump pit ready for action. 

Reliable Sump Pump Installation for Your Home

This wraps up our guide on how to clean a sump pump. Even with regular maintenance, sump pumps typically have a lifespan of a little over ten years. If you have been having problems with your old sump pump, it may need repairs or a replacement. We’ll be more than happy to help!

PlumbWize is a leading provider of plumbing services in the areas of Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton, Milton, Ancaster, and Stoney Creek. We’re known for our quick response times and long-lasting plumbing repairs/installations. If you need a new sump pump for your home, we’ll take care of everything. 

If you have questions about how to clean a sump pump or about getting a replacement sump pump, please feel free to give us a call!


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