How to Clean a Pool Pump

Written by Michael Dean
May 15, 2024

clean pool pump

I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping all aspects of your pool tidy. While the surfaces of your pool, the skimmer, and the filter may be the most obvious areas to focus on, your pool pump is another critical piece of the puzzle to keep clean.

In this article, I’ll take you through my step-by-step guide and share tips on how to clean your pool pump.

Main Takeaways

  • Regularly emptying the pool pump basket ensures proper circulation and prevents your pool pump from clogging.
  • Cleaning the pool pump impeller is vital for efficient filtration; use tools like a screwdriver or coat hanger to remove debris.
  • Address issues like calcium buildup or algae growth with specialized cleaning agents.
  • Establishing a cleaning routine that suits your needs and pool conditions helps maintain an efficient, debris-free pool pump system.

How to Clean a Pool Pump: Step-By-Step

A clean and well-maintained pool pump is vital for optimal pool performance. In my handy step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through how to clean the pool pump basket and impeller to ensure efficient filtration. You’ll be surprised how much a pristine pool can improve your swimming experience!

Step 1: Empty the Pool Pump Basket

The first step to cleaning your pool pump is emptying the basket. 

Emptying your pool pump basket may seem simple, but regularly doing so is essential to prevent your pump from clogging and maintain proper circulation. A full pool pump basket can lead to bacteria, algae, debris buildup, and other yucky stuff you don’t want in your pool.

Follow these steps to empty the pool pump basket effectively:

  1. Turn off the pump: Before you begin, ensure the pump is turned off. 
  2. Remove the pool pump lid: Remove the lid that covers the pool pump basket. Inspect the O-ring and make sure it is still in good condition. If not, you may need to replace it.
  3. Take out the pool pump basket: Carefully lift the basket out of the pool pump, being cautious not to spill any debris.
  4. Empty the pool pump basket: Simply dump the debris from the pool pump basket into a trash can. Easy as that! If the waste contains organic material, dump it into a compost bin. 

Step 2: Cleaning the Pool Pump Impeller

The second step to cleaning your pool pump is to clean the impeller.

The pool pump impeller generates water flow and ensures the dirty pool water passes through the filter. If the impeller becomes clogged or obstructed, your pump may not function properly, so it is important to check it often and clean it when necessary.

Follow the below steps to clean the pool pump impeller:

  1. Make sure to turn off the pump: The last thing you want is for the pump to turn on while you are working on it! To be extra sure, turn the pump off at the breaker.
  2. Locate the impeller: The impeller is located at the bottom of the pump and can be accessed after removing the pool pump basket.
  3. Clean the impeller: To clean the impeller, gently insert a long screwdriver or wire coat hanger into the pump. Use this tool to push the impeller in a clockwise and counterclockwise motion. If the impeller is clogged, it might be difficult to move initially, but just keep working on it! Eventually, as you keep pushing the impeller back and forth, it will get easier.
  4. Remove the debris: The screwdriver or coat hanger you use should dislodge the debris in the impeller, which may settle at the bottom of the pump. Snag any debris with your chosen tool and remove it from the pump. Discard the debris before inserting the tool back into the impeller to clean it further until the impeller spins smoothly and is no longer clogged with debris.

Step 3: Put Everything Back

And, of course, now that you have cleaned the pool pump basket and impeller, you’ll need to put everything back together again!

  1. Replace the pool pump basket: Put the emptied basket back into the pool pump and secure it properly.
  2. Prime the pump: Fill the pool pump basket with water using a hose to prime the pump.
  3. Replace the pool pump lid: Once the pool pump basket is in place, place the lid back onto the pool pump, making sure the O-ring is in place. Turn clockwise to tighten the lid.
  4. Turn your pump back on: And voila! Simply turn your pump back on, and everything should be running smoothly.

What to Do If Your Pool Pump Is Extra Dirty

If you’re still experiencing trouble or haven’t cleaned your pool pump in a while, you may need to roll your sleeves up and get ready for a deep clean. Here are some specific issues to address to ensure you thoroughly clean your extra-dirty pool pump.

Clogged Impeller

Even with a skimmer and pool pump basket in place, small debris, such as grass clippings, pine needles, or dirt particles, can still clog the impeller. Ensure you clean the pool pump basket regularly, and consider using a leaf net or skimmer sock to provide an additional layer of protection. But if your impeller is clogged regardless and my step-by-step guide didn’t seem to do the trick, here are some additional steps to deal with this issue:

  1. Disassemble the pump: To properly access the impeller, disassemble the pump by removing the clamp band on the seal plate.
  2. Separate the pump from the motor: Pull the motor back to separate it from the stand motor. This will provide better access to the impeller for cleaning.
  3. Remove any additional components if applicable: If your pump has a diffuser piece or impeller shroud, remove them.
  4. Clear debris from the impeller: Now that you have direct access to the impeller, use tools such as a screwdriver or a coat hanger to remove any debris lodged in the impeller. Take your time and be gentle!

Calcium Buildup in Pool Pump

If calcium deposits accumulate on your pump’s impeller, it can hinder its performance. Unfortunately, calcium buildup can be a huge pain to get rid of. If you suspect calcium buildup, use a descaling agent to help loosen the calcium scales. I also recommend using a pumice stone to scrape off the calcium deposits. 

Algae Covering Pump Basket

Stubborn algae growth may occur in your pump basket and on your impeller. This can clog your plumbing and reduce your water flow. To address stubborn algae, use a pool brush to clean the affected areas. If the algae is still not coming away, apply some chlorine directly to the affected area and scrub it with a hard-bristled brush. Additionally, consider using an algaecide to prevent future algae growth.

How Often to Clean Your Pool Pump

The frequency of cleaning your pool pump, particularly emptying the pool pump basket, depends on various factors, such as pool usage and the surrounding environment. While there is no hard or fast rule, I recommend checking your pool frequently and emptying the pool pump basket around once a week. Make it a part of your maintenance routine.

How Do You Know It’s Time to Clean Your Pool Pump?

A few key indicators of when to clean your pool pump include reduced water flow, decreased filtration efficiency, or strange noises from the pump. A weird noise usually indicates clogged plumbing or a blocked impeller. 

If you notice that the water pressure is lower than usual, the pump basket is not filling up correctly, or the water in the pump is swirling slowly, the pool pump likely needs cleaning.

And, of course, if you observe visible debris or clogs in the pool pump basket or impeller, it’s time to clean your pool pump.

There are other reasons why your pool pump may not be working. Check out my pool pump troubleshooting guide for more on that.

How to Maintain a Pool Pump

Lack of pump maintenance is one of the most common ways people destroy their pool pumps. To maintain your pool pump effectively, regularly clean the basket and the impeller to ensure smooth water flow. This helps keep your pool pump in tip-top shape and ensures your pool remains a sparkling blue color, reading for the next swimmers to take a dip. You should also monitor the pump’s pressure and water levels, making necessary adjustments.

Other maintenance tasks include lubricating O-rings and checking for any leaks in the seals. Additionally, consider hiring a professional to help maintain your pool pump.

If you don’t maintain your pool pump often enough, you may need to replace it. If you’re in that situation, check out my research on the best pool pumps to determine which one to get.

How to Clean Your Pool Filter

Your pool pump and filter work together to act as one of the first lines of defense against debris and contaminants in your pool. You need to clean and maintain your pool filter regularly. How often you clean it really depends on the type of filter you have and your pressure gauge readings.

For sand filters, turn off the pump, set the valve to “backwash,” and run the pump until the waste line water runs clear. Then, set the valve to “rinse” and run the pump briefly. You should backwash your sand filter every couple of weeks.

Cartridge filters should be cleaned every 6 months or when the pressure gauge rises around 10 psi above normal. To do so, remove the cartridge, rinse it with a hose, and use a filter cleaner if needed.

And finally, D.E. filters require monthly backwashing, and the grids need to be cleaned every season.

For more information on this exact topic, read my article on how to clean every type of pool filter.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Enjoy Your Clean Pool Pump!

Maintaining a clean pool pump is not only essential for optimal pool performance and water quality, but it also helps with pool pump longevity and a better overall experience for you. Cleaning your pool pump is easy. It’s funny how this simple maintenance task makes such a difference in the quality of your pool water!

Do you have any more questions about cleaning your pool pump or other pool equipment? Let me know!

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