How To Clean Out a Pool Pump Impeller

Written by Michael Dean
April 3, 2024

cleaning a pool pump impeller

Whether you have an above ground or inground pool, regular maintenance is critical to keep your swimming pool up and running safely. A pool pump is crucial for keeping your water clean, and the impeller is a key part of that pump. Knowing how to clean the pool pump impeller will help keep your pool in great shape all season.

In this article, I’ll cover some of the common causes of a dirty pump impeller, how often you should clean it, the steps you should take to clean the pool pump impeller, and how to prevent clogs in the future. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Main Takeaways

  • Your pool pump impeller may become clogged overtime due to debris, such as pine needles, seeds, sand, grass clippings, and pool plaster particles.
  • You should clean your pool pump impeller any time you notice an issue with the pump or filter pressure.
  • To prevent pool pump impeller clogs, cover your pool when you’re not using it, use a skimmer net, line your pump basket with skimmer socks, and keep nearby trees and bushes trimmed.

Common Causes of a Dirty Pool Pump Impeller

If you have low filter pressure, can’t hear the motor pump, or hear strange noises coming from your pump, you most likely have a clogged pool pump impeller. You can also check to see if the water in the pump is swirling or moving slowly.

You can also look into the pump basket and see if it’s filling with water normally. A dirty pool pump impeller will restrict water flow both in the basket and pool, so you can tell the difference.

The impeller is near the motor basket pump, which should keep debris from clogging the impeller, but it doesn’t always work that way. Small particles can slip through the motor basket pump and accumulate to clog the impeller over time.

pool pump impeller
Here is what the impeller looks like

This means you must be aware of anything like pine needles, seeds, sand, grass clippings, and pool plaster particles. These items can enter the impeller and restrict its movement, affecting the pool’s water flow.

How Often Should You Clean a Pool Pump Impeller

You only need to clean your pool pump impeller when you notice an issue with the pump or filter pressure. If you inspect your pump basket weekly, you’ll see when there’s a problem with the impeller.

Weekly cleaning of the pump basket will keep you from having to do the more involved cleaning of the pool pump impeller (you can read my article on how to clean your pool pump for all the steps). To clean your pump basket, you first turn off the pump’s power. Remove the pump lid and check the basket. You can rinse debris with a garden hose.

While looking at the pump basket, check it and the lid for cracks or other damage. If all looks good, you can put the top back on the basket, turn on the pump’s power, and be good to go.

If you complete this maintenance and find that the pressure is not building up and no water is flowing through the pump lid, you will need to take things further and clean the pump impeller.

Steps to Clean a Pool Pump Impeller

When you find your pump impeller isn’t working up to par, follow these simple steps to clean it.

  1. Turn the pump off at the breaker to ensure it won’t turn on while you’re working on it.
  2. Take off the lid of the pump basket, then remove the pump basket itself.
  3. You probably won’t be able to see the impeller at the bottom of the pump, so you’ll need a tool. Gently insert a long screwdriver or a wire coat hanger into the pump so you can use it to push the impeller clockwise and counterclockwise.
  4. If the impeller has been clogged, you’ll find it hard to move initially. Keep working the impeller back and forth until it’s easier to move. You might feel the screwdriver or coat hanger dislodging the debris and even see that material come to the bottom of the pump. I have a complete guide on how to remove stubborn pool pump impellers if you’re having trouble.
  5. If possible, try to snag the debris and pull it up with the screwdriver or coat hanger. Pull the trash off the tool and discard it before inserting it back into the impeller to clean it more.
  6. Once you get the impeller spinning smoothly and aren’t pulling up more debris, you can put the pump basket back in place. Use a hose to fill it with water to prime the pump. Then put the lid back on.

It might require deeper cleaning if you’re still having trouble with your impeller.

  1. Disassemble the pump so you can access the impeller more directly. Take off the clamp band on the seal plate to separate the volute. Be careful that you don’t remove the four motor bolts.
  2. Pull the motor straight back to separate the pump from the stand motor.
  3. If your pump has a diffuser piece or impeller shroud, remove it so you can see into the impeller.
  4. Now you’ll be able to use the screwdriver, coat hanger, or even needle nose pliers to remove the debris from the impeller.
  5. If you find small pebbles stuck in the vane, you can use your tool to push them back through the opening, so they’ll fall out.

A clogged impeller does not cause not all pressure and pump issues. If you’ve cleaned your pump impeller and are still having problems, you might need to check on other potential issues, including:

  • Loose pump lid
  • Loose pump drain plugs
  • Dirty pool filters
  • Closed return valves on the filter
  • Collapsed skimmer pipes
  • Air leaks in the pump

Here’s a good video on the process I described above to unclog your impeller:

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How to Prevent Pool Pump Impeller Clogs

There’s no surefire way to keep from getting clogs in your pool pump impeller, but you can take steps to try and prevent it.

  • Cover your pool when you’re not using it.
  • Use a skimmer to clean the pool surface, especially in early spring.
  • Line your pump basket with skimmer socks or nylons to catch small debris.
  • Keep nearby trees and bushes trimmed, so the leaves don’t fall into the pool.

Always make sure that there are no cracks in your skimmer baskets or pump baskets. These pieces will get brittle over time due to the chemicals in your pool water, so routinely checking them can prevent severe damage. If you need to replace either, read my research on the best skimmers for above ground and inground pools and the best skimmer replacement baskets. An efficient pool pump will also save energy and lower your utility bill.

Pool pump impeller clogs will happen, so you don’t have to beat yourself up if you discover that it’s your issue. Keeping an eye on it will help you catch any minor issues or clogs before any significant damage happens to your pool’s equipment. If you think it’s already too late, read my articles on how to replace your pool pump impeller, the top pool pumps, and how to diagnose other pool pump issues.

Questions about cleaning your impeller? Let me know.

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