How to Unclog a Pool Skimmer Line

Written by Michael Dean
December 19, 2023

unclogging a pool skimmer line

Your skimmer is the primary line of defense against debris in your pool system. Without it, your swimming pool would be filled with dirt and debris, making the pool uninviting and dangerous! So, if your pool skimmer line is clogged, you’ll want to unclog it quickly. Otherwise, you can expect things to go south very quickly.

In this article, I will go over my step-by-step process of unclogging a skimmer line, explain how to tell if your skimmer line is clogged, how to prevent it, and more. Let’s dive in.

Main Takeaways 

  • You can unclog a skimmer line with the garden hose and rag method or the drain bladder method. 
  • Some ways of telling that your pool lines are clogged include: weak or no water flow, strange noises from the pump, dirty pool water, and too-high or too-low pressure gauge readings.
  • To prevent future clogs, vacuum and skim regularly, clean your skimmer basket, maintain proper water chemistry, backwash the filter, use skimmer socks, inspect your pool equipment, and use a pool cover.

Step-by-Step Process: How to Unclog a Pool Skimmer Line

While a clogged skimmer line might be a pain, unclogging it is super easy! Here’s a quick rundown on how to unclog a pool skimmer line:

Step One: Turn Off the Pump

Turn off the pool pump for safety and to prevent water from spraying out of the skimmer line while working on it. To do this, turn the breaker or switch that controls the pump to the “off” position. 

Step Two: Remove the Skimmer Basket

The skimmer basket is the container that helps catch large pieces of debris before the water travels into the skimmer line. Lift it out and empty any debris collected in it. At this point, you should also check the basket for cracks.

Step Three: Isolate the Skimmer Line

Close down all the valves to the other pipes and make sure the only open suction line is the skimmer line. Doing this isolates the line and focuses the pressure on the clogged pipe.

Step Four: Unclog the Skimmer Line

There are a couple of different methods to unclog the skimmer line.

  1. Garden Hose and Rag Method: Put your garden hose into the pump’s suction port by at least half a foot. Then, put a wet rag around the hose so that once you turn the hose on, all the water is forced towards the clog. Turn the hose on and let it run for a couple of minutes. Finally, check the skimmer to see if the line has unclogged and come out of the other end!
  2. Drain Bladder Method: Attach the drain bladder to your garden hose and stick it into the pump’s suction line by at least half a foot. Then, let the hose run for a couple of minutes, waiting for the clogged debris to come back through the skimmer.

Step Five: Skim the Debris

Make sure to clean out all the debris reintroduced to your pool. Use a skimmer net and pole to do this. 

Step Six: Replace the Skimmer Basket and Run the Pump

Once the skimmer line is clear, replace the skimmer basket and turn the pool pump on. It should run without a hitch now!

How to Tell Your Pool Lines Are Clogged

What are some telltale signs that your pool lines are clogged? Here’s what to look out for.

Weak or No Water Flow From the Pool Jets

Low pressure from the pool jets does not always point to a clogged skimmer line, but if your skimmer basket is clear and your pool’s water level is okay, your pool lines may be clogged. Other signs to watch out for include an unusually loud pump coupled with low pressure. Any sputtering or hissing may indicate that the lines are clogged as well.

Strange Noises From the Pump

Is the pump making loud, unusual sounds or turning on and off repeatedly? This is a potential sign that it is struggling to push water through a clogged line.

Dirty Pool Water

Is the pool water dirty or cloudy? If yes, this is a possible indication that the filter is failing to work correctly due to a clogged line. A clogged line restricts the flow of water to the filter, which hampers its ability to filter debris and dirt out efficiently.

Pressure Gauge Readings Are Off

If the pressure gauge reads too high or too low outside the normal range, a potential cause is that something is clogging the pool lines.

How to Prevent Future Clogs

While unclogging a line is pretty simple, it’s better not to allow it to get clogged in the first place. Here are some of my pointers on how to prevent any future clogs.

Vacuum and Skim Regularly

While the filter is the primary cleaner of your pool, help it out now and then by manually skimming the pool with a skimmer net for leaves, insects, twigs, and other larger debris. In addition, vacuum the pool at least once a week.

Keep an Eye on Your Skimmer Basket

The skimmer basket traps debris before it enters the plumbing system, so it’s best to keep a close eye on it and empty it daily to prevent a build-up – especially after a big storm or party event.

Maintain Proper Water Chemistry

Healthy and balanced water is the foundation of a healthy swimming pool. Maintaining the proper alkaline, calcium, pH, and chlorine levels all go a long way in preventing algae growth and scale buildup, which can contribute to clogging.

Backwash the Filter

Backwashing the pool filter flushes out trapped debris, contributing immensely to optimal filtration efficiency. Try to backwash the filter every 1-2 weeks at the very least.

Use Pool Skimmer Socks

Pool skimmer socks are super-fine mesh socks that go over your pool’s skimmer basket. They act as an extra layer of filtration, catching smaller debris particles that might otherwise fall through the skimmer basket and into the pool lines.

Inspect Pool Equipment

Inspect your pool equipment, such as the pump, filter, and plumbing, regularly for any possible signs of wear and tear, damage, loose connections, cracks, and leaks. If you spot anything, address the issue ASAP to prevent potential clogs and other pressing issues.

Cover the Pool

I always recommend using a pool cover when the pool is not in use. A pool cover keeps out debris, such as leaves and insects, from entering your pool, all of which are potential clogs in the skimmer down the line.

Other Pool Skimmer Issues and Troubleshooting

A clogged line isn’t the only problem that can plague your skimmer. Other common pool skimmer issues include:

  • Water level too high: If the water level is too high, your skimmer won’t be able to suck in debris properly. To fix this, just lower the water level to halfway up the skimmer opening.
  • Water level too low: If the water level is too low, your skimmer will suck in air, which can cause damage to your skimmer. To fix this, refill the pool when the water level is too low.
  • Reduced or no suction: If there is little to no movement through the skimmer opening, water and debris are not getting sucked in as it should. To fix this, clean the skimmer basket.
  • Skimmer weir door not functioning: If the skimmer weir door does not work properly, the debris the skimmer sucks in will get pushed back out. To fix this, either replace the float medium of the skimmer weir door or dislodge any debris stuck in the door.

For more on this, check out my full article on pool skimmer troubleshooting.

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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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I snake my skimmer line?

Technically, yes, you can. However, I recommend using a garden hose and rag or a drain bladder instead. This is because you never know what kind of matter and debris a drain snake has previously touched, and you really don’t want that in your pool! If you do decide to snake your skimmer line, though, make sure you use a new one and do not jam the snake too hard and damage the line.

Why is my pool skimmer not flowing?

There are several reasons why your pool skimmer is not flowing. For example, the basket or line might be clogged, the pool’s water level could be too low, the weir could be blocked, or the skimmer might be damaged.

Keep Your Skimmer Lines Clean and Clear

And there you have it! A clogged skimmer line is a pretty easy problem to solve. Most pool owners can clear up the issue on their own. But if you’re encountering persistent clogging issues even after unclogging the line, you might want to consider contacting a pool professional to help you figure out the root of the problem.

Do you have any more questions regarding pool plumbing and maintenance? Just get in touch!

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