Debris Clogging Your Pool? Here’s How to Fix It

Argh. Okay, some things don’t always go as planned—and you’re here because something is seriously wrong in your backyard. Whether your pool pump has gotten sizzling hot, is making a racket of noise, or simply won’t turn on, you’re in the right place. In all of these minor catastrophes, the first thing to check for is possible clogs to your circulation system. I’ll explain how clogs can form, why circulation and clearing clogs matter, and how to unclog your system at every level. We’ll get through this—together.

Why Circulation Matters

They say that in a crisis we learn what really matters in life. Your pool pump is essential. Don’t let frustration lead you to contribute yours to the city dump—unless you actually need a new pump, in which case you should one hundred percent get a variable-speed unit.

Your pump is the absolute hub of your pool’s cleaning system. It’s what circulates your pool water to filter out dirty particles and distribute cleaning chemicals. No circulation, no cleaning—and nobody wants to swim in a cesspool of algae and worse. Pathogenic bacteria, anyone? Yeah, didn’t think so.

What a Clog Can Do To Your System.

Clogged debris can work at a few different levels, but the part of your system that’s most at risk is your pump. Debris can cause the pool pump motor to work harder to suction water from the pool and push it through the filter. As a result, your pump can get noisy, heat up, and generally wreak havoc on your electricity bill—and that’s something I spend a lot of time here on the blog trying to prevent. Owning a pool is already an investment. Why spend more when it’s not necessary?

If your system gets seriously clogged with debris, you’re at risk of your pump processing air instead of water. You never want this to happen—unless you like buying new shaft seals, or dealing with potentially melting plastic. Ahem, pass.

Since variable-speed pumps only save more with time, the sooner the better. Get the 1.5 HP Variable Speed Blue Torrent Thunder In-Ground Swimming Pool Pump—it pays itself off in under a year, is eligible for rebates, and also comes with a lifetime warranty.

how to unclog your pool

Blockage Inside the Pump

There are two places to check for blockage inside the pump: the pump basket, and the impeller. If you find debris here, don’t consider yourself done: there could be clogging outside the pump, too. Better to do a thorough job—and anyway, it won’t take long.

Unclogging the Pump Basket

The first part to check is the pump basket, which couldn’t be easier to access. First, turn off the filter, unplug the pump, and open the pump basket lid. You’ll want to check the pump basket for leaves, dirt, small rocks, and any other sediment that might’ve found its way in. Clean out the basket with a hose and you’re good to go.

Unclogging the Impeller

Another part to check is the impeller, or the spinning blade that pushes water into the housing, where it is then filtered and returned back to the pool. Without plugging the pump back in, pull out the pump basket and reach your hands down through the tube between the basket and the impeller. If you can feel that the impeller is clogged, bend a stiff piece of wire into a hook shape with a pair of pliers, and use that to scrape off the debris. Consider that one important tool of DIY maintenance. Good on you.

Even without blockage, is your pool water barely moving? If a larger horsepower will turn over your water volume at a sufficient rate—and won’t overwhelm your filtration system—then a more powerful unit like this Blue Torrent 2 HP Variable-Speed Pump is the one to try. As customer Bill Britton says, “Runs great. Super quiet.”

how to unclog debris from your pool

Blockage Outside of the Pump

If you didn’t find any debris in the pump basket or impeller (or even if you did), it’s time for a wider search. It’s unfortunate, but debris can also build before the water even gets to your pump. Think about it: during the season, your pool water is usually exposed to the elements, and all that water is suctioned through your plumbing to the pump. It makes sense that a few leaves and twigs—or a lot—might get carried along.

Skimmer Basket

It’s because of the otherwise high potential for clogging that the skimmer was born. It looks like a little bucket and is built into the side of the pool and, with the help of the basket it lines, keeps out debris that could otherwise enter your pool plumbing.

Check this basket to see if the debris has built up enough to prevent your pump from easily pulling in water from your pool. It couldn’t be more straightforward to clean out. Just, you know, might want to wear gloves.

how to unclog debris from your pool


This one’s a little tougher. If your skimmer hasn’t been as effective as it was designed to be, the pipes that connect your skimmer to your pump may also get clogged. I’ve seen a few different methods for this one, including using a hose to flush them out into your pool, but the best way to flush out clogs is to simply manually prime your pump. When you prime your pump, you push out excess air through your system. There should be enough power to flush out clogs, too. Plus, what you think might be a clog could just be your pump struggling to purge that air in the first place. That’s what I call a primetime solution.

Want the most powerful pump on the market—that will still save you on energy and pay itself off? My top recommendation is the 3 HP Variable Speed Blue Torrent Thunder In-Ground Swimming Pool Pump—it has expert programming options, comes with a lifetime warranty, and can be super high-powered when you need it to be. As customer Jordan MacDonald says, “it truly is super quiet”—and that was while it was running at full capacity.

how to unclog debris from the pool

Pool Unclogging Calls for a Celebratory Dip.

Wasn’t that easier than you thought it would be? Now that you’ve cleaned out or flushed out your clogging, your pool is as good as new. While you want to be sure to check your chemical balance, your bank balance is just fine. Get that pump running for eight hours, and then jump right in. Job well done, and now—you’re done, too. Enjoy it.


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