Last Updated: August 19, 2021

How to Clean the Pool Pump & Skimmer Basket (Maintenance)

Written By: Pool Care Guide

A pool’s filtration system must contend with objects that are both large and small. The pool’s filters handle small contaminants such as algae and dirt. However, if the larger contaminants such as leaves, sticks, and small toys are not handled, they will quickly clog the filters.

Pools use baskets at two locations to capture those larger objects. First, there is the skimmer basket near the pool. The average pool has one or two skimmer baskets. Second, there is a basket connected to the pool pump. It is located immediately before the impeller.

Without these two baskets, random debris would damage the impeller and dam up the filtration system. Because these baskets are designed to catch debris, they require frequent cleanings to remove that debris. If you are consistent with this maintenance, it should keep the water’s pathway clear enough to function.

Steps to Clean Pool Pump Basket

  1. Turn off the pool heater. If the heater was running, it will need time to cool off before the next step. Heaters are designed to cool from the water that runs through them. Turn off the heater, and give the pool pump 5 to 10 minutes to extract the heat. 
  1. Turn off the pool pump.
  1. Open Air Relief Valve. This valve is located on top of the big tank on the equipment pad near the pool pump basket. If the pool pump still shows a PSI reading above 0, don’t be surprised if you are spritzed with a bit of water and air. 
  1. Close the valves for the skimmer and the main drain.
  1. If the pool pump is below the waterline, the hydrostatic pressure will push water through the return line and up into the filters. To prevent this, you should set the filter valve to “closed.”
  1. Remove the pump lid; probably by turning the lid counterclockwise.
  1. Remove the pump basket from the housing assembly.
  1. If you have a garden hose, you can use that to spray the basket clean. Pool pump and skimmer baskets are delicate. Their thin plastic weaves are fragile and will snap with even light amounts of force. For that reason, we recommend that you do not knock the baskets against anything.
  1. Check the basket for damage, and reinstall or replace it. A damaged basket is a compromised filter. Bits of plastic and unfiltered objects can cause damage to the pool pump’s impeller. When reinstalling the basket, be careful not to over-twist it back into place.
  1. Check the lid and the o-ring gasket for damage. Leaks often develop right when the gasket becomes stiff and cracked. Cleaning the gasket and applying a silicone-based lubricant will extend its life. Don't use petroleum-based lubricant because it can deteriorate rubber.

Where is the Skimmer Basket?

The skimmer basket is very easy to find. The entrance is located inside the pool. It is the rectangular opening near the top of the pool. Also, if your water levels are correct, the waterline meets the center point of the skimmer.

You can use the picture below to get an idea of what a skimmer looks like. You can see the rectangular portion that is located inside of the pool, and the cylindrical section that pops out of the pool deck. The top of the cylindrical section is the skimmer lid, and you will need to remove it to access the skimmer basket.

How to Clean the Skimmer Basket

  1. Turn off the pool pump. When the pump is off, the lack of water flow will close the skimmer weir (door).
  1. Do you have a sand filter? If yes, switch the filter’s valve to closed or plug the return line.
  1. Remove the skimmer’s lid. Skimmer lids can generally be removed with a counterclockwise rotation. It might be a good idea to put on some gloves. Small dead animals sometimes get sucked into the baskets, and spiders sometimes make homes on the underside of the lids.
  1. Pull out debris from the basket. Before you remove the basket, you should remove most of the debris by hand. Sometimes, debris can float around the basket, get sucked into the pipes, and potentially clog them.
  1. Remove the skimmer basket and dump the contents. When you dump the debris, don’t knock the basket against anything. Skimmer baskets are fragile and can’t withstand much of an impact. Instead, lightly brush the contents out of the basket and spray with a hose. 
  1. Reinstall the skimmer basket and its lid. If the lid was sticky, adding some silicone-based lubricant along the edges will make it easier to remove the lid next time. Do not use a petroleum-based lubricant because they accelerate the deterioration of rubber gaskets.
  1. Switch the filtration valve back to "filter" and turn the pump back on

Questions and Answers

Signs That You Need to Clean the Baskets

As your skimmer and pump baskets progressively fill with debris, their contents continually grow into larger obstructions. As the obstructions grow, the pool pump will be supplied with fewer gallons of water. This translates into a reduced PSI. If you check the pool pump’s meter and its readings have been reduced by at least 10 PSI, it might be time to empty and clean the baskets.

How Often Should You Clean the Baskets

Even if you haven’t noticed a drop in PSI, Cleaning the pool pump and skimmer baskets should be a weekly event. That’s at a minimum because some pools require daily cleaning. If your pool is frequently used, check the baskets and determine if you need to clean them more often.

Where Is the Pool Pump Basket?

The pool pump housing and basket are directly connected to the pool pump without any pipework between them. The pool pumps are installed upon equipment pads made of either concrete or rubber. 

These two pictures should help you locate it. The first picture shows the pad where pool plumbing is located. The second shows a pool pump and the cylinder housing for the pool pump basket.

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