How to Clean a Pool Pump Basket (Without Getting an Airlock)




Emptying the pool pump basket (strainer basket) is a regular part of pool maintenance, just as emptying debris out of the skimmer baskets is.

But unlike emptying a skimmer basket, when you empty a pool pump basket it is easy to introduce lots of air into the system which can lead to an airlock.

It is easy to see if your pool pump basket needs to be emptied as the lid will be transparent so without removing anything you can see any debris that may be trapped in it.

If you follow these how to empty pool pump basket instructions you should minimize the risk of this happening.

How to Clean a Pool Pump Basket
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When should the pool pump basket be cleaned?

Whenever you look through the pool strainer lid and see more than the odd leaf or other debris in there it is a good idea to remove the basket and clean it out.

I normally clean out my pool pump basket after I do a full vacuum, either on the filter setting or when vacuuming to waste, as that is when it is likely to be full.

You should certainly never allow it to become full of leaves and debris as this will reduce the flow of water through the pump which will mean that your pool water will not be filtered effectively and you could also damage your pool pump.

How to clean pool pump basket – step by step

  • Switch off the pump.
  • Put the multiport filter into the “closed” position. This will prevent water flowing backwards into the pump strainer
  • Close any skimmer and main drain valves. This is the most important step to prevent getting lots of air in the system. If you do not then, once you take off the strainer lid, water will flow back through the system to be replaced by air. With these valves closed water should stay in the strainer bowl.
  • Unscrew the strainer lid and remove it. Depending on the make of your pool pump, there will probably be two lips to help you get a good purchase to unscrew it. Turn it counterclockwise to unscrew. If it is stuck then read the section below about how to free it.
  • Pull out the strainer basket and empty the leaves and other debris. It can be quite difficult to completely clean it and, to be honest, it really doesn’t need to be immaculate. Just make sure that you take out all of the larger debris and perhaps then rinse it with a hose.
  • Top up the water in the bowl. If you have followed the instructions above then the water level in the bowl should not have dropped very much. If it has then you can pour some water in to refill it before putting the lid back on to reduce the air in the system.
  • Put the strainer basket back in the housing. It will only fit one way with the input hole towards the skimmer pipes.
  • Check the lid o-ring. Make sure the seal/o-ring under the lid is in good condition and is seated properly. This seal not fitting correctly is one of the main ways that air gets into the system. See my post – Why are my pool jets blowing air bubbles.
  • Refit the lid. This only needs to be hand tight.
  • Open the skimmer and main drain valves.
  • Turn the multiport valve back to “filter”.
  • Switch on the pool pump.

How to open pool pump basket if stuck

how to open pool pump basket

If you cannot move the pool pump basket lid then the most important thing to remember is – do not use so much force that you break it.

Do not use a metal hammer or anything like that to hit it with as this may crack the plastic so you will need to purchase a new lid and your pool will be out of action until you can get the replacement.

Use a lid removal tool

You can purchase a Pool Tool Strainer Pump Lid Removing Tool from Amazon. If you do your own car maintenance you may have an oil filter removal tool that might fit the lid to help remove it.

Spray with WD40

You can spray under the lid with some WD40 or other type of penetrating oil. Leave it for a few minutes and try to open the lid again.

Use a rubber mallet

You can try gently tapping one of the lugs with a rubber mallet which may free the lid.

Pool Care Handbook and Video Course

When I bought my house with a swimming pool, I knew absolutely nothing about pool care. I just winged it for a while, making many mistakes along the way.

Fortunately, I was recommended Swim University’s Pool Care Handbook and Video Course. I bought it and it was an absolute game-changer.

It was the best money I spent that year. I learned everything from basic cleaning to advanced troubleshooting. Swim University offers a no-quibble refund policy too so what do you have to lose?

Should my pool pump basket be full of water?

Yes, ideally your pool pump basket should be completely full of water with no visible air to see through the transparent lid.

You may find when your pump first starts up that there is little or no water to be seen in the basket. The pump will probably be making a different sound at this point too. However, the air should soon bleed out of the system and you will see water start to flow through until it is completely full.

If the pump runs for a long time without filling with water you should try to prime it using one of the methods I describe in my post – How to bleed air from a pool pump

Also read: The pool filter settings explained

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