Can You Use a Sump Pump for Muddy Water?

If you have a basement, chances are you’ve encountered problems with accumulated moisture seeping through the foundation or, worse, flooding during heavy rainfall. In both situations, you’ll probably be dealing with water that’s murky with mud or dirt. 

You can use a sump pump for muddy water, provided you flush and clean the lines regularly. Over time, sump pumps can get clogged with mud and silt, especially if they’re set in dirt or if the pump’s screen is detached, allowing more debris in. To prevent this, maintain the pump on a set schedule.

Sump pump submerged in dirty water

Read on to learn about the different kinds of sump pumps, how much debris they can handle, how they work, and how to fix problems people often encounter.

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Which Sump Pumps Can Handle Muddy Water?

Sump pumps work by pumping out water accumulated in a sump pit. The pit is usually found under the house and collects excess water, such as heavy rainfall.

There are four different kinds of sump pumps, and they vary in the mechanisms through which they operate.

Because of this, some are more equipped than others at handling muddy water. This is because dirty water also typically contains debris, like stones, twigs, and even trash.

Submersible sump pumps can handle muddy water and quite a bit of small debris, such as pebbles and small sticks. Pedestal pumps can tolerate some muddy water, but if there’s debris, it will likely fail. For excessive muddy water with lots of waste, you’ll need something stronger, like a trash pump.

Choosing the right kind of sump pump for your household depends on the moisture level you need to be addressed, your power requirements, and how long you need your sump pump to hold up.

Let’s take a close look at some of the options you have.

1. Pedestal Sump Pumps

A pedestal sump pump comes with a motor installed above the sump pit so that it doesn’t get submerged in the water. The motor is activated by a ball float that detects water pressure.

One significant advantage of this kind of sump pump is that its motor is less likely to get damaged through water exposure, making for longer shelf life.

However, while it can drain out greywater, it cannot handle dirt and debris, which is often found in muddy water. Also, it can only be used in sump pits less than 18 inches (45.72 cm) in diameter.

But if you think this is what you need, you might want to check out the Superior Pump 92551 Pedestal Pump (available on that’s built with stainless steel.

2. Submersible Sump Pumps

Submersible sump pumps are arguably the most common type of sump pump around.

You will need this type of pump if you’re dealing with muddy or murky water, as it can handle quite a bit of debris.

Equipped with a float switch (a switch that floats on the water’s surface), submersible sump pumps are also best for basements that tend to collect large volumes of water, such as if your basement is prone to flooding.

The float switch will activate the motor once the water level reaches a certain height.

Should you need this kind of pump, the Yescom Submersible Sump Pump (available on is powerful without the noise that usually comes with high-capacity machines.

3. Back-Up Sump Pumps

This type of sump pump is automatically activated when the main pump malfunctions.

That will come in handy if you’re covering a large area or if you’ll be unable to check the pump for a long time.

For example, this would be a great option on a vacation home that isn’t lived in year-round.

4. Combination Sump Pumps

A combination sump pump is equipped with a backup pump triggered automatically when the primary pump fails.

The main difference between this and the one above is that combination pumps have both the main pump and the backup in one integrated system.

5. Trash Pumps

As mentioned, while submersible sump pumps can handle dirt, they are not designed to pump out substantial debris.

This is not something you’re likely to see from just heavy rainfall. Instead, this is the type of waste you’ll encounter in the event of a flood.

Since this is not common, trash pumps are not usually permanently installed.

However, these types of pumps can be rented to remove the muddy water and debris after a heavy flood when you have lots of rocks, twigs, and trash within the water.

How to Clean Pump Lines

Flushing out the pump lines regularly, especially after pumping out large volumes of dirty water, is key to ensuring the longevity of your sump pump.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Vacuum or manually remove the contents of the sump pit.
  2. Turn off the pump and detach the discharge lines.
  3. Using a garden hose, spray the insides of the discharge lines with water until the dirt has been removed.
  4. Dislodge any remaining debris using a plumber’s auger.
  5. Spray the insides of the lines down again.
  6. Re-attach the discharge lines to the pump.

This should be something you do on a semi-regular basis – about every three to six months, depending on how often it’s used. It’s always advised to clean the pump and lines after heavy rainfall to ensure nothing can get stuck.

Related Article: Where Should A Sump Pump Discharge?

Common Sump Pump Problems and How To Fix Them

A well-maintained sump pump can last for up to 10 years. However, just as in any machine, issues can come up no matter how well you maintain them.

Here are some problems you’ll most likely encounter and how to fix them:

Foul Odor

If you notice that your sump pump is giving off a foul odor similar to that of rotting garbage, rotten eggs, or even feces, it’s a sign that your pump is clogged or leakage from the sewer has dried up inside the sump pit or the pipes.

To take care of this stinky issue, clean the sump pit and the pipes with water and bleach.

Follow the steps outlined above, but add a bleach solution once the majority of the dirty water has been removed.

Once done, leave a thin layer of water in the pit. Remember to regularly clean the pipes to keep this problem from coming back.

Dirty Water Backflow

Seeing no decrease in the water level? It could be that the pump is pumping in the water that it has already pumped out.

Two things may cause this:

  • Your sump pump needs a check valve. A check valve is necessary to ensure the proper flow of pumped-out water through the drainage pipes. If not installed, water could flow back in.
  • Your discharge pipe can’t handle the pressure. This happens when the water volume is very high, creating a lot of stress in the lines.

Create a tiny hole in the drainage pipes to ease the pressure to address this.


Sump pumps can effectively pump muddy water, and in a small area, a pedestal pump should be sufficient.

But if you want to cover a large area or deal with high water volume, you’ll need a submersible sump pump.

And while back-up and combination sump pumps can help give you peace of mind if you’re planning to be away for a while, remember that you’ll likely need a trash pump if you’re dealing with lots of debris.

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Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.