A sump pump is crucial in ensuring that your basement is never flooded. Unfortunately, as it serves you, you’ll notice it sometimes produces an unpleasant smell that quickly becomes unbearable. 

If you want to eliminate the foul smell from your sump pump, you must know the cause. In this article, we’ll go through the most common causes of the odor and the best ways to eliminate it.

This post will walk you through “how to get rid of basement sump pump smell” but first, let’s look at some of the possible causes.

Common Causes of Sump Pump Smells and How to Fix Them

1. Sewage Infiltration

Sump pumps connected to a sewer system or line could give a foul smell due to a leak. A leak will let sewage seep into your basement, making it smell horrible. If you notice any leaks, it is best to have professionals inspect the damage, make repairs and clean the mess.

2. Bacterial Growth

One of the most common problems sump pump owners face is bacterial growth. The sump pump is usually warm and moist, giving foul-smelling bacteria the right environment for growth. 

The best way to deal with the bacteria and smell is to clean the pump and drain with bleach and water. You can also get a tailor-made cleaner for sump pumps for the job. Regular cleaning of the sump also prevents any bacterial growth.

3. Basement Drainage

If your drainage system has issues such as clogging, any stagnant water will start smelling in no time, making the sump pump smell. Fortunately, all you need to solve this is unclogging or unblocking the system.

The best way to deal with a blocked or clogged drain is to let a plumber handle the unclogging and cleaning. However, if you have some experience and want to do the job, you can get a plumbing snake or other unclogging tools.

How to Get Rid of Basement Sump Pump Smell

4. Stagnant Basin

An unpleasant odor from your sump pump could indicate an undrained basin. When water remains in the sump pump basin, it provides bacteria the warmth and moisture they need to grow.  After a while, the bacteria will start producing a bad smell.

The best solution is to drain the water from the basin and use an enzyme-based cleaner to deal with the odor permanently. You can also prevent this by regularly draining and cleaning your sump pump basin.

5. Pump Inactivity

When your sump pump goes unused for a long time, the basin gets dry and lets gases escape. The gases are usually foul and leave an unpleasant smell. You can solve this with an inspection of the system.

A qualified plumber can check the sump pump system and handle the cleaning and repairs. You should also ensure that you use and check the pump regularly.

6. Waste Build-up

Like every other equipment, sump pumps will collect waste over time. When left uncleaned for a long time, they can easily pile up quickly and smell filthy. 

You can remove the odor by cleaning the sump pump to eliminate the dirt and the smell. If the odor persists, you can apply an enzyme-based cleaner to deal with the remaining odor.

7. Cracked or Broken Equipment

Your basement drainage system contains a lot of water and gasses with a horrible smell. If your sump pump cracks or gets broken, it could release water and gas into your basement, making the area smelly. 

If you have plumbing experience, you can inspect the system for damages and determine the necessary steps or have a professional handle it. You may only need repairs and part replacements if it is a minor issue. If it is big, you may need a new sump pump.

8. Your Sump Pump is Clogged

Your sump pump could be smelling due to a clog in one of the parts. A clog means that water, dirt, and other materials don’t drain away and accumulate in the pump. All you need to do is unclog the pump, drain out any water, and clean it.

An enzyme-based cleaner is the best way to ensure the sump is clean and the odor is gone. It kills bacteria and other odor-causing organisms efficiently, leaving everything perfect. After that, you can use the pump as usual.

9. Sump Pump Lid is Not Sealed Properly

Sump pumps accumulate gasses and other odors during their lifetime. So if you smell a stench coming from your pump, it could indicate that the sump pump lid is improperly placed or sealed. The first thing you need to do is shut it properly to avoid more leaks.

After that, you can deal with the odor using an enzyme-based cleaner specifically made to eliminate odor-causing bacteria and organisms. If this doesn’t work, it could mean a different problem, and you’ll need a plumber to inspect the sump pump.

10. Improper Maintenance

Every sump pump owner knows they must regularly clean and run maintenance on it. Failure to which dirt will build up, and water will stagnate, clogging the pump or even causing damage. The dirt and water build-up will also start to smell in a while.

The best way to fix this is to check that there is no build-up in the pump and clean it. However, to avoid the smell completely, ensure that you run the pump regularly and have a plumber make any repairs as soon as needed.

11. Sump Pump is Burnt Out

One of the odors you may notice from your pump is the smell of a burnt-out or failed motor. It can be caused by overworking the pump or using an undersized pump for your basement. Have an expert come and inspect the pump to make the right repairs or replace the pump if needed.

Regular maintenance can also help you avoid such scenarios. Ensure you use the pump for the right job and at the recommended time. Inspect for debris, dirt, clogging, and any other issue and have a professional fix it. That way, your sump pump works properly and emits no unpleasant odors.

What Does A Sump Pump Do?

A sump pump is an important device installed in basements and crawl spaces to protect your home from flooding. It pumps out any water that accumulates in the basement, preventing it from causing damage to your home.

A sump pump drains water from spaces like the basement or construction sites. The device detects rising water levels and pumps out the water to avoid flooding.

Keeping your sump pump in good working condition is essential, as failure can result in a flooded crawl space. To ensure your sump pump is working correctly, inspect it regularly and check for any signs of damage or obstructions in the drain pipe.

Due to the nature of its functions, a sump pump owner ought to ensure that it always remains in perfect working condition. You’ll not want yours broken in an emergency, which means a flooded basement. Have an expert inspect it regularly for any problems and let them fix the issues immediately.

What a Sump Pump Smells Like

Sewer gas

One familiar smell from sump pumps is an odor resembling a rotten egg smell- meaning your pump is leaking sewer gas such as hydrogen sulfide and methane. It is usually intense and unbearable.

Call a professional to inspect the sump pump for clogging, damages, or an improperly sealed lid. If they find a problem, ensure it is immediately fixed to prevent further damage to the sump pump or basement.

Mold and mildew

If you notice a must damp or earthy odor from your sump pump, it could indicate the presence of mold and mildew.  It is caused by moisture on the pump or the basement. In this case, you need to call a professional to inspect the basement for the source of the humidity and take the necessary steps.


Your sump pump will smell like a waste if it is clogged or isn’t draining water. The smell will resemble rotten garbage smell which is strong and intense. To fix the issue, have an expert inspect the sump pump system for blockages, and if any, they need to unblock and clean it. 

Is It Normal For A Sump Pump To Smell?

There is nothing normal about a sump pump smelling. If it does, it means something is amiss, and you need to check it for any problems and fix them to avoid worsening.

Some problems a foul smell from your sump pump would indicate are clogging, blockage, leaks, and dirt accumulation. The odor should disappear once you unclog, block, solve the issues, and clean the sump pump.

Can I Put Vinegar In My Sump Pump?

No. It is advisable not to add any vinegar to your pump. It is acidic and will easily corrode the metal components of the sump pump, undermining its integrity. If you want to clean the sump pump, it is advisable to use specifically made solutions for sump pumps.

One good option for cleaning a sump pump is mild detergent or soap that helps eliminate the odor minus damaging the pump. If the smell persists, try pouring baking soda down the drain pipe.

You can also use an odor-neutralizing product to permanently deal with any foul smell. Some examples include deodorizers or absorbent pads.

How to Get Rid of Basement Sump Pump Smell

How Often Should Sump Pumps Be Cleaned?

The recommended interval to clean your sump pump is three months. Cleaning ensures that the pump remains functional at all times, doesn’t develop issues, and doesn’t release foul smells into the basement. 

Apart from cleaning, you must also inspect the sump pump for any damages, leaks, or blockages that can spoil it for good. If you find any, have a plumber carry the necessary maintenance immediately.

How Do You Clean A Basement Sump Pump?

If you plan on cleaning the basement sump pump, follow the steps and directions below for a successful clean-up.

  1. Disconnect the sump pump from its power source and empty any water in the basin.
  2. Remove the sump pump lead and check for any blockage or dirt, such as mud, leaves, gravel e.t.c
  3. Use a brush or rag to clean the pump’s interior parts and components, like the drain pipe
  4. Pour warm water and mild detergent down the pump to eliminate the remaining dirt, grime, and odor
  5. Reattach the lid and check to ensure that it is well sealed
  6. Reconnect back to supply and confirm if it is working well

Call a professional to inspect the pump and drainage system if a foul smell remains after cleaning.

Can I Put A Chlorine Tablet In My Sump Pump?

Putting a chlorine tablet into your sump pump is a bad idea. It has high corrosive capabilities that’ll corrode the metal parts of your sump pump, compromising its functionality. 

Additionally, chlorine tablets are ineffective when used in sump pumps as they are not manufactured for that job. They may not eliminate the odor.


Your sump pump will start giving foul odors if you don’t regularly clean and maintain it. Besides being unpleasant, the smell signals that something is wrong with the pump or it’s too dirty. 

In this case, the best thing to do is to have a professional inspect the sump pump for blockage, clogging, or damage. If you want to clean the pump, follow the recommended advice to avoid damaging it further.