How To Increase Suction in a Pool Skimmer (6 Ways)

photo of skimmer with leaves

Unfortunately, It’s relatively easy for a pool skimmer to lose suction power. Many factors can affect the suction of your skimmer, which can be frustrating. Luckily, you can increase your pool skimmer’s effectiveness in several ways. 

You can increase suction to a pool skimmer by checking for leaks or blockages in the system. A full filter or skimmer basket will result in lower suction power. Additionally, water levels being too low or a leak in the line will cause low power too. Prevent blockages by cleaning your pool skimmer.

In the rest of this article, I will discuss the best ways to increase your pool skimmers’ suction power. For example, I will review the necessary water levels and parts to check if you feel your pool’s suction is less than adequate. So if you want to learn more about increasing a pool skimmer’s suction, read on. 

1. Check the Water Levels

First, check the water level if your pool skimmer is struggling. If your water levels are below the pool skimmer box, your system will suck air rather than water and debris into the filtration system.  

photo of skimmer waterline

Air entering your pool skimmer is a problem because it increases the risk of your pool pump motor burning out. These motors are expensive, so it’s best to avoid needing to replace them. Additionally, having air in your skimmer will result in poorer cleaning results as the suction will be affected. 

You can quickly remedy low water levels by filling up your pool. The skimmer box should be half submerged in water, which means the water level should rise to the middle of your pool skimmer box. However, if the water level is at least ⅓ of the way up, your suction should be fine. 

Check your water levels regularly to prevent issues with your pool system. 

2. Investigate the Skimmer Basket

Another reason your pool skimmer might have less suction is a full skimmer basket. The skimmer basket is located just within the pool’s skimmer box. This basket’s job is to collect debris that has fallen into the pool rather than passing it through the cleaning system and clogging up the pumps. 

Skimmer baskets need to be checked and cleaned regularly to maintain a functioning pool. Depending on your pool’s location and the time of year, your basket may need constant emptying or will rarely need cleaning. Either way, it’s essential to check your skimmer basket for blockages. 

photo of full skimmer basket

Plant matter, like large leaves, is often the culprit in a clogged skimmer basket. So, if you find your basket needs cleaning, you can easily remove it and dump the contents into the trash. A quick rinse with the hose is also a good idea if you find the basket is still grimy. 

Related: How To Safely Pressure Wash Your Pool Cover

Additionally, while cleaning the basket, it’s also a good idea to investigate the entire pool skimmer system for clogs. It’s essential to check out the valves that lead away from the basket and remove any debris you see. 

3. Ensure the Impeller Isn’t Clogged

A pool pump impeller’s job is to create flow from your pool to your filter. This water goes through a cycle and then is returned to the pool after cleaning it. The impeller provides a vital function for your pool. It’s a likely suspect if your skimmer is struggling to suck. 

Your impeller is likely clogged if you notice no water in the pump pot or if the pressure gauge on the filter reads low. Luckily, cleaning an impeller isn’t difficult and can be done in just a few minutes. However, it’s always a good idea to check your impeller every few months for possible blockages, especially during the spring and fall. 

What you will need:

  • An impeller unclogger tool.
  • Or a screwdriver. 

If you don’t already have an impeller unclogger, I recommend 

How to clean a clogged impeller:

  1. Remove the basket from the pump pot and turn off the pool motor. The basket should slip out easily. Once the basket is removed, rinsing debris from it is a good idea. 
  2. Insert your tool into the pump pot and move it around the impeller to dislodge debris. This process will take time. Ensure you aren’t too rough when digging for debris, as you don’t want to damage important impeller pieces. Also, there will be water in the pump pot, so most debris will float around in the water if you dislodge it. 
  3. Remove any debris that has been dislodged. If you happen to find debris, remove it and throw it away. You don’t want the gunk to find its way back to your pool’s skimmer system. 
  4. Place the basket back into the pump pot. The basket should easily fit back in and will generally sit in the pump pot to cat debris. 
  5. Add water to the pump pot to prime the impeller. You can add water with a hose or cup. Fill the pump pot back up to cover the pipe where the impeller sits. Adding water ensures air isn’t sucked into the system. 
  6. Return the pump pot’s lid and tightly seal it. The lid should latch easily back into place. Just make sure you don’t bring unwanted dirt or leaves with it. 
  7. Turn the motor back on and check that the impeller is working correctly again. There should be no loud sounds. The pump should be quiet, and the pool’s suction pressure should be normal again. 

Cleaning your impeller only takes a few minutes and can prevent worse issues with your pool’s motor. Additionally, once you clear the clog in your impeller, you should notice your skimmer suction is much better. 

4. Check for a Blocked Suction Line 

If your pool skimmer is still struggling to suction appropriately, there is a chance something has blocked your suction line. Generally, debris like leaves can become tangled and easily cause a blockage in your line since it’s somewhat narrow. 

Signs your suction line has a blockage include:

  • Slow water intake.
  • Low pressure from the pump.
  • The pump is making a loud sound.
  • The pump is pulsing or surging. 

Each indicates something is wrong with your suction line, most likely a blockage. The best way to remove a clog in your suction line is by using a hose to blast debris free. 

Of course, you should always turn your pool pump off first to prevent damage to the motor or pump. Additionally, you will want to close off all other intakes but the line you’re working on before blasting water into it. Once the water can flow through the line, all debris is removed more easily. 

5. Test for Possible Air Leaks 

Another way you can increase your pool skimmer’s suction is by checking the system for possible air leaks. As I previously stated, air can be detrimental to your pool’s filter system, so it’s essential to diagnose the problem promptly. But, first, you need to locate the air leak. 

Signs your system has an air leak:

  • Air in the pump strainer.
  • Low PSI on your pressure gauge. 
  • Air bubbles are coming out of your return jets. 
  • Low flow from your return jets.

One of the most common problem areas where air leaks occur is the ring around the pool pot lid, suction values before the pump, and diver values. You should check any components that utilize o-rings. These rings can wear down over time and even break, allowing air into the filtration system. 

Once the leak has been located, replace or tighten the part allowing air into your pool’s filter. Replacing damaged o-rings is always an excellent place to start. After the part has been fixed, you will notice an instant increase in suction power, so long as the part has been replaced correctly. 

For a more detailed breakdown of how to locate an air leak, I recommend watching Inyo Pool’s video on locating air leaks in your suction system. They do a great job of walking you through the process, and they discuss several methods for discovering where your pool’s suction air leak is coming from. 

6. Clean the Pump Filter 

A dirty pre-pump filter can also affect your pool skimmer’s suction power. Like most pieces in your pool’s filtration system, the pre-pump filter can easily become clogged. The filter’s job is to strain debris from the system and prevent it from entering the system and breaking the motor. 

Sometimes a pool filter will become clogged and need to be removed/cleaned. You may also need to replace the filter if it’s too worn. Filters may differ, but here’s the basic steps to clean a cartridge filter.

How to clean a pump filter:

  1. Turn off the pool’s pump and allow the filter tank to depressurize. This can take a few minutes, but you can easily open the filter tank once it’s completed. 
  2. Remove the filter cartridge from the filter tank. The cartage should easily come up if you pull on it or twist it. Be careful not to damage it as you pull it out. 
  3. Use a hose to clean the filter cartridge. Spraying the grime is a great way to get the filter clean. You can also go one step further and purchase a new filter if you deem it too far gone. 
  4. Return the filter cartridge and repressurize the tank. The cartridge should easily go back in and not move around. Once you place the cartridge in the tank, the lid needs to be carefully sealed. 
photo of dirty cartridge filter

If you need a new pool filter, I recommend Intex Type A Pool Filter Cartridges (available on Amazon). These filters are great because they come in a multipack, which is excellent. After all, filters need regular cleaning and replacement. Additionally, they are easy to clean and compatible with most pool pumps. Plus, these filters are incredibly durable. 

Be sure that you repressurize the tank and that the system is functioning correctly. If the pump filter was your suction problem, you should notice an instant increase in suction power. However, regardless of if your skimmer has low suction, your pump filter needs regular cleaning. 

How Much Suction Should a Pool Skimmer Have?

Knowing how much suction your skimmer generally has is essential in diagnosing a skimmer problem. Of course, each skimmer’s suction power will vary slightly, but there is a simple way to tell if yours is functioning correctly. So, how much suction should your pool skimmer have? 

A pool skimmer should have enough suction to move a vacuum around your pool and for you to visibly see water being sucked into the filtration system. If you place your hand near the skimmer box and don’t feel any water movement while the skimmer is on, there is a suction problem. 

Additionally, if the jets that return water to your pool are hardly putting out any water, this is a sign of poor suction. There is likely a clog somewhere in your pool’s filtration system. You will need to use the process of elimination to ensure the problem is resolved. A clog or air leak is highly likely, so checking the skimmer basket and pump filters is a great start. 

What Causes Low Skimmer Flow?

Though there are many causes of low skimmer flow, few are the most common. So what are the most common causes of low pool skimmer flow? 

Low skimmer flow is caused by water being unable to be sucked into the filter due to a clog somewhere in the system. The most likely cause of low skimmer flow is due to debris build-up in the skimmer basket, pump, or line. Each can easily be cleaned out or flushed to restore proper flow. 

If the problem persists, the issue could be due to a faulty part or air leak. If you are struggling to diagnose the problem, a professional’s help might be beneficial. 


Ultimately, there are many reasons a pool skimmer may experience decreased suction power. Luckily, most of the reasons are easily fixed. The most common reason for poor suction are:

  • Low water levels. 
  • Blocked skimmer basket.
  • Clogged impeller.
  • Blocked suction line.
  • Air leaks.
  • Dirty pump filter. 

Each of these can easily be the cause of a malfunctioning pool skimmer. Resolving these problems will increase your suction power and ensure your pool is cleaned more easily. 

Michael Carpenter

Hi, I'm Mike. I grew up in North Carolina having a blast on trampolines, go-karts, and just sitting on the porch with my friends. I have since moved to Las Vegas with my wife, 2 children, and 3 dogs. When I'm not chasing the kids around the house, I am probably chasing them around the backyard!

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