Home Improvement Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for contractors and serious DIYers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I was cleaning out a clogged sump pump for my first time (is been cleaned before but not by me). During this I opened the top of the pump and saw what looked like a yellow solid but it turned out to be a liquid. At first I thought it was some sort of dirty water that hadn't drained from the pump but when I dumped some of it out I saw some coiled wires. I stopped but by that time I spilled some of it on my hands and a lot of it on the ground.

What is the liquid and how toxic is it? The sump pump was from the late 80's, so I don't know what types of liquids they used then or if the liquid has been replaced since then. Its been 30 minutes since the spill and I feel fine but want to be sure.

Also, can I pick up the liquid at a local store to replace what spilled out?

share|improve this question

Well, if it's from the late 80s, then it shouldn't contain any PCBs.

That liquid is probably a dielectric oil with a high viscosity. That would explain why you were thinking it's a solid. They're non-conductive mineral oils and as oil does, it displaces water.

Treat it like a motor oil spill. Here's an MSDS sheet for Shell Morlina oil which is probably similar.

share|improve this answer

A sump pump is intended to be left underwater, and not fail. Since water causes problems for electrical contacts, my guess is there is a sealed part of the pump that you should NOT have opened up. The liquid was in there to prevent water from getting in, thereby shorting out the pump. This liquid is probably NOT something you can buy at the local hardware store, as it possibly has additives in it that are not commonly found.

In fact, if I am right in my thoughts about the liquid, although getting it on your hands is probably not directly harmful to you, do not ingest it. And do not allow a dog or cat to do so either. I would strongly suggest that you hose down that area with water, in case a local dog or cat finds it. It might be sweet tasting to them, but it would kill any animal who does ingest it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.