Owning a pool can make your backyard the place to be during the summer. But that communal party spirit will be short-lived if you don’t know how to maintain a pool. If you’re confused by all the chlorine and chemistry, this guide provides easy-to-follow advice on maintaining a pool.
Pool maintenance requires more than just skimming the top for leaves. This article will discuss how to properly clean your pool, the pros and cons of automatic pool cleaners, and the unique needs of saltwater and chlorine pools. Then we’ll dive deeply into your pool’s chemistry, and answer frequently asked questions about maintaining a pool.
How to Keep Your Pool Clean
Pool owners know that a sparkling, clean pool doesn’t just happen. Homeowners should empty the skimmers and run their pool vacuum at least once a week unless their backyard has lots of trees, which may require more frequent cleanings.
Clean Built-in Skimmers
Built-in pool skimmers are the openings on the sides of the pool. These openings contain baskets that fill with leaves, insects, and debris as the water flows in and out of the opening. You’ll need to empty these baskets at least once a week. If neglected, the leaves in the basket can break down and become difficult to remove.
Remove the skimmer cover, remove the basket, and dispose of the contents. You may rinse the basket with a hose if necessary. Replace the basket and secure the lid.
Catch Debris With a Handheld Skimmer
Handheld skimmers refer to those long poles with nets. You may use these skimmers to remove leaves and insects from your pool’s surface and decrease the burden on your built-in skimmers. A handheld skimmer can also rescue a frog or mouse that may have fallen in when trying to drink from the pool.
Brush the Interior
A pool brush can polish your pool to perfection. These brushes attach to the same poles designed for your handheld skimmers. By brushing the sides and bottom of your pool once a week, you can extend the life of your pool’s interior.
Benefits of routine brushing:
- Removes and prevents algae buildup
- Dislodges sediment trapped in the pool’s textured surfaces
- Frees up dirt the vacuum can’t reach
Many brushes are available, and some are better suited for specific pool surfaces. Research the right brush for your surface, or try a universal brush. Be sure to choose the right size or length for your pool. Don’t forget to brush the steps.
Add a Pool Cover
A pool cover is another way to maintain your pool year-round. Pool covers are a great tool at your discretion to aid in pool maintenance and cleanliness. Some homeowners cover their pool on windy days, while others rely on pool covers only during the off-season.
Pool cover pros:
- Keeps dirt and debris out of the pool when not in use
- Minimizes water loss by evaporation
- Maintains the pool’s temperature
- Minimizes chlorine depletion by the sun
Pool cover cons:
- Unsightly appearance
- They can be a hassle to remove and replace
- Difficult to store when not in use
- They only work for some pool shapes (expensive to customize.)
Run an Automatic Pool Cleaner
Pool vacuums are a valuable tool for sanitation. These autonomous cleaners move around the sides and bottom of your pool, clearing away sediment and debris. You should run your vacuum for 2 to 6 hours once a week, depending on the speed of your vacuum and how often you swim. You’ll need to allow enough time for the vacuum to clean the entire pool.
There are three kinds of automatic cleaners. Each pool cleaner works differently and has pros and cons.
Pressure pool cleaners connect to the return side of your swimming pool. As water pumps through the filter, it is returned to the pool by jets in the walls. This cleaner has a designated port that uses pressure from your return system to propel itself around the pool.
Pressure pool cleaners have wheels, debris bags, and a hose connecting to your return system. Because this cleaner is attached to the filter, the water is sucked through the cleaner and creates a vortex, allowing it to pick up larger debris.
- Capable of picking up bigger bits of debris, like leaves
- Easy to maintain and repair
- Some cleaners have a small brush on the tail for scrubbing up particles
- Less effective at picking up fine particles, such as sand
- It doesn’t scrub walls and may not reach the waterline
- Filter bag requires frequent emptying
- Most pressure pool cleaners require a booster pump, which can increase your electric costs
- It may need frequent repairs
Suction pool cleaners attach to the skimmer or a dedicated vacuum line to the pool wall or suction port. This cleaner uses the pool’s pump to create suction as it cleans. The pulsating water is used to push the cleaner around. The suction created by the pump allows these cleaners to climb walls. Most suction cleaners have rubber disks that cling to the pool floor.
- Easy to maintain and repair
- It can remove dirt from hard-to-reach areas like walls and the waterline.
- Because this pool cleaner works off your pool’s pump and filtration system, the energy of that equipment is diverted to the suction vac, potentially hindering the performance of your skimmer and filtration equipment. You should avoid the product if you have a weak pump.
- It needs frequent emptying and cleaning.
- It may need frequent repairs.
- Not suitable for larger leaves and debris.
Robotic pool cleaners are top-of-the-line cleaners that work independently from your pool pump or skimmer. They don’t have exterior debris bags; instead, they store all debris within the machine in a canister which you can empty after each use.
- Superior tool for cleaning the floor, walls, waterline, and the steps of your pool
- Offers scrubbing brushes to clean away algae and bacteria from the steps and waterline.
- Includes extended warranties
- Programmable features, WIFI, Bluetooth, App for easy monitoring
- Works independently from the pool pump and filter, allowing them to operate at peak efficiency
- Easy-to-empty debris canister
- Cost a lot more than pressure or suction vacuums
- Must be removed from the pool after the cleaning cycle is complete.
- Higher repair cost than suction/pressure cleaners.
How to Maintain the Water
Crystal-clear water is the trademark of a healthy pool, but there’s a bit of work (and chemistry) that goes into achieving and sustaining that clarity. From understanding your pool’s salt or chlorine needs to balancing pH levels and maintaining the correct water level, your pool water will only be as attractive as your understanding of these topics.
Maintaining the Water Level
As the sun heats your pool each day, it evaporates the water out of your pool inch by inch. Maintaining your pool’s water level protects your pool’s pump.
Aim to keep the water level between one-third and one-half up your skimmers on the sides of the pool.
If your water level drops below this halfway marker, you risk your pump taking in too much air and burning up. To protect your pump, remain vigilant and add water with a hose as needed.
During heavy rain, your pool may take in too much water. While this may not present any danger to your equipment, the prospect of an overflow can be concerning. To lower the water level, turn on the pool pump and vacuum. Be sure to turn your pool filter setting to “waste”; this will drain water out of your pool.
If the water level is still too high, you can attach the backwash hose to your filter’s waste port and drain it. (Keeping the pool filter setting on “waste.”)
Maintaining proper pH
Keeping track of your swimming pool’s pH or acidity level is essential. The ideal pH is between 7.4 and 7.6. Water below 7.4 becomes too acidic and can corrode your equipment. Water above 7.6 becomes too basic and leads to scale-forming conditions. Scale is a calcium carbonate that solidifies on pool walls and surfaces.
You should test your pool’s pH 2 to 3 times a week. You may use a digital water tester or a colorimetric test kit.
Pro Tip: Address your pool’s pH levels before addressing its chlorine levels.
How to adjust your pool’s pH
If your pool’s pH is too low, you may add soda ash. If the pH is too high, try muriatic acid. If you are unsure how much muriatic acid or soda ash to add, consult the test chart from the test kit. The amount needed will depend on your pool’s volume and current pH.
Chlorine is used to kill bacteria and germs in pool water. Adding the right amount of chlorine to your pool is essential because too much chlorine can damage your eyes and skin, while too little chlorine can spawn algae, harmful bacteria, and harmful microorganisms. The proper amount of chlorine is between 1.0 and 3.0 parts per million (or 0.00013 ounces of chlorine per gallon of water) and can be monitored by a pool water test kit.
Because chlorine is essential in keeping your pool clean, you should test these levels 2 to 3 times a week.
Knowing how much chlorine to add involves some math. First, you’ll need to know your pool’s volume in gallons. Next, you’ll multiply the volume by 0.00013. For example, here’s how much chlorine you’ll need to raise a 10,000 gallon pool by 1.0 ppm:
A 10,000-gallon pool x 0.00013 = 1.3 ounces of chlorine to raise its chlorine level by 1 ppm.
You can add chlorine to your pool in a few different ways.
These dissolvable tablets are commonly placed in floating distributors that gradually dissolve, releasing chlorine around your pool. You may also place the tablets or “pucks” in your skimmer baskets. Another option is to use or install an automatic chlorine dispenser.
An automatic chlorine dispenser, also called a chlorinator, takes the guesswork out of maintaining your chlorine level. The chlorinator plugs into your pump or filter system and gradually releases a controlled amount of chlorine from the tablets placed in the machine. You can adjust the rate or dispersion based on your pool’s volume.
This form of concentrated chlorine is similar to bleach, which has 6% chlorine, but liquid pool chlorine typically contains 12.5% chlorine. To use this liquid, pour it directly into the water after testing.
But how much liquid chlorine will raise the chlorine level by 1 ppm? Well, you’ll need to start with the calculations mentioned above. If you have a 10,000 gallon pool, you’ll need 1.3 ounces of chlorine to raise its chlorine level by 1 ppm. But remember, liquid chlorine is rarely 100% chlorine.
That means you’ll need to divide 100 by the given chlorine percentage. Most liquid pool chlorine products are 12.5% chlorine. For example, 100 divided by 12.5 equals 8 ounces of liquid pool chlorine containing 1 ounce of actual chlorine. That means you’ll need 10.4 ounces of 12.5% liquid pool chlorine (8 ounces multiplied by 1.3 ounces of necessary chlorine) ro raise the chlorine level by 1 ppm.
Also known as pool shock, this form of concentrated chlorine is typically used to kill bacteria after heavy use or contamination.
When measuring how much granular chlorine you’ll need to shock your pool, always read the measurement instructions on the package label. After shocking the pool, wait at least 24 hours before swimming in your pool again and ensure the free chlorine level is between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm.
Saltwater pools are easier to maintain because they create their chlorine through electrolysis. In this process, electricity is sent through saltwater to interact with the chloride ions in the salt, producing chlorine. This process takes place in a chlorine generator and away from swimmers.
However, you should still check your chlorine levels weekly. A healthy saltwater pool also has an average free chlorine level between 1.0 and 3.0 ppm.
To adjust chlorine levels in your saltwater pool:
- Adjust the percentage settings in your saltwater chlorine generator.
- Add salt to the pool as if it were pool shock, then brush the sides and bottom of the pool using a pool brush to protect pool surfaces from settling salt.
- If the water looks murky or you notice algae forming, you may switch off your saltwater generator and add chlorine until you reach the appropriate level.
Backwashing is another component of pool maintenance. Backwashing refers to reversing the flow of your pool pump. By reversing the water flow, you clean the filter and improve overall pump function by dislodging any particles and debris blocking the pump. Backwashing keeps you from cleaning the pump’s filter by hand.
Backwash when the pressure gauge raises 8 to 10 PSI (pound-force per square inch) over your normal level. This gauge is located on top of your filter. The starting PSI may vary for each pool. Factors like size and horsepower of your pump and the current cleanliness of your filter can affect your PSI.
To find your starting PSI: check your pressure gauge when you first install a new filter. Once you turn on your pool pump, that number on your gauge is your baseline pressure. You can use a marker to indicate your baseline for future reference. When the gauge reads 8 to 10 PSI over your mark, it’s time to backwash.
- Turn off the pump.
- Turn the backwash valve to the backwash setting.
- Turn the pump back on, alternating between ‘backwash’ and ‘rinse,’ turning the pump off for each transition. (each cycle should last 2-3 minutes)
- Continue until the filter appears clear.
- Discard any debris.
The frequency at which you backwash depends on your filter system, how often you use your pool, and how dirty it gets. A good rule of thumb is to backwash your pool once a week.
FAQ About Pool Maintenance
Yes, but the proper pool technique is to dissolve the shock in a bucket of warm pool water before adding it. Mixing the shock ensures that it dissolves properly and doesn’t sit on the bottom of your pool, causing bleaching. Plus, mixing the shock helps to amend the chemical imbalance of the water better and faster.
As a rule of thumb, running your pool pump for between 8 and 12 hours each day is a good idea. Assuming that the average pool pump has a turnover rate of 8 to 12 hours, this lets all your pool water filter through the pump at least once per day.
You could be losing chlorine if your pool gets a lot of sunlight. That’s because chlorine naturally degrades in sunlight. You can remedy this declining potency by adding cyanuric acid. This pool-balancing chlorine stabilizer slows the sun’s depletion of bacteria-killing chlorine in your pool.
A pool is a significant investment. The combination of water, steel, and chemicals can create corrosion and mineral buildup; left alone, these conditions will result in costly repairs. More importantly, proper upkeep in your swimming pool maintains a safe environment for all pool-goers. Pool maintenance protects swimmers from harmful chemicals and pollutants.
Need a professional?
If all the math and chemistry of pool maintenance have you swimming in circles, connect with a local pool pro.
A properly landscaped yard will keep excess leaves and debris out of your skimmers. Let a local pro handle the leaf and debris removal for you. And remember, a lackluster lawn is no way to frame a beautiful pool. A local lawn care pro can give you a beautiful, green lawn in time for all your summer pool parties.
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