There’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in the pool during a scorching summer day. You have to regularly maintain your swimming pool to keep it safe and enjoyable. Upkeep can be time-consuming, but it’s worth the time to keep your investment in good shape. Keep reading for tips on how to clean your inground or above-ground pool as well as other important swimming pool maintenance tasks, both in- and off-season.
In-Season Pool Maintenance
Step 1: Keep the Pool Clean
Clean your pool at least once a week. Use a pool leaf skimmer to remove leaves, insects and other debris from the water. Clean debris out of drains, filters and skimmer baskets. Use a pool vacuum cleaner to remove any dirt and debris that has settled at the bottom of the pool. Keeping particles out of the water increases the pool’s circulation system’s efficiency and decreases the amount of chlorine needed to keep the water clean.
Lifting the skimmer basket out of the pool and spraying it with water from a garden hose can remove stubborn debris.
Keep the area around the pool clean by hosing it down on a regular basis. Remember to aim the spray away from the pool to keep dirty water and debris from splashing into the pool.
Scrub fiberglass walls and tile with a pool brush (or other type of soft brush) and pool surface cleaner. This will cut down on any potential algae growth, efflorescence and calcium deposits as well as remove waterlines, scum and other stains. A stiff brush can be used on concrete surfaces in and around the pool.
Remember to clean the pool filter periodically. Remove the filter cartridge and rinse off loose dirt and debris. Then soak the filter in a pool filter cartridge cleaner for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Rinse the cartridge again and then reinstall.
Cleaning a filter too much can make it harder to filter out particles because a slightly dirty filter traps more dirt. Check the filter from time to time and clean it only when necessary.
Step 2: Check Water pH and Chlorine Levels
Check your pool’s water chemistry every week to ensure proper maintenance. Water that is clean and has a balanced chemistry is essential for proper pool maintenance. Almost anything added to the water can change its chemistry, such as sebum (oil secreted from the skin glands). This is why maintenance should be routine. Over time, water that is too acidic can lead to corrosion of metal equipment, such as stepladders inside of the pool. If water is too alkaline, it can cause scaling on the pool surface and leave the water cloudy. Water that is either too acidic or too alkaline also makes it harder for chlorine to kill bacteria. Hard water, or water with too much calcium, can also raise pH levels and cause scaling. The goal is to make the chemistry as close to neutral as possible, which is approximately a pH level between 7.2 and 7.8. A pH of zero indicates extreme acidity, while 14 indicates extreme alkalinity. To lower the pH, pool professionals generally use chemicals like muriatic acid. They use products that contain substances like baking soda to increase alkalinity.
Chlorine is added to swimming pools to kill algae, bacteria and most viruses, as well as break down grease and oil in the water. An ideal pool chlorine level is 1.0 to 3.0 PPM (parts per million).
To check water pH, hardness and chlorine content, use a pool testing kit. There are two basic types of test kits. One requires you to collect a water sample from the pool and add chemicals to it to determine pH or chlorine levels. The other has test strips you dip into the water to get results. For either method, follow all manufacturer instructions to get an accurate reading before adding water balancers (acids, alkalis), chlorine or other chemicals to your pool.
Be sure to add the right type and amount of chemicals to your water—improper use can lead to hazardous conditions for swimming and potential injury. Follow manufacturer instructions carefully. If you’re unsure, call in a professional.
Step 3: Shock the Pool
Perform chlorine shock treatment when pool water chlorine levels are low. This process means simply adding a heavy dose of concentrated chlorine to the water, which temporarily boosts chlorine levels to quickly kill off bacteria, viruses and organic material. In a few hours, after it evaporates, the chlorine level drops to a safe and ideal 1.0 to 3.0 PPM. The amount to use depends on the shock treatment itself as well as the amount of water in your pool. Follow package application instructions closely.
The pool should not be used immediately after a shock treatment because of the high chlorine levels. Follow all manufacturer recommendations and instructions for application. Always test chlorine levels after a shock treatment to ensure they are at 1.0 to 3.0 PPM, before you resume swimming.
An easy way to determine if it’s time to shock your pool is using your sense of smell. Everyone is familiar with the smell of a swimming pool. If the odor is overpowering, it means that chlorine is reacting with contaminants in the water.
When performing a shock treatment, be sure your pool pump and filter are on and working so the chemicals are distributed properly throughout the entire volume of water. An ideal time to shock the pool is during the evening after you’re done swimming. It can take several hours for the excess chlorine to evaporate, and since you can’t swim directly after a treatment, this gives the process a head start so you’re not sitting and waiting. Another advantage to performing the shock treatment at night is you’ll avoid the sun’s rays breaking down the chlorine before it has a chance to work.
Off-Season Pool Maintenance
Step 1: Partially Drain the Pool
Drain the pool enough so the water recedes from the pool pump and filter. This will protect the machinery from freeze damage during the winter. You don’t need to completely drain the pool during winter—you just need to reduce the water level until it’s below the lowest return and out of the pool plumbing. You can use an air compressor to blow any remaining water out of the plumbing. Drain as much water as you can from the filter and any heater your pool may have. You can drain the water into sewer lines, but check with your local municipality first to be sure you are following all local regulations. Use a submersible sump pump designed for pool use to pump water out of the pool into the sewer.
Step 2: Clean the Pool
Clean the pool thoroughly, like you would during the swimming season, before closing it for the winter. Skim out leaves and debris and scrub pool walls and tiles with a brush and pool surface cleaner. Vacuum the bottom of the pool one last time. Clean out drains, filters and skimmer baskets.
Step 3: Inspect the Pool
Inspect your pool before closing it for the season. Watch for any damage, such as cracks in the pool or in the concrete surface around it. Cold weather can potentially make cracks bigger due to the expansion and contraction of these surfaces from the temperature changes. Make any repairs using pool patch or concrete patch products. Depending on where the damage is, you may need to completely drain the pool for access. If you’re unsure if you can properly repair something, call in a professional.
Step 4: Adjust Water pH and Shock the Pool
Adjust the remaining pool water pH levels as described in In-Season, Step 2, and apply a chlorine shock treatment to the water before you close the pool for the season.
Step 5: Cover the Pool
Cover the pool with a water- and weather-resistant pool cover or tarp. Remove all items from the pool, such as pool toys, ropes, skimmer baskets and ladders. Secure the cover with sand bags or another type of weight along the edge of the pool.
Well done! Now your pool is shipshape.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.
- Pool leaf skimmer
- Pool vacuum cleaner
- Garden hose
- Pool brush or other soft brush
- Pool surface cleaner
- Stiff brush
- Pool filter cartridge cleaner
- Pool chlorine
- Pool testing kit
- Pool water balancers
- Pool shock treatment
- Air compressor (optional)
- Submersible sump pump
- Pool patch or concrete patch (optional)
- Pool cover or tarp