How to Properly Maintain Your Pool

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Backyard swimming pools are fun.  They’re great for having friends and family over for a lazy day in the water without having to put up with the crowds at the beach or the city swimming pool.  But since it’s in your backyard, you’re the one who has to maintain it.  Maintaining your pool is relatively straightforward and doesn’t take much time if you keep it up on a regular basis.

If you have automatic equipment, the steps below become even easier, but manual equipment isn’t difficult either.  We’ll show you how.

Skimming

Skimming the pool requires the use of an automatic or manual pool skimmer. This process should be done on a daily basis.  There are two basic types or models of skimmers.  You’ll need one of each.

The first has a wide mouth with a fine mesh net stretched across it.  This is useful for light skimming of floating debris that gets blown into the pool.  It will also pick up bugs that have been attracted by the smell of the water then drowned or been killed by the chemicals in it.

pool skimmer

Image credit: Wicker Paradise, Flickr

The second type has a deep bag on it for scooping up mass quantities of leaves from the bottom of the pool.  Pools are notorious leaf magnets.  If there’s a tree within a hundred yards of your pool, leaves from it will wind up in the water.  Depending on how close the tree(s) is, there may be a lot of leaves in your pool.  You’ll need a deep bag to scoop them all up, and even then you’ll probably have to empty the bag several times before you get all the leaves.

Vacuuming

Vacuuming the pool should be done at least once or twice a week.  There are long handles available for pushing the vacuum across the bottom of the swimming pool but it is generally easier to put on your swimming suit and get in the water to do it.

Attach the hose to the water outlet – coming from the pump – and set the controls on the pump to vacuum or suction.  The flow will reverse and it will begin sucking water into the pump.  From there on out, it becomes a simple matter of vacuuming the bottom of the pool, no different than vacuuming the floor in your house.  As long as you cover the entire bottom of the pool, you can do it any way you like.  You should also, gently, vacuum the sides of the pool once or twice a month.

men cleaning pool

Image credit: Steve Thurow, Wikimedia

When you’re done vacuuming, you’ll get a little bit of dust blowing back into the pool when you turn the pump back on, but letting it sit idle for a few minutes first will keep the dust to a minimum.

Filters

There are three main types of filters or filtering agents: sand, diatomaceous earth, and cartridge filters.  They all have their pros and cons.

Sand Filters

Sand filters are the most popular and widely used in the world.  They’re inexpensive, reliable, and effective.  The sand only has to be changed once every five years.  The downside is they are extremely labor intensive when it’s time to change the sand.  Sand, especially wet sand, is very heavy.  To effectively change the filter means you have to scoop all the sand out of the filter tank.  Algae often start growing in the sand after 4-5 years so you’ll have to contend with the smell when you open the tank to change it.

Diatomaceous Earth Filters

Diatomaceous earth is made from the shells of microscopic sea creatures.  It filters smaller particles than sand so your water will be cleaner than with a sand filter, but diatomaceous earth is organic, therefore biodegradable and doesn’t last as long  It’s also more expensive.

diatomaceous earth

 Cartridge Filters

The most expensive and most effective filter is the cartridge filter.  It’s about three times more expensive than a sand filter, but changing it is quick and easy.  It also keeps the water much cleaner than either sand or diatomaceous earth.

cartridge filters

Image credit: Bill Jacobus, Flickr

Cleaning the Pump

Cleaning the pump is fairly easy.  It’s just a matter of turning the pump off so you can open the skimmer.  Inside is a skimmer basket that is removable.  Take out the basket, clean the debris out of it, wash it off, and put it back in.  It only takes a couple of minutes once a week but if the basket gets too full it will clog the intake and your pump will have to work overtime to suction water through it.

Chlorine Tablets vs Salt Water Pools

PH and alkalinity levels in swimming pools are maintained by a combination of chemicals.  The average recommended range for a residential pool is between 1-3 parts per million (ppm) of chlorine.  There are two ways of accomplishing this; chlorine tablets or a saltwater pool, also known as a chlorine generator.

Chlorine Tablets

Chlorine tablets are the tried and true method of sanitizing your water to keep it clean and free of harmful bacteria.  The tablets are cheap and easy to use.  Chlorine tablet pools are high maintenance, requiring a hands-on approach to maintain the correct pH levels of 7.4 – 7.6.  Daily testing with strips to determine the pH and alkalinity levels is a must.  You’ll have to keep bags of Shock (powdered chlorine) on hand for quick additions to the water – shocking it back to the proper levels.

pool chemicals

Image credit: Scott Lewis, Wikimedia 

You’ll need sodium bisulfate to lower the pH levels when they’re too high, and sodium carbonate to raise pH levels when they’re too low.  You’ll also need to keep a supply of algaecide on hand to kill the algae that quickly grows when the pH levels get out of control

Salt Water

Saltwater, or chlorine generator pools, are much easier to maintain.  Several hundred pounds of salt is poured into the swimming pool, then the generator – made of parallel titanium plates – electrolyze the dissolved salt to produce chlorine in the water.  Most of them have variable settings, making maintaining the proper pH levels much easier, nearly automatic.  The resulting water in the pool is often praised as being very soft because of the salt.  However, you will need to add stabilizers to the water, a critical element already contained in the chlorine tablets which is missing with a chlorine generator.

bags of salt

Image credit: Pierre Marshall, Flickr

The generator is fairly expensive and the bags of salt, while not costly, are very heavy to move around.  Additionally, salt is corrosive.  If you live in an area where the road crews use salt on the roads in the winter to melt the snow and ice, all you have to do is look at the underside of your car to know how corrosive salt can be.  Keep a close eye on all the various moving parts of your pump as well as the hoses.  Saltwater can eat them up in a hurry.

Maintaining your pool isn’t complicated, but it does require some time and effort.  In the end though, you’ll have an outdoor extension to your house and home that will add endless hours of enjoyment to your life.

And as always – Stay safe when doing maintenance. Prairielectric.com has a great article on this topic that I’d recommend reading.

Note: you may also want to look into cleaning your concrete (if you have a concrete pool). For more info on this, I recommend reading this article.