The most glamorous home addition was, is, and will be a backyard pool. No homeowner in the world would refuse a daydream party pool in the yard, which also involves after work laps, fitness, and sunbathing afternoons with cocktails and soothing music.
Still, many homeowners would think twice when accounting for swimming pool cleaning, considering it to be difficult and time-consuming.
But is it so? Swimming pool maintenance does depend on the type and size of the pool, but there are common pool cleaning tips and features that can be prescribed to literally every pool.
You will only have a radiant and pristine pool with regular maintenance, and there’s no exception to the rule! Most of the time, you can handle pool cleaning yourself, and you’ll only be supposed to hire a swimming pool service for fixing serious damage.
Obviously, you will still need advice and instruction on how to use pool maintenance equipment or chemical pool cleaners, but regardless of it, it is you who needs to keep the pool in a usable condition.
Image source: Vanguarda Architects
Believe it or not, some of the most important pool maintenance tips are DIY ones.
The secret is in the routine rather than in specific swimming pool cleaners, as without it no magic will help you preserve the luxurious state of your backyard jewel.
Water will become green, one broken filter will cause another to appear, and algae will start building up leaving the best days of your pool in the past.
Pool service may not be your favorite solution ever, but without it odds are good to lose the balance and proper functioning of your pool.
Luckily for all of us, maintenance is not as cumbersome as it seems at first sight, and requires no more than few minutes each week. Ready to know how? Check out our easy pool maintenance tips and tricks:
The way to preserve your pool in a radiant condition starts with cleaning
Image source: Arc Design Group
Every pool requires regular cleaning, but for open area pools, that’s imperative rather than simply important.
Your beautiful backyard pearl may become a container for dirt and leaves if you don’t keep an eye on it, so you better consider an appropriate cleaner on time. There are many different types, and the choice depends on:
- The pool’s type – is it in-ground or above it
- The pool’s size
- The approximate amount of debris it can collect
- The plumbing and the filtration system in place
- The money you’re willing to spend
Essential tips for pool maintenance
Image source: Lewis Aquatech
Proper winterizing will make your pool usable since the very beginning of the swimming season.
Had you maintained your pool properly, cleaned around it, and kept it covered during winter, it will be ready for reopening since the first summer day.
Concerned homeowners hose and sweep around their pools to prevent debris from falling into the water, or ideally fill with hose up to the usual water level.
Another thing they do is to reconnect water even when not in use, and test pH level letting it flow through the circulation system, leaving the skimmer line valve open just as they would otherwise.
This is particularly important as summer approaches, as the pool needs a week (at least!) to be fully balanced and ready for swimming.
For the purpose, let the pump run 24/7, letting the water balance for no more than two hours per day.
Scrubbing and skimming are compulsory
Image source: Tate Studio Architects
We don’t have a single doubt that you know this, but it won’t hurt to repeat it. If you want your pool to be beautiful, skim daily.
If your budget allows it, purchase a vacuuming robot that can take care of the bottom instead of you.
Furthermore, scrub the side area to keep algae away, but do it less often than skimming (once in two weeks should be perfect).
Scrubbing will help you prevent any type of growth on the sides, and will keep the siding as clean and crisp as when you first built it.
In case there are particularly persistent stains that take elbow grease for granted, use chlorine to scratch them away. What chlorine does is to ‘eat’ algae away, and it will luckily help you clean few extra stains that seemed irremovable.
Image source: Suzanne Hunt Architect
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Unless you live in a tropic paradise or an eternal spring haven, winterizing should be on your to-do list.
This matters especially to homeowners in areas where temperatures drop below zero, and where the pool’s health is endangered by severe weather conditions.
Quite often, first-time pool owners neglect this fact, let the pipes freeze, and their pools get damaged as a result.
In order to stop this from happening, take precaution measures at the very end of the swimming season: blow water out from the plumbing system with a powerful air compressor, and drain the heater and the filter until completely sure there is no drop left inside.
Image source: pool + service fröhlich
More often than rare, confirming it will be a problem, so use nontoxic antifreeze to eliminate the water (not the one you’re using for your car though!).
Finally, disconnect all the equipment, including the chemical feeders, pumps, and the latter, clean them, and store them appropriately.
What remains in the end is pure physical cleaning: skimming, scrubbing, brushing, vacuuming, emptying baskets, lowering water levels (ideally 18 inches), and covering to keep debris out.
Your pool depends on its filter
Image source: Tate Studio Architects
When thinking of the filter and its role in the pool, think of the role kidneys have in your body: they are in constant function to keep the organism pool and healthy, responsible for impurities removal, just as the filter does with leaves, dirt, or even small objects.
In most cases, filter maintenance is simple: all it takes to turn off the filter, remove its cap (the one on the deck), lift up the basket, and take out all debris gathered inside. The ideal repetition rate is once per week.
On monthly level, however, you will have to do some backwashing too, the purpose of which is to clean and preserve the piping system used to filtrate the pool.
Image source: Villa Moda
This is usually simple, by setting the filter to ‘backwash’ function to clean the leaf basket. Finally, you should run the pump for as long as it takes to eject completely clear water from the pipe.
One last thing to remember is the turn on/off rule – Reasonable doesn’t mean too often, as the filter mechanics were not constructed to be used 24 hours.
Eventually, this can lead to an irreparable crack, so make sure you let it run on timer, somewhere between 8 and 16 hours per day.
Inspect for leaks, and repair them on time
Image source: Bonick Landscaping
Low water levels are not always caused by evaporation, and they are the first and least painful signal that there is a leak to be repaired.
An easy-to-do bucket test can be enough to confirm there is damage to fix: take a plastic bucket and fill three quarters of it with water.
Mark the surface line on the inside, put the bucket in the pool, and do the same on the outside. Have in mind that buckets with handles are not appropriate for the purpose because they can get unbalanced while floating.
Once done, leave the bucket there for at least two days, and the presence of a leak will make itself obvious: had the water gone down the same way on the inside and outside, the response is evaporation, but in case the water inside is still higher, your pool is most probably leaking.
Unfortunately, this is not a problem you can solve on your own, and you should therefore ask for professional help.
Keep the chemical levels consistent
Image source: C.O.S Design
In the pool maintenance world, the leadership is undisputable held by chemical levels, being the facet you have to manage and balance properly to prevent water from becoming murky, bacteria friendly, or skin irritating.
In the best scenario, you’ll test water week by week, and consider all of the chemical levels the Center for Disease Control listed:
Cyanuric Acid – Makes sure chlorine is sunlight-safe, and establishes the ideal level of free chlorine that has to be present. Outdoor pools usually require 30-50.
Free Chlorine – The sanitizer needed to make sure the pool water is safe, and contains no harmful germs.
Acidity/Alkalinity – Or what we popularly call pH level, whose ideal rate is between 7.5 and 7.8 to protect skin from irritation, and your expensive equipment from eroding.
Total Alkalinity – It is what keeps pH balanced, and its levels have to be kept somewhere between 60 and 120.
Calcium Hardness – Used to eliminate the chance of plaster damage, if kept between 220 and 350, or less if the siding is covered with vinyl.
Image source: South Shore Millwork
It won’t require rocket science to test your water – the local pool store definitely has a variety of good kits to offer, so just go for the one you think is the best.
Then, pour some of the water inside, close the vials, and give the tool few seconds.
The sample will afterwards change its color, and you will get to compare the color to the ones instructed in the manual to see whether there is balance, or what should be done to achieve it.
Don’t freak out if the balance is not ideal (it will rarely ever be!) – follow the instructions on the kit, and things will be under control.
Besides, balance is not difficult to notice – the water becomes crystal clear, there are no spots or scent, and there is absolutely no residue reaction on the skin.
Tips on maintaining a safe pH level
Image source: DDB Design Development & Building
In order to stay healthy and clean, pool water needs regular pH testing. pH is measured on an acidity/alkalinity scale from 0 to 14, where the ideal match lies between 7.2 and 7.8.
These numbers indicate that the water is suitable for swimming, and that all sanitizers have reached their maximal efficacy levels.
The same as other safety indicators, pH values can be monitored with testing kits.
The most popular ones are the pH stripes used by homeowner and professional pool service providers, but there are also more reagent ones that won’t be a pain to use.
Image source: Wellen Construction
The process is to take a water sample, add some of the liquid/tablet on it, and wait for the chemicals to balance and the color to change.
Strips, on the other hand, need to be submerged in the sample for few seconds, after which they will be dyed in some of the colors indicated on the strip chart.
These values will help you determine the current sanitizer condition of your pool, and will direct you on how to proceed and which chemicals to add.
‘Shocking’ your pool is not necessarily a bad idea
Image source: Pool Environments, Inc.
Why would you be afraid to do it? Public pools are not the only ones in need of constant health updates, especially if you’re one of those homeowners who like throwing pool parties for friends and family.
A murkier day-after pool is quite normal, and the murkiness is usually dirt and bacteria that need to be removed immediately.
By ‘shocking’, we actually mean drastic increase of chlorine values for at least few hours to make sure all bacteria is gone.
Ideally, it should be three to five times more than what the pool usually contains, pored slowly among the return line until it filters out naturally.
Afterwards, you should add water gradually, and test the condition to make sure content has been fully stabilized. The same process applies to other chemical sanitizers as well.
Shocking all the time can do more bad than good, but you should at least do it twice per season.
Keep an eye on the water level
Image source: Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects LLP
Water levels will change regardless of how you’re handling them, particularly due to evaporation, usual splashing, swimming, or simply exiting the pool.
Note that large amounts of water will be lost when cleaning the pool, or when simply removing debris from the surface. Your task here is to make sure the level doesn’t go below the skimmer’s one, because it could damage your pump.
The best way to keep water levels safe is to bring them up with a garden hose.
Obviously, cleaning the pool after the season will require you to drain it completely, but make sure that doesn’t take too long.
The general rule is that the pool needs water during all seasons (winter in particular) because water presses its surface down, and resists all counteracting forces coming from the ground, and pressing your expensive pool upwards.
Absorb the oil with a tennis ball
Image source: Devore Associates
It’s great to gather friends and play catch in the pool, but purchasing some outdoor toys can be a win-win for maintaining the pool as well. Once swimmers are out, the water is polluted by a variety of oils, including skin produced and suntan ones.
All you have to do to restore the water’s original condition is to throw a tennis ball inside – the fibers will absorb the oil, and there won’t be any annoying sheen on the surface once you decide to go in again.
Maintaining your pool heater
Image source: Dick Clark + Associates
In order to maintain your pool heater, you will need a small fraction of what people usually invest in pool equipment all together.
If nothing else, you can skip servicing for at least a couple of years, in particular those who’re using an electric heater instead of a gas one.
Still, stay in contact with an expert, or keep the manual by hand, and follow the instructions promptly – gas heating may cause a larger amount of calcium in the tube which needs to be removed with acid or wire brushes in order to stop water from overheating.
Still, we recommend you to hire professional help for the purpose, as the procedure is fairly complicated. On average, this can cost you $100.
Use wash for a shinier pool deck
Image source: Assemblage Studio
Don’t neglect the surroundings of your pool, as they are just as important as the main structure itself. All it takes is to do some power washing to maintain the area in a shining condition.
Power, or pressure washing as some like to call it, is necessary to remove weather stains or rust that appear over time. Instead of buying a washer you can rent one at the local home & gardening store.
The first part of the process is to sweep the deck and remove leaves and errant dirt, so that they won’t spread once you’ve actually started cleaning.
Next, follow the directions and put the washer together, and remove debris moderately until the surface is clean. Ideally, spray with weak or medium power.
While spraying, avoid overlapping cleaned areas, as it can cause streaks. For the best results, nozzle the machine at least few feet off the deck’s surface.
Keep the filter clean
Image source: Bertram Architects
Depending on the type of pool, your filter will be one of the following: a cartridge, diatomaceous, or sand one.
Cleaning and maintenance methods depend on the type, but in all cases you’re expected to clean regularly, and pay attention to the usage frequency when doing so.
As you can guess, skipping this process may lead to a hindered filtration process, but also more severe damage caused by dirt particles which make it to the water.
If not sure whether to lean, observe the flow between the flow meter and the pressure gauge –as soon as the difference becomes equal to 10 pounds per square inch (4.5-6.8 kg), it is time to pull sleeves up and start cleaning.
Contact a local maintenance service and book your appointment – that’s not a matter of choice!
Image source: Balfoort Architecture, Inc.
In matters such as pool security, an expert is definitely more suitable to have the last word. It is way better to let him decide over mechanics and equipment, including the filters, heating systems, pumps, or simple maintenance tips.
Obviously, services such as those are not exactly cheap, but that’s a recurrent cost that comes with owning a pool. Besides, hiring the service once per year won’t exactly break the bank.
Before you’ve booked, inspect the pool yourself, and employ all of your senses to make sure there is not an obvious problem.
Note down all piping leaks, loud mechanic sounds, linear holes, or odd smells, and give the list to the expert so that he will know what he’s dealing with.
Image source: C.O.S Design
In case you notice nothing wrong with the pool, don’t get carried away by the feeling that everything is fine and you don’t need professional help (that’s how most good pools get ruined!).
Instead, go on with the inspection and let the expert detect even the smallest problem that can turn into a challenge on the long run.
What is up to you are in fact to maintain the pool clean, and as refreshing and inviting as possible.
Doing this, you will eliminate at least 60% of the chances to face serious damage in future, and you will minimize the need to hire the expert instantly and pay the double of what a regular check costs.
Seasonal cleaning and maintenance
Image source: Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects
Pools are no longer a summer delight – thanks to the variety of advanced covers and affordable heating solutions, pool owners get to extend swimming seasons at least to 3 or 5 months more.
In most cases, the pool is used all year long, except of the winter.
Let’s check some useful tips that can help you maintain you pool during the year, and put it in action since the first hot summer day!
- This is the season where filtration matters the most, which is why your system should function at least 6 hours per day.
- Stay in control of sanitary indicators, and check them daily if you can.
- Control the pH level as often as you can (two days the most).
- Each week, perform a Total Alkalinity (TA) analysis.
- Keep an eye on the skimmer, hair, and lint pot basket, and clean them as often as you can.
- Have your local pool equipment provider check the quality of your water after every two weeks.
- Depending on how often you’re using your pool, backwash the DE or sand filter and remove all cartridges from it.
- Your water levels should not be higher than the half of the distance to your skimmer box opening.
- Keep the pools clean, including the walls and floor which need to be vacuumed regularly.
- Autumn is the season of debris and leaves, so make sure you’re cleaning the pool more regularly
- In windy weather conditions, cover the pool and don’t let leaves damage your pool
- Filter for only two or three hours to reduce chlorine output. As the weather becomes colder, filter more.
- Purchase a kit for window treatment, and prepare your pool.
- Keep the pool covered all the time
- Make a pH and chlorine check in two weeks time
- Control the skimmer basket, and clean it when it gets full
- Make sure the water level is not higher than half way to the skimmer box opening
- Make sure the filter’s pressure gauge doesn’t show ‘backwash’.
- Keep lights on at least 30 minutes per week to prevent moisture from building up to your wiring
- Clean the floor and walls of your pool with a vacuum cleaner
- Test the pump, and make sure you have the full maintenance kit your spa technician recommended.
- Examine the pool for leaks, and replace fittings that don’t seem that strong to you
- Every second week, examine pH and chlorine levels
- Once the skimmer basket is full, clean it.
- Keep an eye on the water level (ideally, it should be half as high as the skimmer box opening)
- Here and there, test the filter’s pressure gauge and make sure it doesn’t indicate ‘backwash’.
- Keep the lights on for at least half an hour per week in order to stop moisture from reaching the wiring.
Image source: Poss Architecture + Planning + Interior Design
Maintaining your pool and taking care of it before it has actually been damaged is your biggest guarantee to preserve it usable for a long time.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, regular maintenance costs less than fixing damage, so there is no point of leaving sludge inside. What is more, removing clutter in time will protect your health and the health of your family.
Table of Contents
- The way to preserve your pool in a radiant condition starts with cleaning
- Essential tips for pool maintenance
- Scrubbing and skimming are compulsory
- Pool winterization
- Your pool depends on its filter
- Inspect for leaks, and repair them on time
- Keep the chemical levels consistent
- Tips on maintaining a safe pH level
- ‘Shocking’ your pool is not necessarily a bad idea
- Keep an eye on the water level
- Absorb the oil with a tennis ball
- Maintaining your pool heater
- Use wash for a shinier pool deck
- Keep the filter clean
- Contact a local maintenance service and book your appointment – that’s not a matter of choice!
- Seasonal cleaning and maintenance
- Summer season
- Autumn season
- Winter season
- Spring season
- Ending thoughts