Basic Pool Care & Maintenance Tips

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Keep your swimming pool looking great all year by giving it the basic care it needs. It’s not difficult, but pool maintenance does need to be consistently done. Pool pumps and filters need to be in kept in good condition and operation to help prevent problems in the future.

During the summer and swim season, most pool owners run their pump for six to eight hours each day. If the pool is small and stays relatively clean, this time can be cut back to save electricity. During the winter months the running time can be greatly decreased. The actual hours necessary will depend on the capacity of the pool. Check the leaf basket in the pool pump each week to make certain it is not clogged.

How To Clean Pools

  • Regular vacuuming and skimming will prevent debris and dirt from contaminating the pool. It is far easier to skim debris off the top than to vacuum them off the bottom.
  • Standard sized pool leaf nets and brushes are the tools of choice for most pool owner’s use. Also, consider buying a spa-sized pool leaf net or skimmer. They’re handy for working around the edges of the pool and easier to maneuver than larger options.
  • During the fall and winter months, a leaf bagger with wheels is a great time-saver when there is considerable volume of debris in the pool. Look for one with a net bag attached to the top and a connection for a garden hose on the side. The bagger can be swept back and forth across the pool bottom to capture a large volume of debris before vacuuming the pool. This is faster than trying to un-clog the pool vacuum every couple of minutes.

Basic Swimming Pool Water Chemistry

Keeping the pool’s water in balance is the key to having a sparkling pool. For most pools this balance is achieved by adding small doses of chlorine and muriatic acid. A pool water test kit will indicate how much of each chemical is needed based on the size of the pool.

  • The target range for pH in a swimming pool is 7.4 to 7.6.
  • The target range of Alkalinity is 100ppm to 150ppm.
  • To use the pool water test kit: fill the sample vials with pool water and add the prescribed number of drops of test chemicals to determine the pool’s demand for balanced water. Chemicals should be added in small amounts until the water reaches the proper balance. Acid is usually added in ½ pint or pint amounts, and chlorine in quart or ½ gallon amounts, depending on the pool’s need.
  • A word of caution, do not add acid and chlorine together. Allow 10 or 15 minutes of pump time between chemicals to dilute the chemicals into the pool water.
  • Always add the chemicals down stream from the skimmer to avoid sucking concentrated chemicals into the pool pump. Chlorine tablets are useful for slowly releasing chemicals into the pool water over several days or a week. If the pool needs a large amount of chlorine, liquid chlorine releases immediately while mixing.
  • Swimming pool owners with indoor pools may want to use Bromine or Baquacil as their sanitizer chemical instead of chlorine. They perform the same task as chlorine, but without the chlorine smell.
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Pool Filters

Keep the pool filter running at top efficiency. Pool filters need to be back-flushed when the filter pressure reaches 10 pounds over the normal running pressure. Most pool filters use diatomaceous earth as a filtering agent and when this becomes clogged with dirt, the filter pressure increases.

  • To back-flush the filter, attach a long pool hose to the waste or back-flush valve on the filter. Turn the multi-port valve to the back-flush position. Then, turn the filter back on and allow the water to run through the hose until it runs clear. This usually takes 30 to 60 seconds. Turn the filter off and return the multi-port valve to the normal filtering position. After several back-flushes it may be necessary to add additional diatomaceous earth.

A word of caution: never turn the multi-port valve handle while the filter is running. This can damage the valve or in extreme cases cause injury to anyone standing near.

How To Winterize The Pool

In colder climates where water freezes, it is necessary to take the proper steps to winterize the pool. Adjust the water balance within the pH and Alkalinity ranges stated above.

  • Clean, brush, and vacuum the pool. Back-flush if the pool if it is very dirty.
  • Next, shock the pool with a chlorine shock or a non-chlorine shock. Use at least 1-lb per 10,000 gallons of pool water. Allow the chlorine level to return to 1.0 – 3.0 before adding winter algaecide and the pool cover.
  • Remove all skimmer baskets, wall fittings, pool vacuums and ladders from the pool.
  • Lower the water level in the pool 12 to 18-inches below the skimmer.
  • Drain all pumping filtering, heating and chlorinating equipment. Remove the DE filter grids, clean, and store. Use compressed air or a shop vacuum to blow out any water that is still in the system or pool lines.
  • Lubricate the pump and filter O-rings with Magic Lube.
  • Add winterizing algaecide and other floaters. Do not add algaecide and shock at the same time. The chlorine will break down the algaecide.
  • Cover the pool.

Fighting Algae In Your Pool

The bane of many pool owners is the constant fight against algae. Algae is a small plant-like organism that grows in water. The most common forms are: green, yellow, and black. Of the three, green is the most common. It spreads aggressively and can take over a pool in several days if ignored. The yellow and black varieties occur mostly in spots but are harder to kill. Algae growth usually occurs because the pool has not been treated with a sanitizing chemical or has been low on chlorine. Kill the algae by super-chlorination. Treat the pool for algae by applying pool shock. For yellow algae: use 1-pound of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water. For green algae: use 3-pounds of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water. For yellow algae: use 4-pounds of shock for every 10,000 gallons of water. If there is a pool liner, dissolve each bag of shock in it’s own bucket of water before applying to the pool.

Maintaining your pool will take some work, but enjoying the refreshing water each summer is well worth it.

For pool safety tips, see Essential Pool Safety.

Last Updated: July 10, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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