Swimming pool cleaning basics: Learning how to care for your pool
- By: Ashley Saunders
- July 2020
Many people dream of having a pool in their garden yet they don’t realise the amount of work involved in maintaining one. By applying some pool cleaning basics, you can maximise the life of your swimming pool and enjoy it for years to come.
Building an outdoor in-ground swimming pool can easily cost £50,000 with the price more than doubling if you’re building one indoors. It’s a serious amount of money to invest, and one that’s well worth protecting!
Here are the pool cleaning basics you should know to keep your swimming pool in the best possible condition.
Swimming pool cleaning basics includes general maintenance and top of that list is ensuring the water sustains the correct pH and alkalinity levels. Let’s take a brief look at these two elements.
Firstly, pH or potential hydrogen is a measure of a solution’s acidity. While Alkalinity is a measurement of the level of substances in water with acid-neutralizing ability.
It’s worth thinking of it as pH measure acidity and alkalinity represents the water’s ability to neutralize those acids. In short, the right alkaline levels will prevent wide fluctuations in pH levels.
How to determine safe pH and alkalinity levels
The ideal pH level range should be between 7.2 and 7.8. In terms of alkalinity, it should measure between 80 and 120 parts per million.
How often should we test the water?
Depending on how often you use your pool, you should test the water two or three a week, and more frequently during periods of heavy use.
You can purchase Pool Test Kits from Amazon, local gardening centres and swimming pool supply companies. Some kits also contain instructions on how to raise or lower pH and alkalinity levels.
Why does this matter?
Your water will attempt to balance itself if the pH level is too low. It will do this by corroding things like plaster or metal parts of pumps, heaters, and filters.
On the other hand, if the pH level is too high, it can lead to scale deposits forming on the pool walls, equipment and plumbing. Also, your pool’s water will turn cloudy, which is considered a drowning hazard.
Which should you test first?
You’ll want to measure the alkalinity first as this directly impacts the pH level. That said, the pH level is the most important.
If you need to raise alkalinity, either use sodium bicarbonate or baking soda. However, before adding anything, look at your pool system specifications.
To lower pool-water alkalinity, use a pH reducer (such as Blue Horizons Total Alkalinity Reducer) or hydrochloric acid.
Show your pool’s pump some love
As the heart of your pool’s ecosystem, the pump. This piece of kit pushes water through the filter and properly disperses chemicals. If your pump is at peak performance then it will properly circulate and filtered water resulting in a cleaner pool.
A clean pool is easier to maintain, so spend time completing these pool cleaning basics on a regular basis!
Thankfully, pumps don’t need much care to keep them running. You should clean the strainer basket inside the pump weekly. Simply, remove the pump housing and find the basket. If your pump has a clogged strainer, it has to work harder and will need replacing sooner.
It’s also worth checking the pump’s O-ring for signs of wear including cracks. If you’re not sure, the O-ring is the gasket that seals the housing lid and keeps water from leaking out of the pump. You can lubricate the O-ring (just don’t use Vaseline).
Another thing about pumps, ideally you’d run yours 24/7 as it will keep your water super clean. This would also take care of most of the pool cleaning basics you have to do.
However, this is expensive and can be impractical. Instead, aim to run it for 10 hours each day as this should run the pool’s water through the filter system at least once every day.
Don’t forget the filter!
As the pump is the heart of your pool’s system, the filter is like its kidneys. A pool filter sorts and removes any debris and other impurities that may affect your’s pool health. It’s essential as part of your pool cleaning basics that you maintain the pump’s filter.
There are three major types of filter: cartridges, sand and diatomaceous earth (DE).
Consisting of pleated polyester cylinders with caps on each end, cartridge filter looks similar to those used on wet/dry vacuums, only longer. They only need spraying down with a hose a couple of times each year.
You might correctly guess that sand filters consist of a filtration tank filled with sand. The rough edges of the grains of sand trap particles. To clean a sand filter, reverse the flow of water through the filter (known as “backwashing”).
If your filter’s pressure gauge starts to rise, then it’s likely that you need to backwash it. As sand eventually get worn down, reducing their effectiveness, you should aim to replace it every 5 to 7 years.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
As the most effective, DE filters are named for their filtering element: microscopic, fossilized organisms called diatoms. Again if notice that the filter’s pressure-gauge is high, then you need to backwash it.
Just like with sand filters, you do need to occasionally restock the filter with DE powder.
Topping up chlorine
As with maintaining correct pH and alkalinity levels, pool cleaning basics also includes monitoring the chlorine balance in your pool. The correct level of chlorine will prevent bacteria from growing in the water (which could turn your pool’s water green).
The basic balance of chlorine to water is between 1 and 3 ppm, or 104 milligrams (0.00013 ounces) of chlorine per 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water.
Of course, adding the correct amount of chlorine involves knowing how many litres of water are in your pool. If you don’t already know then you’ll need to measure your pool.
With the length, width and average depth, multiply them together and then multiply by 7.5 for a rectangular pool, 6.7 for an oval pool or 5.9 for a round pool. This is the amount of water in your pool in gallons. To convert into litres, times this figure by 4.5.
If your maths skills aren’t the best then use an online pool size calculator.
Based on your pool’s volume and it’s current chlorine level, you’ll need to calculate how much chlorine to add to raise the level to between 1 and 3 ppm.
Run your pool cleaner
Ideally, you should run your pool cleaner once a week. Doing these pool cleaning basics will reduces the amount of chemicals you’ll need to add to the pool. After each use, you should check and clean out the filter of the cleaner.
Shock your pool
Another pool cleaning basics that you should do weekly is shocking your pool as this removes cloudy water, chlorine odour, eye irritation, and prevent future issues from arising. You can either use a basic shock or a multifunctional shock product.
A basic shock product will only kill a limited amount of issues and require an absence from the pool for longer than the multifunctional shock products. On the other hand, a multifunctional shock product stabilizes the chemicals as well as cleans your pool quickly.
A constant battle with all outdoor pools is stopping algae from forming in large numbers as this can lead to multiple problems including water turning green and large fluctuation in water pH.
If algae starts to form and spread then your pool’s filter could become clogged which will prevent water from circulating through the filter as quickly as it should. You might also see a general reduction in the effectiveness of pool chemicals.
You’ll need to add algaecide to your pool to protect it from algae build up. It’s worth, as part of your list of pool cleaning basics, that you look for algae and keep adding algaecide each month.
If your pool is in daily use before anyone enjoys a swim there are pool cleaning basics you need to take care off. Firstly, you want to skim the surface to remove any leaves and debris.
You’ll also want to brush the edges and area around the pool to reduce the chance of debris falling into the water.
If these pool cleaning basics sounds like a lot, then consider that tasks can easily build up and completing them will take hours rather than minutes. So, it’s worth putting in the effort to do some of the pool cleaning basics daily, rather than spending hours each week.
A clean pool is a happy one, which will work more effectively, reducing the amount of work needed to properly maintain it.
Understanding pool cleaning basics to keep yours healthy
There is a lot of tasks involved in keeping a pool healthy. And since we’ve only covered pool cleaning basics, depending on your type and size pool, you’ll need to adapt our checklist to your situation.
Bear in mind, that during in summer or periods of high use, you should need to be activity cleaning your pool daily. Over the winter, it’s fine to do less especially if your pool is protected by a cover.
As with keeping anything clean, doing a little, often is far easier than having to do deep clean a couple of times a year and have a swimming pool that isn’t running as efficiently as it could. So it’s worth staying on top of the pool cleaning basics.