For many people, there is no better feeling than jumping into a refreshing swimming pool after a long day of lounging around in the sun. It’s simply bliss.
What’s less idyllic though, is diving head-first into a pool of murky brown water, with surface debris floating all around your head. Most people would either want to get out immediately, or not dive in in the first place.
Source: Promas Building
Achieving the picture-perfect image (see above) of a beautiful blue swimming pool, reflecting the sun’s rays off its surface, is a task easier said than done. As with most things though, it can be perfectly achievable given the right time, effort and knowhow – as this guide will provide.
Making sure you properly maintain and care for your pool is vital to keeping it in tip-top condition and ready for safe use whenever required. Here are five of the key maintenance tasks you will need to remember.
Chemicals are a swimming pool’s best friend. They are arguably one of the most important facets of pool maintenance, as they help ensure that the pool’s water remains safe for you to swim in. Without properly balancing your water, you could end up with a pool that not only irritates your eyes and skin, but also one that acts as a breeding ground for bacteria.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there are five main chemical levels that you need to consider in your pool:
- Chlorine – a water sanitiser that is a cheap and effective way of killing bacteria.
- pH Level – a measure of the acidity/alkalinity of your pool.
- Total Alkalinity – a measure which helps to keep the pH in balance.
- Cyanuric Acid – a measure to determine the amount of chlorine needed.
- Calcium Hardness – a measure to protect the pool from corroding or building scale.
Checking each of these levels is fairly straightforward, but it requires the right equipment: first, you’ll need to buy a water testing kit and second, you’ll need to buy the appropriate chemicals. Or you can buy both at the same time with this starter kit.
You then simply need to do as follows:
- Take a few samples of your pool’s water.
- Dip in each of the specific chemical testing strips, or an all-in-one test strip, depending on the kit you buy.
- Analyse and work out which chemicals you need to add to bring the relevant chemical levels up/down. The appropriate chemical levels required are listed below:
If your pool’s water is looking especially bad, or if you haven’t monitored it for a while, it’s a good idea to give it what’s known as a ‘chlorine shock’. This effectively involves adding a high dose (usually 2 or 3 times the recommended dose) of chlorine to your swimming pool, bringing the chlorine level up to around 10-12ppm. This should kill off most of the bacteria.
After this, you’ll need to use an algaecide to kill off any remaining algae and prevent more from growing. This should, in turn, unclog the filter and keep the pool smelling fresh and clean.
Top tip: If the chemicals become too expensive, try using baking soda to control alkalinity. Baking soda contains the same active ingredient (sodium bicarbonate) as the more expensive alkaline-controlling chemicals, but is a lot cheaper. As it has the same concentration of sodium bicarbonate per pound as the solutions, you won’t need to do any complicated mathematical conversions either, as you simply need to use the same amount.
Top tip: Avoid heating your swimming pool or hot tub too high. Temperatures above 28oC may be nice and therapeutic, but they also promote algae growth. This can change the pool’s colour and cause a bad odour to develop.
When it comes to swimming pools, you need to think of its filter as your very own kidneys. In the same way as these work in your body to remove impurities from what you eat and drink, a swimming pool filter removes impurities from the water. Whether it be dirt, leaves, hair, or even small toys, the filter acts like an underwater vacuum to pull out all sorts of junk from your pool.
While that might all sound great, it’s easy for a filter to quickly become clogged, so it’s important to clean it out at least once a week. This will make sure it continues to function efficiently. Just like testing your water’s chemical levels, cleaning the filter is very straightforward to do. Simply turn off the filter, remove the filter cap, lift out the filter basket, remove the debris and then put it all back again.
You’ll also need to clean out your pool’s pipes on a monthly basis, using a system called ‘backwashing’. Your pool’s filter should have this as one of its settings so, when required, simply set it to this, remove the pool’s leaf collection basket and turn on the pump. Leave the pump running until the waste pipe starts ejecting clear water, then stop. Easy, right?
Top tip: Suntan lotion, hair products and our body’s own natural oils can all leave certain oils as a residue in pool water. This can make the water go foamy after a while, which isn’t so nice to swim around in. Luckily there’s a quick, easy and fluorescent yellow solution: a tennis ball. The natural fibres of the ball will absorb the oils, keeping the water surface looking sleek and shiny.
Top tip: Turning your filter on and off in quick succession could lead to damage over time, harming its inner mechanics. Set your filter on a timer and let it run for a minimum of six hours per day to keep it working properly.
- Physical Maintenance
While a pool’s filter is great, and acts almost autonomously, the human touch can be just as important when it comes to swimming pool maintenance. Making sure to clear large surface debris, such as leaves, litter or balls, can help keep your filter running smoothly and your water looking great. The more often you can do this, the better.
If you are after a truly pristine-looking pool, debris should be cleared at least once a day.
Make sure to scrub the sides of the pools regularly as well, as this will prevent algae building up. Likewise, a solid, robust cover over your pool can also be an effective way of keeping out both algae and falling debris.
It may seem obvious, but keeping your swimming pool safe is vital. Drowning is the number one killer of children aged between one and four years old, so installing childproof fencing is a great preventative method to avoid a potential fatality.
Similarly, spilled water creates a very slippery surface, which could lead to accidents and injuries down the line. Make sure to keep the pool and its surrounding area clear of clutter, and install any appropriate signage to warn users of potential harm.
Also, keep an eye on the pool’s water level. After a particularly bad storm, the level of water in the pool could overflow, again leading to potential slips, trips and injuries.
Top tip: Think about investing in a pool alarm, such as this one, to alert you of any intruders, small children or unwanted users entering your pool without permission.
In a similar way to how the Dogs Trust say that dogs aren’t just for Christmas, swimming pools aren’t just for summer. It’s important to maintain them properly throughout the year, even during periods when they won’t be used as often.
When you know you are going to be packing the pool up for the winter, it’s important to ‘winterise’ your swimming pool, ensuring that it’s left in a good enough condition for when you next need it. In order to do this, make sure all debris is cleared and that all relevant equipment – pump, filter, heater, chlorinator – have been sufficiently drained. Also, thoroughly scrub the pool’s base and sides, using chlorine and algaecide to kill off any lurking bacteria. Once you are happy the pool is clean enough, use your trusty pool cover to keep algae and debris out.
Similarly, unless you are a swimming pool expert, you should get your swimming pool serviced annually, even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Swimming pool specialists are experts for a reason, and will be able to pinpoint any minor issues before they manifest into a bigger problem. Get your pool serviced or you could end up regretting it by the time next summer comes around.