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Swimming Pool Maintenance and Cleaning

Swimming Pool Maintenance and Cleaning

Maintaining your pool can be a tedious job, but it's an important part of keeping your pool sparkling clean and safe for years of enjoyment.

Tools & Materials

Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.

Pool Terms

The following are brief descriptions and treatment suggestions to keep your water elements balanced.

pH determines the water's acidity. Maintain pH for equipment and swimmer protection. If the pH is less than 7.2, use sodium hypochlorite to raise it. If the pH is higher than 7.6, use granular acid to lower it.

Free available chlorine kills bacteria, algae and most viruses. It also eliminates grease and oil. If the free available chlorine is too low, add a shock treatment. A shock treatment is a high concentration of chlorine. Shocking adds 5.0 to 10.0 parts per million (PPM) of free available chlorine to pool water. Test and balance the pH before doing a shock treatment. Shock-treat after sundown with the pump and filter turned on. After a shock treatment, test the free available chlorine. Don't enter the pool until the reading is 1.0 to 3.0 PPM. If it's too high, allow the chlorine to evaporate naturally.

Total alkalinity is the measurement of the water’s ability to maintain the proper pH level. If total alkalinity is too high or too low, use an alkalinity adjuster.

Calcium hardness is a measurement of calcium in the pool. If the water is too hard, it can raise pH levels and cause scale to form. To solve this problem, add sodium hexametaphosphate. If the water is too soft, it can cause tile grout to dissolve or the vinyl liner to crack. Add calcium chloride dihydrate in this situation.

Always follow manufacturer's instructions when applying products.

Pool Chemical Safety

While pool chemicals are available to solve almost all water problems, they can be dangerous to humans and animals if handled improperly. Chemicals can cause skin and eye damage and can be fatal if swallowed. To keep yourself and your pool safe, follow these pool chemical safety precautions:

  • Keep all pool products away from children and animals.
  • Wear rubber gloves and goggles, and wash clothes and hands immediately after handling chemicals. If your skin comes in contact with any chemicals, flush immediately with cold water for 15 minutes and call a physician.
  • Follow the dosage directions and safety precautions listed on the pool product label.
  • Store chemicals according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never return spilled material to the original container or place in the household garbage.
  • Use clean, dry measuring equipment for chemicals. Rinse all measuring equipment after using.
  • Don't mix spa, pool or household chemicals together.
  • Add chemicals to water. Don't add water to chemicals. Adding water to chemicals contaminates the entire container.
  • Don't allow dry chlorine to become damp or wet.
  • Keep open flames away from pool chemicals.
  • Don't reuse empty containers. Check with local, state and federal regulations for proper disposal.
  • Discard any unused chemicals after closing your pool. Follow local ordinances for disposing of hazardous materials. Buy new chemicals when you reopen the pool.

General Pool Maintenance

Clean water and balanced water chemistry are the keys to pool maintenance. Establish a weekly routine to clean the pool and maintain the chemical balance. A shock treatment solves and prevents the majority of pool problems. Test the pH and free available chlorine in the pool water and shock-treat, if necessary, on a weekly basis. Do an additional shock treatment if any of the following occurs:

  • Very heavy rains and windstorms
  • More swimmers than usual
  • Foul odor from the pool water
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Swimmers with burning, red eyes
  • Algae growth
  • Murky, slimy water

Keeping the Pool Clean

Plan to spend at least six to eight hours per week on pool upkeep.


1. Skim debris out of the pool.
2. Clean all skimmer baskets during swimming season.


1. Test the water.
2. Clean the walls and floor. Use cleaners, brushes and vacuums recommended by the pool manufacturer. Start at the shallow end and continue to the deep end. Overlap each stroke when vacuuming and brushing to cover all areas thoroughly. Always keep the vacuum head under water while in use. To speed up the process, dedicate 10 minutes a day to brushing down the walls.
3. Hose down the pool area after cleaning and before using. Direct the spray away from the pool to prevent dirt from washing into the water.

Cleaning After a Storm

Summer storms can catch you off guard, but if you know a storm is approaching, cover the pool and anchor the sides of the cover with water bags or sandbags. If you have an automatic cleaner, turn it on. If you don't have time to prepare, follow these steps to clean up:

1. Hose down the deck, spraying away from the pool.
2. Remove all debris from the water surface with the skimmer.
3. Turn on the pump.
4. Brush the walls and floor. Push the dirt toward the drain.
5. Vacuum the pool completely.
6. Wait 20 minutes and vacuum the pool again to get all remaining dirt.
7. Test the pH and adjust if necessary.

Opening Your Pool

When it's time to open your pool, remember the following:

1. Remove accumulated water or debris on top before taking the pool cover off.

2. Clean and dry the pool cover before storing.

3. Reattach and hook up all pool operating equipment. Unplug and uncover all openings.

4. Clean all equipment, including drains and skimmers.

5. Remove all debris from the pool.

6. Scrub and vacuum the pool walls and floor to remove any algae or scum.

7. Add water to bring the pool level up.

8. Test and adjust the water for pH, calcium hardness, free available chlorine and total alkalinity.

9. High levels of chlorine are present in all covered pools. Allow 24 to 48 hours for the high concentration of chlorine to evaporate before using the pool.

10. Turn on the filter and pump. Allow them to run for three to four hours.

11. Check the skimmers, drains and filters for proper function.

12. Vacuum and remove remaining debris.

13. Retest pH and free available chlorine. If free available chlorine is low, use a shock treatment and retest. Make sure free available chlorine is between 1.0 and 3.0 PPM

Closing Your Pool

The climate in your region determines the steps you take when closing your pool. One important thing to remember: Don't drain a vinyl-lined, concrete or plaster pool. Draining the pool can cause the liner to stretch or the concrete to actually lift out of the ground. Take the proper steps to save time and money.

Closing Your Pool in Cold Regions

1. Adjust the pH level between 7.2 and 7.6.

2. Use a shock treatment on the pool.

3. Remove, clean and store any pool ladders, diving boards, ropes and furniture.

4. Turn off the heater.

5. Run the filter continuously for one to two days.

6. Brush and vacuum the pool walls and floor. Remove debris.

7. Pour pool antifreeze into the pump, and allow it to cycle through the system for two minutes.

8. Unscrew the fittings on the return lines. Plug them with expandable rubber plugs.

9. Drain the water level in your pool with a submersible pump to 18 inches below the skimmers.

10. Flush and drain the hoses.

11. Drain, clean and store all equipment indoors, including the filter, pump and motor to prevent freezing.

12. Turn off the electricity to the pool.

13. Retest the pH and free available chlorine levels.

14. Coat exposed metal, such as permanent ladders, with petroleum jelly to protect from rust.

15. Cover the entire pool with a water-, weather- and chemical-resistant pool cover. Use water bags or sand bags to secure sheet vinyl covers. If you use water bags, fill them halfway to allow for expansion when they freeze. For above-ground pools in regions with high winds, place water bags or sandbags on top of cover around the edge of the pool. Place 2/3 of the bag on the cover and 1/3 of the bag hanging over the edge to keep the cover from blowing up.

16. Retest the pH and free available chlorine levels at least once every month and adjust if necessary.

Closing Your Pool in Warm Regions

In warm regions, pools don't need to be completely closed. Covering your pool is recommended to reduce debris. Read pool equipment manufacturer's information for proper care during the off-season. Follow the steps below for regular maintenance.

1. Adjust the filter cycle to half the normal setting.

2. Check the pH and free available chlorine weekly. Keep the pH between 7.2 and 7.6. Do a shock treatment to keep the free available chlorine between 1.0 and 3.0 PPM.

3. Clean the skimmer weekly.

4. Vacuum the pool at least once every month unless you cover the pool.