3 Ridiculously Simple Steps for Maintaining a Clean, Beautiful Pool

Written by Published in Pool Maintenance

Lots of people wait until it’s too late to maintain their pool. They see a once-sparkling gem turned into a green lagoon, or wonder why the kids keep complaining about burning eyes every time they swim.

Truth is, a vast majority of pool water problems (Both salt water & Chlorine based pools) are EASILY avoided with routine testing and maintenance, no professionals necessary.
Don’t be intimidated. I promise this will be painless. So without further ado, here are the top 3 most simple steps for maintaining a beautiful, clean, safe swimming pool.

Step 1: Balancing Your Pool Water

A balanced pool is a happy pool. When people call us with a “pool problem” explaining to them how to balance their pool is one of the most common tips we give, because it is so effective. When we talk about balance, we mean pH, chlorine, minerals, stabilizers, et cetera. But let’s tackle pH first, because it’s one of the most important metrics for pool health.

In a nut shell, pH measures how acidic or alkaline your water is. Ideally, we want pool water between 7.2 and 7.6 pH. And why is that?
When pool water skews either too acidic or too alkaline, nasty things happen. Algae can grow out of control, your pool can turn murky and cloudy, and your pool’s machinery and equipment can corrode and break down. Worst of all, at imbalanced pH your chlorine can’t do its job very well.

Luckily, you don’t need an old high school chemistry set to balance your pool’s pH (or any of the other building blocks of healthy pool water). Your pool supply store offers a suite of testing kits and diagnostics you can run at home for your regularly scheduled pool checkups.

Here are the main pool water tests you want to run, how frequently you should test, and what numbers you’re looking for:

  • pH: Test your pool’s pH daily. 7.2 to 7.6 is the sweet spot.
  • Free Available Chlorine: This is the amount of chlorine that’s available to kill germs and keep your pool clean. Should also be tested daily, and you’ll want to see a number between 2.0 and 4.0 parts per million (ppm).
  • Total Chlorine: The third daily test. This includes chlorine that’s already ‘attached’ or used up in your pool water. Ideal numbers are also between 2.0 and 4.0 ppm. The idea here is to compare this number to your available chlorine. Pools with a high proportion of available chlorine are more effective at keeping the water clean.
  • Total Alkalinity: Test your pool water’s total alkalinity once per week. Total alkalinity refers to the overall count of alkaline materials in your pool. Having a balanced total alkalinity makes it easier to tweak pH as needed. A good range is 80-120 ppm.
  • Calcium Hardness: Refers to the amount of calcium carbonate in your pool’s water. High hardness can lead to calcium deposits in your pool (scaling). Low hardness can cause corrosion of equipment in contact with your pool’s water. Ideal calcium hardness is between 200 and 400 ppm, and should be tested weekly.
  • Stabilizer Level: Pool stabilizer (cyanuric acid) helps prevent chlorine from breaking down in sunlight, making more available to do its job of keeping your pool clean. Stabilizer only needs to be checked once per month, and should be between 30 and 50 ppm.

If any of these counts are way off, you’re guaranteed to find chemicals at your local pool store or big box store to correct it—in either direction.

And one caveat—these test ranges are generally accepted. However, your pool may be made with unique materials or construction, so be sure to check with your contractor just to be safe.

The key to staying on top of your pool’s health is to test regularly. Skipping a test is just like skipping a doctor visit.

Step 2: Sanitizing Your Pool Water

After achieving a zen-like balance in your pool water, it’s time to focus on proper sanitization. Pool sanitizers kill of bacteria and viruses (and prevent new germs from growing), stop algae from taking over, and destroy tons of other contaminants that wind up in your pool through weather or other swimmers.

And of course, the biggest, most popular pool sanitizer is chlorine.

Chlorine is so popular for two reasons:

  • It’s cheap.
  • It’s really effective.

Salt water pools are also incredibly effective at keeping your pool clean (and they also use chlorine), but here let’s assume you have a chlorine pool.

Remember earlier when we talked about free available chlorine? Maintaining balanced water lets chlorine get to work uninterrupted. Keeping the right chlorine levels in your pool is key to making your water clean and safe for swimmers.

Chlorine comes in many shapes and sizes—fast acting, slow acting, granular, tablets, stabilized and non-stabilized, et cetera. Check with your contractor to know which type of chlorine treatment to use. Depending on the type, you may need to use chlorine daily, weekly, or even just monthly.

Stabilized chlorine (the kind with cyanuric acid) should be dispensed in a floating container or via your pool’s simmer basket or chlorinator, while non-stabilized chlorine can simply be dumped straight into your pool.

If your chlorine levels are frequently out of whack, keep in mind that intense heat and excessive use resulting in water splash-out or evaporation can both alter chlorine levels. That’s why we test, test, and test again.

Step 3: Shock Your Pool Water

Shock is the commando of our pool-cleaning repertoire. While regular chlorination is great at keeping pools clear and clean, inevitably some bacteria and algae can build up resistance and start growing.

It’s time to take out the trash, and shock is your garbage collector. Shock works by destroying chloramines—basically chlorine that has already been used up fighting algae and bacteria. Chloramines are responsible for that offensive chlorine stink and irritated eyes when swimming in unclean pools.

Chloramines also block chlorine from working, creating a vicious circle that ends with a very dirty pool.

Shock is very strong, so you won’t want to swim while it’s getting to work. We recommend shocking your pool at night (once per week) so your pool has time to return to normal by the next morning. Absolutely turn your filter on for at least an hour after dumping shock in your pool, too.

You should always shock your pool:

  • After extreme weather—either excessive heat and sun, or gusty winds and torrential rainfall.
  • After your pool has been used heavily.
  • Any time swimmers complain about itchy, burning eyes.
  • Whenever you see algae.
  • Whenever your pool smells bad, or smells too strongly of chlorine.

The 3-Step Checkup for Healthy, Happy Pools

This might seem like a ton of work, but it’s really not. Testing and maintaining your pool shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each day, and the payoff is worth its weight in gold. Better to spend a little time and effort keeping your pool healthy now, rather than dealing with the pain of full algae treatments or corroded equipment.

That’s it, pool doctor. Now you have all the tools you need to keep your pool water happy—so your custom-built pool can keep you happy.

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