Summer is here—the season of ice cream trucks, barbecue grills, and, of course, swimming pools. But if you have your own swimming pool, you already know that the fun of splashing, cannonballing, and floating doesn’t come easy.
Maintaining it is a lot of work—balancing chlorine levels, cleaner, and PH all at once isn’t easy. There’s a long list of problems your pool can have that you need to deal with. Here’s everything you need to know to take care of your pool.
Open water picks up leaves like a magnet. Dead insects, too. And those are just if they’re sitting alone—if people are using the pool regularly, expect to find hair at the minimum.
A pool skimmer is an absolute must for clean water. Skim the water of leaves and debris nightly. That sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t take much time.
Every once in a while, perhaps every few weeks, you should clean the pool more intensively. Use a special brush to remove more solid debris stuck on the walls and floors, and an underwater vacuum to really powerfully remove dirt and debris. A vacuum also helps remove algae that can grow in low-circulation areas. Speaking of which…
Keeping up Circulation
Keeping the water moving is essential. You’ve heard how mosquitoes lay eggs in still water? That includes your pool, no matter how chlorinated it is. Moving water also helps prevent algal and bacterial growth. It’s just another part of a balanced maintenance routine; motion and chlorine work together to keep water clean and safe.
The pump doesn’t have to run constantly, though. In fact, days upon days of uninterrupted use can damage it. You should run the pump for 8 to 12 hours a day. This should usually be during the day, while people are swimming.
Also make sure that the pump is running while you add chemicals, and after. The circulating water helps spread the chemicals throughout the water. Otherwise, they might just dissolve in one place, and not spread throughout the whole system.
When I say “pool chemicals” here, I mean everything, from chemicals as gentle as baking soda to compounds as harsh as muriatic acid and sodium hypochlorite. And now I guess it’s time to talk about…
There’s a baffling array of different chemicals you can use for your pool. You can see just a few at large online stores like Watson’s swimming pool chemicals, but how can you even tell which chemicals you need? What kinds are important? It’s dizzying.
The most important element of pool chemistry is chlorine. It disinfects and keeps the water clean. You can add chlorine through a strong chlorine-carrying molecule, like sodium hypochlorite, or through electrolyzing salt. Salt pool systems are softer and don’t have that strong chlorine smell, but they’re much more expensive to install and maintain.
PH is also important. It’s the difference between vinegar and lye. For a pool, your PH should be between 7 and 7.6. You can raise the number by adding baking soda and lower it by adding muriatic acid.
Alkalinity is related to PH, but not the same thing. The more alkaline your water is, the lower the PH will be. Alkalinity should be around 100 to 150 ppm, or parts per million. That’s equivalent to 0.00015%, or 1/70,000. That’s why it’s measured in parts per million, because it’s such an unbelievably small amount in any other measurement method.
Also check your water hardness regularly. Hardness is the mineral content of the water, and it’s also measured in parts per million, usually of calcium. The ideal hardness for a pool is 200 to 400 ppm, but it’s much lower for hot tubs, more like 150 or 250 ppm.
Another chemical you might need to use is a defoamer. This is especially important in hot tubs, where foaming is common and even expected, but it’s needed in pools, too. You may also need a deodorizer to keep scents down. Pools can have a lot of smells, including the chlorine scent and the sweat of the swimmers.
You can use this easy printable sheet to remember all the different tasks you need for maintenance: https://www.swimuniversity.com/wp-content/uploads/Pool-Care-Cheat-Sheet-Sample.png.
Pools vs. Hot Tubs
It sounds strange, but pools and hot tubs actually require much different chemicals.
The heat of a hot tub makes it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, but high concentrations of chlorine, such as you usually see in pools, can be a health hazard in the smaller space of a hot tub. The heat causes chlorine to evaporate faster and people breathe in the steam. Since chlorine gas was used as a weapon in World War II, it shouldn’t need to be stated that breathing in chlorine is a bad thing.
Hot tubs also need softer water, since they’re designed to be extra gentle on skin. The anti-foam and deodorizer chemicals are also more important. Talk to your pool provider if you’re not sure what to do different for your hot tub.