The Complete Guide to Swimming Pool Maintenance
Your swimming pool is a fantastic feature piece for your home and a wonderful place for fun and leisure for the whole family. But if you want to get the most from your pool and ensure a long lifespan, regular maintenance is essential. Here we have created a comprehensive guide to maintaining your swimming pool, covering everything from routine cleaning and water testing to chemical treatments and machinery servicing.
Servicing your pool
It is important that you should have a plan in place for the proper servicing, cleaning and maintenance of your pool. This will include general weekly work that you will have to do while the pool is in use, as well as servicing for the equipment and machinery involved in the running of the pool.
Proper weekly maintenance is key to improving the lifespan and cleanliness of the pool. Carrying out the small, simple stuff regularly can reduce the amount you have to spend on repair works and other expensive maintenance bills when the small issues have grown into something much more serious.
It is best to get into a routine with your pool cleaning and maintenance, and carry out the work on a specific day every week. Your weekly tasks should include:
- Checking the water level and topping it up if need be
- Cleaning the filter/s
- Cleaning out the skimmer baskets
- Vacuuming the floor of the pool
- Brushing the wall of the pool
- Cleaning the area around the pool terrace
- Checking the pH levels and adjusting the water balance
- Checking your pool chemicals and ordering any necessary replacements
Servicing the machinery
It is necessary to have regular servicing carried out on your pool. The equipment and machinery used to run your pool will have a much longer lifespan with a good servicing schedule. For example, boilers and heat pumps need to be serviced according to the instructions from the manufacturer, usually annually. Gas Boilers, where fitted must also be checked yearly for leaks under gas regulations.
It’s also worth noting that if you notice anything strange such as an unusual noise in the plant room or the pool not reaching the correct temperature, you should have a professional come out and inspect the equipment.
Chemical treatments are a vital part of your swimming pool maintenance routine. These treatments are important both for ensuring that the water is clean and safe for swimmers and for the overall health of the pool.
The specific chemical treatments for your pool will vary based on the water used in your pool as well as the materials used in construction. This means that you take advice from your swimming pool installers on the appropriate water treatments for you.
Balancing the pH
Getting the pH of your pool right is one of the key principles of pool maintenance; pH is the scale of acidity and alkaline, ranging from 0 to 14 where the middle point of the scale at 7.0 is neutral. Anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below 7 is acidic.
The ideal pH rating of swimming pool water is between 7.0 and 7.6. Anything lower than 7.0 and metals and pool finishes can start to corrode, while anything above 7.8 and there can be issues with scaling due to calcium salts in the water and chlorine becoming ineffective.
Safety tips with chemicals
Remember that pool chemicals are usually potentially dangerous and should therefore be used carefully. Here are some safety tips you should follow when working with these chemicals:
- Chemicals should be stored in a dry and cool area, in separate containers
- Always read and follow the instructions
- You should wash your hands after using pool chemicals
- You should wear proper PPE when handling pool chemicals
- Chemicals should not be mixed before they are added to the water – when mixed, many chemicals can be very volatile and the process can release noxious gases and even cause explosions
- Chemicals should never be stored in a container that was designed for another
- Empty containers can be washed with pool water, rinsed out and disposed of
- Empty containers should not be reused for storage of other chemicals
- Children should never be allowed to handle pool chemicals
Shock treatments are a key factor in maintaining the cleanliness of your pool. This is an excellent way to prevent algae and bacteria from building up in the water – something that cannot always be prevented by standard forms of maintenance.
A FreshWater Swimming Pool System will reduce or eliminate the need for shocking your pool.
Many people assume that if there is a strong smell of chlorine around a pool and stinging eyes from the water, it indicates that there is too much of the chemical in the pool. However, this is not the case. These undesirable effects come from either incorrect pH or chloramines, which form when chlorine in the water mixes with sweat, oils and other bodily fluids. To rid yourself of the build-up of these chloramines you ‘shock’ the pool with a very high dose of chlorine or another chemical.
Shock treatments are not as simple as adding a little more chlorine than usual, and using standard chlorine tablets will not work. You can choose between several options including calcium hypochlorite or unstabilised dichlor.
You should follow the instructions on these products – it will usually be at least eight hours before it is safe for you to swim in the pool again. It should also be noted that shock treatments need to take place after the sun has gone down. If you try to carry out the shock during the day, sunlight will burn off unstabilised chlorine and the shock will not work as intended.
How often you need to shock the pool will depend on the usage of the pool, and you also may need to carry out a shock treatment immediately after an incident such as heavy wind that has caused detritus to accumulate in the pool.
Testing and monitoring
It is important to test and adjust your pH levels every week to ensure that the water is always safe to swim in and that you are not doing any damage to your pool. You can use testing kits with a simple colour comparison or dip strip test – these kits are widely available and you can easily follow the instructions.
You can have automatic dosing systems installed to monitor the chemical and pH levels of your water and most can even sense when there is a problem and automatically release chemicals. If this is not something you are interested in having it can be a good idea to have the water balanced by professionals every week.
General pool cleaning
Another important element of pool maintenance is of the general cleaning that you need to carry out in addition to the chemicals. This includes skimming and vacuuming the pool to rid it of any debris that can get into the water such as litter, leaves and other biological matter. You must also understand your pool’s filter and the need for a cover.
It is also worth noting that when you are cleaning your pool you should not forget to check potential problem areas such as steps, ladders and diving boards which will need cleaning from time to time.
Any time that you notice debris or dirt in the pool you should skim the surface with a net to remove it as soon as possible. Ideally, you should also do this each time before you use the pool.
It is unavoidable that dust, debris and other items will get into the pool water and will sink to the bottom before you can skim them out. Not only will this create an unsanitary swimming environment with a dirty pool floor, but it can also lead to a build-up of algae and bacteria if left for long periods. Vacuuming should be carried out regularly, and it also may be necessary to vacuum outside of a schedule to deal with debris that you notice on the pool floor.
Once the floor of the pool gets very dirty, normally after winter, vacuuming becomes essential and you should vacuum to waste for the best results. This process involves vacuuming as you would normally do before stopping the pump and then re-positioning the multiport to the ‘waste’ setting. You can then restart your vacuuming and the water will be sucked out so that it doesn’t need to go through the filter. Note that this will reduce the water level in the pool so it is worth overfilling before you start and keeping the hose running.
The importance of pool covers
If your pool does not currently have a cover then you should consider investing in one. Pool covers fulfil multiple functions, but most importantly they are a huge benefit to the maintenance and upkeep of the pool. Clearly, that one of the biggest issues of introducing dirt to the water is the debris that falls into the pool – having a cover when the pool is not in use can reduce this problem to a minimum.
Pool covers are also useful in the fact that they retain heat in the water meaning that if you have a heat pump, you won’t need to use it as often. Ultimately this not only means you will pay less for heating but also the pool will have a longer lifespan.
The filtration system
It is worth noting here the importance of the filter to your pool’s cleanliness. The filter removes dirt and debris from the water. There are several filter types and it is a good idea to understand the differences to clean them so they work effectively.
- Sand or Glass filter – cleaning a sand or glass filter works by backwashing or reversing the flow of water. These filters work best when they are slightly dirty, and need to be cleaned at least once every other week.
- Diatomaceous earth filter – a DE filter is similar to a sand filter and uses backwashing to remove dirt. However, after backwashing, DE must be added to the filter to coat the filter. It should be cleaned a few times per season, and additionally once a year the filter should be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.
- Cartridge filter – to clean a cartridge filter you need to remove the cartridge and then hose off the dirt. The elements should then be soaked for at least 12 hours to remove oil and grease. Finally, give the cartridge a throughout rinse before allowing it to dry. It is good practice to have two sets of filters so that you can change between them, allowing for the lengthy cleaning process without downtime.
The more you use your pool and the more dirt that goes in it the more you have to clean your filters. It’s just like emptying a hoover bag when you lose suction.
Your pool in winter
Outdoor pools won’t get an awful lot of use over the winter period, so you need to set aside some time to prepare for the colder weather. Firstly, if you are going to do any major work on the pool this is the best time to have it carried out. Secondly, while you may be tempted to remove all the water from your pool this is a poor policy without taking professional advice first as can damage the pool.
The first thing you will need is a proper winter cover that will keep debris and sunlight out of the water. It should also be noted that the pool will see the need to be treated even if it is not being used to prevent the growth of algae and bacteria.
Regular checks on the pool water should also be performed.