It’s been a long winter, but warmer days are finally upon us, which means that it’s almost time to relax by your pool. But before you can lounge and sip some fruity drinks, or take a few laps, you need to get your pool ready. Your pool might not be a mass of brackish swamp water, but you still need to take some steps to clean it and restore it to an optimum chemical balance before you dive headfirst into it.
Before you pull off your pool cover and start raking and scrubbing, you need to make a full visual inspection of everything. Look at your pump, skimmer basket, gauges, and connections to make sure they are still functioning. If you see any leaks or damage, make sure to replace them. Remove the plugs that you put in place in the fall to prevent pipe damage as well.
Also inspect the perimeter of your pool for any structural damage. Any cracks or lifting of the pool need to be addressed. However, never drain your pool completely. Your in-ground pool relies on the weight of the water to keep it in place. Draining the water can cause your pool to lift or even pop up out of the ground, necessitating a complete pool replacement.
At this point, you don’t want to remove your pool cover yet. Keeping your pool cover on until you’re almost done prevents additional debris from falling into the water.
Dealing With the Filtration System
The next step is to do what is called, a “chemical open.” Clean all the filtration baskets, and inspect the complete filtration system. Clean your pool filters at this point. If your filter is one with diatomaceous earth, disassemble it to clean it. If you have a sand filter, clean it by setting your pumps to backwash for the recommended time. If you have a paper filter, this is a perfect time to replace the entire thing, giving you a starting point for the rest of the swimming season.
Next make sure to purge all the air that is in your pipes. If you don’t the air can get compressed and cause damage to your filters and pumps. Once your filtration system is clean and cleared, you can turn your pumps on and move on to cleaning the rest of the pool. While you’re working on the rest, remember that until your pool water becomes sparkling clear, you want to clean the filter daily according to recommendations.
Managing Your Pool Cover
Now is the time to remove your pool cover. Before you do, you first want to remove anything that has blown onto it during the winter. Use a mesh net to scoop and sweep away any solid debris. If you need to, get a telescoping pole to reach the center of your cover. If there is water on your cover, use a cover pump. Alternately, you can also use a wet/dry vacuum. Just make sure to use a wide attachment that won’t damage your cover.
Once the pool cover is clean, you can remove it. Remove any weights that were holding it down. If you used water bags, empty those away from your pool. The easiest way to remove a cover at first is to start at one end. Move down a couple of feet, and fold it. Move another couple of feet and fold it in the opposite direction. The goal is to fold it like an accordion so you can move it to the side. Once it’s off to the side, you can spread it out to let it dry. Once it’s dry, fold it carefully and wrap it in airtight plastic to prevent infestation.
Cleaning and Testing the Water
Now it’s time to deal with the actual water level. If the water level in the pool has dropped, take this time to fill it before you do anything else.
Now use a skimmer and deep net to pick up any large debris. If you have a pool scrubber, set it to work. Make sure that your scrubber’s filters are clean. If you didn’t replace them before you stored it in the fall, change the filters now. Your scrubber is going to work overtime for the next few days, so check the filter and bag regularly to maintain it at peak performance.
The last step is to get your water tested. The best option is to wait for 48 hours after you’ve done your chemical open. That gives the water time to settle so you can get a proper reading. Take the sample to your local pool store. Most times, they will test it for free, mainly so they have the opportunity to sell you the chemicals you need to bring your pool into balance.
Maintaining your pool’s chemical balance is a hard science, so there’s no real way to fudge it. In general, these are the important numbers:
- PH: between 7.2 and 7.4 alkalinity: between 80 to 120
- Calcium hardness: between 150 to 250 ppm (parts per million)
- Chlorine in solution: between 1 to 3 ppm
Make sure to add the chemicals in the correct sequence to maximize effectiveness.
Once you’ve gotten these done, and the water is clear, you’re ready to rest and relax by your now clean pool. Make sure to run your pool vacuum at least once per week and test the water’s chemical composition daily. Clean your pool filter regularly to avoid strain and to keep your waters clean. And of course, enjoy the warmer weather.
Or if you're more on driving somewhere this summer, be sure to also check out our post on prepping your car for this spring and summer!