Show of hands: Who among us builds a swimming pool with the intention of taking care of it all on our own. “It’ll be a breeze. We don’t even need a pool cleaning company,” we tell ourselves.
The truth is that, generally, pool maintenance is best left to the professionals, who come at least once a week in the summer months to make sure everything is, literally, going swimmingly. But keeping your pool looking gorgeous all summer can sometimes take a village, so, if you’re so inclined, there are a few things you can do to help.
Maintain the right chemical makeup
“Testing the pH level, chlorine residual, and alkalinity should at least be done weekly,” said San Fernando Valley-based Pools By You. “During the peak of the summer, we recommend testing your water twice a week. Chemical treatments vary based on the amount the swimming pool is in use. During the summer time, it is also recommended that the pool is ‘shocked,’ which is a highly concentrated form of chlorinating the pool. This changes the water’s environment so that bacteria and algae cannot adapt to the constant sanitization levels and grow. It is recommended to add algaecide as a preventative, once a week.”
Keep on top of the pH level
Your pool service company or any pool supply can provide you with a pH testing kit so you can keep track of pH levels in between cleanings.
“The ideal measure is a neutral range of between 7.2 and 7.6,” said Pools By You. “One thing a pool owner should always remember when testing the pH level of the swimming pool is that a high pH reading means it requires the addition of acid, while a low pH means you have too much acid and soda ash is required to help neutralize the acid levels in the water.”
It can be tempting to add a little extra chorine after a pool party or if you’ve had a lot of kids around. But too much chlorine can actually create other problems.
“While chlorine is a really useful chemical for swimming pool/spa maintenance, many homeowners apply excessive amounts. The high concentration of chemicals easily damages the plaster of the swimming pool and spa,” said California Pools.
Your pool service should be able to tell you the right amount of chlorine for your pool.
Keep the deck clean and landscaping well maintained
This decreases the likelihood of debris falling into your pool.
Clean up debris that does fall into the pool
It may be necessary to remove leaves, bugs, and anything else that has made its way into the pool between your regular service appointments. These items can clog your filter and also cause algae to grow “when too much of the chlorine locks onto small particles in your pool water and not enough is available to kill the algae,” said California Pools. A few minutes with a net attached to a long pole should do the trick.
Keep it moving
Run your filtration system continuously to keep the water moving. This will help keep the water freer of dirt, dust, oils, and bacteria that can make the pool look dingy and also be potentially dangerous.
Clean out the skimmer basket
A properly performing skimmer will help keep the surface clean and prevent items that fall into the pool from getting to the bottom. Paying attention to the basket to remove anything that has collected will help it continue to run properly. California Pools recommends cleaning out the basket one to two times a week, or more if you see a considerable amount of debris collecting.
Pay attention to the water level
“On average, swimming pools lose about a quarter of an inch of water each day, according to American Leak Detection. Add in a couple days a week of heavy use, and your water level may have dipped. This could cause your skimmer to malfunction, or at least not work as efficiently, which could lead to a dirty pool.
Get a pool cover
Pool covers may not be as popular in California as they are in other areas—especially those that experience a frozen winter—but that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful in warmer climates as well. The main advantage to using a cover is that it keeps the water free of falling leaves, dirt, and other items, so it looks perfect when it’s time to swim.
It also prevents water evaporation, which can reduce the cost of running your pool by 50 to 70 percent, according to Energy.gov. “Pool covers minimize evaporation from both outdoor and indoor pools. Covering a pool when it is not in use is the single most effective means of reducing pool heating costs,” they said.
In areas where drought conditions still remain, the ability to control evaporation is key, especially given the fact that, “It could take tens of thousands of gallons of water to fill” your pool, according to Latham Pool.