From as far back as I remember, I have always been around swimming pools. As a child, I would frequent the Florida beaches and my love for the water soon graduated into the gift of swimming. While at my stint at the Miami Biltmore Hotel, I picked up knowledge about water treatment. Today, I have built my entire career around this knowledge. When I, Glenn Lucas began WaterMan, a water treatment company I run with a friend, the focus was on helping local pool owners keep their pools clean. The regularity with which you maintain your pool could affect not only the quality of your swimming experience but also the health of those using the pool. So when you’re reopening your above ground pool after the winter months, don’t just think it’s ready for you to jump in. There are several steps involved before your pool can become ready for the warmer months. In this article, I will take you through all those steps.
Clean Your Pool Cover
I’m assuming your pool has been sitting idle through the winter and you used a pool cover to prevent any leaves and bugs from falling into the water. Now, the pool cover has done its job of protecting the water. But if you remove it without clearing the debris out from on top of the pool cover, you will undo all the work the pool cover has done through the winter months.
So use a light brush to remove all the dried leaves and twigs from the pool cover. If you have a pool cover pump, that should take care of any excess water that may have accumulated on top of the cover. If you don’t have a pool cover pump even a normal sump pump should do the trick.
Proceed to Remove Pool Cover
Removing the pool cover is the tricky part. You will need assistance with this as the more carefully you do this, the less chance that any debris will fall into the pool. Enlist the help of a friend and remove the cover slowly and carefully. Try not to drag it as it may lead to not only debris falling into the pool but also the pool cover itself may get damaged or frayed.
Once the pool cover is off, it’s important to wash it off before you store it. Scrub the cover with some car wash or any gentle soap. But be careful not to scrub it too vigorously as you may damage the cover. Once the cover is clean, allow it to dry and then fold it gently and put it back in the pool shed or wherever you store your pool equipment.
Remove Pool Plugs and Other Equipment
When you closed the pool down for the winter, you may have installed equipment like pool plugs and ice compensators. Now that the summer (or spring, if you choose to open your pool sooner) is here, you need to remove all those winter equipment. So take a good look around your pool and remove all the winterized plugs from the openings. Make sure to check our return jets too. If you used an ice compensator on your pool skimmer, be sure to remove that too.
Put all your skimmer baskets and return jets back into the return line. If you used a skimmer plate to cover your pool skimmer, remove that as well.
Bring out the Hose
The next thing to do is to refill the pool with water. Depending on what state you left your pool in, you may have to pour at least some water into the pool. Make sure your pool is full at least until the halfway mark of the skimmer opening. It’s also wise to use a hose filter to ensure the water coming into the pool is clean and filtered out. This will only minimize your work later and save you the trouble of cleaning more debris out later.
Put the Deck Equipment Back in Place
This goes without saying but unless you plan to simply jump into the pool or make a splash entry, you will have to reinstall the ladder and other deck equipment. If you have a diving board, put that back into place. This will also give you the opportunity to double check all the equipment. If something is not sitting right you may as well have it fixed now than worry about it later.
Reinstall Pool Skimmer, Pump and Filter
Put all the pool equipment you require back in place and ready to function. Bring your skimmer, pump and filter back out of hibernation. Replace all the winterizing pool plugs with standard plugs. Now, you need to double check that all the equipment works as there may be some starting trouble since you’re using it after so long. Follow these steps:
- Your pool pump needs to be connected to the skimmer.
- Then proceed to connect the pump to the filter.
- The next step is to connect your filter to all the affiliated equipment, including the chlorinator, heater, etc.
- If there is no other equipment that requires testing, attach the water hose to the return inlet directly.
Start Pump and Filter
Once you have checked that all the equipment works, give it a whirl! Even as you start the system, check that there are no leaks anywhere. If the pump is having trouble pulling water, try turning off the filter and then remove the pump lid to add some water. This will help your pump pull water and prevent it from running dry.
It’s important to backwash the filter before you start using the pool properly. This will ensure all the blockage is removed from the tract. Depending on whether you have a sand filter or a DE (diatomaceous earth) filter, the procedure to backwash it may be different. Be sure to follow the instructions on your filter manual.
Remove Debris from Pool
Once the filter and pump are running, start cleaning the pool out. It’s important to do this before you add the chemicals and sanitizers to the water. If any debris has come in through the backwash, that will need to be cleared. Additionally, some debris may have fallen when you removed the cover.
Even if there is no debris, your pool has been unused for months and unless you were cleaning it every fortnight even in the winter months, there are chances some bugs have crawled in or at least a speck of dust or two have managed to infiltrate the water. Clean all this debris out.
You can use a brush to loosen up any algae or grime from the walls and the floor. If you loosen the algae it will be released into the water and will be easier for the chlorine to kill. Give the floor a once over with the brush too. Stagnant waters tend to concentrate dust and grime when left still for too long. If you have the energy, bring out the vacuum cleaner too. You’ll get a far superior clean if you use a vacuum cleaner to clean the floor after using the brush. This allows even the small particles of dirt to get pulled in.
Once you are done with the brushing and vacuuming, skim the water for any leaves and twigs that may have floated to the surface.
Add the Chemicals and Wait
Now, you are ready to add the chemicals. Since this is your first time using the pool after many months, it’s best to shock it. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds and there’s no actual electricity involved! Before you start, test your water with a chemical test kit to see what your pool readings are. After this, you can determine the proportions of chemicals you need to balance the chemicals in your pool. Your pool reading should ideally be:
- Chlorine:0 – 3.0 ppm
- pH:4 – 7.6
- Alkalinity: 80 – 140 ppm
- Calcium Hardness: 200 – 400 ppm
- Cyanuric Acid: 25 – 50 ppm
- Total Dissolved Solids: 500 – 5000 ppm
Once you are done balancing the pool, you may want to shock the water. Shocking your pool typically involves pouring at least three times the normal amount of chlorine and sanitizer you typically use in your pool. This ensures your pool gets a thorough clean and months of no use doesn’t impact your pool’s hygiene. There are, however, a few things you may want to keep in mind when shocking your pool:
- Always shock your pool at night. This prevents the chlorine from interacting with the other chemicals.
- It may help to dissolve the chemicals in a bucket before adding them to the water. You can buy the chemical in granular form so it should not be hard to dissolve.
- It’s important that you add the chemical to the water and not the other way round. This will give you greater control of the proportions and the chemical reaction.
- Keep the pump and filter on when you are adding the chemicals. It would also help to pour the chemicals in front of the return jets so water pressure will carry them and enable them to dissolve more evenly.
- When you are pouring the chemicals, be sure to do it slowly so it can mix evenly instead of forming a concentrate at the bottom of the pool.
Once you have added the chemicals, you just have to wait. Swimming in the water is dangerous right now. You need to wait for the chemicals to be soaked in completely. Keep your pump on for at least 24 hours to allow the chemicals to mix thoroughly.
The next day, break out another chemical test kit and check your readings. If the readings are the ones mentioned above, bring out the swimsuit! Your pool is swimming ready. If not, balance it by adding or removing (or balancing) the chemicals as required.
Cleaning out your pool after the summer months can be tiring but once you’re done, none of the other cleaning routines should require this much effort if you just maintain your pool readings. Shock your pool at least once a month when it’s in active use and take regular tests to see if the chemicals are balanced right. If reopening your pool after the winter seems like too much work, involve a friend and make a day out of it! Perhaps you can treat your friend to a drink later for their generosity or even better, a dip in your pool which will be as good as new once you’re done with it! So follow these steps with care and have a great summer frolicking in the pool with loved ones!