Getting Over the Winter Funk: Preparing Your Pool for Summer
We all know what a pool looks like when it’s been neglected a little too long. As much as you try to keep your swimming pool in good condition over winter, sealed tight with a pool cover, it always seems to look a little weary after a long season of disuse.
With summer on the way, it’s tempting to jump right into the cool water of your backyard lagoon. But for your own health and safety, you need to make sure your pool is fit for use before you make a splash.
At Australian Outdoor Living, we know how much a swimming pool can enhance your outdoor lifestyle, especially over those sweltering months. But pool maintenance can be an overwhelming and sometimes confusing task. Below we’ve supplied a simple step-by-step list of things you need to do to make sure your pool is prepped for a long summer of fun.
1. Clean the cover
First things first, you’re going to need access to your pool. But you want to make sure that all the leaves, twigs, dust, and other debris that’s accumulated on your pool cover over the long wintry months are not going to end up inside your pool creating even more work for you.
Using a long-handle brush, wipe down the top of the pool cover and drain off any water that may have pooled on the top during winter. Don’t empty that water back into your swimming pool – it’s probably got plenty of unwanted nasties in it from sitting still in the sun so long.
2. Top it up
You may find the water level in your swimming pool has dropped a bit since the last summer. Fill it up again until the water level hits the middle of the skimmer opening. If you need to add over 2000 litres to your pool, you may need a permit from your local council.
Once you’ve filled the pool back up, let the water circulate for at least eight hours so new and old water combines.
3. Balance the water chemistry
This is the most crucial part of preparing your pool for summer. Before you dive-bomb into your backyard aquatic splendour, you need to make sure the water is healthy for you and your guests. That means no nasties such as bacteria and algae.
These days, you can buy test kits or strips to test your water’s chemical balance yourself. You’ll need a little bit of chemistry know-how, but it’s not too difficult to understand. Here’s what you’ll want to test and the mean range you’ll want each chemical to be at:
Alkalinity. It should sit between 80-120 parts per million (ppm). Adjust alkalinity before you adjust pH levels, since pH levels stay consistent if you’ve got the right alkalinity level. Increase alkalinity with sodium bicarbonate, or decrease it with muriatic acid.
pH. This should be between 7.2 and 7.6. Increase pH levels with soda ash, or decrease it with muriatic acid or sodium bisulphate.
Calcium hardness. Keep it between 150 and 250 ppm. The softer the water, the more calcium it will absorb from its surroundings. If your pool water is too soft, it can actually take calcium from the grout in your tiles, so you’ll want hard water. Use calcium chloride to adjust levels.
Stabiliser level. Your pool should have at least 30 ppm of cyanuric acid, which prevents loss of chlorine in your pool from UV rays.
Algaecide. Algae can grow when water has been neglected during the colder months. You can add poly algaecide to your water to eliminate algae growth.
Chlorine. It should be between 1.5 and 3 ppm. You should regularly add 60 grams of chlorine per 50,000 litres. To add chlorine, you can throw cyanuric-based tablets into your skimmer basket, but be careful! If your pool has a metal filter system, the low acid content in the tablets means they’ll eat the metal. A plastic chlorinator attached to the filter system corrects this problem.
We understand if you’re feeling slightly overwhelmed with the chemistry involved in keeping a healthy pool. And you wouldn’t be the only one! That’s why we recommend getting your pool water balance checked professionally if you have any doubts. You can head over to our Pool Shop website and book an appointment for one of our highly trained pool maintenance professionals to come to you and take care of the nitty-gritty!
Once you’ve corrected the water balance, wait for the water to clear. You should be able to see the pool floor clearly. It can take about a week for the water to look crystal clean but we think it’s pretty easy to tell when the water looks so inviting you’ll just want to jump straight in. Make sure you clean the filter daily while you’re waiting for the water to clear up.
4. Shock it!
If you’ve had a pool for a while, you’ll be familiar with the term ‘shock treatment’. It simply means raising the chlorine level of your pool beyond 5 ppm to oxidise all the dead algae, bacteria and skin cells the chlorine has killed in your pool. You should really shock your pool every week or so during the height of pool use. Shock your pool using an oxidiser – you’ll find it easily, it’s called Shock! Alternatively, you can by an ozone generator that continually shocks your pool for you.
5. Put in some elbow grease
Now is the time to be putting in some strong elbow grease to scrub your pool up for the new swimming season. Clean out your baskets and wash out the filter. A clogged filter means the water won’t flow freely, so the pump has to work harder keeping the pool clean, which will likely wear the pump out faster.
You can clean your filter yourself. If you have a cartridge filter, remove the cartridge and hose it down. With a sand filter, set the filter to backwash before returning it to the normal setting. If you’re not so confident, a professional can also clean your filter efficiently and properly with no fuss.
Does your pool have tiles that look grubby over time? Scrub the tile grout with baking soda and a sponge, or pool tile cleaner. Stay away from household cleaners – their chemicals aren’t made to be swum in!
This is also when you want to rub down the deck, pavers, or lawn that surrounds your pool. Remove any twigs or leaves surrounding the pool area, so when you take the cover off your pool will stay clean just that bit longer. It’s also a good idea to trim any overhanging branches.
If you have a timber deck, see that it’s in solid condition. Check to see if it’s stained, cracked or worn – it may need re-coating. Wash your surface with washing detergent and water.
6. Check everything works
You’re almost there! This is the best time to make sure all your swimming pool gadgetry is in working order.
Check the filter system, priming the pump before starting the motor. Make sure the strainer basket in the pump has no cracks that might let debris in. See that all the light bulbs in and around your swimming pool work fine. If any need replacing, consider switching to LED light bulbs, which use less energy and are longer-lasting.
Also see if any of your pool equipment needs replacing. You may want to upgrade to a stronger, more efficient pump, or replace the drain cover (it prevents you from getting trapped in the drain’s powerful suction).
And don’t forget SAFETY FIRST. Don’t open your pool unless you’ve checked and double checked that the fence and gates, locks and latches that surround your pool are working. Its imperative children cannot access your swimming pool without an adult around.
7. Keep it up!
After you’ve put in a solid effort to make sure your pool is up to scratch for the swimming season, it’d be a shame to let it go to ruin so easily. Thankfully, once your pool has had a thorough once-over, it’s pretty easy to maintain for the rest of the summer.
Every week, remove debris with a pool net, vacuum pool surfaces, and clean the filter. Test the water balance daily. Thankfully, with the variety of pool equipment out there today, you’ll find your workload decreased significantly if you invest in high quality pool equipment, such as the automatic pool cleaner that scrubs surfaces for you.
8. Rip off the cover and dive in!
At Australian Outdoor Living, we think this is the most important step of all. All other steps lead to this one moment – the joy of removing your pool cover on a hot summer’s day, jumping in, and letting the cool water wash off the stress and pressures of a long winter.
Want to know more?
We believe in the uncompromising value of a full outdoor lifestyle you can get in Australia. If you’re looking to enhance outdoor living in your home, check out our other resources: