Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance!

Updated Jun 2, 2021

Dirt, algae, leaves, pollen, and bodily fluids and chemicals can all add up to a great deal of trouble for your pool if you aren’t on top of things.

To help you get the best results possible, we’ve created a guide on how to get the best clean pool that you can enjoy.

What Defines Good Pool Maintenance?

Routine, Routine, Routine. Did we mention Routine?

It’s not rocket science, but it might seem overwhelming at first.

Don’t worry… once you get the general concept of pool maintenance, and become more familiar with your pool, you will be good to go!

There are only a handful of basic routines to enjoy a perfect pool all season long. And Three focus points you always want to remember. 1) Pool Chemistry, 2) Pool Circulation, and 3) Pool Cleaning.

Many of us industry folks refer to this as…

Three C’s of Pool Maintenance.

We have listed them in the order of importance.

Pool Chemistry

Maintaining pool chemistry will be about 90% of your pool maintenance battle plan! Unless you have your own Smart Chemistry system, you can follow these steps to stay on top of your pool chemistry DIY style.

First, you will need to first get yourself a handy-dandy pool test kit or pool test strips to figure out where your pool chemistry is hovering at.

There are so many things you can test for, and it may seem complex at first glance, but its actually pretty cut and dry.

There are a lot of things you can test for, but the perfect pool chemistry can also be narrowed down to four things

pH, Alkalinity, Sanitizer, and Calcium

Here are the breakdowns of each one…

What is pH?

This is the measure of how basic or acidic the water is and is going to keep you pool perfect in the long-run or be the first thing to screw things up.

In geeky terminology: pH stands for potenz Hydrogen, or the “power of Hydrogen”. It’s the negative logarithm of a Hydrogen ion strength in a solution (i.e., your pool water). The lower the pH goes, the more Hydrogen gets created.

The lower the pH , the water is more acidic.

The higher the pH, the water is more basic.

Textbooks will tell you to keep your range between 7.4-7.8.

But what will usually happen, is that pH will rise over time in your pool, and the normal range will end up being closer to: 7.4 to 8.2.

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, and pH of 7 means the water is neutral, i.e. perfectly balanced.

Image of the Range of the pH Scale

Managing pH is a crucial to maintaining balanced water chemistry.

pH determines the effectiveness of chlorine in your non-stabilized pool.

When we say stabilized pool, we mean whether or not you have cyanuric acid (CYA) in it. In pools without cyanuric acid (CYA), the lower the pH, the chlorine will be stronger.

And pools with CYA, there is more of a buffer on the pH sliding scale as pH rises, so your chlorine will still have the strength extended into the upper pH range.

So, we recommend having some CYA in your pool to help buffer your pH scale. Range can be between 20 – 50ppm. But don’t go higher than this.

CYA is meant to stabilize the chlorine so it does not burn off too fast. If you put too much CYA, it can actually reduce the chlorine’s ability to sanitize.

What is Alkalinity?

Many people confuse total alkalinity and pH. It’s understandable, given how similar the words like “alkaline” and “alkalinity” sound.

Alkalinity and pH are closely related, but they are not the same thing…

We measure how basic or acidic substances are by using the pH scale shown above.

Again, in geeky terminology: Total alkalinity is considered a measurement of the concentration of alkaline substances that are dissolved in your pool water that can attract and release Hydrogen ions. This cases interference with Hydrogen and is why alkalinity messes with pH.

In simpler terms: Total alkalinity is essentially your water’s ability to avoid changing its pH.

To be precise…

Too much alkalinity raises your pool’s pH.

Alkalinity slows down the reduction of your pool’s pH.

The more alkalinity, the more acid it will take to reduce your pool’s pH.

Total alkalinity is measured by its concentration in parts-per-million (ppm), and the ideal range is from 80-120 ppm.

What is Sanitizer?

Most everyone knows this already, but sanitizer just refers to the amount of chlorine, bromine, etc. in your pool water. Appropriate levels will vary based on the type of sanitizer you use.

Recommended levels range between 1-3ppm for safe swimming.

Calcium Hardness Range for Pool Maintenance

Every city is different when it comes to hard water, but for the most part, it seems no matter where you live, you are going to have a hard water problem.

For reference, any water measured with over 3.5 grains of calcium and magnesium bicarbonates per gallon is deemed “hard water.”

We recommend having calcium hardness between 150-400 ppm

That being said, some cities have hard water that borders at the top of the recommended range right from the start, so be aware of your city water hardness levels to better prepare yourself on how to handle things.

Calcium will build up over time and start messing with your pool chemistry.

Calcium also reacts with hot weather, and it tends to create an ugly ring around your pool tiles called, “scale” if it builds up over time.

Luckily, it’s not an immediate issue that you have to worry about. It is a long-term process which means every 2-3 years, you will need to drain and refill your pool water to remove those total dissolved solids.

Ok, that’s the first “C”, now onto the next one…

Pool Circulation

Maintaining pool circulation will be the next 5% of your pool maintenance battle plan!

Not sure if you ever watched Naked and Afraid, or have any survival training whatsoever, but most people understand one of the biggest no-no’s in survival training, don’t drink stagnant water!

Stagnant Water is the Enemy!

Luckily, the pool industry has figured out a great way for you to handle this issue, and it’s called a pool pump and pool filter.

There are two huge reasons you will want to circulate water…

1) Filtration:

You need to circulate water through the filter so dirt, pollen, and any other nasty particles that happen to land in your pool are removed and nothing messes up the pool water.

2) Sanitation:

You need to circulate sanitizer (chlorine) throughout the pool to kill microorganisms. If any microorganisms get into the water, they can create problems with the water chemistry, algae can start forming, or worse… the water can become toxic to swimmers.

The great thing about these first two C’s… if you handle Pool Chemistry and Pool Circulation, then, the last “C” – Pool Cleaning, is a piece of cake.

Most of those nasty things that cause your pool to turn colors, create scale on tiles, or ruin your pool equipment, are essentially unable to do anything because they can’t get past your amazing chemistry and circulation.

Having good chemistry and circulation is like having a big and beefy doorman guarding your pool party.

If those microorganisms aren’t on the guest list, they won’t be getting into the pool party with you.

Ok, that’s the second “C”, now onto the last one…

Pool Cleaning

Maintaining a good pool cleaning schedule will be the final 5% of your pool maintenance battle plan!

Some things you just can’t get around, such as monsoons, haboobs, dust storms, bush and tree leaves falling into your pool.

So, every so often, you will need to scoop, skim, brush and dump stuff out of your pool.

The good news, as mentioned above, is that any nasty stuff trying to get into your pool via these methods still have to face your chemistry and circulation doorman.

The bad news is that there is still a chance that some large enough debris might hinder the function of your circulation process.

Debris, if left unchecked, can block the flow of the skimmer and clog up your pool filter.

You don’t want this to happen. Keep your doorman healthy by always maintaining proper circulation.

In sequence, we recommend…

1) Dump Skimmer Basket

Clear the suction path so the vacuum and pumps can do their jobs. Most floating debris ends up in the skimmer basket. Staying on top of dumping the baskets will help reduce the work that your pool filter needs to do.

2) Vacuum the Pool:

The heavy debris in the pool should be settled if you are just starting your cleaning process and it should be concentrated toward the bottom.

Why are Pool Vacuums so Important?

One of the easiest investments you can make, if you have not already, is a pool vacuum cleaner.

Whether you have an automatic pool vacuum, suction vacuum, or hand vacuum, its important you vacuum at least once a week to clear the debris from your pool.

Automatic pool vacuums are pretty cool, and can run efficiently, but they are heavy, cost a lot of money, and you still have to put them in your pool and take them out. And they are heavy suckers. Lifting them out of the pool is kind of a pain.

If you are ok with getting hand-on with vacuuming, or you have an above-ground pool the classic hand vacuum does the job, and you can see where you need to clear debris in the pool very easily.

Pro Tip…

If you are trying to save time, we recommend just plug in your suction vacuum and let it run when you run your pool pump. It’s the most cost-effective, easy and keeps on top of debris before it gets out of hand.

3) Brush the Pool:

After vacuuming, start brushing to knock the stuff off the walls, stairs, etc so your filtration system can eat them up like candy.

If you don’t brush, those organisms will continue to hide and multiply over time.

And since your pump and filter have no hands, they cant do the brushing for you, so be sure to brush from time to time to avoid build-up.

4) Run the Pool Pump:

Your pump needs to run long enough to fully circulate the water at least once.  We have a pretty extensive article to describe everything you need to know about running your pool pump.

What is the Minimum Circulation Required for my Pool?

And there you have it… Three C’s of Pool Maintenance!

Now, you should have enough information to maintain your pool properly.

Pro Tip…

But what about when you go on vacation or need to go out of town on a business trip? What then? Who’s going to take care of your pool?

Obviously, you can always ask your neighbor to help out, but not all neighbor are nice or dependable. So, what then?

Out of Town Pool Maintenance Tips

Well, you can do a few things to keep your pool perfect while you’re out of town. Just follow these 3 steps and you are good to go!

1) Check your Three C’s of Pool Maintenance:

First and foremost, make sure your Three C’s are good to go! Chemistry, Circulation and Cleaning. Starting from a baseline of perfect is always a good thing.

2) Put your Pump on a Maximized Schedule:

Next, if you have the ability to set your pump on a flow schedule, you should run it as often as possible throughout the day, every day to circulate debris before it settles. Filtering particles is much easier than sediment.

If you have peak and off-peak power company issues to deal with, be sure to reference when to run your pump to avoid additional power costs.

3) Super-Chlorinate Your Pool:

One of the best tips we recommend when going out of town is to super-chlorinate your pool by shocking it.

Yup, you heard us correctly. Pool shock is a great tool to use against out of town pool maintenance issues.

Shocking the pool is like having multiple doormen watching your pool and keeping all of the unwanted guests from breaking into your house to throw a pool party while you are gone.

Assuming nobody is using the pool while you are out of town, one bag of pool shock should do the job. It should boost your sanitizer levels high enough to fight any contaminants trying to get in.

Now, obviously larger debris is not going to remove itself, but with the super-chlorinated water, and everything else running properly, your pool should still be in great shape when you get back home.

Conclusion

Anyways, we hope this guide was useful. We have been maintaining pools for some time now and found that the above recommendations should keep you on the right track.