How should I care for my pool?

Learn how to take care of your pool with the right chemicals, equipment, and maintenance tasks.
Many of us dream about having our own backyard pool. We imagine the countless afternoons spent swimming, lounging, and watching the kids frolic with their friends. What's missing in those sweet dreams of paradise is pool maintenance: cleaning, scrubbing, skimming, and maintaining the chemical balance of the water. Unfortunately, real life is not a dream, and pool maintenance is a reality you're going to have to face when you own a swimming pool.

There are four main categories of pool maintenance:

Pool Chemicals
Monitor the pH and chlorine levels twice a week. It's important to keep these at the proper levels to protect your pool and your health.

The pH is a measure of how acidic/alkaline your pool water is. The ideal pH is the same as your eyes, which is 7.2. A pH that is too low or too high can cause a host of problems, including damage to the surface of the pool, dark stains on the floor and walls, lower chlorine effectiveness, and a burning sensation in your eyes.

Chlorine works as a sanitizing agent, providing protection from bacteria. Some people prefer to use bromine to sanitize their pools, as it is less likely to cause irritation for people with sensitive skin. Its major drawback is its cost, which is higher than the cost of chlorine. Every two weeks, you should "shock" your pool. This process eliminates all leftover debris in the water, such as suntan lotion, sweat, cosmetics, skin cells, bird droppings, and other foreign matter. By clearing the pool of these external invaders, the chlorine is able to perform its normal sanitizing routine. Pool shock products are available at your local outdoor retailer.

To ensure that your pool water is being maintained properly, it's a good idea to take a sample of your pool water into a professional pool cleaner for testing every month.

Pool Cleaning
Vacuum the pool floor and skim the water's surface to remove any debris at least once a week. If there are a lot of trees near the pool, you'll need to do this every 2-3 days. Empty the skimmer baskets twice a week. Don't neglect the pool walls and steps - scrub these areas regularly. Cleaning your pool on a regular basis will also help eliminate algae growth.

Pool Equipment
Water pumps, filtration systems, and skimmers should be checked frequently to make sure they are working properly. Filters should be changed regularly - the exact schedule will be determined by the amount of usage and external environment factors. Check handrails, ladders and diving boards for rusted bolts and cracks.

Closing and Opening the Pool
If you don't live in an area where you can enjoy your pool year round, you will need to close the pool during the winter months and open it again in the spring. To close the pool, you must drain the water below freezing level, drain water lines, add anti-freeze to the pipes, and cover the pool with a heavy pool cover. To open the pool in the spring, simply remove the cover, remove the antifreeze from the water lines, and refill the pool to the proper level. Check your filtration and your circulation systems to make sure they are in good working order. You can then resume your regular maintenance tasks.

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