Keeping your pool clean
Before you dive into the pool this summer, you need to make sure that the pool water is balanced and clean. Testing the water and maintaining your pool doesn't have to be difficult. With a little planning and know-how, your swimming pool will be sparkling clean all summer long.
Buy a water testing kit
If you don't have a pool boy, then you'll need to make sure that your pool water has the right balance of chemicals yourself. Buy a simple water testing kit at your local pool store. The kit will come with instructions on how to test the water to determine the pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness are all in the right range.
The calcium hardness (how "hard" or "soft" your water is) should be between 200 to 400 parts per million (ppm). If your water is too soft, you'll need to add calcium carbonate dihydrate to raise it. If it's too hard, you'll need to add sodium hexametaphosphate. Both these chemicals are available at pool shops.
The alkalinity of your pool water should be 100 to 120 ppm. (Some people use a wider range of 80 to 150 ppm.) Baking soda can raise the total alkalinity if it's too low, while dry acid can lower it, if it's too high.
The proper pH for your swimming pool is between 7.2 and 7.6. If your pH is too high, you can lower it by adding liquid muriatic acid (or sodium bisulfate). For low pH, add soda ash. Test the pool water weekly to make sure the calcium hardness, alkalinity and pH are all in the proper range.
Keep clean with chlorine
Keep your pool clean and healthy with chlorine. Depending on how often you use your pool (and how hot it is outside), you may need to add chlorine several times a week. Talk with your pool supply store on which type of chlorine is most convenient and affordable in your area. They will also let you know how much chlorine is needed for your pool's size. Chlorine granules are the most common and are usually inexpensive. Liquid, tablets and sticks are also available but can be more costly.
To treat your pool, add chlorine granules to water in a non-metal container as directed. (Never add the water after the chlorine.) Stir for 30-60 seconds, then let it settle for 30 more seconds. Pour the chlorine mixture into the middle of your pool. Add chlorine after dusk so that the sun doesn't absorb the chlorine. Test the pool water to make sure the chlorine level is below 3.0 ppm before anyone goes in the water. Every few weeks (or if your pool gets green), you will need to add a super-chlorinated shock treatment to the water to get rid of any bacteria and algae. If your pool is getting green often, the water may not be circulating enough. Talk to a pool professional about how long you need to keep the pool pump running each day.
Cover it up
If you aren't using your pool daily, keep a cover on it as much as possible. This will lessen the amount of dirt, leaves and other debris that gets in the water. Before swimming, remove any leaves from the water surface with a net and sweep the bottom of the pool as necessary. Also, clean the strainer basket in the skimmer once a week (more often if a lot of leaves are falling). Clean your pool filter monthly as directed by the manufacturer or pool store.
Too much hassle
If maintaining your pool is too time-consuming, consider a professional service. The pool service will visit your home weekly to test the water and add chlorine, along with other chemicals as necessary. Some services include the cost of chemicals in their fees while others require you to purchase the chemicals separately. One big advantage of a service that brings their own chemicals is that you will not have to worry about safely storing chemicals at your home.