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A Beginner's Guide to Pool Care and Maintenance

Danielle Greving author image
Pool Maintenance for Beginners: A Complete Guide
A swimming pool can bring a lot of joy to your life. Unfortunately, swimming pools also need regular upkeep.

Pool care maintenance is essential regardless of where you live or how frequently you use your pool, as damage can sometimes be irreversible. In fact, many people purchase home warranty plans that include pool coverage. 

Cleaning your pool is crucial to keeping the water safe and healthy for you and your family to swim in. From collecting leaves to keeping chemical levels stable, here’s our guide to pool maintenance for beginners. 

1. Focus on Circulation

When maintaining your swimming pool, it’s important to keep the three C's in mind: circulation, cleaning, and chemicals. Maintaining your pool begins with circulation because if the pool water isn’t moving, it likely means the pump or the filter isn't working, and you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to clean your swimming pool. 

The circulatory system of the pool comprises the skimmer, the filter, the pump, and the jets. If any of these components have significant issues, your water quality will suffer. 

Here’s a quick explanation of how these pieces work for your pool:

  • The pump sucks water from the pool through the skimmer
  • Water moves through the pump into the filter
  • The filter cleans out any particles that are making the water dirty
  • The jets move water back into the pool

2. Run the Pool Pump

To make sure water circulates efficiently, you need to run the pool pump. The more you do this, the cleaner the water will be. Additionally, running the filtration system means wasting less time balancing the water and scrubbing algae. 

Running the filter 24/7 isn’t realistic, so we recommend 10-12 hours per day. If you live in a warmer climate, you may want to run it a little more. Investing in a variable speed pool pump can be helpful, as these run at slower speeds during the day to save money, time, and energy. 

3. Angle the Jets

You want your water to cycle in a circle, so make sure the pool jets point away from the skimmer. 

Doing so encourages the pool water to rotate, and it makes it easier for the skimmer to remove debris. It can also help to angle the jets downward, so the water on the bottom of the pool also gets circulated. 

You should also angle the jets towards ladders, steps, corners, crevices, and other spots that struggle to get circulation in your pool. 

4. Clean the Skimmer Basket

Cleaning the skimmer basket is the final step in ensuring good circulation. This should be done about 1 to 2 times per week. 

If the baskets are clogged, your pump needs to work harder to circulate water. This can stress the seals on the pumps and decrease their lifespan. Additionally, pests and other creatures can get stuck in your skimmer, so you want to make sure you remove them in a timely manner. 

Turn off the pool pump and empty the removable basket to clean the skimmer. It’s also a good idea to clean out the pump basket every once in a while—about every couple of weeks or so. 

5. Cleaning: Brush, Skim, and Vacuum

The second C in pool maintenance is cleaning. This portion of pool maintenance involves a bit of manual labor, so you’ll want to ensure it’s shared equally among pool users! You can use a household chore app to help divy up the tasks. 

On a daily basis, you should scrub the pool walls with a brush to prevent scaling, staining, and algae. Pay close attention to the “dead” areas, which include the steps, ladders, and crevices. 

You should also skim the surface of the water with a leaf rake or net to remove large debris, which can fall to the bottom of the pool and lead to stains. We recommend investing in an automated vacuum to make this task easy. Robotic vacuums are great if you’re looking for something energy efficient. Pressure vacuums are also effective, but they require a pool pump. The most affordable option is a suction vacuum.

6. Test the Water Chemicals

The third C in pool maintenance is chemistry. When the chemicals in the water are balanced properly, you’re less likely to have to deal with cloudiness, green water, or harmful bacteria buildup. 

This is why investing in a good testing kit is essential. Each testing kit operates slightly differently, but here are some ranges to keep in mind:

  • pH: The ideal pH level is around 7.5. 
  • Alkalinity: Aim for total alkalinity of about 120-150 ppm. 
  • Calcium hardness: Aim for 200-400 ppm for calcium hardness. 
  • Chlorine: Chlorine sanitizes your pool and breaks down harmful bacteria. 
  • Phosphates: Overly high phosphate levels can lead to green or cloudy water, as well as algae growth. 

7. Shock the Pool

You should shock your pool every 1 to 2 weeks by overloading the water with sanitizer to kill off bacteria, contaminants, and other harmful organic matter. 

Generally, the more you use your pool, the more you need to shock it. It’s also a good idea to shock your pool after periods of heavy use, intense rainfall, algae growth, or a spill or unexpected contamination.

To shock the pool, follow these steps:

  • Test the water to ensure the water is balanced. 
  • Remove any toys and remaining equipment in the pool, and brush and vacuum it. 
  • Figure out how much shock you need to use by reading the instructions on the shocking kit. The amount will depend on your pool’s size and the reason you’re shocking it. 
  • Add the shock treatment to the pool and run the filter. 
  • Wait the right amount of time before swimming. (This can range from 15 minutes to 12-24 hours, depending on the shocking system you use.)

Keep in mind that pool-shocking treatments can irritate your skin and eyes, so it’s a good idea to wear protective gear, including goggles and gloves. You should wash your hands immediately after you shock your pool, and store and handle the shocking kit carefully.

Don’t allow children or pets near the pool when you’re shocking it, and avoid shocking the pool when it’s windy. A strong gust of wind can blow the chemicals toward you instead of into the pool. 

8. Remember Monthly and Yearly Tasks

In addition to the daily or weekly tasks above, there are some other infrequent tasks you need to keep in mind for basic pool maintenance. 

Once a month, it’s a good idea to take a sample of your pool water to a professional water service testing center for a chemical analysis. You should also clean your pool’s filter and filter cleaner twice a year to remove any accumulated grease or oil. 

Also, you should always test your pool water after a rainy or windy day. If you’re concerned about pool damage after bad weather, look into a home warranty policy from a company like ServicePlus

9. Know How to Heat Your Pool Properly

Heating your pool can be a great way to make it more enjoyable to swim in, but you need to know how to do it properly. There are several different heating options, and the best choice for your pool will depend on where you live, how you use your pool, and your budget. 

Regardless of how you heat your pool, a thermal or solar blanket is always a good investment. Not only do these blankets help keep heat in, but they also reduce evaporation. Plus, they can stop debris falling in your pool when it’s not in use. Some state governments even offer rebates for those who buy a pool blanket, so make sure to look into this. 

10. Winterize Your Pool

If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to winterize your pool. We recommend you begin the winterization process once the temperature consistently dips below 65˚F. 

To winterize your pool, you need to:

  • Remove all of the pool toys and accessories
  • Deep clean the pool with your brush, vacuum, and skimmer
  • Adjust the chemistry to ensure the pH is between 7.2 and 7.4, the alkalinity is between 80 and 150, the chlorine level is between 1 and 3, and the calcium hardness level is between 175 and 225
  • Lower the water level to about a foot below the skimmer
  • Drain and store the equipment
  • Add shock and algaecide
  • Cover the pool 

If you’re worried about your pool getting damaged in the winter, you may want to look into a home warranty policy from a company like First American

Conclusion

Pool maintenance takes a lot of work, but it’s well worth it for those sunny summer days when you get to enjoy using it! Staying on top of the three C's (circulation, cleaning, and chemicals) will ensure your pool water stays safe for you and your family to swim in. It’s also important to know how to winterize your pool and heat your pool properly so you can enjoy it year-round. 

Of course, some things are entirely out of our control, which is why we recommend a home warranty policy that covers pool damage.

Danielle Greving author image
Danielle is a tech and finance writer with experience in personal finance, cryptocurrency and numerous SaaS companies. Her bylines can be found on MoneyTips, CoinMarketCap, GraniteShares and Top10.com. An avid traveler and former ESL teacher, Danielle's writing blends a wealth of technical and financial knowledge with simple and straightforward explanations for everyday readers.