In these cold, dreary months, it’s easy to daydream about a hot and sunny day. When that day finally arrives, many of us will long for a refreshing dip in a swimming pool. If you own a pool, then you have that luxury available—but it might not seem like a luxury when it comes time for maintenance. Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to care for your pool to keep it in a swimmable condition. Pool maintenance can vary depending on the type of pool, but there are some tasks suitable for all kinds.

Prepare for swimming. When warmer weather rolls around and it’s time to get your pool ready to use, you’ll want to have the proper supplies on hand, such as chemicals for the pool water. After removing the cover, fill the pool with water and reassemble the pump and filter systems, checking for any leaks. You should also perform basic maintenance, like removing debris, vacuuming, and testing and balancing chemicals. If you’d prefer to have a professional prepare your pool, most pool companies offer pool-opening services.

Deal with debris. A pool covered in leaves and bugs is not only uninviting, but it also increases the risk for more serious issues with algae or with the circulation system—these unwanted floaters can even sink to the bottom of the pool and cause more work for later. Take a long-handled net and run it over the surface of the water to gather floating debris. At least once a week, clean out both the skimmer basket and pump basket, and spray stubborn debris with a garden hose. You can also proactively avoid debris by trimming trees and shrubbery located close to the pool or by using a pool cover.

Vacuum and brush. Once you take care of the water’s surface, you’ll want to clean the pool’s walls and floor. Whether you use a manual vacuum or an automatic cleaner, weekly vacuuming is important for keeping the pool clean. You should also take some time every couple of weeks to brush and scrub the pool sides to minimize buildup. When cleaning, be sure to use tools and brushes suitable for your pool type and size.

Test and balance water chemistry. It is critical to maintain the proper chemical balance in the pool to sustain clear, sanitary, algae-free water. It’s wise to test weekly for pH, total alkalinity, and chlorine levels. You can use an at-home test kit and then add the necessary chemicals, like muriatic acid or chlorine, based on the results. Monitoring the phosphate levels in the pool and treating when necessary can also prevent algae.

Run the pump. Running the pump frequently aids in water turnover, which keeps chemicals balanced. You should run the pump roughly eight hours a day, though it should be run longer when the outside temperature is higher or when the pool is more frequently used.

Clean the filter. Your pool’s filter should be cleaned periodically. This process and its frequency are dependent on the pool’s type of filter—sand, cartridge, or diatomaceous earth (DE). For example, with a sand filter, you may need to backwash the system a few times a month. The key to knowing when to clean the filter is to check the readings on the system’s pressure gauges. When the pressure is a certain amount above the baseline, it is time to clean the filter. Consult the manufacturer’s manual for steps to follow for your specific model.

Check the water level. Pools lose water through evaporation and use, so you’ll want to be sure that the level of water meets the skimmers for filtering if there isn’t an automatic water supply. You can use a garden hose to fill the pool to its proper water level. Be aware that doing this changes the chemical balance, so you may need to adjust the water chemistry afterward.

Winterize. Cold weather can affect a pool’s equipment, making it necessary to winterize it properly. See tips for winterizing your pool and other parts of your yard here.

If you don’t have the time to perform these tasks regularly, consider hiring a professional pool service to handle maintenance for you. These companies can often check for additional issues as well as offer maintenance plans to fit your individual needs, whether as weekly, biweekly, or one-time cleanups.

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Sources: HGTV; Pool and Spa News; This Old House.

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