Swimming Pool Care

One of the reasons we live here in Southwest Florida is to be outside and enjoy a daily (or more frequent!) swim in our pools. When properly maintained and cleaned our swimming pools can provide a great source of enjoyment. We've compiled a list of terms and maintence for your pool to help give you the basics you'll need to care for your pool. As always, if you have any questions contact Quality Home Inspections or your local swimming pool supply company or contractor.

Daily Pool Operation

Your Pool Filter should run at least 8 to 10 hours per day. Set your pool timer or remember to run the pool manually if you don’t have a timer. It is best to have the pool pump and heater running during the daylight hours (instead of night).

Make sure your skimmer baskets are empty and clear of leaves or other debris.

Chlorine must be added to the pool daily in one of the following ways:

·        Best method is to place 3 Inch Slow Dissolving Stabilized Chlorine Tablets in the skimmers once per week (2-4 tablets are normal for 15x30 pool).

·        Next best method is to use an Automatic Chlorinator. Make sure the unit is full and that the dial is set to a level that gives you a good daily chlorine reading depending on how long you run your system.

·        Next best method is to use a Chlorine Floater with Slow Dissolving Chlorine Tabs inside it. Keep Floater in pool at all times and refill it weekly or as needed.

·        Next best method is to manually add either Granular Chlorine or Quick Chlorine Tabs to pool skimmer every day. Don’t forget !!!

Cleaning and Servicing Tools

Some of the most commonly used pool cleaning tools are described below. You may have used them one time or the other to cleanse your pool.


A telescoping pole or telepole is heart of the cleaning system. Telepoles are made of aluminum or fiberglass. There are several sizes, from a 4-foot pole that telescopes to 8 feet, all the way up to a 12-foot pole that telescopes to 24 feet (by pulling the inner pole out of the outer one). The one you will use most on pools is 8 feet long, telescoping to 16 feet. The end of the pole has a handgrip or a rounded tip to prevent your hand from slipping off the pole. The tip might also include a magnet for picking up hairpins or nails from the pool bottom. To lock the two poles together, there is a cam lock or compression nut ring. When you purchase your first telepole, take it apart and observe how this cam system works. Sooner or later, scale, corrosion, or wear and tear will clog or jam the cam. Rather than buy an entirely new telepole, you can take it apart, clean it up, replace the cam if necessary, and get on with the job. The other locking device for telepoles is a compression nut ring. By twisting the ring at the joint of the two poles, pressure is applied to the inner pole, locking the two together.

At the end of the outer pole you will notice two small holes drilled through each side, about 2 inches from the end and again about 6 inches higher. The various tools you will use are designed to fit the diameter of the pole. You attach them to the pole by sliding the end of the tool into the end of the pole. Small clips inside the tool have nipples that snap into place in one of these sets of holes, locking the tool in place. other tools are designed to slip over the circumference of the pole, but they also use a clip device to secure the tool to the holes at the end of the telepole.

Leaf Rake/Skimmer

Leaf rakes are used to remove the leaf and other debris from the pool. The net itself is made from stainless steel mesh and the frame is aluminum with a generous 16-inch wide opening. There are numerous leaf rakes (deep net) and skimmer nets (shallow net) you can buy, but invest in a good one. The cheap ones are made from plastic net material and frames. Although the original price is about twice that of the cheap ones, metal ones last a long time and resist tearing when you are scooping out huge volumes of wet leaves or other debris. They also stand up to rubbing them along rough plaster surfaces, thanks to a rubber-plastic gasket that fits around the edge, unlike the plastic rakes that break or wear down when you apply such pressures.

The leaf rake shank fits into the telepole and clips in place as described previously. Some leaf rakes are designed so you can disassemble them and replace the netting, which is fine if you have the time and patience to do it.

Wall and Floor Brush

Wall brushes are used to remove the dirt, stains and other material sticking on the interior surface. The wall brush is designed to brush pool and spa interior surfaces. Made of an aluminum frame with a shank that fits the telepole, the nylon bristles are built on the brush either straight across or curved slightly at each end. The curved unit is useful for getting into pool corners and tight step areas. Wall brushes come in various sizes, the most common for pool use being 18 inches wide. Don't ever use a wire brush that is not made of stainless steel in a pool or spa. Steel bristles can snap off during brushing and leave stains on the plaster when they rust. Also, if they are a bit rusty already, when you brush the plaster you will transfer the rust to the plaster, causing a stain.

Vacuum Head and Hose

Vacuums are used to suck the dirt out of the pool or spa. There are two ways to vacuum the bottom of a pool or spa. One sucks dirt from the water and sends it to the filter. The other uses water pressure from a garden hose to force debris into a bag that you then remove and clean (leaf vacuum). The vacuum head and hose are designed to operate with the pool or spa circulation equipment and is the most common in our area. The hose is attached at one end to the bottom of the skimmer opening and at the other end to the vacuum head. The vacuum head is also attached to the telepole. With the pump running, you glide the vacuum head over the underwater surfaces, vacuuming up the dirt directly to the filter.

Vacuum heads are made of flexible plastic, with plastic wheels that keep the head just above the pool surface. The flexibility of the head allows it to contour to the curvature of pool corners and bottoms. Adjustable-height wheels allow you to set the vacuum head to the best clearance for each pool's conditions. The closer to the surface the vacuum head travels, the better the removal of dirt. But if the suction is too great, it might suck the vacuum head right onto the surface, rendering it immobile. In this case, adjust the head height upward. Wheels for vacuum heads are made of plastic or high-tech composite resins. Their bearing systems can be as simple as a hole in the wheel through which the axle is inserted or wheels with ball bearings to distribute the load and help the vacuum glide smoothly. Some commercial vacuum heads are made several feet wide and are built of stainless steel. Another type is a plastic helmet style, with a ridge of bristles instead of wheels. This vacuum head is used for vinyl pools, fiberglass spas, and when breaking in new plaster. In each of these cases, standard wheels can tear or score the surface. The brush vacuum is not only less harsh, but it brushes dirt loose from the surface being vacuumed for easier removal.

Hoses are available in different models, and in various lengths (10 to 50 feet). The hose cuff is made 1 1/4- or 1 1/2-inch diameter to be used with similar vacuum head dimensions. Cuffs are female threaded at the end that attaches to the hose so you can screw replacement cuffs onto a hose. The best cuffs swivel on the end of the hose, so when you are vacuuming there is less of a tendency for the hose to coil and kink.

Tile Brush and Tile Soap

Tile brush is used to clean the tile. Tile brushes are made to snap into your telepole so you can scrub the tile without too much bending. Mounted to a simple L-shaped, two-part aluminum tube, the brush itself is about 3-by-5 inches with a fairly abrasive foam pad for effective scrubbing. Tile soap is sold in standard preparation at the supply house. Carefully mix one part of muriatic acid to five parts of soap. This will help cut the stubborn stains and oils, but it will also eat into the plastic on the tile brush pads and plastic barbecue grill brush handle, so keep rinsing them in pool water after each application and scrubbing. Don't use other types of soap in place of tile formulations, because they might foam and suds up when they enter the circulation system.

Pumice Stones

Pumice stones are used to remove the scale from tiles and other deposits or stains from plaster surfaces without scratching them excessively. The soft pumice stone is made from volcanic ash and is used for its abrasive action. Pumice stones are sold as blocks, and as small bladed stones that attach to your telepole for reaching tight spaces and underwater depths. Since pumice stones disintegrate, it is advisable to scrub before you vacuum clean the pool. A good alternative to pumice, which scratches easily on fiberglass, is a block of styrofoam or similar plastic foam.

Water Testing Kits

Test kits and Thermometers are important part of cleaning and maintenance. Using your test kit, perform the necessary test to make chemical adjustments in the water. Pool and Spa owners must still conduct home tests of their pool or spa water at least once a week. A thermometer is needed to check heater performance, spa temperatures, and other questions or concern about pool or spa water.

Automatic Pool Cleaners

There are two basic types of automatic pool cleaning systems in use in our area, suction robots and self-cleaning systems. Both systems do a decent job of keeping the pool free from large debris, and both systems require periodic maintenance and repairs.

Suction-side Systems

Suction-side automatic pool cleaners uses the suction from the pool's skimmer. In this design, a standard vacuum hose of 1-1/2 inch diameter is connected between the skimmer suction opening at one end and a vacuum head that patrols the pool bottom at the other end. As the vacuum patrols the pool it collects leaves and other debris and sends it to the pump strainer pot. When the pot fills with obstructions, suction is dramatically reduced, causing the cleaner to become inefficient. To prevent this keep the strainer pot clean. Troubleshooting will usually find leaves and debris clogged somewhere in the system or the inability of the circulation pump to generate enough suction to make the vacuum effective.

The other type of cleaner is the self-cleaning system. The bottom of the pool is fitted with a series of jets. These jets would push the dirt from the shallow end to the deep end, each jet sweeping the dirt toward the deepest part of the pool where the main drain would suck it into the filter system. The jets are connected to a diverter at the circulation equipment area. As the water leaves the heater destined for the pool, it passes through the diverter which sends it to the floor jets on the shallow end first, then the deeper jets, and so on. In this type of system it is presumed that the dirt will come loose from the floor by these jets and not stick to the floor, and also the dirt will be only of the finer type that will not clog the main drains. Last, it assumed that these jets, would equally cover all areas of the bottom. Obviously, the jet sweeping action is greatest near the source, then gets progressively weaker as the jetstream moves outward, which can result in uneven cleaning. These systems require periodic replacements of the individual sweeper heads and of the rotating gears in the diverter itself.

Surface Skimming

Dirt floating on the surface of the water is easier to remove than to remove it from the bottom. Remove floating debris off the surface, using a leaf rake and telepole. As the net fills, empty it into a trash can or plastic garbage bag. Do not empty your skimming debris into the garden or on the lawn for the debris is likely to blow right back into the pool as soon as it dries out. There is no particular method to skim, but as you do, scrape the tile line, which acts as a magnet for small bits of leaves and dirt. The rubber-plastic edge gasket on the professional leaf rake will prevent scratching the tile.

If there is scum or general dirt on the water surface, squirt a quick shot of tile soap over the length of the pool. The soap will spread the scum toward the edges of the pool, making it more concentrated and easier to skim off.


Always do the tiles first. Dirt falls from the tiles as they are being cleaned and settles to the bottom of the pool. If you need to remove stubborn stains with a pumice stone, the pumice itself breaks down as you scrub, depositing debris on the bottom. Use the tile soap and tile brush to clean the tiles. Apply a squirt of tile soap directly to the brush and start scrubbing. To remove stubborn stains and oils, mix one part muriatic acid to five parts of soap. When cleaning tile, scrub below the waterline as well as above. Evaporation and refilling can change the water line. Never use really abrasive brushes or scouring pads to clean tiles they may cause scratches.

Water Level

If you add an inch or so of water to the pool each time you service it, you will probably keep up with normal evaporation. If you wait a few weeks until the level is several inches low, it will take hours to fill. Never leave the water on to fill by itself for it may take longer and most likely you may forget to turn it off. After rains you might need to lower the pool level. You can run the pool circulation system and turn the valves to waste Remember to return the valves to normal circulation when the pool water is at the desired level.

Equipment Check

Checking your equipment and maintaining your support system is best way to solve the small corrective problems. Start with the circulation system by following the path of the water. Clean out the pool's skimmer basket and Emptying the contents of the skimmer basket into your trash can or garbage bag. Next, open the pump strainer basket and clean it. Check the pressure of the filter. There is no point in checking it before cleaning out the skimmer and strainer baskets, because if they are full the filter pressure will be low and will come back up after cleaning the baskets. If the pressure is high, the filter might need cleaning.

Now check the heater for leaves or debris. Turn the heater on and off a few times to make sure it is operating properly. While the heater is running, turn the pump off. The heater should shut off by itself when the pressure from the pump drops. This is an important safety check.

Now check the time clock for the time of the day. Always check the clock because trippers come loose and power fluctuations or some service work on household items unrelated to the pool can also affect the clocks. Also, electromechanical time clocks are not exactly precision instruments. One might run slightly faster than another, so over a few weeks one might show a difference of an hour or more, upsetting your planned timing schedule.

After the equipment check, look for leaks or other early signs of equipment failure. Clean up the equipment area by removing leaves from around the motor vents and heater to prevent fires, and clear deck drains of debris that could prevent water from draining away from the equipment during rain.


If the pool is not dirty, simply brush the walls and bottom, skipping the vacuuming completely. If the pool or spa is dirty, however, you should use the pool vacuum.

Run the circulation system correctly and verify that all suction is concentrated at the skimmer port. Use your skimmer diverter for this process if dealing with a single port skimmer. If the system includes valves for diversion of suction between the main drain and the skimmer, close the main drain valve completely and turn the open skimmer valve completely. If there are two skimmers in the pool, close off one by covering the skimmer suction port with a tennis ball, there by increasing the suction in the other one. On large pools, you might have to vacuum each half separately.

Attach your vacuum head to the telepole and attach the vacuum hose to the vacuum head. Slowly feed the hose straight down into the pool; water will fill the hose and displace the air. When you have fed all the hose into the pool, there is water at the other end.

To avoid draining the water from the hose keep it at water level, slide the hose through the skimmer opening and into the skimmer. Attach the hose to the diverter (with two-port skimmers, insert the hose cuff into the skimmer's suction port). The hose and vacuum head now have suction. The suction port might be in the side of the pool below the skimmer in older pools. In this case you might need to put tennis ball over the skimmer suction port to increase the suction at the wall port. Make sure the hose does not contain a significant amount of air for if air reaches the pump, you will lose prime. If this occurs, remove the vacuum hose, re-prime the pump, and try again.

To Vacuum a pool or spa, work your way around the bottom and sides of the pool. If the pool is dirty, vacuum slowly to pick all of the dirt, for moving the vacuum head too quickly, will stir up the dirt rather than suck it into the vacuum. If the suction is strong it sucks the vacuum head to the pool surfaces, then you need to adjust the skimmer diverter or valves to reduce the flow. You might also need to lower the wheels on the vacuum head, raising the vacuum head itself. If the suction is weak, you might want to lower the vacuum head or you might need to move the head more slowly around the pool to vacuum it thoroughly.

If the pool is very dirty, the strainer basket or filter may be filled. When suction becomes weak, stop vacuuming and empty the strainer basket or clean the filter.

After removing the equipment from the pool, check the pump strainer basket and filter for any debris. Clean if needed. Replace the skimmer basket.

Brushing removes algae from surfaces of pools or spas. If they are not very dirty, you can skip vacuuming but brush the walls and bottom of the pool, starting from the shallow to the deep end, directing the dirt toward the main drain so it is sucked to the filter.

Water Testing and Application

Water testing kits are available at the local pool supply stores, and are inexpensive. Follow the general testing guidelines included in your pool water test kit, testing for chlorine residual, pH, total alkalinity, and acid (or base) demand on a weekly basis. Calcium hardness or total hardness and total dissolved solids should be conducted one a month. Many of the local pool supply stores also offer in store water testing. Simply collect a sample of your pool water in a clean glass or jar, and take it to the pool store for testing.

Pool Maintenance Companies

If you feel that keeping up a swimming pool may be more work than you are able or want to do, there are many companies throughout Charlotte and Sarasota counties that will perform these duties for you. As with any contractor you hire, do your homework and find the company that best suits your needs. If you are only planning to be a part time resident, it is highly advisable to have a pool service contract so that the pool is maintained while you're away, and ready for you to enjoy upon your return!