Kiddie Pool Care - Guide to Kiddie Swimming Pool Care

Home kiddie pools -- swimming pools less than three feet in depth with missing or minimal filtration -- are the real 'orphans' of the swimming pool world.

Almost no information and no support products are commonly provided to these pool users. The strategy seems to be, "Sell the pool, get them out the door, and move on to the next customer".

From a retailer's point of view this makes sense: kiddie pools aren't profitable enough to support real customer service. Unfortunately, this lack of service has lead to the very dangerous assumption that small swimming pools don't need regular pool care.

This is not correct! The reality is that the smaller and warmer the body of water, the more likely disease transmission becomes.

Untreated kiddie pools put your child's health at risk!

The purpose of this guide is to help parents to keep their kiddie pools safe, easily and inexpensively. Please note that the guidelines below represent ONE good way to do this; NOT the only way.

It's my hope that these pages will help kiddie swimming pool owners. Kiddie pools can be great back yard entertainment -- inexpensive, easy, and fun. I've tried to include accurate and appropriate information that will help you care for your pool simply and inexpensively.

But . . . none of it will help unless you take your pool seriously.

What's a Kiddie Pool? (top)

There's no standard definition, but the information here applies to pools that:

What's the Problem with Kiddie Pools? (top)

Improperly managed kiddie pools expose your children to four types of risks:

  1. Improper pool chemical levels, leading to irritation or (rarely) injury.
  2. Improper sanitation, allowing the growth of germs in the pool, resulting in
    disease transmission.
  3. Improper sanitation, allowing person-to-person disease transmission.
  4. Improper supervision of the children, resulting in drowning.

Chemical hazards

Improper chemical levels caused by overdosing with pool chemicals, if they occur, commonly lead to non-serious rashes, eye burns, red and itchy skin, and the like. But, more serious problems are possible. Kiddie pools require tiny doses. You must learn to use the RIGHT dose!

Pool-to-person infections

What most people seem to think of, when they think of infection dangers from pools are pool-to-person infections. These do occur, but mostly involve include non-life-threatening problems, such as ear and skin infections caused by Psuedomonas aeruginosa and other common organisms. Serious infections are possible, but they seem to be uncommon.

Person-to-person infections are another matter! 

A multitude of minor to moderate infections can, and almost certainly do, result from improperly sanitized swimming pools. These infections lead to colds, pink eye, bronchitis, gut problems (nausea and diarrhea) and more. Much more serious infections, including giardiasis, cryptosporidiasis, and dangerous infections from hemolytic strains of E. Coli can result from fecal contamination (poop!) of kiddie pools.

There's not much medical information about the frequency of kiddie pool related injuries and infections. The nature of medical reporting makes it unlikely that such problems would be reported when they occur. But, the nature of kiddie pools makes it likely that both minor and major infections commonly begin in them.


Finally, you must remember that your child can drown in even a few inches of water. According to some sources, a small child can become unconscious and stop breathing after as little as 15 second submersion -- and only their face has to be submerged, for this to happen. If you haven never worked as a lifeguard, you may not realize how very quickly young children can get into trouble in a pool. You MUST be alert.

As your child's parent or caregiver, it's YOUR responsibility to make sure that the kiddie pool your child enters is safe.

What You Need to Buy! (top)

Six items are necessary to do a good job maintaining your kiddie pool chemistry:

What You Need to Do! (top)


  1. Buy your supplies (see above)
  2. Fill the pool.
  3. Measure the diameter (the distance across the middle of the pool), OR the length and width of your pool. Write down your measurements.

  4. Measure the depth at the water line (NOT at the top edge of the pool). Write down your measurements.
  5. Use the calculation form to figure gallons AND doses. Be sure to test, after you dose!
  6. Add the start up bleach dose, and the borax. Wait 1 hour, then test. The chlorine level should be 3.0 or higher, and the pH should be 7.4 or higher. If not, repeat the doses.
  7. Add the algaecide dose.
    You might be tempted to omit the algaecide. Don't do so! This particular product is nearly non-toxic to humans, unlike many other algaecides, but provides significant 'backup' sanitation if the chlorine gets low. It' particularly effective, in combination with chlorine, at controlling some bacteria that cause ear infections, and that are rather chlorine resistant.
  8. Test the pool BEFORE each use. If the chlorine is below 2.0, add one dose of the dichlor granular chlorine product. Mix, and wait 10 minutes before entry.
  9. If you do not have a pump and filter, DRAIN the pool weekly! If you don't care about your children's health, you don't have to bother with draining.

When Things Go Wrong! (top)

A variety of problems can occur. Here's how to deal with them.

Poop in the pool
If you don't have a filter and pump, drain the pool, and refill. Don't mess around with poop: urine is normally sterile, and may be gross, but is not really a health hazard. Feces can be dangerous, especially if diarrhea is involved. Chlorine does NOT instantly clean things up. Without a pump and filter, it can take days to assure safety.

If you DO have a filter and pump, you have two choices: you can drain and refill OR you can clean it up. If you choose to clean it up, you'll need to add a a bleach start-up dose as soon as you find, and remove, the poop, and again the following morning. Brush, vacuum, and filter, and then backwash or clean the filter. Make sure the chlorine levels stay high (3.0+) the entire 24 hours, before reusing the pool.

By the way, the kiddie swim diapers do NOTHING to make the pool safer! Kimberly-Clark's marketing of these items skirts the issue, but never actually makes any claim of improved safety. The ONLY garment that offers some protection to other pool users, is some type of waterproof pants over the diaper.

But, quite honestly, fecally incontinent individuals -- of any age, sex, mental capability, etc. -- should not be sharing a pool with other people.

Cloudy Water
With larger pools, there are many possible responses to cloudy water, but with smaller ones, the easiest response is to drain the pool, and refill.

You can try adding a bleach start-up dose in the late evening, and then keeping chlorine levels up with the dichlor powder (which you should be doing, anyhow) for the next day or two, to see if it clears. If so, great. If not, drain and refill.

Problems with Skin/Eye/Ear Irritation
Most cases of irritation are a result of a failure to use pool chemicals properly. To avoid problems you must:
  • use enough, AND
  • not use too much, AND
  • be consistent.
If you haven't been doing these things, START NOW!

Overdoses of Chemicals!
Some people -- often indivduals, like myself, of the male persuasion -- find it impossible to abandon the "MORE is BETTER, and a LOT MORE is BEST" philosophy, and will 'nuke' the pool. Kiddie pools are especially easy to 'nuke', since the doses are so small to begin with.

If you, or someone you know and love, has 'nuked' your kiddie pool, drain and refill.

Or, if you are following the chemical prescription above, you can possibily salvage the pool:
  • massive overdoses of borax require that the pool be drained;
  • chlorine overdoses will generally dissipate after a day or two of full sunshine;
  • poly algaecide doses are not a problem, unless you overdosed by a factor of 10x or more.

Algae, Slippery Sides, Green Cloudy Water
Algae and biofilm forming bacteria (slippery sides) can cause health problems, both directly and indirectly. If you follow the program recommended above faithfully, it's VERY unlikely you'll have problems. If you let the pool go for a few days, however, you can definitly have problems.

Respond by killing the culprits by brushing and treating with chlorine.
  • Add a bleach start-up dose.
  • Then, brush the pool.
  • Add ANOTHER bleach start-up dose in the late evening.
  • Brush again the next morning.
  • If there are any green or slippery spots, add another chlorine dose.
  • Wait till the chlorine levels drop below 3 ppm (or 10ppm -- if you have a kit that accurately distinguishes 10ppm from 15 ppm) before re-entering the pool.


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