Spring Time Swimming Pool Start-up Tips

A List of Pool Start-up Tasks

There's no universal guide to opening swimming pools . . . . and there never will be. There are too many different kinds of swimmnig pools, in different kinds of places, using different kinds of chemicals, and used by different kinds of swimmers.

It seems like each pool demands at least one thing different from all the rest. Still there are some tasks that are necessary, or at least a good idea, on almost all pools.

  1. Test your pool water, BEFORE you uncover your pool. Then, make sure you have the chemicals you'll need on hand.

  2. Make sure you've got all those little plugs that came out of the multiport valve, filter, and pump. Folks often lose one or two over the winter and then discover it's impossible to start up their pool without having all of them. Check first, and get what you need from your dealer, before you try to open the pool. (Want a possible place to keep them safe, next year? After removing them, put them ALL in the pump strainer basket, and then put the lid back on the pump.)

    Check your filter pressure gage. If you've allowed it to freeze, it won't read accurately. How do you check it? It's easy: just take a look, and see if it reads "0". Usually, if it is, it's OK. But, if the needle is pointing somewhere else, replace it.

  3. If you are converting from Baquacil, Softswim or another form of PHMB to chlorine, have replacement filter media on hand BEFORE you start, but don't use it, till AFTER the PHMB is gone. The conversion process is likely to further damage filter media that is already gummed up.

  4. Inventory the chemicals left over from last year, and plan to use them first. If you have chemicals you don't need, or can't use, try to give them to a friend who will use them. Failing that, if you are going do drain your pool, you may be able to add the chemicals to the pool before you drain. (Do NOT do this with copper algaecides, unless you want to be responsible for a fish kill!)

  5. When you open any stored chlorine chemicals for the first time, do so OUTSIDE, and stand UPWIND when you do! Stored chlorine chemicals often have some noxious chlorine based gases present: you won't enjoy getting a snoot full of these. (This also applies to old bromine tabs.)

  6. Try to avoid using a bunch of foamy algaecides or foamy tile line cleaners. These can create a chlorine demand in your pool that won't quit. This means you'll add chlorine, and add chlorine, and nothing will seem to happen. This is NOT A GOOD THING.

  7. Check your test kits. You need a reliable accurate one and NO teststrips, unless your goal is to help Biolab and LaPorte meet their corporate profit goals. If you don't know how to use them, sit at your kitchen table, and practice on your tap water, now. You can even call your local water company, and get fairly accurate reports on what readings you are likely to find. You can then compare your results, with the range they report.

  8. Unless you are using an ionizer, or a copper based system like Pristine Blue, your very first act on uncovering the pool should be to shock the heck out of it. If you've got a chlorinated pool, use cal hypo or bleach to shock; if you've got a PHMB pool, use peroxide. (Remember, the pump MUST BE RUNNING WHEN YOU ADD CHEMICALS.) (This does not mean, guys, that you should dump ALL that old chlorine in, without figuring out how big a dose that is. With liner pools in particular, NUKING the pool can also NUKE your liner. This, also, is NOT A GOOD THING.)

  9. Your next act should be to get the pH somewhere between 7.2 and 8.0, if it's not already there. If it's way off, do NOT try to fix it in one dose. Adjust gradually, but quickly, instead. Dose, circulate for 4 hours, retest, and re-dose as needed.

  10. 11. Do NOT try to adjust the pH, the alkalinity, and the calcium levels on the same day. Do pH, then calcium (if needed), then alkalinity. Trying to do it all at once is a recipe for cloudy water from precipitated calcium carbonate; do this, and you can end up with an underwater visibility of about 4 inches!

  11. If you've got a bunch of leaves in your pool, unless you are going to drain the pool, the best way to get them out is with a Leaf Master type device. It's still slow, but it's much better than vacuuming them, or using a leaf net. I'd recommend getting either the Rainbow or Jandy unit. There are some crummy knock-off's out there, that you want to avoid. There are some that are OK, too, but you won't be able to tell the difference till you get them home. The real deal is usually around $35 - $45, unless it's being sold as a "loss leader" which does happen.

  12. There are no magic wands for green slime pits.
    • Filtering, shocking, brushing, vacuuming . . . repeated again and again, will work in almost all cases. But, it's expensive and tedious.

    • Using the chloramine generating systems, such as Yellow OUT, Yellow Rid and other ammonia based products, to produce high levels of monochloramine may work. But this is a tricky method, and its success depends not just on WHAT chemicals you use, but also on HOW you use them. For example, iIf you don't get the pH right first, you can produce bunches of useless and obnoxious dichloramine, or even nitrogen trichloride.
      (Be careful not to confuse the AMMONIA based products with the BROMIDE based products, such as Yellow Treat and Yellow Free. They are sold for the same purpose, but are completely different in chemistry.)

    • Draining and refilling can be dangerous for. It can destroy liner pools, and "yes, Virginia", empty concrete pools really can float out of the ground. This is even more likely with fiberglass pools. But, done right, draining and refilling is usually the quickest solution. It can also allow access to the pool's surface, if there are stains that need to be removed.


As I've mentioned elsewhere, there is a treatment that is sometime -- but not always -- pretty close to a magic bullet for CHLORINE OR BROMINE POOLS ONLY: shocking with 50 - 100 ppm of hydrogen peroxide. I don't know why it works sometimes, and not others, but I've got a guess.

I suspect that if there's enough copper in the water to catalyse peroxide decomposition, and if the water is acid enough to allow the peroxide to be fairly active, it will work. I suspect sunlight may help, too. But, all this is a guess.

[ All you chemists and biochemists out there, if you've got a better idea about what's happening, I'd love to hear it. When this works, it works extremely well, and I'd sure like to be able to tell people how to get predictable results with this technique. Heck, I'll even take advice from you rocket scientists at JPL. ]

If you want to try, buy a DOUBLE start-up dose of peroxide for your pool from your nearest Baquacil or Softswim dealer, a SINGLE dose of copper algaecide, and a SINGLE dose of 60% polyquat algaecide.

Get your water circulating, and adjust the pH to 7.0 - 7.4, then add the copper. Wait 4 hours; then add the peroxide directly to the pools. (NOT through the skimmer). If it works at all, you should see very substantial results in 24 hours. Regardless, add the polyquat after 24 hours.

It's working for me about 2/3 of the time. The other times, it has no effect at all. Either way, wait 48 hours after adding the peroxide before you begin to chlorinate. Chlorine and peroxide destroy each other, so if any peroxide is left when you begin to chlorinate, you'll see bubbles of oxygen form in the water.

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