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