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Pool Cleaning 101: Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning Your Pool

How complicated is pool cleaning? Not that much. Is it just giving your pool a scrub and vacuuming from time to time? Well, it’s not that, either. It takes a bit of learning and it’s much faster with some special equipment, but with just a bit of guidance, you’ll be able to maintain sanitary and crystal-clear water in your pool.

This is precisely why we wrote this article - you will learn everything you need to know about cleaning you’re pool, from the equipment that can help you to the chemicals you need to how to maintain the cleanliness of the water long-term. So let’s get started.

Equipment for Pool Cleaning

An image of basic pool cleaning equipment - a pool vacuum.

The first step to properly cleaning your pool is to remove any dirt, debris, and other types of build-up. You should do this about once a week if you wish your water to be squeaky clean all the time. Mechanical cleaning includes two steps:

  1. Cleaning the bottom and sides
  2. Cleaning the surface of the water

Scrubbing and Vacuuming the Bottom and Sides

When it comes to scrubbing, of course, you can manually scrub the side tiles and floor of your pool. However, if you’ve owned a pool for any amount of time, you know how tedious this gets. That’s why most people get automated pool cleaning equipment, like pool cleaners and vacuums.  

Pool cleaners can be broadly categorised into 3 types:

  • Suction-Side Pool Cleaners: These cleaners use the suction created by your pool's circulation system to move around and collect debris. Suction-side cleaners usually have a dedicated suction port (or are connected to the skimmer) and they move randomly around the pool, vacuuming up dirt and debris. However, many suction-side cleaners don’t have built-in scrubbing brushes. Even those that do typically don’t provide the same level of scrubbing as other types of pool cleaners as they do not clean the walls of your pool and this will need to be done manually.
  • Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners: These cleaners use water pressure generated by your pool pump to move around the pool. They are connected to the return side of the pool's circulation system. Pressure-side cleaners often have a debris bag or filter where they collect and store the dirt and debris they pick up. You may even find high-end models with their own booster pumps to increase pressure. Unlike suction-side cleaners, many pressure-side cleaners have built-in scrubbing brushes or wheels that make contact with the pool surfaces. These brushes help loosen and remove dirt, algae, and other debris from the pool floor as the cleaner moves but will still mean you need to manually clean the walls of the pool.
  • Robotic Pool Cleaners: Robotic pool cleaners are a great choice because they take away most manual cleaning processes, including wall brushing. This helps to keep algae spores at bay. Robotic pool cleaners are independent units that operate on electricity. They do not rely on the pool's circulation system for power but have their own built-in motors and filters. They move around the pool in a programmed pattern, scrubbing and vacuuming debris. Robotic cleaners are the most advanced pool cleaners - they are known for their efficiency and often have advanced features, such as programmable cleaning cycles and remote control. If your goal is to spend as little time as possible cleaning your pool, then the best pool vacuum for you is a robotic one.

Speaking in general terms, if you were to get a suction-side cleaner, you would likely need to manually do the scrubbing; if you were to get a pressure-side cleaner, you’d need to scrub from time to time to remove stubborn stains; and if you were to get a robotic pool cleaner, you’d have to scrub very rarely. When it comes to vacuuming and collecting debris, all three types are more-or-less equal and their efficiency will vary from model to model.

Collecting Debris from the Surface of the Water

When it comes to cleaning the debris from the surface of the water, you can also do it manually by using a net or something similar to remove large chunks, like leaves or insects. However, if you wish to clean the surface automatically, you should use a skimmer.

A skimmer box is typically built into the pool wall to take advantage of the natural flow of water towards the skimmer. The skimmer has a floating door (called a weir) at the top that moves up and down with the water level. When leaves, bugs, or other stuff float on the water, the weir guides a bit of water and all that stuff into the skimmer.

Inside, there's a basket that catches everything. The skimmer is connected to pipes that lead to the pool pump. The pump takes the water and sends it through a filter to clean it. In essence, the skimmer helps keep the pool surface clean by grabbing debris before it sinks to the bottom.

If all debris went to the pump and filter directly, they might get clogged. The skimmer helps avoid this problem. And a skimmer requires minimal maintenance - every now and then, you need to open the skimmer box, take out the basket, and clean it as too many leaves in the skimmer basket can put unnecessary strain on your pool pump. 

Using Flocculants and Clarifiers to Help with Pool Cleaning

There’s another thing that helps with debris - pool flocculants and clarifiers. These water treatment chemicals clump together tiny particles, making them easier to clean, although they function slightly differently.

Flocculants join small particles into large clumps (called flocs) which are easily visible and fall to the bottom of the pool where they are easily vacuumed. Clarifiers also clump tiny particles together, but not as much as flocculants; the point of clarifiers is to clump the particles enough so that your filtration system can easily trap them.

It is important to note that flocculant use is not advisable unless you are using a media filter. After you use a flocculant, the debris particles need to be vacuumed away. Unless your cartridge filter has this option (most do not) or unless you are using a battery-operated vacuum like the BWT PK Turbo Cordless Rechargeable Pool Vacuum, then flocculant should not be used.

They are also used differently: when you add flocculants, you should turn off the pump to allow the flocs to settle at the bottom; conversely, you should leave the pump on after you add clarifiers to allow the circulation to filter out the coagulated particles.

Sanitising Your Water with Pool Chemicals

Until now, we talked about mechanical pool cleaning, but you’ll still need to use pool chemicals to eliminate bacteria and algae and maintain high water quality. When it comes to pool chemicals, there are three types:

  • Algaecides: Algaecides are used to prevent, control, or eliminate algae growth. That means that you can use algaecides even when you don’t have (or don’t know you have) algae in your pool, or use it to kill existing algae blooms. When it comes to preventative use of algaecides, it should typically be done weekly during the swimming season. 

If you have algae blooming in your pool, then the number and severity of treatments will depend on how resistant they are. While most algaecides are universal, you can have many types of algae in pools and some products are more or less effective depending on the type you have.

  • Sanitisers and Shocks: Pool sanitisers are chemicals designed to kill and prevent the growth of bacteria and viruses (and also algae, but they are typically not as effective at it as algaecides). In short, their purpose is to kill off any harmful pathogens and make your water safe to swim in. The most common pool sanitiser is chlorine but there are other types such as salt chlorinators that don’t require adding chlorine tablets or liquids to the pool but generate chlorine from salt. 

Some people prefer salt-chlorinated pools because they are less likely to cause eye or skin irritation. Shocks are similar to regular sanitisers - only more potent. You use them when you want to give your pool a shock treatment and quickly deal with any contaminants. However, you should wait longer before swimming after you’ve given your pool a shock treatment than you would with a regular sanitiser.

  • Pool Balancers: Pool balancers are used to maintain a, well, balanced water chemistry. pH and alkalinity balancers regulate acidity and alkalinity to prevent skin or eye irritation and prevent the corrosion of your equipment. Calcium hardness balancers primarily prevent equipment damage. These chemicals ensure optimal pool conditions and enhance your water quality. keep your pool water balanced by the use of buffer andacid-alkalinity increasers and decreasers. A balanced pool also keeps algae in check and helps your sanitiser to work efficiently.

Testing Your Water

Regular pool water testing is the best way to maintain a safe and comfortable swimming environment. Testing allows you to monitor chemical levels, such as pH, chlorine, and alkalinity to ensure they fall within recommended ranges. How often you should test your water will depend on how often you use your pool, the weather conditions, and which types of chemicals you use. In general, testing your water 1 - 2 per month should be enough in the cooler months but in summer, you should test your water weekly.

However, while these tests provide crucial information about the overall water balance, they do not directly detect algae and bacteria. So, it’s always good to do visual inspections of your pool and look for cloudy or discoloured water and slippery or slimy surfaces that indicate the presence of algae.

Additional Pool Maintenance: Plumbing and Cartridges/Filters

An image of a running pool pump with filters.

Finally, while removing debris from your pool and sanitising the water is the basis of good pool cleaning, you should also take care to clean your plumbing and cartridges; they can be the source of unsanitary water, so it won’t help no matter how many times you clean the pool itself. 

For sand filters, backwash the system, reversing water flow to flush out impurities. For cartridge filters, soak the element in a filter cleaner solution and rinse thoroughly. Clean or replace O-rings and gaskets, then reassemble the filter. Finally, restart the pump and check for proper water flow. Performing regular maintenance will ensure optimal filtration and water quality in your pool. 

Where Can You Find Everything You Need for Pool Cleaning?

By now, it may seem like getting everything you need for pool cleaning is overly burdensome and it may be simpler just to pay someone to do it for you. Far from it! You can order all you need at Direct Pool Supplies! You can get all types of pool cleaning chemicals, cleaners and skimmers, filters, and even replacement parts if you need to fix up your pool.

We are Australia’s #1 distributor of all things pool-related, only carry the most trusted brands, and ship items Australia-wide. So don’t fret, simply order what you need, and have fun in your clean and clear pool water!

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