Common Pool Care Mistakes
Educating yourself on the most common pool maintenance mistakes helps you keep your pool safer, cleaner, and running efficiently with less mess and fr...
Who doesn’t love having a backyard pool? You can swim laps after work, watch the kids splash around or host a fancy poolside party. But there are also the not-so-fun times, when you get cloudy pool water, cracks in your vinyl or flowers from your neighbour’s Jacaranda tree.
That’s just part and parcel of pool ownership, right? You take the good with the bad. But staying on top of pool issues doesn’t have to be a chore. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pool owner, here is a list of 10 common pool issues and how to fix them.
It’s not unusual to get cloudy pool water from time to time. And while it may be concerning at first, there are three main causes for this problem: filter issues, chemical imbalances or environmental debris.
Before you do anything, check the condition of your pool filter. Is it old, damaged or clogged? If so, it won’t be able to filter your pool water properly, leaving you with murky water. Depending on your filter, try cleaning or backwashing it, and run your pump to clear the water. If the filter is damaged or long in the tooth, replace it with a new one.
For pool owners using sand or glass media, it may be time for a replacement. Media needs to be changed every few years, depending on whether it’s sand, glass or diatomaceous earth (DE), so make sure you include this in your pool schedule.
The next thing to check is your sanitiser levels. Chlorine can drop due to evaporation, heavy pool use or rain. This means that bacteria and algae can multiply – and fast – making your water less than clear. Check if your chlorine level is at 2-3ppm, if not, top up the sanitiser, shock your pool and test again. Run your pump to circulate the sanitiser, and the cloudiness should disappear in a day or two.
Another common cause of cloudiness can be high calcium hardness. Not only does it make your water cloudy, but it can also damage your filter and prevent it from working properly. To correct this, measure your calcium levels and add a calcium reducer. Like any chemical adjustments, keep testing until the level is right and your water runs clear again.
If your filter and chemical balance are fine, then you probably have too many leaves or organic debris in your pool. Things like pollen, dust, bird poo – even sunscreen – can cause cloudiness and affect visibility. To fix this, scrub the walls, use a skimmer or run your automatic cleaner. If you don’t have time, throw in a pool clarifier. This will help microparticles (which can often elude an automatic cleaner) clump together so your filter can remove them effectively.
There’s nothing like the word ‘algae’ to strike fear in the heart of every pool owner. Usually found floating on pool water, algae blooms are the result of low sanitation levels, poor filtration and chemical imbalances. This can happen over the cooler months or when you haven’t kept up a weekly pool maintenance schedule (shame on you!).
We don’t have to tell you that algae, whether it’s yellow, green or – perish the thought – black, makes your pool unsafe. In addition to making your pool dangerously slippery, it can also cause skin irritations, eye infections and an upset stomach if ingested.
If you notice these unwelcome blooms in your pool, act immediately. Shock your pool with chlorine and make sure the pump runs for at least 24 hours to disperse the shock and circulate the water. For those who have a salt-water chlorinator, add 2–4 bags of salt (depending on the size of your pool) and turn the chlorinator to 100 per cent to boost chlorination.
After this is done, clean up the dead algae with a brush or vacuum. And don’t forget to manually wash your cartridge or backwash your media filter to remove any spores. These can re-contaminate your pool and take you back to square one.
If the algae is particularly stubborn, shock it a second or third time, then let the filter circulate the water and remove any further particles. After doing this, add a pool algaecide. Please note we don’t recommend using an algaecide on its own. This can be expensive and not entirely successful. Instead, use algaecide as a preventative measure after shocking your pool or closing it down for winter, particularly if it’s prone to this dreaded bloom.
There are a few different reasons why you can get stains on the floor or wall of your swimming pool. If they’re brown, there could be metals in your water supply, such as manganese or iron. Brush the stains as soon as they appear and adjust your pH and alkalinity. This will keep metal levels down and prevent future discolouration. If the stains have been there for a while or they’re particularly stubborn, use a metal stain remover.
For stains that are organic, like algae, leaves, berries and insects, use a brush to remove them, either with or without a splash of chlorine. If the stains are widespread, shock your pool, brush the stains, then let the water circulate for a minimum of eight hours. For a more detailed guide, see How to Remove Pool Stains.
When your pool looks more like a bubble bath than a placid pond, it usually means you’ve got a chemical imbalance. One reason could be your algaecide. If there’s no algae to kill in your pool water, the chemicals in the algaecide can create a bit of foam. Wait for it to subside or choose a non-foaming brand.
The other culprits are products like skin cream, soap, hair conditioner or make-up. These can be introduced by swimmers and lead to frothing and bubbling when the water is agitated. The best way to clear it is to shock your pool and bring everything into balance again. As a preventative measure, ask swimmers to have a quick shower before diving into the pool.
This is a sure-fire sign that the chemicals in your pool are unbalanced. Chlorine levels that are either too high or too low can irritate your eyes and skin. In addition, low pH can make the water acidic and corrosive, while high pH can promote the growth of bacteria and algae – neither of which are good for your pool or your skin. To fix this, check the chemical balance in your pool and adjust it until you reach the recommended levels.
If swimmers are still feeling irritation, they may have chloramine sensitivity. To make the water more comfortable for them, consider switching to a mineral pool. Not only can these make the water softer, but they’re also easier to maintain than a traditional chlorine pool.
Have you noticed sandpaper-like deposits in or around your pool? If so, you’ve got scaling. This can happen when there’s too much calcium in your pool water. Over time, high calcium hardness can corrode the shell of your pool, block pipes and damage the filter. What’s more, the scaling can have sharp edges that tear your skin when you get in and out of the pool. Ouch!
To remedy this problem, check your calcium hardness levels. If they’re over 400 ppm, use a flocculent to bind the particles together so they can be vacuumed out of the pool. Afterwards, add water or use Calcium Down until they’re balanced again.
But what do you do about the scale that’s already there? Well, you’ve got a couple of options. The first is a calcium or metal remover. The type you use will depend on the surface of the pool, so ask for recommendations from your pool shop and follow the product’s instructions.
Results will depend on whether the deposits are calcium carbonate (white) or calcium silicate (grey). The first is easy to remove, while the second can be particularly stubborn. Either way, you’ll need to do some scrubbing. If you’re not happy with the results or the scaling is too far gone, you may need to drain your pool and get the surface acid washed.
When you use a chlorine sanitiser, your water should smell of chlorine, right? Wrong. If your pool has a strong chlorine odour, it means that you don’t have enough chlorine. Let me explain. Chlorine is usually odourless, but if you combine it with ammonia and nitrogen – usually found in body oils, skin products and urine – you get chloramines. These turn into gases and produce an overpowering smell. To make matters worse, your chlorine levels can drop and stop sanitising your pool.
The best way to remedy this is to shock your pool. This will get the chlorine levels back to where they should be. As a preventative measure, do what we recommend for a foaming pool: ask swimmers to avoid skin products or have a shower beforehand. If you’ve got small kids, encourage them to take frequent toilet breaks so they don’t ‘accidentally’ go in the pool. Lastly, test your water regularly to make sure you’ve got enough sanitiser circulating in the water.
If the level of your pool water is going down (and it’s not due to normal evaporation), then you might have a pool leak. There are a few reasons why this might happen. For example, if you find traces of water or puddles outside the pool, you may have a plumbing issue. Examine your equipment and make sure there aren’t any loose fittings or cracked pipes. If you’re unsure, get the equipment checked by a qualified plumber. Another common cause of leaks is gaps around your lighting fixtures. This can happen when the conduit pipe separates from the niche, allowing pool water to leak out. To address this issue, fill the gaps with silicone, pool putty or caulk.
If you’ve got a concrete pool, you may get cracks as a result of structural issues, earth movement or poor installation. If they’re large, speak to your installer or call a pool professional for advice. However, if you’ve got tiny cracks, also known as crazing, don’t panic. Crazing is caused by the natural expansion and contraction of the cement. These fractures don’t usually leak, but keep an eye on them in case they widen and become an issue.
Your filter is responsible for removing debris, bacteria and other impurities from your pool. If your filter only runs for a short time or you’ve got murky water, chances are you’ve got a clogged filter.
How you fix this depends on the type of filter you have. Cartridge filters are the easiest to clean. You just open the filter lid, pull out the cartridge and hose it down. If you want to give it a more thorough clean, soak it overnight in a filter cleaner. For media filters, use the backwash setting to get the water to flow in the opposite direction to remove any gunk or leaves caught inside. If you find that the water is still dirty after backwashing for a few minutes, then you may need to replace your media.
The best way to prevent clogged filters is to clean your pool regularly, either with a manual or automatic vacuum. Even better, get a robotic cleaner! They’re self-powered and pick up fine debris and bacteria. They also put less pressure on your filter (unlike traditional automatic cleaners, which are actually powered by your filtration system) and minimise hosing or backwashing. Lastly, don’t forget to replace your filters at the recommended time (about every 2–3 for cartridge filters and every 5–7 for media filters). Slot this in your pool diary so you don’t forget!
The most common reason for wrinkles is chemical imbalance. Check your chlorine, pH and calcium hardness levels. Any fluctuations outside the normal range could make the water harsh and lead to fading or wrinkling. Adjust your levels and make sure they stay balanced. Other reasons for wrinkling could be poor drainage around your pool or letting water levels drop during winter. To minimise this, make sure you correct any landscaping problems and winterise your pool properly.
If you’ve got unsightly wrinkles you want to remove now, try some of these helpful tips from Swim University. If all else fails, you may need to replace the liner. If you do, make sure you follow the steps above to prevent them from occurring again.
Whether you’ve got algae blooms, cloudy pool water or calcium scale, it’s easy to panic when things go wrong with your pool. But the key to great pool care is to identify these problems quickly, implement the right solution and prevent them from happening again (or at least minimise their occurrence). You can do this by keeping your water balanced, cleaning and replacing your filter, removing debris regularly, using a pool cover, keeping skin products out of your pool and sticking to a weekly maintenance schedule. By following these simple rules you’ll spend less time fretting and more time swimming! For more pool care advice, dip your toe in our Pool and Spa Guides or contact one of our authorised dealers.