Readying your swimming pool for summer

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Readying your swimming pool for summer

After months of cold weather, spring is finally upon us, so we are turning our thoughts away from hearty meals, fireside warmth and snug bedding to swimming costumes, cold meats and salads, or better still, a poolside braai.  We know that we followed all the steps needed to help our pool make it safely through winter, now all we have to do is follow the top tips given by experts to ready it for that first delightful plunge into the welcoming refreshing water that we have been looking forward to for so long.

While you may be sorely tempted to do so, DO NOT EMPTY YOUR POOL unless you have no other choice, such as if you need to do structural work or you neglected to cover it during its winter inactivity and there are too many leaves or other debris at the bottom to remove easily.

These are the top tips to get your pool summer-ready as recommended by swimming pool experts the world over:
  1. Give the pool a good clean up
  2. Check your technical installation
  3. Top it up
  4. Test your water
  5. Balance the chemicals
  6. Housekeeping and maintenance
After a long winter without any use under the cover, neither the swimming pool nor the water will be in good enough shape to use immediately.  Start off by removing any leaves and other floating material with your scoop net.  Remove the smaller particles with a manual vacuum cleaner or your automatic pool cleaner.  A thorough cleaning comes next, making use of the various specialised cleaning materials available at your pool shop.
Now that your pool is clean, your work has just begun.  Start with a thorough backwash of the swimming pool water filter.  Let the pool stand for about a day.  Then filter for at least 12 hours a day until it is sparkling clean. Once you are happy with the filtered water, get into the habit of backwashing the pool at least once a week to prevent the filtration system from becoming completely blocked.
If the water level has fallen over the winter, top it up.  Make sure to clean the filtration system before you turn it on.  Clean a cartridge filter by removing the cartridge and washing it down with a hose or, better still, replace it with a new one.  If you have a diatomaceous earth system, it is recommended that it be taken apart, every item scrupulously cleaned and then reassembled.  If you have a sand filter, backwash the filtration system a couple of times, then turn it to its normal setting.  A top tip here is to replace the sand in your sand filter every two or three years.
Now is the time to have the water professionally tested.  Take a water sample in a sterilised container to your nearby swimming pool store and they’ll test the water for you, a service the store usually does free of charge.  They’ll do a complete test of the mineral content of the water, its total alkalinity, pH and chlorine levels and will tell you which of these need to be adjusted and by how much.  The store will have the necessary chemicals in stock should you need to buy any.
Swimming pool water that looks healthy may not actually be!  It’s vitally important that you pay close attention to your water quality checks. Using a recommended water testing kit, check the pH value.  A value just above neutral, of between 7.2 and 7.6 is ideal.  If the value is above or below these values, you will need to dose the water with pH Plus (soda ash) or pH Minus (sodium bisulphate).  Follow this by testing the chlorine level.  It should be between 1 part per million and 3 parts per million to prevent algae growth.
Your water source is also important.  If the water you put in your pool is too “soft” the more calcium it will absorb from its environment (like leaching the grout in the tiling) so use calcium chloride to adjust the water’s hardness.
But, as much as you would like to, do not dive in just yet.  The filter has to be cleaned every day for about a week until the water is clear.  You may even have to give it a once-off “shock treatment” and thereafter add chlorine to keep it at the right level.  Only when the water is clear and you can clearly see the pool floor and the pH and chlorine levels are stable, is it ready for use.  For the remainder of the swimming season, keep the filter clean, vacuum the pool each week if you do not have an automatic pool cleaner, test the chemical levels daily (preferably at the same time each day) and once a month pay a visit to your friendly local pool store and have your water tested by these experts.

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