Ok, so I admit it. I hate taking care of a swimming pool. But I hate my mother paying a pool service even more and so I begrudgingly take care of hers. People who don’t own pools see them as glamorous icons of luxury. Those who have owned them, usually see them as open holes in the ground that suck money in more ways than they care to think about. Maybe I am a little grouchy at pool opening time, because this is when the most work is involved and the least fun to have one. The water is too cold; and too green. Removing, folding and storing the cover for the summer months doesn’t make for pleasant thoughts either.
There are no children to be found splashing and having fun in the pool this time of year. Instead you have a green mess, and a pile of leaves that have somehow defied the laws of physics and pool cover marketing hype to take residence in the most inaccessible part of your pool where your skimmer pole has a tendency to separate into two sections and add to the collection in the diving well.
So where did I begin? I checked for ph balance first.(Editorial disclosure, I really go the pool store first and buy 48 pounds of baking soda, two bottles flocculent, 40 pounds of 3 inch chlorine tablets/with stabilizer added, and a large bucket of granulated chlorine and various combinations of shock therapy for the pool. I have been doing this for longer than I care to remember, so the routine repeats itself every year.) I added 24 pounds of baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate is the same thing and cheaper if you can find it in bulk quantity. There are plenty of instructions on how to adjust ph and how much soda to add to achieve a neutral ph of 7. Below 7, the water is acidic and above 7, the water has become basic.
Once I have established a ph of 7, I shock the pool with granular chlorine in a serious way. This year the pool had attained a shade of green deeper than forest green, a black green maybe and I knew there was to be no adding one pound for every 10,000 gallons and expect results. So I added three pounds per 10,000 and I knew the chlorine was working because the green instantly began to become a lighter shade of green and the water became cloudy, almost a milk like color within two hours. I then added algaecide specifically for green algae. You can tell when a pool has been treated with algaecide; the water begins to have bubbles and foam on its surface. This is not pretty foam this time of year, think of brown foam with bits and pieces of leaves and sticks enmeshed in it. It reminds me of brackish water in the back bays of the Mobile Delta, waters only a marine biologist could love.
If all goes as planned, tomorrow evening I will have achieved my goal of zero life forms in the water. If this initial treatment works, then I can add the flocculent to the water, circulate it for three hours and then turn the pumps off until the next evening. The flocculent coagulates the solid materials suspended in the water and they sink to the bottom. It is always fun to see what goodies have gotten underneath the cover during the past six months. The flocculent clears the water and this is when you can see how many leaves you will be trying to scoop out before vacuuming. Notice how I said before vacuuming. Leaves will clog up your hoses, your pipes and your filter baskets if you try and suck them out. One or two leaves on the bottom and you can skip this step, but any piles of leaves must be dealt with in the old fashioned way. As I write this, the Polaris cleaner is valiantly trying to put a dent in the leaf collection in the deep end. But usually, make that every year, I have still had to scoop leaves up using the net on the skimmer pole before vacuuming the silt out.
Once you have the leaf situation addressed, then you can use your vacuum to remove the solids from the bottom and sides of the pool. Do not, and I emphatically emphasize this point try and filter the solids through your filter system. Waste this water by moving your valve to the waste setting. These solids will clog your filter up in ways you can’t imagine. Once you have finished this initial vacuuming session, don’t be surprised if you must repeat the process. And just remember in a few weeks the water will be warm enough to swim in without endangering your ability to reproduce more baby pool cleaners to take over this time honored tradition.