Close this search box.
Close this search box.

A Pool Owner’s Guide To Pool Water Cleaning And Maintenance

Helpful Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining Your Pool Water or Spa

Whether you live in a temperate climate zone with winters and summers, or a sunny suburb of California, your backyard oasis is a place for precious memories and relaxation. A clean swimming pool or spa is a healthy way to stay cool, hydrated and active when the mercury begins climbing.

But where do you begin?

If you want to enjoy your swimming pool more often and save money, this pool cleaning guide will show you exactly how to clean your swimming pool or spa safely and quickly. You’ll also save money by learning valuable tips for maintaining your pool so it stays clean longer.

Topics in this guide include:

  • Pool Water Cleaning
  • Pool Water Testing
  • Pool Water Treatment

Next: Best Automatic Pool Cleaner Reviews

Featured Image for A Pool Owner’s Guide To Pool Water Cleaning And Maintenance

How To Clean Your Pool Water In 6 Steps

Believe it or not, cleaning your swimming pool doesn’t require any special expertise, just a lot of attention to detail, time, and some familiarity with your pool system.

By cleaning your pool yourself, you’ll save money on hiring a professional service, and gain valuable knowledge to help maintain your pool for years of fun in the sun.

With that in mind, follow these seven basic steps for cleaning your swimming pool or spa.

Step 1. Empty the Skimmer Basket.
Leaves, small twigs, and other small debris trapped in the skimmer basket should be removed before you start vacuuming your pool or spa. If your backyard has a lot of shade, covering your pool and trimming overhanging branches can reduce the amount of debris to some extent.

Step 2. Assemble and connect your pool vacuum.

  • First, turn the return jet nozzles located along the pool sides downward to reduce surface ripples so you can see the bottom clearly.
  • Assemble the vacuum hose, if required. Next, connect the vacuum to the hose, then prop up the pole with the vacuum head suspended over the water.
  • Use one of the jet nozzles to fill the free hose end until water pours out the vacuum.
  • Once it reaches capacity, submerge the vacuum head, clamping one hand over the hose until you connect it to the skimmer.

Step 3: Vacuum
With a quality pool vacuum, much of the labor is eliminated. On average, it takes about thirty minutes for an automatic pool cleaner to clean the walls and flooring of your pool. You can remove any excess algae the vacuum doesn’t pick up with a nylon brush attached to the vacuum pole.

Step 4: Backwash the Pool Filter
If your pool has a DE filter, turn the filter valve to the ‘backwash’ position [1]. The filter will redirect the flow of any dirt particles or the remains of marine organisms into a filter bag. To replenish the DE filter, sprinkle it into the skimmer well.

It’s also a good idea to empty the filter bag once every two weeks, depending on your pool’s level of use, weather, and other factors.

Step 5: Clean The Pump Filter

  • Be sure to turn the system off before attempting to clean the filter by hand.
  • After you shut it off, close the skimmer valve located in front of the pump to hold the water in place. This way, your pool system won’t need repriming when it starts up again.
  • Next, unscrew the trap cover to remove the lint catcher.

Step 6: Chlorinate the Pool Water.
Assuming the water in your pool has been tested and properly balanced, chlorinating your pool is the final step to cleaning your pool. Some pools are equipped with a chlorinator, a tank positioned next to the filter. The chlorinator slowly introduces chlorine to the water in the form of slow dissolving sticks.

You’ll need to read the packaging instructions carefully to apply the right number of dissolving sticks. Afterwards, use a pool water test kit to ensure the chemicals are balanced.

Check out: Discover The Latest In Smart Home Water Technology

Image of a person holding a pool test strip and comparing the results with a pool water testing kit

Pool Water Testing

An important part of maintaining a healthy pool is regular pool water testing. Your pool requires certain chemicals to eliminate harmful bacteria and keep the acidity from reaching excessive levels. Before you can treat the water, however, you need to know which chemicals need adjusting, and how much is required to balance them.

A pool water test kit is an affordable way to analyze the chemical levels in your pool water before treating it. Equipped with submersible test strips, a color chart for identifying chemicals, along with sample containers and a reagent where required, a water test kit provides you with everything you need to test your pool on your own.

How A Water Test Kit Works
Using a water test kit is fairly straightforward, but requires careful handling. You should read the directions provided thoroughly before you begin, and check the expiration date to ensure your test strips are still effective.

The test strips in a pool water test kit are sealed to prevent contamination. They should be handled with care to avoid a faulty reading. Each strip is submersible, and quickly changes color within seconds. A color chart is usually included with the kit or test strips to help you identify the right chemical.

Some kits include tiny oz bottles of reagent. The reagent should be mixed in the appropriate dosage with the pool water in order to get the most accurate reading. These tests take longer to perform and require the right balance of water and reagent for accurate results.

Read: Best Pool Water Test Kit Reviews

Chemicals Used For Pool Water Treatment
While there are many pool water test kits that test for six, seven, and even more, there are really only 4 basic chemicals you need to test for regularly.

  1. pH: The pH level in your swimming pool refers to the acidity of the water. A pH between 7.2 – 7.6 is optimal. 7.4, however is ideal because it disinfects the chlorine without irritating your eyes or mucous membrane.
  2. Total Alkalinity: Base or acid demand tests can also be performed with a pH test sample to adjust the level of acid or base needed to reach optimum pH levels.
  3. Chlorine: Widely used in public swimming pools, chlorine in the right proportion is a safe disinfectant that effectively kills disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoans [2]. To maintain a healthy pool, keep the chlorine level between 1 – 3ppm.
  4. Calcium Hardness: Hard water, left untreated, can accelerate wear and tear on your pool’s filter system, metal pipes and fixtures. It can also leave your water looking cloudy, due to the presence of dissolved calcium.

If you regularly test for pH, you can minimize the hardness in your pool water. That being said, even the most carefully tended pool requires treatment for hardness at some point.

You can also test your pool or spa water for cyanuric acid levels, which is used as a chlorine stabilizer.

PPM Chart For Swimming Pools And Spas

Chemicalppm’s (parts per million)
Total Alkalinity80 – 120 ppm
pH7.2 – 7.8
Chlorine1.0 – 2.0 ppm
Calcium Hardness200 – 400 ppm
Cyanuric Acid (Chlorine Stabilizer)20 – 50 ppm
Total Dissolved Solids5000 ppm and below

Watch: How To Test Your Pool Water

Pool Water Treatment

Pool water chemistry isn’t the same as the chemicals in your tap water, but has the same effect of disinfecting the pool. The chemicals used in your pool must be balanced in order to maintain a healthy swimming environment that’s safe for you and your guests.

Sanitizers, oxidizers, chlorine, and water balancers must be applied regularly to keep your spa or pool water in optimum condition [3]. Available in tablet or powder form, these chemicals can be found through a pool supplier, some department stores and hardware chains.

Pool Sanitizers
Trichlor, dichlor, bromine, and cyanuric acid are the four main types of sanitizers used in pools and spas.

Use an oxidizer such as calcium hypochlorite or chlorine free shock to oxidize your pool quickly. The added oxygen kills algae and boosts chlorine levels.

Water Balancers
Acidity, or pH levels should be tested regularly. A water balancer restores the balance of pH and alkaline to prevent irritation to eyes and the mucous membrane. You can apply either a pH reducer or a pH booster, depending on the results of your pool water test.

Other ways to balance pH is by means of an alkalinity increaser, chlorine neutralizer or a calcium hardness increaser.

For heavy duty, deep cleaning, there are several other chemicals you can use to remove oil, stains, phosphates, flocculants, enzymes and other forms of harmful build-up.

Shock Treatment For Your Swimming Pool

A common method of treating the water in your pool is a shock treatment.

After heavy pool use, for instance, bathers can leave behind residue that dilutes the effects of the chlorine. Over time, chlorine molecules also combine to form chloramines, upsetting the pH balance of the water. Weather, heat, and the level of use can also require the need for regular shock treatment.

Why Shock Your Pool (PoolSpaGuru)

Shocking your pool balances the chemical levels in your pool water, while removing excess bather waste, bacteria, and visible forms of contamination like algae. If your pool or spa uses bromine, a shock treatment can also reactivate the bromide ions in the water.

With regular shock treatments, your pool water will stay fresh and clean for longer, allowing bathers to enjoy the pool longer. In fact, a routine shock treatment can solve and prevent the majority of pool problems.

For a healthy clean backyard swimming pool, test the pH and free available chlorine in the pool water and shock-treat, if necessary, on a weekly basis.

Watch: How To Shock Your Pool

Chemicals Used In Shock Treatment

Calcium Hypochlorite: Cal Hypo for short, is widely available and among the most economical pool shock treatments you can get. It is typically available in either 65% or 73% strength, pH level of 12, and is not stabilized.
Potassium Monopersulfate: Also known as non-chlorine shock, this chemical oxidizes pool water in a chlorine free formula that is not affected by sunlight, leaves no residue.
Sodium Dichlor: Sodium Dichlor, or dichlor, is stabilized pool shock combined with cyanuric acid for added protection against UV sunlight. It is available in 56% strength, with a nearly neutral pH level, and doesn’t increase calcium levels in your pool water.

When To Shock Your Spa Or Pool Water

Algae Removal: Use Chlorine to control, kill and clear algae of any kind from your pool or spa water. Adjust the pH level to 7.1-7.3 range for the best results.
Bacteria And Bather Waste Removal: A chlorine shock can effectively treat bather waste lingering in the water (urine, feces, hair, sweat, skin lotions, shampoo, cosmetics, etc)
Cloudy Water, Contaminants, And Chloramines: When chloramine levels become excessive, you can smell it and feel it as a stinging in your eyes. If the chloramine level exceeds 0.5 ppm, a shock treatment of chlorine can restore balance.

7 Signs You Need To Shock Your Swimming Pool

  • Algae growth
  • Cloudy water
  • Extreme heat wave
  • Foul odor from the pool or spa
  • Swimmers suffering with burning, red eyes
  • Too many swimmers at one time
  • After very heavy rainfall and windstorms

Key Tips For Shocking Your Pool Or Spa

  1. Never mix or dissolve different chemicals before use.
  2. Always read and follow the label instructions carefully.
  3. Evening is the best time to shock your pool or spa.
  4. Keep pH levels between 7.2 – 7.6
  5. Chlorine levels should be 1 – 4ppm (parts per million)


Use this guide to help you navigate the pitfalls of pool water cleaning, and save money on costly services. Refer to the instructions provided in your pool water test kit to guide you. An automatic pool cleaner will save you time and clean your pool in much less time than you could manually.

Keep your swimming pool healthy and clean for everyone. With routine care and maintenance, cleaning your pool water will get easier. The effort will certainly pay off, providing you with years of enjoyment.


[1] What Is A DE Pool Filter? (The Spruce)
[2] Disinfection With Chlorine (Center For Disease Control)
[3] How Swimming Pools Work (How Stuff Works)

Water Divider

Related Posts