Pool maintenance 101: your easy pool cleaning guide.


What’s alkalinity again? Too bad you slept through chemistry. Here’s what to keep an eye on as a pool owner, according to experts at Thumbtack. 

Pool care basics and maintenance tips. 

Tip #1: Understand the basics of your pool.

You can get an in-ground or above-ground swimming pool, depending on your style preferences, budget and space.

Above-ground pools are typically made with steel or aluminum, along with other materials, to make them structurally safe. Typical materials used for in-ground pools include concrete, plaster, vinyl and fiberglass.

Pools are filled with water that runs constantly through a filtration system to keep out debris and make sure the pool chemistry is safe. Your pool pump, PVC piping, drain, skimmer basket and other components all play a role in making sure your pool is a clean, healthy place for you and your family to relax, exercise and play. 

Tip #2: Check your pool chemistry and water level regularly.  

During peak swimming season, it’s ideal to check your pool water every two to three days to make sure that chlorine levels, calcium hardness, pH levels and other aspects of pool water are safe.

In addition to regular water testing, make sure your water level is high enough. A good rule of thumb is to set the water level halfway up the skimmer, so water and debris are effectively sucked into the skimmer basket and through the pool filtration system. 

Tip #3: Clean your pool on a weekly basis. 

And we don’t just mean skimming a pool pole across the top of the pool to catch leaves, insects, lint and other floating debris. An in-depth pool cleaning can mean brushing pool tile and steps (important if you have algae build-up), emptying your skimmer and pump baskets, and vacuuming the pool. You can manually vacuum the pool or get an automatic cleaner (it’s like a Roomba for your pool).

Make sure that all of the components of your filtration system are unclogged regularly, too. 

>>Hire a pro. Get free estimates from the best pool cleaners near you.

Tip #4: Keep your pool covered when you’re not using it (and during off-season).

Unless you want to waste money heating your pool or spend all of your time skimming leaves out of the water, put the pool cover on any time you’re not swimming.

Spray down your pool area regularly to keep twigs, dead insects and other debris away from the water, so they’re less likely to blow in.

And unless you live in a warm climate, you’ll need to consider closing your pool during the winter, which may involve draining it and making sure the pipes are ready to withstand the cold.  

young boy in swimming pool

The top mistakes pool owners make. 

Mistake #1: Handling chemicals unsafely (or using them wrong). 

True — it’s easy to get your own pool maintenance chemicals at a local pool store. And it seems cheaper. But unless you really know what you’re doing, you’re likely to waste time and supplies trying to rebalance your water.

Consult with a professional at least the first time you handle pool chemicals, especially if you’re a new pool owner, to make sure you’re following safe handling guidelines.

You also need to understand exactly how the levels should read in your test kit and how to safely rebalance the pool. For example, using the wrong amount of muriatic acid to adjust your pH levels could irritate swimmers and damage your pool.

>>Related content: How much does swimming pool repair cost?

Mistake #2: Forgetting to rebalance the pool after heavy use.

All those cannonballs mean that the water formerly known as your pool water is now all over your poolside tile. You can top off the pool from a garden hose, but you’ll dilute the water that’s already in there, meaning you’ll need to check absolutely everything about the pool chemistry again.

This is true even if you’re not hosting a ton of small humans wreaking havoc with backyard water sports. Body oils, cosmetic products and sunscreen that get into the pool can mess with your water chemistry — even if you’re just hanging out in the shallow end.

It’s a good reason to get clean before you swim (and maybe even invest in that outdoor shower you’ve been dreaming about). 

donut float in swimming pool

>>See pros near you. Hire a pool cleaner today.

How much does pool maintenance cost? 

A pool cleaner costs an average of $86 a month for weekly service. Most pool service companies offer either one-time or ongoing cleaning and maintenance options. In a one-time service, a professional will analyze the pool’s chemicals, determine an ongoing treatment plan, scrub tiles or other surface materials, remove debris and check the pool filter. 

Prices for a one-time cleaning vary based on the length of time since the last pool cleaning, the amount of debris or algae in the pool, whether special chemicals are needed and how much work is required of the pool technician.

You can get ongoing cleaning weekly, biweekly or monthly, and you’ll pay extra depending on whether you get a basic cleaning (adjusting chemical levels, cleaning filters and checking for leaks) or if you add extras like brushing, vacuum cleaning and emptying out traps and baskets. 

For more on costs, see “How much does a pool cleaner cost?

Who to hire to maintain your pool. 

Install the pool, keep it clean and fix a problem every once in a while. Find someone who knows how to read the meters and work the thingies:

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