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Help! My Swimming Pool Won’t Stay Clean!

We recently received the following question from one of our readers, Yolanda, expressing some family frustration over a summer full of cleaning rather than swimming in their swimming pool. Yolanda’s inquiry brings up a serious and not uncommon issue with pools…

“I purchased a home last year and found out that the pool was extremely dirty and the pump did not work. Because it was late in the summer, we did not worry about tackling the problem then, but put it off until this year.

We purchased a new sand filter, hundreds of dollars in chemicals and an automatic pool cleaner guaranteed to clean the pool no matter how dirty. It did a pretty good job, I must say. However, this process was started in early April with the thought that we would have it together by the time it was warm. Months and hundreds more later, we still have not swam.

I was told by friends and the workers of a local pool supply store that draining the pool was unnecessary, one excuse being that we still drink the water that was here at the beginning of the world.

I would like to desperately know if this is true, so that if the solution is to drain, we could do it and possibly solve the pool dilemma this year. We have come close, but green algae loves to keep returning and the water is never crystal clear.

Can you help? It’s about 42’ deep. 22 ft. wide.”

After pressing Yolanda for a little more information, I confirmed that the pool is vinyl-lined and above-ground, and that they’d tried everything from algaecide to shock to alkalinity increaser to good old-fashioned chlorine in their attempts to make it swimmable.

Some typical advice given to pool owners wrestling with such problems would be to drain and acid-wash the pool, but this is only possible for plaster (concrete) lined pools. Vinyl cannot hold up to the acid, hence all the other avenues Yolanda and her family have already tried.

As for draining a vinyl pool, this can get tricky, and it’s understandable why friends and pool store employees would steer you away from this option. In a vinyl-lined pool, the water plays its own part in holding everything together. And when a vinyl pool is drained, a vacuum must be used during refilling to ensure that the liner stays locked in place—a liner which may have to be stretched and manipulated back into track. So not only are we drinking the water still here from the world’s beginning, but refilling a vinyl pool can be quite a hassle.

Sometimes, however, a vinyl pool may be partially drained and then refilled, which itself can have a powerful effect on the cleanliness of the water.

Step #1—Pump and Filter

Yet for the mystery at hand, it seems cleaning the water is not the problem. The problem is keeping it clean. As Mike Mykietyn of PoolCenter.com explains, “Chemicals are an aid in the clarity [of pool water], but there has to be a strong filter system to clear and maintain it.” Which brings us to the likeliest problem with Yolanda’s pool setup—the equipment.

Again, chemicals can clear the water, but only an accurately-sized, strong pump and filter system will maintain that clarity. Before draining the pool, I’d check the filter system to be sure everything is working as designed and that all components fit together well.

Step #2—Draining a Vinyl Pool

Now should all the equipment check out (i.e. be in good working condition and properly sized to fit the application), then perhaps draining the pool may be necessary as a last resort. Once partially or totally empty, the liner can be cleaned. Just be sure to choose a vinyl cleaner, and NOT an abrasive cleaner designed for shotcrete pools. Vinyl cleaners may be found at any pool store.

As mentioned above, refilling the pool is a job best left to a professional contractor given the vacuum equipment needed and the difficulty involved in resetting the vinyl liner. The vacuum removes air from between the liner and the structural frame of the pool, and stretching the vinyl back into place can be a very strenuous task. The pool must be filled partway, vinyl set, and then the filling continued. According to PoolCenter.com, a professional refilling and resetting will cost in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars.

Photo Credit: ArchiExpo

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