Cleaning and equipment maintenance guide

Pool and spa care guide » Cleaning and equipment maintenance guide

Cleaning and equipment maintenance guide


The mechanics of your pool

Equipment specifications vary widely from one pool to another; however, the vast majority of above ground pools will share the same basic mechanics:


Pool water is drawn from your swimming pool via an outlet, usually a surface skimmer, by your pool circulation pump.  The circulating water is the pumped through the filter (either r a cartridge filter or sand filter).  Suspended particles of debris will be trapped during this process.  If your pool incorporates a heating system, the filtered water is then passed through a heater before being returned to the pool via a return inlet.



To enable your filtration system to operate efficiently, it is essential that you carry out the following tasks on a regular basis:

1.        Regularly remove any debris that has collected in your pools skimmer basket.  The vast majority of pollution in pool water is in the top few inches of pool water.  To combat this, your surface skimmer needs to work efficiently.


2.       Your pool circulation pump may also incorporate a basket.  Your filtration system will not work effectively if the pump strainer basket becomes blocked. As with the skimmer basket, it needs to be cleaned regularly.  Before removing the pump strainer basket, switch off the pump motor before using the two valves to isolate the water flow on both sides of the pump.  If your pool filter incorporates a multipart valve, you should put it in the “closed” position; close the valve on the suction side of the pump before removing the lid of the pump strainer basket.  Remove, clean and replace the strainer basket, fully tighten the pump lid and switch the multiport valve back into the filter position and re-open the isolator valves before switching on the pump motor.  Read your pool installation manual before starting up the pump; some pumps need to be primed before filling the strainer pump with water before they can be started.




Your pool filter has been designed as a highly efficient dirt collector; it is essential that you remove the dirt that accumulates.  On above ground pools that are equipped with sand filtration a process known as “backwashing” is used to clean the filter.  Backwashing involves reversing the flow of water through the filter sand for several minutes.  This process removes dirt trapped in the filter sand; the dirty water is pumped to waste.



How long should I operate my circulation system for?


Different pool manufacturers specify different run times for filter systems.  The general consensus from pool professionals is that to ensure high water quality you should run your pool filter system for at least 8 hours a day.  You should increase this during peak summer months to at least 12 hours per day.  If your pool is heated you will possibly need to operate the circulation system for longer periods to allow the heater to achieve the desired pool temperature.  If your pool becomes green or cloudy you will need to filter the water continually until the problem has been remedied.  Shortening your filtration cycle will usually prove to be a false economy.



A key component on any swimming pool circulation system is a time clock.  When setting your time clock it is worthwhile splitting the daily run time into at least two segments; e.g. if you decide to operate the circulation system for 10 hours per day you should split the 10 hours into 5 hours in the morning and 5 hours in the evening.  You should avoid running the filter when the pool is being used.


As with all electrical equipment on your pool, the timer should be linked to a 30mA earth leakage circuit protector device (E.L.C.P.)


Cartridge Filters


Cartridge filters, as opposed to Sand filters, will sometimes be supplied on above ground pools.  Cartridge filters have the advantages of being smaller and cheaper than sand filters.  However, Cartridge filtration is not as efficient as sand filtration; if your pool is fitted with a cartridge filter and you repeatedly experience water quality problems you should consider upgrading to a sand filter.




If your pool experiences clarity problems you should use a clarifier to enhance the performance of your pool filter.  Very small particles of dirt suspended in your pool water will be too small to be caught by your pool filter; this often results in cloudy pool water.  Liquid pool clarifiers work by attracting the small particles of dirt suspended in your pool water.  As the smaller particles are slumped together into larger particles your pool filter will be able to trap them.  A multitude of pool water clarifiers are available from your pool dealer.  Choose your pool clarifier carefully; in general, the tablet, granular and gel type clarifiers available from your pool dealer are not compatible with cartridge type filtration.  The liquid clarifiers available from your pool dealer are usually the most effective on pools fitted with cartridge filtration.


It is essential that the cartridge elements are kept clean at all times.  They should be removed, hosed down and soaked in a solution of cartridge cleaner.  Your local pool dealer will be able to supply you with a product specifically formulated for cleaning cartridges.  Wear rubber gloves when handling these products, they are highly concentrated.  Cartridges should be soaked in a bucket overnight and thoroughly rinsed before being reused.  Don’t be tempted to use a household-cleaning product or put them in your dishwasher; this will do more harm than good.  You should buy a spare cartridge element; this will prevent your filtration system being out of service when your original element is being cleaned.  Cartridge elements should be replaced at the beginning of each season.



Sand Filtration 


Larger above ground pools will incorporate a sand filter, rather than a cartridge filter.  Sand filtration is an effective means of physically removing particles from your pool water.  Your sand filter will incorporate a multiport valve.  Your multiport valve controls the various functions of your filtration system; it is essential to understand its various settings.  A Multiport will typically incorporate the following settings:




You should consider filter to be the normal setting for your multiport valve.   Whilst the multiport is set in this position, pool water is drawn through the pump, passed into the top of your filter and pushed through the filter media, trapping suspended matter.  At the bottom of your sand filter is a set of “laterals”; these act as an underdrain system and will allow your pool water, but not the sand to return to the pool.






Sand filters are designed to accumulate dirt.  It is important that they are cleaned regularly; this process, commonly known as backwashing, should typically be carried out every two weeks.  Backwashing involves reversing the flow of water through the filter for several minutes, or until the site glass shows clean water.  During this process the water is automatically discharged to waste, taking the accumulated dirt with it.


Before carrying out a backwash ensures that the water level in your pool is at least 50mm above the skimmer centreline.  Never allow the pool water level to drop more than half way down the skimmer during normal operation.



This setting should be used immediately after backwashing, but only for 10 – 20 seconds.  Your pool water follows the same path as when on FILTER, except the water exits to waste rather than returning to your pool.



This setting should be used if your filter is temporarily out of action.  Pool water will be circulated, bypassing the filter tank.  RECIRCULATE is useful for retaining heated water even if your filter is not being utilised.



Takes water from your pool, bypasses the filter and runs to waste.  By using this setting when vacuuming a heavily contaminated pool you will prevent your filter from becoming clogged.





Must only be used when the pump is shut off.  Used to isolate the circulation system during maintenance.



Useful tips:  The sand in your filter will lose its sharpness over a period of time and become less effective.  It is a good idea to change filter sand every 3 years or so.  It is essential that the replacement sand is swimming pool grade.


Over a period of time the sand in your filter may become coated with oils and other contaminants.  Contaminated filter sand is an ideal environment for bacteria.  To minimise filter contamination you need to clean the sand at least once per year using a proprietary cleaner.  Filter cleaners are highly concentrated, wear gloves when handling these products.


Use a clarifier to increase the efficiency of your filter.


Cleaning your pool


Your pool will need to be vacuumed and brushed at least once per week, twice per week during warm spells.  Neglecting to clean your pool, even if it looks clean can result in water quality problems; remember, “prevention is far less costly than cure”.



Brushing your pool

Don’t wait until the surfaces feel slippery before carrying out this task; brush the pool surfaces even if they look clean.  Algae suspended in your pool water is fairly easy to destroy, this is not the case if algae has a surface to cling to.  Brushing the floor and walls of your pool will prevent algae and bio-film from gaining a foothold in your pool.  Use a nylon pool brush, brushes with stainless steel bristles will damage your pool liner.   Certain area of your pool will need particular attention; pool water “dead spots” (area in the pool that have poor water movement) and pool surfaces facing the sun are particularly prone to algae.




Vacuuming your pool

There is a wide selection of vacuum systems for swimming pools.  The design of your pool will determine which system is best for your particular pool.  If your pool is fitter with a cartridge filter you will probably have little alternative to using the “Venturi” type cleaner; these can be purchased for less than £50.  If your pool is fitted with a sand filter and a relatively powerful main circulation, you should consider a manual suction system as the bare minimum system for your pool.  Again the equipment required is relatively inexpensive, certainly less than £100.  Automatic suction cleaners are also an option for above ground pools fitted with sand filters.  As a general rule of thumb, the more money you spend on a pool cleaner, the less time you will need to spend keeping your pool clean.  The 3 most popular types of pool vacuums for above ground pools are listed on the following pages.




Garden Hose Vacuums (“Venturi Vacs”)

Commonly used on pools fitted with cartridge filtration.  You should consider this to be the bare minimum equipment required for vacuuming your pool.  This type of pool cleaner consists of a vacuum head attached to a garden hose pipe and a telescopic pole.  Water from the hosepipe is fed into the vacuum head, creating a Venturi.  The water is forced upwards, taking any dirt, leaves etc. at the bottom of the pool with it.  The water escapes through a fine mesh bag, leaving any debris trapped in the bag.  The bag is emptied when vacuuming is finished.


        Advantages:                       The cheapest of the 3 systems


      Disadvantages:                 Will not filter out smaller particles


                                                        Adds water to your pool


                                                        Can be time consuming


                                                        Not recommended for large above ground pools



Manual suction systems

Consider this to be the bare minimum system if your pool is fitted with sand filtration.


Consisting of a pool vac head attached to a vacuum hose and a telescopic pole.  The vacuum hose is plugged into the pools recirculation system, debris is sucked up into the vacuum hose and trapped in the pool filter system.



        Advantages:                       Economical, approximately £100 equivalent outlay