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The Following FAQs were adopted from the http://www.poolcenter.com  This is a valuable link with a wealth of information relating to pool care and other pool related topics.

A: Floating oils, dirt & wastes can combine to form a scum line around the pool; this is why tile, an easily cleanable surface, is placed at water level around the perimeter of the pool. There are many tile cleanser products available which are applied with a scrubbing pad or brush and a little elbow grease. Abrasive cleaners work well, but should be avoided in vinyl lined pools, or pools using products such as Baquacil. On vinyl pools use a vinyl cleaner such as Armor All Cleaner (not conditioner), and on Baquacil treated pools, use a cleanser made without chlorine.
Cleaning the scum inside of the skimmer frequently will help to keep the tile cleaner, as scum sticks itself to clean plastic. Using enzyme products can reduce or eliminate the amount of attention to the scum line as the work to “eat” scum producing substances.

A: Put on your back brace, heavy leaf removal can be hard work. At this stage, vacuuming through the skimmer or using an automatic pool cleaner are very ineffective; both will clog up too quickly. The method of choice for the pool janitor is using a leaf rake attached to a telescopic pole. Slowly push the leaf rake along the floor, scooping up leaves into the bag. Work the pool in sections, trying not to create leaf-stirring currents. It takes practice and a strong back, but it can be very effective.
Another method is the use of a Leaf Master, a product by Jandy Industries. Attached to a telescopic pole and a garden hose, the Leaf Master uses venturi action to suck leaves up into a large attached bag as you roll the unit over the leaves. It’s slow going, but you won’t have to stop to empty the bag too often.

A: Firstly, you want to check the influent valving before the pump. The pool janitor recommends that the skimmer pull in about 75% of the total flow into the pump. For example, if your pool has two influent valves, a main drain and a skimmer, close the main drain halfway while leaving the skimmer valve full open. If your pool has an attached spa, crack the spa drain valve open only very slightly, or leave it closed altogether.
If you haven’t purchased a leaf rake, or a “drag bag”, as I sometimes call them, and are holding on to that flat “dip & flip” net that your builder gave you; you are creating your own hell. I strongly encourage the purchase of a nice leaf rake. There are also chemical products which are used to keep surface tension high, moving small debris to the sides of the pool. Another possible problem could be the condition of the weir in the skimmer; you know, that flapper gate thing. Make sure it is operating properly so that it creates a draw or “waterfall” into the skimmer basket. Also check that the water level is not so high that it is above the opening of the skimmer.
Lastly, you may need to trim some of those trees and bushes near the pool. My pool, for example, was specifically built with no vegetation anywhere within windshot :-).

A: Auto cleaners are terrific time-savers, and they also help to distribute and circulate the water while (some of them) decreasing the work load required of the filter. There is a wide range of cleaners available, for all types of pools and budgets. Cleaners run from $300 to $1,500. The more expensive models will vacuum more debris, more efficiently and without compromising the filter system. Refer to the auto cleaner section at The Pool Janitor’s closet

A: Your pool brush attaches to the telescopic pole, and is most commonly used to brush algae off of the walls. To quote the Pool Janitor; “Plaster pools like to be brushed...” Brushing your pool will keep dirt from occupying the small pores and starting small organic farms. Steel bristled brushes, called algae brushes, are very effective on, you guessed it, algae. Do not use a steel brush on a vinyl lined pool.
Done regularly, brushing can also reduce the time spent vacuuming. Brush from the shallow end towards the deep in overlapping strokes. Circle the pool towards the main drain, and much of the dirt will be swept up into the filter in this manner.

A: Unless you have an automatic cleaner, an in-floor cleaning system or an automatic cover, or sometimes even if you do...you’ll need to manually vacuum the debris. And here’s how...
Roll your vacuum hose straight along the length of the pool. Attach one of the cuffed ends onto your vacuum head which is attached to your telescopic pole. Extend the pole and place the head (with the hose attached) into the water so that it rests on the floor of the pool. Point the head across the pool so that it doesn’t roll down the slope towards the deep end and prop the pole up against the pool’s edge.
From the point where the hose surfaces, begin pushing the hose straight down into the water, hand over hand, until you reach the other end. This is filling the hose up with water so there is no air in it which may cause difficulties for the pump when you attach the hose to the skimmer. Another method of “priming the hose” is to hold the cuffed end firmly over a return fitting to force the air out of the end attached to the vacuum head.
Once the hose is primed, remove the skimmer lid and the basket and stick the hose end into the hole at the bottom of the skimmer. If it sucks it in tightly, great. If not, you may need a threaded hose adapter to achieve a tight fit. Now, the suction that was at the hole is now at the vacuum head. Do not lift the head out of the water with the hose attached, or you will fill the hose with air, losing prime, and possibly draw air into the pump.
Roll the vacuum head on the floor, over the debris, and VOILA!, you’re vacuuming. The suction will gradually decrease as the pump basket fills with vacuumed debris. When the pressure gauge drops and/or suction is sufficiently decreased, stop the pump and empty the basket. If pressure rises significantly, stop the pump and backwash the filter. Continue in this manner until the pool is clean.


A: Most systems require adjustment to the valving to increase flow in the line through which you are vacuuming. You may want to close all the valves except the one on the line you are vacuuming through. On some systems, closing too many suction valves will cause the pump to cavitate, which occurs when it is starved for water. If the pump begins to shudder and make interesting noises, open the valves until this ceases.
If your suction still sucks, check that the filter is clean and the pump basket has been cleaned. Before vacuuming debris into the pump basket, always make sure the basket is locked into place properly so that debris cannot bypass it and clog the impeller.

A: If you notice that your pump begins to draw in air when you connect the hose into the skimmer, possibly drawing in so much air that the pump loses its prime of water, it probably originates from an old, dry rotted hose with holes in it, or a cavitating pump drawing air in through the plumbing or valving.
To check the hose, hold one end tightly against your thigh while you make a tight seal with the other end around your mouth. Blow into the hose; you should feel very strong resistance. If you can blow easily, the hose has one or more holes or splits in it, and you may be able to hear the air being drawn through when it’s hooked up for vacuuming.
When a vacuum hose is hooked into the skimmer and perhaps some valves are closed to increase suction, we are increasing the “vacuum pressure” in the line, creating a front pressure on the pump. This can cause the pump to draw air in places it normally wouldn’t under lower pressure. This situation should be corrected by locating the air source and making appropriate repairs. (Repair info, see pumps)

A: When vacuuming fine, silty dirt or debris, you may notice a cloudy stream of dirt coming back into the pool via the return. This can continue slowly, long after you stop vacuuming, and can create a frustrating cycle for the pool janitor at your pool. More common in sand filters than in other types, the dirt can be pushed right through the filter, especially one which may need a sand replacement. Indeed, this situation may indicate internal filter problems. It may also indicate a problem with the filter control valve. Old, loose multiport or push-pull valves can allow water to bypass the filter and return to the pool unfiltered. For more info on valves, click here
Another possibility is that the pump is oversized for the filter, and is pushing the water so hard, it pushes dirt right through the filter medium. A sand filter actually works a little better when it’s a little dirty; the added dirt helps to trap more dirt, so don’t backwash prior to vacuuming a pool with a sand filter. You may also use filter aids, added through the skimmer, which provide a gelatinous layer on top of the sand bed to help trap dirt. Another tip is to vacuum to waste, especially if the debris looks especially filter clogging. To do this, fill the pool very full first and set the multiport valve to the Drain/Vacumn to Waste position. Roll out the backwash hose, and vacuum the dirt (and water) right out of the pool...to waste.

A: Leaves and dirt may stain concrete surfaces or, after removing the winter cover, you may see a pronounced color difference. Pressure washing can remove these soils and restore original brightness to concrete and coping stones. A light acid washing on the coping stones also works very well, and algae or mildew can be lifted by scrubbing in a paste of calcium hypochlorite. Read all precautions before working with these dangerous chemicals in this manner.

A: Called efflorescence, this calcium deposit usually originates from grout or setting mortar. To remove, scrape it off the tile/wall, and/or acid wash it. There are products available such as CLR, which work well for such tasks.

A: Dirt, leaf tannins, rust and other minerals can stain the finish of your plastered pool. If the stain is organic; left from a leaf or acorn for example, a small amount of granular chlorine added at that location and allowed to settle on the stain will usually remove it instantly. Other non-organic stains will not be removed by chlorine. Do not place chlorine tablets directly into the pool...they will stain and etch the plaster.
If chlorine doesn’t work, acid usually will. Draining and acid washing will remove a thin layer of plaster (and stains), exposing fresh, new looking plaster beneath. A No-Drain acid wash can also be performed, with varying results. For localized stains , a stain master tool can be used to deliver acid directly to the stain. Stains can also be sanded with pumice stones or wet/dry sandpaper.

What is water balancing?
Balancing the water in your pool is not complicated, however it is a parameter that must be watched over on a scheduled routine. Your water is constantly changing depending on temperature, swimming load and other factors. Factors affecting your pool water balance include:
wind and rain to the oil
dirt and cosmetics which may enter the water
persperation other bodily waste
The mechanisms within your pool are designed to filter the water and maintain water movement within your pool. Bacteria is less likely to cling to surfaces and other molecules if water movement is maintained. In addition, balance of the water must be maintained. Balance is the relationship of pH, Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness. Water if left untreated can become either corrisive or scaling. These conditions can create problems within your pool equipment, surfaces etc. As well as being un-healthy to your skin etc.

You will likely not change the water in your pool for many years. Continuous filtration and disinfection remove contaminants which keep the water enjoyable, but this is not water balance. A pool that is “balanced” has proper levels of pH, Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness. It may also be defined as water that is neither corrosive or scaling. This concept is derived from the fact that water will dissolve and “hold” minerals until it becomes saturated and cannot hold any more water in solution. When water is considerably less than saturated it is said to be in a corrosive or aggressive condition. When water is over saturated, and can no longer hold the minerals in solution; this is known as a scaling condition. So then, balanced water is that which is neither over or under saturated. The cliché that “water seeks its own level” certainly applies here. Water which is under saturated will attempt to saturate itself by dissolving everything in contact with it in order to build up its content. Water which is over saturated will attempt to throw off some of its content by precipitating minerals out of solution in the form of scale.

How do we know when our water is over or under saturated? First of all, we use a good test kit (with fresh testing reagents) to measure the chemical parameters of pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness.

What is pH?

pH is a measure of how acidic or basic the water is. pH is a logarithmic scale from 0-14, with 7 being neutral. Below 7, a substance is defined as being acidic, while levels above 7 are said to be basic or alkaline. Everything that enters your pool has a pH value. Heard of acid rain? This is rainfall with a very low pH. The human eye, at a pH value of 7.35, is just slightly basic. This is coincidentally, in range with proper pH levels for your pool. To have pH in balance, we adjust the water with additions of pH increasers (bases) or pH decreasers (acids) to achieve the range of 7.2 - 7.8. If your testing (recommended daily) of the water shows a pH value below 7.2, the water is in an corrosive (acidic) condition, and we need to add a base to bring the pH into a more basic range and prevent corrosion. Conversely, if the pH is above 7.8, we are in a scaling (basic) condition and must add an acid to bring down the pH to prevent the formation of scale.

What is Total Alkalinity:

A close cousin of pH, the level of alkalinity in the water is a measurement of all the carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides and other alkaline substances found in the pool water. pH is alkaline dependent; that is, alkalinity is defined as the ability of the water to resist changes in pH. Also known as the buffering capacity of the water, alkalinity keeps the pH from “bouncing” all over the place. Low alkalinity is raised by the addition of a base (just like pH); sodium bicarbonate is commonly used. High levels of alkalinity are lowered by the addition of an acid (again, just like pH). Experts recommend “pooling” the acid in a small area of low current for a greater effect on alkalinity. That is, adding an acid will lower both pH and alkalinity. Walking the acid around the pool, in a highly distributed manner is said to have a greater effect lowering the pH than the alkalinity. Pooling the acid has the opposite effect. A very important component of water balance, alkalinity should be maintained in the 80-120 ppm range. Levels should be tested weekly.

What is Calcium Hardness?

 When we speak of scale, we are talking about Calcium Carbonate, which has come out of solution and deposited itself on surfaces. It is a combination of carbonate ions, a part of Total Alkalinity and Calcium, a part of the Calcium Hardness level. The test for Calcium Hardness is a measure of how hard or soft the water is. Hard water can have high levels of calcium and magnesium. If these levels are too high, the water becomes saturated and will throw off excess particles out of solution, which then seek to deposit themselves on almost any surface inside the pool. This is calcium carbonate scale, a whitish, crystallized rough spot. If the levels are too low, the water is under saturated. The water becomes aggressive as it attempts to obtain the calcium it needs. Such soft water will actually corrode surfaces inside the pool which contain calcium and other minerals to maintain its hardness demand. If your Calcium Hardness levels are too high, you can use TSP to lower the levels, or a product called Hydroquest. It can also be accomplished by dilution (adding water to the pool which has a lower calcium hardness content). Levels which are too low require the addition of calcium chloride. Recommended range for calcium hardness is 200 - 400 ppm. Levels should be tested weekly.

What is The Saturation Index?

Also called the Langelier Index, this chemical equation or formula is used to diagnose the water balance in the pool. The formula is SI = pH+TF+CF+AF-12.1. To calculate the Saturation Index, test the water for pH, temperature, calcium hardness and total alkalinity. Refer to a chart for assigned values for your temperature, hardness and alkalinity readings and add these to your pH value. Subtract 12.1, which is the constant value assigned to Total Dissolved Solids, and a resultant number will be produced. A result between -0.3 and +0.5 is said to indicate balanced water. Results outside of these parameters require adjustment to one or more chemical components to achieve balance. This formula is not foolproof, however. Some readings for pH, calcium and alkalinity which, taken individually would be considered to be well beyond recommendations, can combine within the formula to produce “balanced water”, when it just ain’t so. Regardless, the SI can be used to pinpoint potential water balance problems.




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Last modified: 11/05/06.