Pool maintenance
Photo: Craig Raine

What You'll Learn

  1. Pool School
  2. Where to Find It
On a searing summer day, a swimming pool is a welcome respite from the heat. But before you can dive into its cool blue water, you have to perform all the maintenance drudgery that prolongs its crystal-clear perfection. This often makes a backyard pool more of a burden than a blessing.

In the interest of spending more time in the pool than maintaining it, we went for advice to William Sodergreen, chief technician for Shoreline Pools Service Inc., in Connecticut, a guy who has the weekly cleaning ritual down to a science. He can skim, vacuum, clean, and chlorinate in under an hour, not much more time than it takes to suit up, slather on sunscreen, and get out the inner tube. Here are some of the techniques he uses to speed up the process and create a safe, refreshing oasis.

Chemical Balance

Maintaining proper pH and chlorine levels is vital to ensuring that pool water is kind to both equipment and swimmers. Fluctuating pH is one problem: Levels lower than 7.2 (too acidic) may dissolve plaster or concrete surfaces and cause metal in the mechanicals to corrode. Higher levels reduce chlorine's ability to kill microorganisms, such as E. coli or those that cause ear infections and rashes. Chlorine monitoring is equally important. “If you don't watch the levels, you risk exposure to harmful bacteria,” says Dr. Thomas M. Lachocki of the National Spa & Pool Institute (NSPI). At the same time that chlorine destroys bacteria and algae, it bonds with nitrogen-based ammonia — largely from urine, fertilizer, and the environment — forming bothersome chloramines. It's chloramines — not excessive chlorine — that sting the eyes and irritate the skin. Paradoxically, adding more chlorine destroys the chloramines. However, excessive chlorine — the NSPI's standard is a maximum of 10 ppm — can not only irritate mucous membranes but corrode system parts and fade your swimsuit.

Still, chlorine remains the industrywide favorite: As long as you're vigilant, checking levels once a week and more frequently during peak usage, it's a safe and very effective sanitizer. The only thing better might be to boil the water. — J.R.
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