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How to Maintain an Inflatable Kiddie Pool

With more people planning staycations during summer, the popularity of Intex pools and inflatable pools has exploded in recent years. With that popularity comes important questions like, "What chemicals do I need for an inflatable pool?" Or, in this case, "How do I keep a kiddie pool clean and clear?" So, without further ado, let's get into how to maintain a small pool (a.k.a. a kiddie pool, baby pool, inflatable pool, or blow-up pool).

Keeping an Inflatable Pool Clean

Keeping dirt, debris, and other organic contaminants out of your kiddie pool is important to maintain healthy water. Pets and other animals should not be allowed in or near an inflatable pool. This helps keep contaminant levels to a manageable level, and it also prevents the risk of sharp toenails puncturing and ruining your inflatable pool. To address the debris in your pool, you can use the following equipment and accessories:

pool leaf rake

1. Pool Leaf Net

Pool leaf nets come in a couple of different varieties. Leaf rakes are the larger version, made from skim nets sewn into a deep bag. Leaf rakes can scoop large amounts of debris from the pool. On the other hand, leaf skimmers are the flat style of mesh net, and are useful for skimming the surface of the pool. You can find advanced pool leaf net techniques on this post, but for a small kiddie pool, you can just connect the net to a pool pole and drag it around the surface or carefully pull it along the floor. You can also use it without a pole if the pool is small enough.

2. Pool Cover

pool cover

Pool covers do a number of great things for maintaining a small pool or kiddie pool. First and foremost, they help to keep debris out, and can help deter animals from messing with the pool water. Solid covers also help reduce evaporation, which is quite noticeable in a small pool during the hottest parts of the summer. Some models of Intex or inflatable pools have covers available that fit nice and snug over the top of the pool. An alternative is to use a small solar cover, which can also add a bit of heat to the water and extend the swim season by a few weeks. In a pinch, you can also use a basic tarp and a few bungees or weights to hold it in place.

3. Pool Vacuum

Small vacuums are tremendously helpful for removing large amounts of debris from any pool. For leafy pool areas with lots of debris, connect a garden hose and a pool pole to a Leaf Bagger or simply use a Battery Operated Leaf Vac to collect debris. There is also a smaller version available in the Intex Pool Maintenance Kit. Another route is to use a rechargeable, battery-operated vacuum or any other compact handheld pool vacuum.

4. Pool Filter

intex pool filter

One of the easiest ways to ensure a clean and healthy pool is to ensure adequate circulation and filtration each day. This can only be accomplished with the help of a pool filter. Filters help to remove fine debris that can't be removed by skimmer nets or may be missed by pool vacuums. If your water is bogged down with contaminants, your sanitizer can't work efficiently. Inflatable pools are typically not sold with filters, but that doesn't mean that you can't use one. Small Intex Cartridge Filters include 6' hoses that can be draped over the edge of the pool and held underwater with ankle weights or a small sand bag. To prevent suction entrapment on the intake hose, do not use the pool while running the filter pump.

Keeping an Inflatable Pool Sanitary

As we mentioned above, without a pool filter to remove small particulate matter, the water can get funky fast! It's important to remember that filters do not sanitize or disinfect pool water. However, they do remove contaminants from the water, which makes it easier for your sanitizer to control algae and bacteria. On top of keeping the water clean, properly balanced and sanitized water will keep your small pool safe for swimming. Here's how to sanitize a kiddie pool:

1. Keep pH Levels in Range

test kit

Believe it or not, pH influences the efficacy of your sanitizer. You will need a small test kit or test strips so that you can test and maintain the pH level in your kiddie pool water, which can naturally rise just from regular pool use. When pH gets too high, chlorine becomes less effective, and algae and bacteria can bloom more easily. Or, with a low pH, chlorine dissipates more quickly. Both conditions can cause cloudy water, damage your pool, and may irritate skin and eyes. When pH levels rise above 7.6, the general recommendation is to add 0.2 oz of pH Reducer (dry acid) for for every 100 gallons of pool water, and recheck the pH level in a few hours. Always follow product label directions for exact dosage and handling instructions! A pH reading in the 7.4-7.6 range is ideal. You can find more information about water balance, including Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness, in our blog post about Intex Pool Chemicals.

2. Use Chlorine Tablets

The best way to obtain a constant, consistent chlorine level in the pool is to use 1" tablets or 3" tablets in a floating chlorinator, aka chlorine floater. Most inflatable pools need just half of one 3" tablet per week, or several 1" tabs at a time, replaced promptly when they dissolve. That said, your test kit will tell you for sure. Test for chlorine levels 2-3 times each week to make sure Free Available Chlorine levels are in the 2.0-4.0 ppm (parts per million) range. Use enough tablets to dose the pool with a consistent level of chlorine.

3. Shock the Pool

In The Swim Pool Shock

At least once per week, shock the pool. You may have to do it more frequently if chlorine levels drop to near zero, or if the water was contaminated with animals or a high number of swimmers. Boost the chlorine level high with 0.2 oz of pool shock per 100 gallons of water. You can also use unscented bleach, using 2.0 oz per 100 gallons of water. Be careful to seal up partially used bags of pool shock, clipping them tightly and storing them in a plastic Tupperware-type container. Again, as with any pool chemical, always read and follow product label directions for handling, dosage, and storing.

It's worth mentioning that pool users should bathe before using a small pool. Also, younger children not yet potty trained should have a fresh diaper change and wear a swim diaper. Even very small amounts of fecal matter in such a small pool can overwhelm your sanitizer

Draining & Refilling an Inflatable Pool

Some of the nicer, full-featured inflatable pools include a drain plug to make regular draining and refilling easier. Just remove the plug and drain, or connect a garden hose if you want to avoid lawn erosion or over-saturation.

If you don't have a drain plug in your kiddie pool, but you have a nearby hillside, you could use a garden hose to siphon most of the water out, to a point where you can flip it over to empty fully. An easier method would be to use one of our small submersible pumps.

Even though you may do all of these things above; testing and adjusting pH level, keeping a constant chlorine level, and maybe even filtering the kiddie pool water, there comes a time in the maintenance of a small pool or kiddie pool when you really should drain the pool and start over.

Larger soft sided pools with frames can operate as a normal above ground pool, since they usually come with a properly sized filter and pump. For most inflatable pools or plastic kiddie pools following the guidelines listed above, the water should be changed every two weeks at a minimum. If you are not adding chlorine to kill bacteria, drain the pool every other day. Stagnant water without chlorine can become unhealthy water in as little as 24-48 hours.


In The Swim makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and In The Swim assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. In The Swim assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.