Pool Maintenance for First Time Pool Owners

Welcome to the pool lifestyle! Along with the hours of fitness, fun and family togetherness, there comes the hours of pool maintenance.

Every single day of summer, your pool pump must circulate the water, your filter must clean the water and the feeder must dispense enough chlorine to kill the ever present bacteria and algae.

In addition to that, you may also have automatic cleaners or pool heaters that require monitoring and cleaning or adjustment.

And you or someone like you, will be called upon to empty skimmer baskets, brush and skim the pool, test the water and make sure all systems are operating as intended.

Pool maintenance cannot be ignored either, if tasks are skipped or delayed, it can cause more problems, like cloudy water or a green pool!

Here's how I like to explain pool maintenance to a first time pool owner, something I have done hundreds of times!

Understanding Circulation, Filtration and Sanitation


  • Circulation: every pool has a looped plumbing system, designed to circulate all of the water in the pool every day. Swimming pool pumps pull water from the pool, and then return it to the pool; after the water has been filtered, treated and heated.

  • pool-parts-filters

    Filtration: every pool has a filter, to remove small particles suspended in the water. Sand, cartridge or DE Pool filters are used to keep water clean and clear by passing all of the water through the filter, at least once per day. When pressure rises and flow slows, pool filters are backwashed or cleaned.

  • Sanitation: every pool must also have a chemical sanitizer to destroy algae, bacteria and other particles which can make swimmers sick and make pool water cloudy and green. Chlorine is the most popular pool sanitizer.

Maintaining Pool Circulation

  1. The pool pump is the heart of the pool circulation system, drawing water out of the pool and pushing it through the filter and back to the pool, is a very important task, and must be done every day.
  2. Be sure that the pump basket is clean, and properly installed to prevent a clogged impeller. The pump lid should be lubricated and tightened very firmly to prevent air leaks.
  3. Run the pump for a minimum of 8-12 hours daily, or more depending on the need, to maintain the cleanliness of your pool water, up to 24 hours per day if needed to improve water conditions.
  4. Check on the pump daily to be sure that it is operating properly and pumping the normal amount of water. Pool pumps can 'lose prime', from air leaks or low water level in the pool.
  5. Learn to listen to your pump for sounds of distress, and to look for the signs of good circulation in your pool - swirling water in the skimmers or a surface ripple from the returns.

Maintaining Pool Filtration

Your pool filter traps small particles to ensure clean and clear pool water. Without daily pool filtration, or timely cleaning of the filter, particulate matter builds up quickly and makes pool water cloudy and unsafe for swimming.

Sand filters use specially sized and graded quartz filter sand, or they can also use filter sand alternatives like FilterGlass, ZeoSand or FilterBalls. When the filter pressure gauge rises 7-9 psi, you must shut off the pump and backwash the filter.

DE filters use diatomaceous earth filter powder, or can use alternate filtration powders like Perlite or cellulose fiber. The powder traps dirt within the porous material, and when the pressure gauge rises 7-9 psi, it is time to flush out the dirt and filter powder, and then add fresh again.

Cartridge filters use a specific size of pleated polyester fabric, to trap dirt and debris. Just like sand and DE filters, when the pressure gauge rises 7-9 psi, or when the flow rate is noticeably diminished, the filter is cleaned. Cartridge filters are not backwashed however, the filter cartridges are removed from the tank and hosed clean by hand.

All pool filter types can benefit from an annual deep cleaning, using a filter cleaner to remove oils, scale and dirt trapped deep within the filter. You can find sand filter cleaners, DE filter cleaners and cartridge filter cleaner chemicals, for safely cleaning your pool filter type.

pressure gauge for pool filter  - istockphoto

Check on your pool filter pressure regularly and understand the normal operating range for your particular filter system. Higher than normal pressure indicates a dirty filter or obstruction after the filter, and lower than normal pressure indicates a dirty pump basket or obstruction before the filter.

Maintaining Pool Sanitation

In addition to daily circulation and filtration, a daily dose of sanitizer is also important to maintaining clean and clear pool water.

Most pool owners find our 3" chlorine tablets to be the most convenient and cost effective way to chlorinate the swimming pool, consistently and constantly. Use enough tablets to maintain a chlorine level of 1.0 - 2.0 ppm, as verified by your test kit or test strips.

In addition to having a consistent level of chlorine in the pool everyday, it is also necessary to super-chlorinate the pool from time to time. Our granular pool shock is used to quickly raise chlorine levels to over 10 ppm, to kill invisible germs, visible algae and destroy combined chlorine molecules.

To protect your chlorine from degrading in bright sunlight, chlorine stabilizer, aka conditioner, is used. Chlorine tablets contain a small amount of stabilizer, but to reach the recommended range of 30-50 ppm, some pools may need to add cyanuric acid stabilizer to the water.

ph level is very important!

In order for your chlorine to work most effectively, it is crucial to keep the pH level from rising above 7.6, as verified by your test kit or test strips. Use pH decreaser or pH increaser as needed to maintain the pool water pH level.

Reading Resources: Get Smart!

1. Beginner's Guide to Pool Chemicals
2. Beginner's Guide to Pool Water Testing
3. Beginner's Guide to Pool Filters

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.