Pool Recovery After a Fire: How to Clean Soot and Ash from Your Pool
Wildfires are devastating events, especially when they impact homes and surrounding areas. Fires are an unthinkable disaster, and impact or cause damage to thousands of homes every year — including many with swimming pools. Much like other natural disasters, wildfires can cause significant problems for you and your pool. Even if your home and pool is out of real danger from a fire, there's a good chance that soot, ash, and related debris will still make its way into the pool. We know it’s not always the first priority for a homeowner after a natural disaster, but we recommend cleaning your swimming pool as soon as possible to avoid serious and lasting damage.
To quickly recover your swimming pool from the impacts of a fire, we recommend that you:
Clean debris from the water surface and pool floor.
Make sure your filtration system is functioning properly.
Check your water level and adjust accordingly.
Check and adjust your pH and chlorine levels.
If you don't have electrical power, remove as much debris as possible by hand.
Skim Water Surface for Ash and Debris
It is important to remove larger debris from the water surface before turning on your filtration system. This will make the next few steps a lot easier. Begin cleaning your pool by removing as much of the soot, ash, and debris as possible from the water surface, using a telepole or skimmer net.
BONUS TIP: Cover the net with an old T-shirt or another type of cloth to trap fine particles, as the mesh on the net is generally too large to capture this type of debris.
Ash and soot may cause staining on above ground pool liners, inground plaster pool surfaces, and the surrounding deck area. The quicker you can remove the ash and soot, the less of a chance for permanent staining.
Check Your Pool Pump and Clean the Filter
In many cases, the pool pump is turned off when a pool owner knows that a natural disaster is imminent. Early in the recovery process is a good time to turn on your pool pump back on and ensure that it's up and running. Before turning on the pump, check the pump strainer and skimmer baskets, and clean them often, as necessary. You should also check the pressure gauge on the filter to see whether you need to backwash or clean the filter. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation on when it's time to clean or backwash a filter — for most filters, this is when the filter gauge reads 8–10 psi higher than the starting "clean" pressure.
Keep in mind that your pool filter may quickly fill up with dirt and debris, so remember to backwash and clean the filter often during the fire recovery period. Check with your city code for proper waste space for backwash water (perhaps your lawn or gravel).
Running the filtration system is also important, because it circulates stagnant water. Running the pump and filter also helps distribute pool chemicals throughout the swimming pool as you work to rebalance and sanitize the water. Continue to run the pump and filter throughout this entire process, until the water is clear.
Brush and Vacuum the Pool
Removing debris from the bottom of a pool is vital too. Brush the walls and pool bottom to loosen debris and contaminants. Then use an automatic pool cleaner or manual vacuum to remove the debris. Start by cleaning the shallow end, and work your way through the deep end of the pool.
Check Your Water Levels
Now, let's take a look at the water level. After a fire, your water levels might be a bit off, so check to see whether you need to add more water to your pool. The water level may also drop with repeated backwashing cycles. Remember that your pool water level should be around the middle of the skimmer opening. If it's lower than that, add water to prevent damage to your pool equipment. If water levels are too high, your skimmer can't work effectively.
Check pH Levels
After checking the water level, make sure the pH level is in a healthy range. Ash and soot may alter the pH in your pool, which can impact chlorine's ability to sanitize the water. That said, it's extremely important to avoid swimming until pH is in the ideal range of 7.4–7.6 ppm, among other aspects of water chemistry. Using Soda Ash (pH increaser) or Dry Acid (pH reducer) can bring the pH level back to a balanced range. You may also need to adjust your Total Alkalinity between 80–120 ppm, depending on the type of sanitizer you use.
Check Chlorine Level
Ash and soot from a wildfire can also alter the chlorine level in your pool water. We recommend shocking the pool after balancing the water, and suggest refilling your chlorine dispenser.
BONUS TIP: Need help with your pool water? The friendly team of experts at Leslie's can help! Bring us a sample of your pool water for a FREE in-store AccuBlue® water analysis. In 60 seconds, you'll have a customized treatment plan to take home, including detailed step-by-step instructions and chemical dosages needed to rebalance and sanitize your pool water.
Remove Stains on Pool Surfaces
If you have any residue or stains remaining on pool surfaces, try adding a stain and scale remover. Pool stain removers can eliminate most stains within 2–4 weeks. The sooner you take action, the less likely you'll have to deal with permanent discoloration in your pool.
For extremely stained plaster surfaces, you may need to hire a pool maintenance professional to acid wash the pool. Leslie’s offers a Pool Acid Wash Service (in qualified areas) to take all worry and hassle out of cleaning the walls and floor of your pool.
No Electricity? Try This.
If you are without power because of the effects of the fire, we suggest removing debris manually. If you have access to tap water, use a leaf bagger with a fine mesh bag to remove small debris. Additionally, be sure to superchlorinate your water to keep your Free Available Chlorine (FAC) level between 5.0–10.0 ppm. When adding shock to the pool without the help of a pool pump to circulate the water, agitate the water with a pool brush or battery-operated pool cleaner.
Natural disasters such as wildfires can be a scary time for any homeowner. Although we strive to keep your pool safe and healthy, we understand that you and your family’s safety always comes first. We encourage staying safe during dangerous conditions and to not worry about the cleanup until it’s safe. If you have any questions about recovering your pool after a wildfire, call or stop by your local Leslie's. You can also download our detailed fire recovery checklist.