Pool Care 101

Let’s be honest … having a pool is amazing. There’s nothing quite like being able to step outside your back door to take a quick dip, or watch your kids enjoy hours of fun with their friends, or simply sit beside the water with a good book.

A swimming pool is the centerpiece of your backyard oasis, but keeping your private paradise up to par requires a little bit of work. Leslie's understands the importance of essential pool maintenance, which is why we're here to walk you through every step of taking care of your pool. If you need guidance on a particular pool care task, or if you need the necessary chemicals to keep your pool water balanced and healthy, or if you need help getting your pool equipment repaired and operating at full speed, we’re here to help.

So whether you’ve recently moved into a home with a pool, decided to put a new pool in your backyard, or simply decided to finally take the plunge and tackle pool care on your own, your first question likely is: "Where do I start?"

Understanding the basics always helps, so let's begin there.

Pool care basics can be broken down into five categories:

Leslie's Pool Circulation
1. Circulation

Leslie's Pool Filtration
2. Filtration

Leslie's Pool Cleaning
3. Cleaning

Leslie's Water Testing
4. Water Testing

Leslie's Water Balancing
5. Water Balancing and Sanitation

Let's take a quick look at each of the pool maintenance essentials.

1. Circulation

Moving water is healthy water. All properly maintained pools have a pump that circulates water through a filtration system and back into the pool. In an ideal world, your pool pump would run at high speed 24/7. Unfortunately, as it often does, reality has something to say about that.

Running a single-speed pump all day would make utility costs astronomical. A simple rule for operating your single-speed pump is to run it one hour for every 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) of air temperature. So if the average high temperature of a particular time period is 90°, run your pump nine hours per day during that period.

Variable-speed pumps will need to run longer, depending on selected speeds. It’s common to run a variable-speed pump at a higher RPM setting for 3-4 hours and a lower RPM setting for an additional 10-12 hours.

Pool pumps are available in a variety of options and come at corresponding costs — entailing both the initial investment and the cost of operation. Be sure to ask which one is best for you. In our opinion, purchasing a variable-speed pump is the best investment you can make for your pool. Variable-speed pumps often require less energy output, saving you money. It's also our humble opinion that saving money is never a bad thing.

2. Filtration

Some people believe the filter is the most important piece of pool equipment. Because of this, it’s vital to keep it in good condition.

Since the filter is continually removing dirt and debris, it’s
recommended to clean or backwash your unit regularly to allow for maximum
filtration. This is especially important when your pressure gauge rises 8-10
PSI above the normal clean filter pressure.

DID YOU KNOW? There are three types of pool filters — sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth. Each type has its own unique pros and cons. If you aren’t sure which filter type is best for your pool and lifestyle, stop by your local Leslie's and let us help you out.

Make sure to follow a regular filter maintenance program to keep
your unit working efficiently.

Other tools that help with filtration include skimmers and pump baskets. You should clean these out weekly — or more frequently, depending on what Mother Nature has to say about it.

3. Cleaning

This one is all on you. We’ve got a variety of helpful tools to
help you get the job done, but you’re going to have to supply the necessary
elbow grease yourself. We recommend creating a weekly cleaning schedule.

At least once a week, you should brush your pool’s walls, steps,
and floors to remove dirt and debris, and skim the water surface and pool floor
to remove leaves and other items. You should also clean out the pump and
skimmer baskets and use an automatic pool cleaner — or manually vacuum your
pool — every week.

Look at it as another opportunity to improve your tan.

4. Water Testing

The next element of Pool Care 101 is an important one — water testing.

Here’s the good news: It’s easy to do.

To help maintain the chemical health of your pool, you should test at least once a week using test kits or test strips. (When it’s hot out, more frequent testing is recommended.)

DID YOU KNOW? You can bring a water sample into your local Leslie's store to have a free test performed and receive a customized water treatment plan.

Follow the instructions that are included with the test kit or test strips. For the highest at-home accuracy, we recommend test kits that use liquid DPD reagents for testing the chlorine levels.

Typical water tests include measurements for Free Available Chlorine (FAC) and Total Available Chlorine (TAC), pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid. If your pool has a salt water chlorine generator, the salt level should also be checked.

DIY TIP: When pool or spa water is tested with a DPD test kit, there are three chlorine results that can be determined. Most colorimetric DPD test kits can test for Free Available Chlorine and Total Available Chlorine. Ideally, the Free and the Total chlorine results should be equal.

Regular testing helps you understand how weather, pool usage, and product application affects the water. Maintaining the right water balance through testing provides a safe, sanitary swimming environment, as well as protection for your pool surface and equipment.

5. Water Balance and Sanitation

If you bring your water in to be tested for free at your local Leslie's store, our associates will be able to diagnose any issues and prescribe the ideal amounts of each product to keep your pool healthy and clear.

Once you've got the results from your water test, it's time to apply the appropriate chemicals to balance your pool water. These chemicals include pH, Total Alkalinity, and, if applicable, a Calcium Hardness adjuster. The basic chemicals you need to maintain a healthy and safe pool are a primary sanitizer to kill germs, which includes viruses and bacteria; a weekly shock to keep your chlorine working effectively; and a phosphate removal and enzyme product to prevent algae growth and assist your sanitizer. (Remember, chemical doses are based on the gallons of your pool and your water test results.)

DIY TIP: When testing your water at home — using test strips or a test kit — you can enter your results in your free Leslie's app. The app will assist you in determining how best to treat your pool water.

Here are the ideal chemical levels for your pool:

  • Ideal pH level: 7.4-7.6
  • Ideal total alkalinity (TA) level: 80-120 parts per million (ppm)
  • Ideal calcium hardness (CH) level: 200-400 ppm
  • Ideal free available chlorine (FAC) level: 2.0-4.0 ppm
  • Ideal cyanuric acid level: 30-50 ppm

And there you have it. You're now on your way to becoming a pool care master. But you don't have to make the rest of that journey alone. Leslie's is always available for help and support.

It’s also important for us to acknowledge that certain aspects of pool care are subjective, based on personal preference. There are many variations of successful approaches, but we have devoted decades to honing our products and solutions. If you have any questions, stop by your nearest Leslie’s store or call us at 1.800.537.5437.

At Leslie’s, we’re here to help you create a safe, sanitary, and perfect pool experience.