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8 Pool Care & Maintenance Steps Every Pool Owner Needs to Know

How well your pool water is maintained governs its cleanliness, clarity, color, and safety. What’s more, proper chemical balance is critical to protecting the health of your swimmers, their comfort, and the aesthetics of your pool. The following guidelines, if used as directed on a regular basis, are designed to help you maintain proper chemical balance and prevent troublesome problems.

Step 1: Test 2x a Week

Periodic testing is a very important part in maintaining proper chemical balance. It is the only reliable method of monitoring the exact chemical balance of the pool water.

That’s why a quality test kit is essential, and you can use either test strips or test solutions.

The most useful type is one that provides a test for not only pH and chlorine, but also total alkalinity, hardness, and cyanuric acid levels. We recommend test strips for better reliability and longer shelf life. Test solutions have a limited shelf life and lose their accuracy if exposed to sunlight and heat. Store them in a cool, dry area.

If you need additional help, we offer free water testing. Bring in a fresh pint-sized sample of pool water to your local Watson’s superstore.

Pro Tip:

When using your test kit, water samples should be taken from as far as possible below the surface and away from the pool return line. Test your water samples promptly.

Factor Ideal Range (parts per million) Remedy (Too Low) Remedy (Too High)
Free Chlorine 1.5 to 3.0 ppm Add Chlorine Allow sun to dissipate or dilute pool water
Free Chlorine (w/mineral system) .5 to 1.0 ppm Add Chlorine Allow sun to dissipate or dilute pool water
pH 7.2 to 7.6 Add pH Plus Add pH Minus
Total Alkalinity 80 to 120 ppm Add Alkalinity Plus Add Muriatic Acid
Cyanuric Acid 30 to 100 ppm Add Cyanuric Acid (conditioner) Drain part of pool, add fresh water

Step 2: Stabilize (30-100 ppm)

After filling the pool, or when a chlorine residual of 1.0-1.5 ppm cannot be maintained for a 24 hour period, or at least every 60 days for preventative maintenance, the stabilizer (conditioner or cyanuric acid) level should be checked with a test kit to maintain a minimum level of 30 parts per million. The stabilizer acts as a sun shield to chlorine, allowing the chlorine to remain in the water longer and do its job. Stabilizing or conditioning assures that the chlorine will be present at all times to kill bacteria and algae.

Pro Tip:

Use pool conditioner (cyanuric acid) to stabilize or condition pool water. Clean or backwash pool filter first. Add pool conditioner at the rate of 1 pound for every 4,000 gallons of pool water. Bring to a minimum of 30 ppm. This should last all season and longer.

Step 3: Adjust pH (7.2-7.6)

The measure of the alkalinity or acidity of pool water is on a scale of 0 to 14. (0 - 6.9 is acidic, 7 - 7.9 is neutral, and 8.0 - 14 is alkaline.) The pH is by far the most important factor in water balance because it affects the ability of the chlorine to kill bacteria. A reading between 7.2 to 7.6 is ideal.

6.8  - 7.0 7.2 - 7.6 7.8 - 8.0 8.2 - 8.4 8.6
Too Low Ideal Non-Irritating Somewhat Irritating Irritating
-Skin Discomfort  
-Eye Irritation
-Liner Wrinkle
-Loss of Chlorine
-Ideal Range
-Efficiency of chlorine is at its maximum
-Satisfactory, but less effective range for chlorine -Chlorine effectiveness decreases
-Cloudy water
-Excessive chlorine usage
-Eye Irritation  
-Chlorine completely ineffective

Use a reliable test kit to check pH twice weekly. Use pH plus (Soda Ash) or pH minus (Dry Acid) to maintain correct pH balance. 

Pro Tip:

Amount of pH Increase (Soda Ash) to use in pool water:

pH 5,000 7,500 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000
Above 7.6 None None None None None None None
7.2 to 7.6 Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range
6.8 to 7.2 6 oz. 9 oz. 12 oz. 18 oz. 24 oz. 30 oz. 36 oz.
6.5 to 6.8 8 oz. 12 oz. 16 oz. 24 oz. 32 oz. 40 oz. 48 oz.
Below 6.5 10 oz. 15 oz. 20 oz. 30 oz. 40 oz. 50 oz. 60 oz.

Amount of pH Decrease (Dry Acid) to use in pool water:

pH 5,000 7,500 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000
Below 7.2 None None None None None None None
7.2 to 7.6 Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range Ideal Range
7.6 to 8.0 4 oz. 6 oz. 8 oz. 12 oz. 16 oz. 20 oz. 24 oz.
8.0 to 8.4 8 oz. 12 oz. 16 oz. 24 oz. 32 oz. 40 oz. 48 oz.
Above 8.4 12 oz. 18 oz. 24 oz. 36 oz. 48 oz. 60 oz. 72 oz.

Step 4: Chlorinate (1.5-3.0 Free Chlorine) (.5-1.0 w/ Mineral System)

Sanitizing your pool water with chlorine is a continuous job. The amount of chlorine needed will depend on the temperature of the water, bather load, and impurities in the pool. Use your test kit to determine the level of chlorine in your pool. If the chlorine residual is below 1.0 ppm, chlorine is needed. A chlorine residual of 1.0 is absolutely necessary to keep pool water clear of bacteria and algae. When using a mineral system or other means of killing bacteria, chlorine level can be kept at .5 to 1.0 ppm. Learn more about our Algae Free Guarantee.

Pro Tip:

To maintain a chlorine level of 1.0 to 1.5 ppm, use any of the following:

  • Automatic Chlorination: The easiest and most efficient method.
  • 1” Slow Tablets: Place 10 tablets into feeder for every 5,000 gallons every 7-14 days. Retest chlorine level.
  • Jumbo Slow Tablets: Place one tablet into feeder for every 5,000 gallons every 7-14 days. Retest chlorine level.
  • Granular Chlorine: Broadcast over water at the rate of 1 ounce per 5,000 gallons every day. Retest chlorine level.
  • Automatic Chlorination With Mineral: The best possible way to sanitize your pool. Chlorine level should be between .5-1.0 ppm.

Please note: The amount actually needed may vary depending on temperature, wind, rain, and pool usage. These are approximates. Read your manufacturer’s label for exact amounts.

Step 5: Adjust Total Alkalinity (80-120 ppm)

Total alkalinity (in parts per million) is the concentration of alkaline chemicals in the pool water. While not the same as pH, it does control pH to a large degree. The ideal range of 80 to 120 ppm makes pH control easier. Above 120 ppm, larger additions of pH chemicals are necessary to make adjustments to the pH. Below 80 ppm, pH tends to be very sensitive and difficult to control. Measurement can be obtained with a total alkalinity test kit. If too low, add total alkalinity increaser as per label instructions. If too high, add a pH lowering solution like Pool pH Minus or muriatic acid as per instructions to bring total alkalinity down to the 80 to 120 ppm range. Retest pH after adjusting total alkalinity.

Pro Tip:

To raise total alkalinity (TA):

Gallons 10 ppm 20 ppm 30 ppm
5,000 12 oz. 24 oz. 36 oz.
7,500 18 oz. 36 oz. 54 oz.
10,000 24 oz. 48 oz. 72 oz.
15,000 36 oz. 72 oz. 108 oz.
20,000 48 oz. 96 oz. 144 oz.
25,000 60 oz. 120 oz. 180 oz.
30,000 72 oz. 144 oz. 216 oz.

Step 6: Shocking

Shocking is the addition of a powerful oxidizer (chlorine or monosulphate) to pool water to restore free chlorine levels to their optimum ability to sanitize. This will make chlorine more effective in controlling algae and bacteria. Shocking is recommended weekly once the water exceeds 80℉ or when your pool is receiving heavy bather use or when the pool is subject to long periods of rain or high winds carrying dust, debris or pollen. 

Pro Tip:

Shocking without side effects is best accomplished by using Swimway Blast(monopersulfate) at a rate of 1 lb. per 10,000 gallons. Using Blast over liquid chlorine accomplishes four things:

  1. Blast allows you to use your pool 20 minutes after it is applied.

  2. There is no bleaching of the liner by high concentrations of chlorine.

  3. It has little effect on pH or other water chemistry.

  4. It allows the phos-free enzyme in Natural Chemistry’s Pool Perfect + Phosfree to continue to work.

Liquid chlorine or high concentrations of granular shock can break the phos-free enzyme down making you start this process over again with Step 1. Liquid or granular shocking are recommended only when opening your pool in spring or if algae becomes present. Liquid chlorine is used at 1 gallon per 12,000 gallons and granular 56 is used at 1 oz. per 5,000 gallons.

Step 7: Check Filter System

The filter system is designed to remove debris by circulating the pool water and screening out insoluble particles. Chemicals alone do not keep the pool water clean. The importance of proper filtration cannot be overemphasized in the overall program of sound pool management and sanitary water.

Pro Tip:

Run filter at least long enough to turn over the water once daily. Check pump, filter, and circulation system periodically. Clean filter often for optimum water clarity. Follow filter manufacturer’s guidelines regarding backwashing and maintenance. Replace sand or Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) each year and add the correct amount per manufacturer’s instructions. Deep clean all elements at the end of the swimming season with Leisure Time Filter Clean or Trisodium Phosphate (T.S.P.). Rinse and let the element dry and store in a cool, dry place until spring. Do not store elements in a plastic bag to prevent mold and mildew from forming.

Step 8: Clean Your Pool  

Keeping the pool physically clean is as important as the regular additions of chemicals. Debris in the pool is unsightly, increases chlorine demand, and may cause staining of the pool liner. During the swimming season, thoroughly clean the pool at least once a week. 

Pro Tip:

  1. Maintain proper water level (you can lose up to 3” of water per week through evaporation, splash outs and back washing).

  2. Skim pool surface with leaf skimmer.

  3. Brush walls and floor with proper pool brush (vacuuming time will be decreased).

  4. Remove dirt ring from liner with tile and vinyl cleaner.

  5. Clean out skimmer basket.

  6. Clean out hair and lint basket.

  7. Check filter pressure and backwash when needed (read manufacturer’s instructions).

  8. Keep area near pool clean.

  9. Check hoses and equipment and replace when needed.

  10. Vacuum pool (see more on this below).

Step 9: Vacuum


To vacuum, simply connect the vacuum head to the pole, and connect the vacuum hose to the vacuum head. Before connecting the other end of the hose to the skimmer or vacuum fitting, the hose must be full of water. To do this, either slowly submerge hose until filled, or hold hose over return eyelet until filled. After the hose is filled with water connect hose to skimmer or vacuum fitting. Holding the pole, lower the vacuum head with the attached hose into the water and vacuum pool. It may be necessary to backwash the filter after vacuuming.

Step 10: Handle Chemicals with Care


Read product labels carefully and follow directions exactly. Read and follow all HAZARDS and CAUTIONS on all labels before using. Pool chemicals will do their work effectively, but they must be handled with care. Remember:

  1. Keep all chemicals away from children and pets.

  2. Never mix chemicals together.

  3. Always add chemicals to water.

  4. Store chemicals in a cool, dry place.

  5. Keep containers closed when not in use.

  6. Thoroughly clean empty containers.

  7. Wash hands thoroughly after handling.

  8. Familiarize yourself with first aid procedures.