Module 4 – Pool & Spa Maintenance
Chapter 15: Cleaning & On-Going Maintenance
Cleaning of pools requires the use of a variety of tools and will depend upon the circumstances found at each property including the status of the pool filter and pump systems. In addition to Investor guidelines related to cleaning operational pool systems, many local ordinances also require that pools be regularly maintained and cleaned in order to prevent hazardous conditions and the impression of blight within the surrounding community. Several tools are available and should be carried (especially in areas where pools are prevalent) by field service professionals in order to address these requirements.
Pool Cleaning Tools
These poles, also referred to as tele poles, vary in both length and quality. These poles facilitate reaching into the water with corresponding tools to enable cleaning of difficult to reach areas.
Regular vacuuming of pools is necessary to improve the appearance of a pool. In order to vacuum a pool an operational filter must be present. These heads attach to telescoping poles and a vacuum hose which connects to the filter. The type of vacuum head that should be used will depend upon the type of pool that is present at the property. Wheeled and weighted heads are intended for use on concrete pools. Heads using brushes are to be used on vinyl lined pools to prevent damage.
Vacuum hoses are intended to be used in conjunction with the vacuum head and telescoping pole. The hose is attached to the head of the vacuum as well as the skimmer suction hole or vacuum line (if present) within the filter assembly. Once turned on, debris from the pool is transported into the filter for treatment. To complete the vacuuming process, clean the filter basket and complete the backwash procedure as described above.
This contraption consists of a container that traps large debris before entering the filter when using the vacuum head, hose and telescoping pole to clean the pool. This item is highly recommended when handling pools that are extremely dirty or filled with debris to prevent damage and clogs within the filter.
The skimmer net is intended for use on a regular basis to remove small debris from surface of the pool. This shallow mesh net attaches to the telescoping pole and does not require the use of a filter or pump making it ideal for situations in which the electricity and/or pool hardware is not operational.
The leaf rake is a much deeper mesh net that can also be attached to the telescoping pole. This tool should be used to remove larger debris from the bottom of the pool. As with the skimmer net, the use of a filter or pump is not required making it ideal for situations in which the electricity and/or pool hardware is not operational.
Pool brushes are used to brush the sides and bottom of the pool when attached to the telescoping pole to remove dirt, algae and other build up that may be missed when vacuuming. These tools do not require an operational filter making them very user friendly for mortgage field service professionals. In an ideal situation, pools and spas should be brushed on a weekly basis to remove this buildup. The type of brush to be used will once again vary by the type of pool that is present at the property. Plastic bristle brushes are appropriate for all pool types and are recommended as a best practice tool due to their versatility. Stainless steel brushes should only be used for plaster and concrete pools. Specialty brushes can also be purchased that are designed to clean corners, steps and tight spaces.
Tile brushes can be used to clean decorative tile accents found in many pools and do not require the use of a pool filter in order to clean. These brushes are designed to be non-abrasive to prevent damage during the cleaning process. If a tile brush is not available, plastic bristle pool brushes can also be used to complete this cleaning. Never use an abrasive brush to clean tiles or other decorative accents within a pool.
A leaf bagger uses water pressure from a hose, not connected to the filter, in order to remove debris from a pool. This tool provides an alternative to mortgage field service professionals tasked with cleaning a pool that does not have an operational filter or electrical service.
Stain Master or Acid Wand
This device uses siphoning action to deliver muriatic acid directly to a stain on the pool floor or side. This tool can be used to address small stains from rust, leaves, etc. It is imperative that the instructions be followed when using this device to prevent damage and safety concerns for the operator.
Pumice stones can be attached to telescoping poles to remove stains on concrete pools. These stones should not be used on other pool types in order to prevent damage.
Basic Pool Cleaning Procedures
After completing the startup procedures for a pool, regular pool cleaning is often required to maintain the appearance of the pool. Pool cleaning should be completed on a recurring basis, preferably once a week. The basic steps required to clean a pool are outlined below:
1. Use skimmer wand and leaf rake to remove debris from the surface and bottom of the pool
● For pools with a significant amount of debris and an inoperable filter and pump consider the use of a leaf bagger to speed this process and prevent wear to the skimmer and rake tools
● Unfortunately, animals are often found at the bottom of a pool. Their carcasses must be removed as part of the cleaning process. Skimmers and leaf rakes may not be strong enough to remove these items. If using an alternate method to remove the carcass please take care to maintain the integrity of the pool as much as possible.
2. Brush the sides, bottom and tile surfaces of the pool with a manual brush to remove any buildup
● Be sure to use the appropriate brush for the appropriate pool
● Pay attention to steps, corners and other areas where water circulation is poor
3. Vacuum the bottom of the pool (if filter is operational)
4. Clean out the filter to remove any debris that has been collected and complete backwash procedures if the vacuum system has been used
5. Maintain appropriate pH levels by using chemical or organic solutions as needed to balance the chemistry of the pool
Many municipalities, Investors and Servicers require that pools be regularly maintained to prevent blight and health and safety concerns for the surrounding community.
Prevention of Mosquito Breeding
One of the largest issues related to unmaintained pools surrounds the dangers involved with the increasing prevalence of West Nile Virus infected mosquitoes. Improperly maintained pools and spas provide a breeding ground for these pests, a potentially hazardous situation for the community and a legal concern for those responsible for the maintenance of these pools.
West Nile Virus is a type of encephalitis that is transmitted from birds to mosquitoes and ultimately to humans via bites. This blood borne illness can cause severe illness in humans and if left untreated may lead to death. Care should be taken to minimize risk of bites through use of repellents and wearing clothing covering arms and legs when addressing areas where mosquitoes may be present.
In the past, many communities opted to drain pools of stagnant water thus removing the potential breeding area for mosquitoes. Unfortunately, this led to situations in which pools were pushed from the ground or damaged due to the water table. New requirements prohibit the complete draining of these structures to preserve their integrity but leave stagnant water in need of treatment to remove havens for mosquito larvae.
Some municipalities have turned to the use of fish to remove the offending larvae from the water before they can mature and pose a threat to the community. These fish sometimes referred to as “mosquitofish,” scientifically known as Gambusia affinis, have earned a reputation for being champion eaters of mosquito larvae and are now regularly used in many areas of the country to address this concern. It is important to note that the use of these fish represents an investment made by the municipality. If these fish are encountered, their presence should be clearly reported to the client and every effort should be made to treat the pool with materials that will not result in their harm. There are products on the market that can produce the same results as shocking a pool with traditional chemicals without damaging any aquatic life that may be residing within the pool or spa. These products utilize a mix of salts or Bt bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) to clear the pool and remove the offending larvae.
In addition to addressing the pool and/or spa, field service professionals should be on the lookout for any other sources of stagnant water that can be drained or dumped including:
● Buckets, rain barrels, flower pots and pet bowls
● Bottles, cans and other debris
● Tarps or pool covers where water has puddle
● Dips in landscaping leaving standing water
● Clogged gutters and drains
● Birdbaths and other lawn/landscaping ornaments
● Decorative ponds and fountains
● Window wells
● Any other item that may collect water
Balancing Pool Water
After completing the startup procedures for a pool, regular balancing of the pool water should be completed in addition to cleaning to maintain its appearance. Proper balancing will decrease the growth of algae and other build up and prevent hazardous conditions that can be caused by breeding mosquitoes.
There are three measurements that are important to the balancing of pool water: pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness. A test kit is required to measure these levels within the pool water. Water tests should be taken whenever maintaining the pool.
The pH level provides an indication of how acidic or basic (alkaline) a liquid is. pH levels range from 0 to 14 with readings below 7 being considered acidic, above 7 being basic and at 7 being neutral. Proper pH levels for a pool are between 7.2 and 7.8. If readings indicate that the water is too acidic (lower than 7.2 pH) pH increasers or bases are used to increase the level. If readings indicate that the water is too basic (higher than 7.8 pH) pH decreasers or acids are used to decrease the levels. Improper pH balance can cause significant damage when left untreated, including: weakening pool lining, pitting plaster, stripping heat exchangers, clouding water, and/or causing scale to tile, filters and liners.
The total alkalinity of the water measures the carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides and other alkaline substances in the pool. The total alkalinity level in a pool helps maintain a constant pH. Similar to the management of pH, low alkalinity is raised through the introduction of a base (most commonly sodium bicarbonate) while high alkalinity is lowered through the use of an acidic agent.
The level of alkalinity that should be maintained will vary depending on the type of pool that is being serviced. Gunite and concrete pools should have an alkalinity level ranging between 80-120 parts per million (ppm) and painted, vinyl and fiberglass pools should have a range between 125-170ppm. As always follow the instructions on any treatments to be used for specific guideline related to their handling and application.
The calcium hardness of the pool water refers to the level of scale or calcium carbonate that has been deposited on the surfaces of the pool. The test for calcium hardness measures the hardness or softness of the water. Hard water will have a high level of white, crystalline deposits on the surfaces within the pool. Soft water can lead to corrosion of the pool as the water leeches calcium from available surfaces to balance itself. The ideal measurement for calcium hardness is between 200 and 400ppm. If calcium hardness levels are too high or too low, products can be used to treat the water and restore the proper balance.
Pool Chemical Safety
Many of the chemicals used to balance and treat pool water can be very dangerous. It is important to maintain safe practices when handling these substances to avoid injury and damage to the pool. Below are some tips for the safe handling of these chemicals:
1. Read instructions and labels prior to use
2. Do not use chemicals found at a property as they may be old and have added potential for damage and injury if mishandled
3. Chemicals should always be added directly to the pool water rather than through the filter to prevent damage to this equipment
4. If dilution is required complete this process in a separate bucket prior to introduction to the pool
5. Take precautions by wearing respirators, masks, gloves, safety goggles, boots, etc. as suggested by the manufacturer
● If contact occurs with skin wash immediately
● If contact occurs with eyes, flush for 15 minutes and consult a physician
6. Never mix chemicals to avoid potentially unsafe reactions and be sure to use separate scoops and buckets for each type of chemical to avoid unintentional mixing
7. Clean spills immediately according to manufacturer instructions
8. Dispose of excess chemicals properly
9. Keep chemicals away from open flame or lit cigarettes
● Use only water filled fire extinguishers for chlorine chemical fires
10. Maintain records of the MSDS for each product used in case of an emergency