If you’ve ever had a pool that resembled a swamp rather than a crystal clear blue paradise then you’ve probably had this thought at least once! Is it really a good idea to simply just drain your pool and start all over again or is it worth investing the time and effort to try and bring your pool back to life?
Why it’s never a good idea to drain your pool
In all honesty, swimming pools are not meant to be drained not unless there are some very specific circumstances that call for it, and having green pool water isn’t one of them. In fact, having green pool water is actually a good chance to practice everything that you’ve learned about pool chemistry and maintaining your pool water.
Draining your pool when it turns green or swampy is just asking for trouble. If you have a vinyl pool, draining it below the recommended safe levels can cause the liner to collapse and become useless in just under a day. The weight of the liner combined with sun exposure is more than enough to cause it to collapse. So if you’re thinking about draining your vinyl liner pool, then think again! In fact, the only time you should drain a vinyl pool is when you’re thinking of replacing the liner altogether.
For concrete and fibreglass pools, the same thing can happen, the hydrostatic pressure from the ground can cause your pool to pop out from the ground, so draining a fibreglass or concrete pool must be done under the supervision of (or by) a pool professional. I repeat, draining your pool isn’t something that you can do DIY!
Valid Reasons to drain your pool
As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are some valid reasons why you should consider draining your pool.
- For vinyl pools, drain it when the liner is due for replacement.
- For cement or gunite pools, when it is due for an acid wash, then you should get a pool professional to do it for you. If it’s out of your budget, then you can try doing a no-drain acid wash which we have written about extensively.
- Pool repairs and maintenance
- As a last resort
How to determine if your pool needs draining
As a last resort, these questions must be fully answered before you even start to consider calling in someone to help you drain your pool.
- Can you see the bottom of your pool? Mosey on over to the shallow part of your pool (not the steps!) and then take a good look at it. If you can still see the bottom of your pool then it’s still manageable and there’s no need to drain your pool.
- Can you remove the debris? Unless you have sludge at the bottom of your pool or something unmanageable (like a dead horse! Just kidding!) then a little elbow grease and a good amount of scooping or vacuuming should be able to take care of it.
- Do you have a large filter? If you have an oversized filter then it should be able to take the brunt of filtering out a swamp. If you have a filter that’s sized “just right” then it may need some help. Can a filter be too oversized? That question is answered here.
- Do you have a sand filter? Sand filters can handle almost anything you throw at them, even swampy water, but if you have a cartridge filter, you may have some trouble filtering out your water and it may lead you to need a filter cartridge replacement after all has been said and done. Since cartridge filters don’t have a “waste” setting, you may want to install a three-way valve to create a line to bypass your filter directly for vacuuming purposes.
- Can you commit to spending up to a week of constant testing, dosing, and cleaning? If you can wage chemical warfare on your pool then no need to drain your pool.
You can always PARTIALLY drain the pool and refill it with clean water, this will effectively dilute everything in your pool by the amount of water drained and replaced.
Ask any experienced pool owner and they will tell you that no matter what color your pool water is and no matter how bad it seems, it can be fixed with some effort and of course, proper pool chemical level balancing. Even fecal accidents or dead wildlife can be fixed with the removal of the debris and the proper application of pool chlorine.
Dealing with a bad algae bloom or swampy pool water
Mr Pool Man has an extensive guide on how to deal with green pool water which you can check out here. But as a quick guide, here are the steps you have to take in order to fix your pool water without fully draining. Take note that you may have to do some (if not most) of the steps multiple times, but it’s still much cheaper and safer than draining your pool completely.
- Fish out all of the debris - With your trusty leaf rake or leaf shovel, fish out all of the debris as much as you can. This is to help reduce the load off of your filter down the line when we start to filter your pool water.
- Partially drain your pool - after fishing out everything, partially drain out your pool by vacuuming to waste. While this may not be the fastest way to partially drain your pool, vacuuming to waste accomplishes multiple things. It removes debris that has accumulated at the bottom of your pool that you couldn’t fish out earlier. It also drains out some of the particles that may be too fine for your filter to catch. And finally, partially draining out your pool will reduce all your chemical levels which include cyanuric acid, phosphates and others that are contributing to the cloudiness and the algae in your pool. Don’t worry, all the essential chemicals at this point like chlorine are probably too low for them to help.
- Refill your pool to its proper level - After partially draining your pool, bring it back to the proper level so you’ll have a baseline to work with.
- Shock your pool - Self-explanatory, you’ll need to shock your pool when you’re dealing with a particularly bad situation. Be sure to do this at night to maximize the sanitising power of your pool chlorine shock without worrying about the sun’s UV rays burning your chlorine away. (Remember your cyanuric levels will be low from partially draining your pool)
- Test and balance your pool water - At this point, your pool water should already start to look better. Once you’ve balanced your water, keep your pool pump running and continue to clean, scrub, and vacuum your pool. Need help testing your pool water? Check out Mr Pool Man's Ultimate Guide to Testing your Pool Water.
- Floc your pool - If after a couple of days of continuously cleaning your pool and it’s still very cloudy and is still tinted green from the algae, time to bring out the big guns. Use a flocculant to capture all of the tiny particles that are still clouding up your pool.
- Test and balance your pool water, again - This is the critical part, keep testing and balancing your pool water to stabilize everything and you should be seeing a massive improvement in a few days.
- Apply some algaecide and phosphate remover. Do you really want to go through that all over again? With the proper application of algaecide and phosphate remover, you'll be stopping algae blooms before they start! Think of this as an extra layer of protection on top of your pool chlorine, to ensure that any slip-ups in pool maintenance will be forgiven (not by much, but it helps).
After going through all of those steps, you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Why did I ever think to drain the pool?” Think of it as a proving ground. Remember that dealing with a really bad pool algae situation is only one of the steps in pool maintenance, you’ll have to do those tasks over and over again in the lifetime of your pool. If you give up that easily and just get someone to drain the pool, then you’ll end up spending a ton of money. Might as well get someone to maintain your pool for you if you give up easily.
Maintaining your pool is actually quite easy once you get the hang of it. There are also tools which you can get that will make your pool maintenance tasks much easier like a salt water chlorinator to maintain your pool chlorine levels automatically, robotic or automatic pool cleaners to make cleaning a breeze, and a kid to do those tasks for you (just kidding!). But in all seriousness, owning a pool is a family affair since everyone uses it then everyone should pitch in!