A Complete Guide to Making Your Pool Water Clearer

There’s nothing quite more refreshing than taking a dip in your backyard swimming pool during the warm summer months. Swimming pools provide a fun yet peaceful environment for friends, family, and loved ones to gather. Without proper maintenance, however, pool water can quickly become a nightmare to deal with, especially during warm weather. If your pool has turned from a crystal clear appearance to a green, murky mess, have no worries! Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making your pool water clearer and our top tips.

Check Your Pool’s pH Levels

Your pool’s pH level is the measure of its acidity. Ideally, proper pool pH levels should be between 7.4 and 7.6. If the pH level drops below this ideal range, it means the water is acidic. pH levels higher than 7.6 indicate the water is basic or alkaline. In either case, when a pool’s pH levels are off-balance, it can create issues with your pool water.

When the pH level in your pool exceeds 7.6, the water becomes too soft, making the chlorine less effective. As a result, your water may appear murky or even green. To make the water clear again, you will need to add slightly more chlorine than usual.

When to Test Pool pH

In order for you to add the right amount of chlorine to your pool, you will need to test your pool pH. Even when your water isn’t cloudy, testing the pool pH ensures all the chemicals and water are balanced.

To test your pool’s pH, you will need to use pH test strips. It is recommended to test the pool pH at least two or three times a week. If you are new to maintaining pools, you may want to check the pH as much as once a day.

If the pH level is off-balance, it is best to add more chlorine. The higher your pH level is, the less effective chlorine becomes. In fact, if the pool water reaches an 8.0 pH, the chlorine is only about 10 percent effective in the water. Thus, you will need to add extra chlorine in order for the water to clear up. 

Check the Chlorine Levels of Your Pool

In addition to testing the pH levels of your pool, you should weekly check your pool’s chlorine levels. After all, it is the chlorine that keeps your pool clear and clean to swim in.

To test the chlorine levels of your pool, you will once again need to use a test strip. It is recommended to check your pool’s chlorine levels two or three times a week. If there is not enough chlorine in the pool, you will need to raise the chlorine level.

Raising the chlorine levels of your pool is a fairly easy process. Simply add chlorine tablets, granular chlorine, powder shock, or liquid shock to the pool to increase chlorine levels. Always add chlorine in small doses, as over-chlorinating can cause more harm than good for your pool.

In some cases, you may need to lower the chlorine level of your pool. This process is more difficult than raising the pool’s chlorine level. To lower the chlorine level of your pool, you will need to drain the water or leave the pool uncovered in direct sunlight. The sunlight will reduce the chlorine in your pool, helping it return to a normal level.

Before adjusting your pool’s chlorine levels, always be sure to test the water. Overdosing the chlorine can make water unsafe to swim in, while too little chlorine can make the water cloudy. To ensure the chemicals are always balanced, use a pool test strip to monitor the chlorine levels.

Run the Pool Filter

The pool’s filtration system works by pulling water up through the pump and into the filter to remove dirt, debris, and even bacteria. The water is then returned to the pool, and more water is pulled into the filter. In order for water to stay clear, the filter must remain running for at least eight hours a day.

Even if you run your pool pump/filter 8 hours a day, it is still important to check that the pool has a proper turnover rate. The turnover rate is the amount of time it takes for the entire pool to be filtered. If unsure what the turnover rate is, you’ll need to measure your pool’s gallons per minute (GPM).

Pool pumps do not have to run for 8 hours straight. Instead, you may run it a couple of hours in the morning and a few hours at night. If you just shocked your pool, you’ll want to run the filter immediately afterward.

The best time of day to add chemicals to your pool is at night so that the sun won’t lower the chlorine levels. Additionally, nighttime is considered non-peak hours, meaning you won’t spend as much on electricity during this time. After adding chemicals to the pool, it is recommended to let the filter run for 8 hours straight to ensure the chemicals are properly distributed throughout the water.

It is not necessary to run a filter for 24 hours straight unless the water is extremely cloudy. Additionally, if your pool experiences high usage, you may need to run the filter more often.

Maintaining the Filter

In order for a pool filter to work properly, it needs regular maintenance. It is recommended to clean the filter once every six months. If the pool is often used, you may need to clean it more frequently.

To maintain the filter, it’s important to manually remove any debris from the filter when the water turnover rate slows down. When debris becomes stuck in the filter, your water is more likely to become murky. Additionally, you may want to run a pool vacuum so that the filter doesn’t have to process as much debris.

Once a month, you may backwash the filter by switching the filter setting to “backwash.” Backwashing is simply the process of cleaning out the filter pipes. Allow the pump to run until the water from the waste pump is clear. Once the water is clear, finish by selecting the rinse cycle.

Use a Skimmer

The pool skimmer is the starting point of your pool’s circulation. In other words, the skimmer acts as the gateway to the pool’s filter. As water is sucked into the filtration system by the pool pump, the skimmer clears any debris that would cause blockage in the filter. Without the skimmer, the filter wouldn’t be able to perform as efficiently.

Although all skimmers work the same, their appearance may vary, depending on the type of pool you have. Most inground pools feature skimmers installed directly on the pool’s wall. Above-ground pools, on the other hand, may feature floating pool skimmers or skimmers that attach to the pool’s edge. In recent years, robotic pool skimmers have become popular in both in-ground and above-ground pools.

How to Maintain the Pool Skimmer

Just like the pool filter, the skimmer may become clogged from time to time. When this happens, the water may become cloudy and unsafe to swim in.

To clean the pool skimmer, you will first need to turn off the pool pump. From here, remove the cover and gently remove the basket from the skimmer. Using a hose, rinse the skimmer until all dirt and debris are removed. Finally, replace the basket back into the cylinder of the skimmer.

It is recommended for pool owners to clean the skimmer’s basket once a week, or as often as needed. The more often you clean the skimmer, the better your pool’s filter will operate. If the pool experiences high usage, or the water is suddenly unclear, you may need to clean the skimmer more often.

Keep Water Levels High

In order for your pool’s skimmer to operate, the water levels have to be kept high. When the water is below the skimmer, the pool cannot be properly filtered. As a result, the water may become cloudy and green.

Generally, the water level should be at the midpoint of the pool skimmer. This is typically 6 inches down from the top of the pool. Another way to determine the water’s level is by looking at the skimmer’s screws. If the water level is at the top screw of the skimmer, it’s at an appropriate water level. Of course, every skimmer is different, and not all skimmers are located at the exact same spot.

When water levels are too low, the filtration system is at risk of becoming damaged. The motors may begin to fail, and the water will become cloudy. Water levels too high, however, can be just as serious, especially if the pool water floods your yard.

How to Keep Pool Water at an Ideal Level

Whether the water levels are too low or too high, the pool’s water is at risk of becoming murky and unsafe. Additionally, the pool’s equipment may become damaged, especially if the water drops below the skimmer.

To keep your pool water at an ideal level, you’ll want to monitor the water levels several times a week. During hot weather or heavy rain, you’ll need to check the water levels more often. If you run a pool vacuum or backwash your pool, the water level may drop even faster.

When the water level appears too low, use a hose to raise the water level. After filling the pool, it’s important to check the water chemistry. Adding water will throw the chemical levels off balance, making the pool subject to algae growth. 

When water levels are too high, use the pump drain or backwashing feature of your pool’s filtration system to drain the water. You may also attach a hose to a submersible pump to lower the water level. Leave the pump on until the water level is at the midpoint of the skimmer, or 6 inches below the pool’s edge. Once again, you may need to adjust the pool’s chemistry after draining the pool water.

Clean Debris in the Pool

As simple as this may sound, cleaning out debris is often the easiest way to make pool water clear again. Oftentimes, debris gets stuck in the skimmer, making it difficult for the water to filter. To prevent this from happening, you may remove the debris before it reaches the skimmer. This can be done either by hand or with a pool vacuum.

Use a Hand-Skimmer or Leaf Net

The first option for removing debris from pools is using a hand-skimmer or leaf net. By attaching the net to a telescoping pole, you may remove any debris floating on the water’s surface. If you have trees near the pool or frequent storms in your area, you may need to remove debris more often.

Run a Pool Vacuum

Another option for cleaning your pool of debris is running a pool vacuum. Pool vacuums are designed to sweep the bottom of the pool floors, as well as the pool’s walls. Typically, pool vacuums should be run once a week to ensure water clarity.

There are two main types of pool vacuums: manual pool vacuums and automatic pool vacuums. Manual pool vacuums are the ideal option if your pool is extremely dirty and the water isn’t deep. If the water is deep and already relatively clean, an automatic pool vacuum may be the best option.

Automatic pool vacuums are great for keeping pools crystal clear during all times of the year. Unfortunately, they do not operate well when the pool contains heavy debris. This is primarily because they do not have the scrubbing feature that manual pool vacuums have.

Use Pool Clarifiers

When pool water becomes unsightly and unsafe to swim in, it may be time to add pool clarifiers. Pool clarifiers are substances that contain chain-like molecules called polymers. These molecules act as coagulants on tiny particles that are too small for your filter to process. Once a pool clarifier is added, these small particles clump together, allowing the filter to detect them and ultimately remove them during the filtration process.

Alternatively, you may use a pool flocculant to clean your pool’s water. Similar to a pool clarifier, a pool flocculant will cause small particles to clump together. However, pool flocculants come in the form of powder, whereas pool clarifiers come in the form of liquid or pills. Keep in mind that the pool flocculant does not work with a cartridge filter unless you have installed a custom plumbing setup.

How to Use Pool Clarifiers

Before you add a pool clarifier to your swimming pool, first remove any algae growing along the pool’s surface. Pool clarifiers are only designed to make water clear, not to remove algae growth. Next, test the pH level of your pool. If the pH is off-balance, the clarifier will not be as effective. The ideal range for pool pH is 7.4 to 7.6.

In order to add the correct amount of pool clarifier, you will need to measure the pool’s volume. An online pool calculator can be used if you don’t know the volume of your pool. Once the volume is determined, add the correct amount of pool clarifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Finally, run the filter until the water becomes clear again. This may take several days, depending on how cloudy your pool is. However, the water will be safe to swim in only 20 minutes after adding the pool clarifier.

Shock the Pool

The final option for making pool water clearer is shocking the pool. In general, swimming pools should be shocked once a week. If multiple people swim in your pool, you may need to shock the pool more frequently.

Shocking your pool eliminates the growth of any bacteria or algae. Consequently, your pool water should always remain crystal clear. Be careful not to overdose on the pool shock, however, as too much pool shock can make the pool unsafe to swim in. Furthermore, always run the pool pump after shocking the pool. Running the pump allows water to circulate, making the pool clear as well as safe for swimmers.

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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