Pure Balance Pool
There’s no doubt that Australia experiences some of the most extreme weather events on the planet. From droughts and bushfires to flash floods and snowstorms, you never know what’s coming next. Not only can these events put stress on your home and family, but they can also affect your swimming pool. If you’ve ever inspected your backyard after a heavy downpour or bushfire, you’ll know what I mean. Fallen trees. Cracked pipes. Murky water. Scorched decking. In other words, a mess!
So how do you clean up your pool after extreme weather?
The answer depends on the weather event you’ve experienced and how much it’s affected your pool. It could be a matter of getting rid of cloudy pool water after rain or removing a fallen tree after gale-force winds. Either way, we’ll show you how to clean up your pool after wild weather and the steps you can take to avoid costly clean-ups in the future.
Ready to take on Mother Nature? Then let’s get started!
You may think that wind poses little to no risk to your pool. You can just slap on a pool cover to keep out leaves, and Bob’s your uncle. But what you may not know is that high-speed winds can cause just as much damage as flash flooding and bushfires.
According to Weatherzone, gusts over 90 km/h can uproot trees and damage buildings. Even speeds of 76–87 km/h can cause branches to break off and roofing to dislodge. Below you’ll find the Beaufort Wind Scale, which shows you just how much wind speeds can affect our natural and built environment.
Beaufort Wind Scale. Source: Weatherzone
You’re probably thinking, ‘Okay, winds can be destructive, but what does this mean for my swimming pool?’ Well, wind can affect your pool in two ways. First, it reduces your water levels. This happens when the swift movement of air causes turbulence, hastening evaporation or making the water splash outside the pool. This means you get unbalanced pool water and less free chlorine to sanitise your pool and keep bacteria at bay.
When this happens, your pool could start to look cloudy or green. If you’ve had a few days of strong winds and you’ve noticed that your water levels have gone down (they should be about halfway up the skimmer box), top up your pool with fresh water, test the chemical levels (or take a sample to your pool shop) and adjust accordingly.
Second, wind can introduce organic debris into your pool, like soil, branches, leaves and seeds. Not only do these upset the chemical balance of your water, but they can also clog your filter, overwork your pump and stain your pool. As soon as you see debris floating or sinking to the bottom of your pool, use a skimmer or an automatic pool cleaner to remove it.
If damaging winds have blown furniture, trampolines or bikes into the pool, make sure you remove these carefully. Next, put on your goggles and check the bottom of the pool for damage. Hard or sharp objects can pierce linings or chip tiles. These need to be repaired straight away to prevent further damage.
If you have an above-ground pool, high winds and rain can shift the pool and damage the shell. The walls can also be pierced by a heavy branch or outdoor chair. This risk increases if the pool is only half full or drained. If you think that your above-ground pool has experienced cracks or dents, contact a pool technician or one of our authorised dealers for an assessment.
Prevention: To avoid cleaning and balancing your pool every time you get a stiff breeze, use a sturdy cover when your pool is not in use, or roll out the cover if windy conditions are expected. This will stop debris from entering your pool and overworking your filter or automatic cleaner. Even though debris will still land on the surface, it’ll be quicker and easier to remove. If you have space, a windbreak in the form of a structure or evergreen hedge can also minimise leaf litter.
You don’t have to live in tropical Queensland to experience heavy rain and thunderstorms. Earlier this year, Victoria copped a month’s worth of rain in one day, causing flash floods and building damage. Just imagine what it could do to your pool if you left it uncovered. Heavy rain not only overfills your pool but also dilutes the chlorine and reduces alkalinity, pH and calcium hardness levels. This imbalance can predispose your pool to cloudiness and algae, which can be hard to correct if left too long. What’s more, rainwater can make your pool water acidic, which can corrode the shell of your pool and reduce its longevity.
If you’ve just had a heavy downpour, clear out visible debris with a skimmer and automatic cleaner before it stains your pool or clogs your filter. If you still have particles, use a pool clarifier. Then, check the chemical balance of the water with a test kit. You’ll probably have to adjust the chlorine and run your pump until the water runs clear again. If you have a saltwater chlorinator, run it for 24 hours to get sanitation levels up again.
If the water level is too high, turn off the pump and rotate the drain valve until it blocks water from going to the filter. Then, turn on the pump and allow the water to be released. When the pool water level is halfway down the skimmer box opening, turn off the pump and rotate the drain valve to its usual position.
However, avoid lowering the water level if you plan on using pool flocculant for particularly stubborn particles. Vacuuming the particles will result in some water loss, which means that water levels will probably be restored to where they should be.
Prevention: If you’re expecting rain or storms, remove or secure any pool equipment that could get blown around or damaged. Turn off pumps, chlorinators, heaters and lighting. Balance your water or shock your pool in anticipation of chlorine loss. Lower your water level to prevent your pool from overflowing.
While it may be tempting to put a cover on your pool, it isn’t always a good idea in heavy storms. The cover can be weighed down by the water or ripped off by the wind.
Sometimes you can get a burst of rain or a light shower. This should have little impact on your chemical balance if you keep up a weekly pool maintenance schedule. If you’re unsure, check the water with your test kit and adjust if necessary.
The effects of a flood can be more serious than heavy rain or wind, so if you’ve experienced flash flooding in the past, chances are your pool was the first thing to overflow. If you’ve just experienced flooding, the most important thing to do is to wait for the water to recede and make sure there hasn’t been any serious damage to your property.
Note: If your water level doesn’t go down after a few days, there could be debris clogging your drainage system. Check for leaves or branches that may be inhibiting drainage.
Next, assess the condition of the pool and surrounding areas. If the pool fence has been damaged, arrange for repairs or a replacement. This could be a hazard for pets or children who wander into the backyard. What’s more, every state has strict pool fencing requirements, so make sure yours is compliant before opening up the pool. The next step is to check equipment like pumps, chlorinators and heaters. These may have been damaged by water or moving objects.
During floods, pool water can be contaminated by the soil from your garden beds, making it brown and muddy. If you can, manually remove any solid waste or debris from your pool. If you have large particles, add a pool flocculant and let it circulate for several hours, then remove the clumped particles with a manual vacuum.
Now it’s time to sort out the water balance. Your chlorine levels have likely been diluted. This reduces sanitation and predisposes your pool to algae. You may also have other contaminants that can’t be identified with a standard pool test kit.
To find out what’s in your pool water, take a sample to your local pool shop. They’ll tell you what chemicals or adjustments are needed to get it back to normal. In most cases, you’ll need to adjust the chlorine and pH levels and add a phosphate remover. You may even need to shock the pool if the balance is really off.
After you do this, keep the pump and filter going until the water is clear again. If it still looks a little cloudy, add a pool clarifier. It’s available in liquid or tablet form and helps particles clump together so your filter can remove them effectively. It may take a couple of days for the debris to disappear completely, so make sure your pump runs for at least 24 hours for the best results.
In some cases, there may be traces of sewerage in the water. This can pose a risk to you and your family’s health. If you’ve seen some icky ‘floaters’ in your pool, call a pool professional immediately to remove them and disinfect the pool.
Prevention: In the event of severe flooding, there’s little you can do to stop the rush of water over your property. At best, a pool overflow drain can help excess water to escape. Just make sure it isn’t clogged with leaves or grass clippings! If you don’t have a pool overflow drain or you’re prone to flooding, drain some of the water in your pool if you’re expecting heavy rain.
Lastly, get a plumber or landscaper to check the drainage on your property. Correcting problems could minimise flooding in the future – both in your pool and on your property.
Source: Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash
As we saw in the Black Summer bushfires of 2019–20, fire can endanger homes, destroy livelihoods and claim lives. But even if a bushfire is not in your immediate backyard, your home and pool can still feel its effects. To begin with, burnt leaves and ash can get blown into your pool and make your water dirty and cloudy. When this happens, remove them as quickly as possible with a skimmer or manual vacuum.
If you find that some staining has occurred, loosen the marks with a brush. And don’t forget to clean around the pool. Not only can dust and ash stain your tiles or decking, but they can also be slippery and get blown into the pool, undoing all your hard work.
You may also find that fine ash can elude your pool cleaner. If that’s the case, remove it with a pool clarifier and wait a couple of days for it to do its magic. Afterwards, backwash the filter to remove excess particles. Larger particles can be removed with a pool flocculant.
If you have a cartridge filter, make sure you remove it and run the pump for a few hours to mix the flocculant. Then turn off the pump and let the flocculant work its magic for at least six hours. When the debris has accumulated, use a manual vacuum to remove it. You may need to repeat this process if the debris is particularly heavy. For a media filter, choose bypass on the valve and follow the same steps. If you don’t do this, you may clog or damage the filter.
During or after a bushfire, you’ll find that embers, ash and fire retardants, which contain high levels of phosphates, can mess with your pool’s chemical balance. What’s more, they provide a food source for algae, which can invade your pool before you know it. Phosphates can also combine with calcium in your pool to form a calcium phosphate scale, causing cloudy pool water.
To check if these chemical levels are elevated, use a phosphate testing kit or take a sample to your pool shop. If the levels are high, add a phosphate remover and follow the instructions on the bottle. And don’t worry, phosphate removers are made from natural ingredients, so they won’t be harsh on your pool or your skin.
If the ash has been in your pool for a while and algae blooms have begun to appear (this can happen when bushfires rage for a long time or you’ve evacuated your property), it’s time to shock your pool once or twice and add an algaecide to prevent any regrowth.
For pools ravaged by heavy debris, fire retardant and water loss, you may have to drain and clean the pool, refill it with water and balance the chemicals. If you’ve got structural damage, speak to a pool specialist or installer.
Prevention: There are two courses of action during a bushfire. First, you could winterise your pool and cover it. This will protect it from ash and debris. Second, you could leave it open. While this means you’ll have to clean up the mess afterwards, your pool will be available for wildlife to seek relief or for firefighters to use its water when they run out.
If you want to let firefighters know that you have available water, display a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign in front of your home. These are available from your local fire station. Lastly, bring outdoor furniture inside and keep pool chemicals in a safe place. These can be flammable in hot and fiery conditions, which can make the situation a whole lot worse!
Depending on where you live and how low overnight temperatures get, you may find ice forming on the surface of your pool. The best way to avoid this is to run your pump regularly to keep water circulating. This prevents it from freezing and potentially damaging your pool, equipment or plumbing.
If it’s snowing and your pool is open, it’s just like getting excess rain in your pool. It dilutes the water and upsets the chemical balance. To fix this, whip out your test kit and adjust levels as necessary, then cover the pool. But just because your pool is covered doesn’t mean you can forget about it. A light sprinkling of snow on a pool cover isn’t a problem, but a heavier fall should be removed quickly to prevent stretching or tearing. A blower can remove light snow, while heavier falls can be swept off with a soft-bristled broom. Shovels and rakes should be avoided because they can damage the cover.
If daytime temperatures have melted the snow on your pool cover, the water may weigh down the cover and cause overstretching or tearing. With above-ground pools, this can put pressure on the frame and cause it to crack or break. While it may be tempting to tilt the cover to remove the water, this can dump water, dirt and leaves in your pool. To remove the water safely, use a siphon or water pump.
Prevention: The best preventative measure when it comes to snow is closing your pool for winter. This means cleaning the pool and filters, balancing the water, adding an algaecide, running the pump for at least 2–3 hours a day and using a sturdy pool cover. And don’t forget to dust off the cover when it gets full or siphon off the water if the snow has melted.
Let’s face it, extreme weather events like storms, floods and fire can wreak havoc on your backyard swimming pool – and your sanity! In fact, they can make you wonder whether it’s worth having a pool at all. But treating a swimming pool after wild weather isn’t as hard as you think. As long as you clean out debris promptly, balance your chemicals, add a clarifier or flocculant and check for equipment and structural issues, you can get your pool looking clean and swim-ready again. The most important thing is to prevent extreme weather from catching you off-guard again. Here’s what you need to remember:
Not only will these strategies ensure the health and longevity of your pool, but they’ll also minimise messy clean-ups in the future. That means less time fussing over your pool and more time swimming! If you enjoyed reading this article, check out more pool maintenance tips in our Pool and Spa Guides.
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