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How to Open a Pool (Step-by-Step)

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Spring is here! The snow has melted, the temperature is rising, and your pool floaties are calling your name.

All you want to do is jump in the pool for a refreshing dip but you’ve been avoiding the inevitable: re-opening your pool after the winter season. It’s just sitting out there, taunting you. The pool cover is all dirty and buried in leaves.

It’s not the most fun task in the world, but just think: the sooner you open your pool, the sooner you can get back to swimming and enjoying it! So don a floppy hat and slather on some sunscreen, we’re here to walk you through it step-by-step.

What You’ll Need to Open Your Pool

Grab your gear and let’s get started! It’s always a good plan to have everything you’ll need for a job set aside before you get started. Then we’ll walk you through it step-by-step and make this process as painless as possible.

  • Pool cover pump
  • Soft broom
  • Winter cover cleaner 
  • Start-up chemical kit
  • Pool gasket lubricant
  • Skimmer on a telescoping pole
  • Garden hose (with a hose filter!)
  • A long-handled pool brush
  • Safety goggles
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Pool shock
  • Pool water test strips or test kit
  • A helper
  • A previously-closed pool

What Are Start-Up Chemicals?

Once you do a preliminary water test, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of chemicals you’ll need to rebalance your pool water. Sometimes all you’ll require is a bit of shock to get things up and running again — but sometimes you’ll need to the works. Only a test will tell.

You may have already purchased a full kit of start-up chemicals or you may decide to wait to see what you actually need. If you go with the kit, it should include:

  • Stain, Rust & Scale Preventer
  • Algaecide
  • Chlorine Shock
  • Clarifier
  • Sun Sorb (This handy chemical absorbs 40 times its weight in non-living organic contaminants like body oil and lotion to keep your filter and circulation running smoothly.)

Start-up kits don’t usually come with the chemicals needed to balance pH and alkalinity, so you’ll need to grab those too if you don’t already have them. 

If you want to be completely prepared for any eventuality, here is the complete list of chemicals you’ll need to open your pool:

  • Your chlorine of choice
  • pH increaser
  • pH decreaser
  • Alkalinity increaser
  • Calcium hardness increaser
  • Metal sequestrant
  • Water clarifier
  • Algaecide

Once you have your material and chemicals all ready to go, it’s time to get started.

How to Open Your Pool (Step-by-Step)

Most of the process of opening your pool can be done in a day, so set aside a Saturday and get it done! The good news is, you’ll be back to swimming by Sunday.

Step #1: Drain and clear debris off the pool cover

The first step is to find your pool. If you’ve left a cover on all winter chances are it’s buried under a pile of debris.

If you didn’t use a pool cover all winter, there’s a chance you have a brand new swamp out back. You should always use a pool cover in the off-season.

A simple sweep up or blow down will clear off that top layer of debris that your pool cover saved you from having to skim all winter. Just make sure that you use a soft broom.

Your cover has been tirelessly defending your pool from debris and garbage all winter. Accidentally tearing it at the last minute with a rake or spiky broom is just a bad end for something that’s been protecting your pool. 

Step #2: Remove the pool cover (with help!)

This part is easier said than done. Pool covers can be pretty unwieldy. So, if you need an extra set of hands, you can always bribe a friend with a pool party invitation to get that extra help.

Spread the cover out nice and wide somewhere flat where you can see the whole thing. Most of us aren’t blessed with a pool-cover-sized garage, so the front yard is probably going to be your best bet. This isn’t a flag, so there’s no penalty if you drop it on the ground.

Give your pool cover the old looky-loo and see if it’ll last another season. If it’s worn or torn beyond hope, then the good news is you get to skip the next step.

On the bright side, old pool covers can be upcycled to make awesome Slip-n-Slides.

Step #3: Clean and store your pool cover 

If your pool cover still has some life left in it, then give it a good rinse and scrub with some pool cover cleaner and a soft brush. Using any harsh chemicals or sharp implements is just asking for your pool cover to become a Slip-n-Slide this summer.

Once you’ve cleaned the dirt and muck off of the pool cover, grab your garden hose and rinse the whole thing down. You can either let it dry in the sun, then flip and repeat, or use a leaf blower to shave some time off of your task. 

Once the cover is good and dry, fold it up nicely, and store it in a sealed storage bag or container. Leaving a giant pool cover exposed in a garage or shed is basically like putting a “For Sale” sign on it that only rodents and bugs can read. It will be in tatters come the Fall and all your work will have been for nothing.

Step #4: Skim out the big stuff

Time to go back to the pool and see what damage the winter has done. Grab your skimmer net with a telescoping pole and get to work. 

Get anything out of the pool now that might clog the filtration system when the time comes to turn things back on. This is just a preliminary cleaning to get the major debris out of the pool. The deep clean comes later. 

Cheat Codes: If you don’t live in a super cold climate that doesn’t freeze in the winter, you probably didn’t completely winterize your pool last season. If you’ve been running your pool all winter, just covered and unused, you can skip ahead to step #9. Yay! 

Step #5: Redecorate with your pool accessories

It’s time to redecorate your pool! Anything you removed before closing your pool for the winter, now goes back in. Items like rails, ladders, or your diving board can now go back where they belong.

As a responsible pool owner, I’m sure you took out all of your pool accessories last winter and cleaned them thoroughly before storing them safely away. If that’s the case, you’ll probably just need to do a very quick wipe-down to remove any dust before putting them back in the pool.

Step #6: Top it up

Evaporation happens. 

Even with a pool cover, there’s a good chance that you lost a few inches of water over the winter season. So now it’s time to fill your pool back up to its normal levels. Make sure you use a hose filter when doing so to avoid introducing any new contaminants to the pool.

Step #7: Remove winter plugs from pool equipment and skimmer lines

Walk around the pool and take out all of the winter plugs that you installed in your skimmer and return lines when you closed your pool last season. It’s normal to see some bubbles come out when the water starts to flow back through the pipes.

Reattach the normal plugs and valve fittings as you make your way around and then repeat the same process for your pump, filter, heater, chlorinator, and pool cleaner. After taking out all of the winterizing plugs from the pool equipment, reattach the regular drain plugs.

This is a good time to check your connections and lubricate your gaskets and  O-rings after making sure they’re all still in good shape. If you see any that are damaged or cracked, be sure to replace these before turning on your system.

Step #8: Start turning things back on

If you have an air relief port on your system, make sure to open it to bleed the air from the system. With a multiport system, you’ll want to turn the handle to the “waste” setting. Any antifreeze in the lines should start to make its way out now. Also, open the return side valves to give the water somewhere to go. 

Take a quick peek at your filter and see what sort of state it’s in. You may just need to give it a good rinse or you may want to replace it for a new pool season if it’s looking rough.

Now, it’s finally time to flip your circuit breaker and turn the pump back on. Make sure the pump is primed so water is flowing through it. With a multiport filter, you can now switch it to the “filter” setting. 

This process will get rid of any leftover antifreeze that didn’t come out on the “waste”  setting. Don’t worry about antifreeze getting into the pool water. The kind we use for pools is not dangerous and will get filtered out normally in due course.

Step #9: Metal-free is the way to be

As crazy as is sounds, a lot of metals can build up in the pool water over the winter. Iron and copper are the most common and can leave some nasty stains if left to their own devices.

Besides using a hose filter any time you add water to your pool, the best way to avoid metal contamination (that leads to staining) is to add a metal sequestrant right now before moving on to the next step. 

There are lots of choices out there to use. Just follow the instructions, based on the volume of your pool, then allow your pump and filter to run for a couple of hours. This will give things time to work and get moving again before testing time.

Step #10: Testing the waters

The time has come to see what chaos the winter has wrought on your pool water chemistry. Collect your testing kit and get to work. 

Quick test strips are okay for your usual bi-weekly checkups but since we’re reopening the pool after months of disuse, it’s a really good idea to get a second opinion. Consider taking a water sample into your local pool shop to get a professional analysis, in addition to your home test.

Once you have an idea where your levels stand, now you can start balancing. Remember not to be haphazard when adding chemicals: there’s a process you should follow here.

  • Alkalinity first
  • pH second
  • Calcium hardness third
  • Don’t forget chlorine

In case you need a refresher, the numbers to aim for here are:

  • Total Alkalinity: 80 to 120 ppm
  • pH: 7.4 to 7.6
  • Chlorine: 2.0 to 4.0 ppm

Once you’ve added the proper amounts, step back to let the magic happen. While you’re waiting to retest, there are a few more tasks that need your attention before you can sit back and relax.

Step #11: A little cleaning goes a long way…

It’s not fun to think about but there’s a good chance there’s some new algae growth on the sides of your pool since you last swam and probably some sediment too. Get’s get rid of all that gunk now so your chemicals will not go to waste.

Grab your long-handled pool brush and give the surfaces of the pool a good scrub down. Once you’ve brushed the sides, attach your telescoping pole to your pool vacuum and manually vacuum everything up. 

Step #12: Run the filter for 24 hours

Your chemicals are in, algae and sediment are out… now it’s time to let the filter do what it’s best at — circulating and filtering your pool water. 

You can run the pump overnight but we recommend running it for 24 hours to make sure everything gets cleaned up, sucked out, and thoroughly stirred before we move on to the next step.

Step #13: Shock it to me

You may have brushed the algae and vacuumed it up but chances are, there are still some spores floating around in your pool. Between that unpleasant possibility and the inevitable bacteria growth that’s accumulated over the winter, our next step is to shock the pool.

Shock it good! And by that, we mean double-shock the pool. This means using 2 pounds of pool shock for every 10,000 gallons of water in the pool. Make sure you use your safety gear for this step: goggles and gloves to avoid any injuries from any accidental splashback.

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for adding the shock — either pouring it directly into the pool or dissolving it in a bucket. Make sure that the bucket you use is only ever used for that particular kind of shock. Safety first! We don’t want any inadvertent chemical reactions.

Step #14: Filter and clarify

Phew! It’s time to take a load off and relax. The worst of it is over and now all that’s left to do is let your pool filter do its job. Filter, filter, filter for at least 24 hours to get all that gunked mixed up and filtered out.

If you notice that your pool water has gotten a bit cloudy, it could be from the shock. You could wait for the shock to disperse or you could try adding a bit of pool clarifier to clear things up.

You can take this opportunity to recheck your pool chemistry and make any necessary adjustments. After letting your filter run overnight, your pool should be sparkling clean and ready for swimmers.

Dive Into Summer

Great work! Your pool is back in action for another season and all your hard work is behind you. Put on your shades, grab a beverage and a pool floaty and relax. Now you’re ready to dive in and enjoy your summer in clear, sparkling, refreshing comfort. 

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