Are you going on vacation but worried about leaving your pool for too long?
The good news is, preparing your pool for vacation isn’t too difficult. It’s simply a matter of picking the right approach for the length of your vacation.
Quick answer: Filling up a floater with chlorine tablets will cover you for about a week. Any longer and you should have a friend or professional perform basic maintenance while you’re away.
Why Is Leaving Your Pool a Problem?
It largely comes down to chlorine.
Chlorine gets consumed fairly quickly in the water, which is why regularly topping up your sanitizer is a basic part of maintaining a pool.
Depending on the type of chlorine you use and how it’s delivered into your water, the turnaround time for fresh chlorine is typically only a few days and as little as 24 hours in some cases.
Failing to replenish your chlorine will leave your water vulnerable to all kinds of contaminants, with algae being top of the list.
Once your chlorine level drops too low (typically below 1 ppm), it may only take algae 24-48 hours to take hold in your pool, leaving you with a very unpleasant welcome-home gift.
While there are other potential issues to be aware of, they only factor in for longer durations away. We’ll talk more about those later.
How Do You Maintain Chlorine While on Vacation?
Since keeping up your sanitizer level is the biggest challenge when going on vacation, let’s look at some of the best ways to solve that problem across different durations.
Important: We’re assuming you have a traditional chlorine pool, not a salt pool. If you have a saltwater generator installed, please skip to the next section.
Leaving Your Pool for 1 Week
For 7 days away, having someone to check on the pool and add chlorine is always preferable but not entirely necessary.
Instead, you can fill a chlorine floater or feeder with tablets for a slow release of chlorine into your water. This will typically last up to a week before needing to be replenished, making them ideal for short trips away.
For that reason, we recommend chlorine tablets as a good short-term solution but not so much as a regular sanitizer.
Leaving Your Pool for 2 Weeks
For 14 days away, having someone come over to your house to add chlorine to your water is strongly recommended.
It’s very unlikely chlorine tablets will last long enough to cover your trip, and while you might be able to squeeze it using an automatic chlorinator, it’s not worth the risk if you can avoid it.
If you’re asking a friend or neighbor, knowing your chlorine consumption rate really helps because they won’t necessarily have to test the water while you’re away. The easier you make it for them, the more likely it is they’ll agree to do it.
You can make it even easier by stocking up on liquid chlorine which can be poured directly into the water without pre-mixing. If you normally use granular chlorine, consider temporarily switching to liquid during this time.
Leaving Your Pool for 3 Weeks (or More)
For 3 weeks or longer, having someone tend to your pool is non-negotiable unless you’re prepared to come back to green water.
The key difference here is they will likely also need to test and rebalance your pH and total alkalinity. These levels can shift quite significantly after only 1-2 weeks and this will impact chlorine’s ability to sanitize.
You’ll also want to have them check and empty your skimmer baskets periodically as they may get clogged up after several weeks.
This is where a professional service begins to make more sense over asking a friend or neighbor unless they have experience maintaining pools.
What If You Have a Saltwater Generator?
Well, you’re in a much better spot.
A saltwater chlorinator is great for vacations because it automatically and continuously produces chlorine for your pool.
Generally, a salt generator will cover you for around 2-3 weeks before human intervention is advised.
Anything beyond that and it’s no longer chlorine you need to worry about. Much like with a traditional chlorine pool, a salt pool can experience huge swings in pH and total alkalinity that need to be corrected in a timely manner.
Don’t forget to check the health of the salt cell and test the salt level in your water before leaving. We also recommend bumping up the chlorine production to a little above normal on your generator, just to be on the safe side.
How Else Can You Prepare Your Pool for Vacation?
Besides maintaining your sanitizer level, there are a few other things you should do to ensure your pool continues to run smoothly while you’re away.
Here’s the list:
1. Remove all Debris
Take anything out of your pool that doesn’t belong.
This includes skimming the surface to remove any debris floating around, brushing the walls to dislodge any buildup of dirt or grime, and vacuuming the pool floor to get rid of anything that’s settled on the bottom.
You’ll also want to empty your skimmer baskets and clean your filter to give your pool maximum circulation while you’re gone.
2. Balance Your Water
Test your water using a pool testing strip or liquid test kit.
The goal is to get your basic markers within the ideal range, including pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid (stabilizer).
Here’s a reference for each marker:
- pH level: 7.2-7.8
- Total alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
- Calcium hardness: 200-400 ppm
- Cyanuric acid: 30-50 ppm (70-80 ppm for salt pools)
Note: You should also account for expected pH shifts while you’re away. For example, if your pH tends to drift upwards, start at a slightly lower pH level to buffer against the increase.
3. Check Your Water Level
Make sure your water level is exactly where it should be.
Under normal conditions, your water should sit right around the middle of the skimmer to allow for proper intake, filtration, and circulation.
However, you should also take note of local weather patterns and plan accordingly — especially if you’re not using a pool cover.
For example, if it’s going to be hot and dry while you’re away, consider a slightly higher water level to account for evaporation. And if heavy storms are predicted, consider a slightly lower water level to account for rainfall.
4. Keep Your Filter System Running
We highly recommend you leave your pool pump running to maintain proper circulation and filtration.
As tempting as it is to turn everything off, doing so could create a high concentration of chlorine in one area of your pool. This not only leads to serious staining but also leaves large parts of your pool unprotected against algae.
Before leaving, check that your timer configuration is set to at least 8 hours per day and that the pump is working as expected. It’s also worth checking the filter gauge to ensure there aren’t any bottlenecks in the circulation.
5. Shock Your Water
Shocking your pool will “reset” your water.
More specifically, it will neutralize and oxidize contaminants in your water, including combined chlorine left behind from previous reactions. It should also kill any early-stage algae if present.
This process creates a clean slate for your residual chlorine to work with, allowing it to last longer in your water.
It’s also worth shocking immediately before leaving for your vacation as this will buy you a little extra time alongside your residual chlorine.
6. Cover Your Pool
As we touched on above, using a safety or automatic pool cover while you’re on vacation is always a good idea.
Securing a cover will significantly slow down the rate of evaporation, reduce the amount of rainwater going into your pool, and prevent debris such as dirt, leaves, and insects from getting in your water.
More importantly, it will minimize chlorine loss because it shields your chlorine from the sun, which would otherwise break it down much faster.
What Should You Do When You Get Back?
If everything goes to plan, your pool should look pretty much how you left it.
Even still, you’ll want to test your water and rebalance where needed. This includes your chlorine, pH level, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid.
If the water is green, your chlorine ran too low or something else is preventing your water from holding onto the chlorine.
In that case, you’ll need to go through these steps to get rid of algae. You may even need to shock multiple times in extreme cases.
And yes, the same applies if you have a saltwater pool.
The Bottom Line
Going on vacation doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your pool.
As long as you plan according to the length of your trip, you can avoid returning to a green, algae-infested swamp.
Whether you’re going on vacation for a week or a month, simply keep your chlorine levels elevated while you’re away, and be sure to follow our preparation steps before you leave.