Above Ground Pool Maintenance

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel

Maintenance of above ground pools is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of responsibility that comes along with having a body of water in your backyard. But the benefits of cooling off in the summer, watching your kids have a blast and even having a little fun yourself make it all worthwhile. For clean, healthy and of course sparkling water, study up on the science of above ground pool maintenance. Click for more Above Ground Pools

Tips & Warnings

Step by Step

Step 1

The pump and filter form the heart of any above ground pool maintenance program, helping to keep your pool water clear. Pumps provide the force to circulate the water and push it through the filter. Ideally, you want to turn over all of the water in an above ground pool within an eight hour time period. This means that every drop of water has circulated through the filter within eight hours. The best time to run your pump is during the day, usually for 8 - 12 hours at a time. It is also important that the water circulates around the perimeter of your pool. Water in motion makes it harder for bacteria and algae to take hold and also directs more debris to your skimmer where it can be captured by your filter. Adjust the eyeball jets in your inlets to move your pool water in a circular motion.

Step 2

Your above ground pool filter is there to catch and remove both visible debris and microscopic particles. Sand and D.E. filters are cleaned by backwashing when the filter's pressure gauge indicates levels 8 to 10 lbs. above normal (always follow manufacturer instructions). Cartridge filters have a cartridge inside that can be removed and washed using a garden hose. Eventually, the cartridge will need to be replaced to ensure that the filter is working effectively.

Step 3

All above ground pools have areas with little or no circulation. These areas of minimal circulation are the breeding grounds for problems like algae growth. The walls and floor should be brushed and vacuumed once a week. Even if you use an automatic above ground pool cleaner, brushing once a week is a must.

Step 4

Test your water regularly for two key factors: pH and sanitizers. By testing at least three times per week you will begin to understand how bather load, weather (rain and sun) and chemical application affect your pool water. Regular testing of pH and sanitizer levels will ensure crystal clear water all season long. A digital test strip reader will make this quicker and easier. It is vital that proper pH is maintained in your pool at all times. If the pH is outside 7.2 to 7.6 it will greatly reduce the effectiveness of pool chemicals. Test your pH level at least three (3) times a week and use either a pH Reducer or pH Increaser to bring the pH into the proper range. If you find it difficult to maintain your pH, check your total alkalinity and be sure it is in the ideal range. Adjust total alkalinity levels accordingly.

Step 5

Chlorine tablets are the most common and efficient sanitizer to use in above ground pools. These tablets are compressed so that they dissolve slowly and steadily release free chlorine into your water to wipe out bacteria and keep your water clean. Chlorine also comes in sticks and granules. Whichever form you decide to use, you’ll want to look for stabilized chlorine which is processed to protect it from the sun's damaging rays, making the chemical last longer and work more effectively. Always keep chlorine in your skimmer, floater, or automatic feeder for continuous sanitizing.

Step 6

As debris builds up in the water - from perspiration, suntan oil, hair spray and unfortunately, urine - it can cause eye and skin irritation and dull water. Often, chlorine is blamed for irritation and odor when in fact the real culprit is contaminants which tie up chlorine, keeping it from effectively sanitizing the water. When this happens, you should use shock which is basically a concentrated chemical treatment (usually chlorine). Shocking your above ground pool once a week will oxidize contaminants, freeing up the chlorine, and keeping your water crystal clear. Regular shock treatments will also kill resistant algae in the water. There are a variety of different products available including non-chlorine shock and shock designed for hard water areas.

Step 7

Since algae are visible, it tends to be the pool problem that is most disturbing to pool owners. This is not surprising as no one wants to see black, green or yellow fuzz growing in their pool. In reality, it is not the algae that are harmful but the waste they produce by converting sunlight into food. This waste then feeds bacteria which is the real problem. Algae spores travel through the air and enter pool water. With just a few hours of sunlight on a warm day, algae can colonize your pool if your chlorine level is too low. The best way to combat algae is to never let them get started. Regularly checking to make sure your chemical levels are adequate and your pool water is balanced is vital. Adding algaecide is another preventative measure which will help prevent all types of algae from getting a foothold in your pool. You can use algaecide weekly to discourage algae growth.

Step 8

If algae have already taken hold in your pool, there are some basic steps to follow. First, shock your pool and keep your water circulating 24 hours a day if possible. You are looking to achieve 10 ppm of chlorine. After shocking, you will need to brush and vacuum the entire pool. Follow up with an algaecide designed for your particular algae problem (most common are black, green and mustard algae). Brush and vacuum again and try to repeat this everyday. Check chlorine and add more if it’s below 5 ppm. It is also recommended that you regularly clean your filter during this process.

Comments (1 to 40 of 46)

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User: Inyopools

Dirty Again...Arrugh - If you had a lot of debris in your pool, you might have to backwash and rinse your filter 2 -3 times to get the debris out of the sand. If you haven't replaced your sand in 5 years, it might be time to replace it. Also, check the spider gasket in your multiport valve to make sure it is not damaged.

User: Dirty Again...Arrugh

I clean the pool, then backwash the sand filter until the water flowing out isn't dirty, then I rinse the sand in the filter, then I start the filtration cycle and within hours I have a dirty pool bottom again. It like I never cleaned it. There isn't a wind storm or nearby construction etc to cause this dirt. I believe all of the dirt is staying in the filter and not cleaning out with backwashing. Any ideas on why this is happening? Thank you in advance for your ideas.

User: Inyopools

Confused - Maintaining your pool's chemical balance is the key to keeping your pool clear. You must keep your chlorine level up. Have your pool store test your pool’s phosphate and stabilizer levels when he tests the basic chemicals. Stabilizer (CYA) keeps the sun from burning off the chlorine in the pool. A high phosphate level can reduce you chlorine level quickly. Once your pool has turned green, it takes extra effort to clear it up. See step 8 of this guide.


I'm so confused.
Our pool will be super clear and over night it turns green.
I have visited our nearest pool store so much they know me by first name.
I have so many kiddos here during the summer that I'm so frustrated.

User: Inyopools

Chlorine – If you have a small AB pool, you might want to use one or two Floaters to distribute your chlorine around the pool. You can use liquid chlorine, but it’s a hassle to keep adding it to the pool. If your pool is larger, you might consider a regular chlorinator. See our guide on “ How to Use a Pool Chlorinator”.


We just got a sand filter for our agp, but I'm unsure where and what kind of chlorine to use with it. I bought 1" tablets and liquid chlorine. ANY HELP?

User: Inyopools

KeyMas - Before you add any chemicals, test you pool water. Use strips or better yet if you have a pool store near you, have them test your water - usually free. Your hardness measurement should be between 200 and 400. If your hardness is less than 500, you can compensate for this by keeping your pH on the low side 7.2 to 7.5. If your hardness is above 500, you should drain a portion of your pool water and replace it with softer water. Options - get a water softener, bring in soft water with a truck service, or hook up a system to collect rain water for your pool.

User: KeyMas

Hi! Just finished filling up mu above ground pool with well water and will begin running the pump and blancing it. Is there anything I need to do before putting chemicals in since it's well water?

User: Inyopools

mom of 4 - See the second review by Papa Goose on this product link to "Rust & Scale (Metal Control) 1 Qt.". He appeared to have the same situation you have.

User: mom of 4

We just set up our above ground pool for the summer we have well water and have a very orange colored pool. This is the first year that it has been orange. How di i get rid of it without draining and restarting?

User: Inyopools

Helpme - Keep your pump on 24 hrs for a couple more days. Make sure your chemicals are balanced. Take a water sample to a local pool store and have it tested. Ask for them to test for phosphate also. If that doesn't help clear the water, try Floc N Vac.

User: Helpme

My above ground pool eas fine then 2 dayd ago i put all 4 treatments and now the water is cloufy cant see the bottom of the pool and is only 4' deep bit when u touch the water is clear on the top what should i do to bring it back to normal.help

User: Inyopools

pool cover - Algae thrives in hot water. The hotter the water, the greater the algae and therefore the need for greater amounts of chlorine. Since the purpose of a cover is to raise the pool's water temperature, it would follow that it would also promote algae growth.

User: Inyopools

Need help - If you have had your pool for a while, you may have something called chlorine lock. See our guide on "How To Break Chlorine Lock" to determine if you have chlorine lock and how to correct it.

User: Doug

Does the presence or absence of a cover on an above ground pool have any impact on the development of algae in the pool?

User: Need help

I have high chlorine levels still have a week and lots of rain. I also have low PH levels and have treated it to bring up levels. Don't know what else to do.

User: Inyopools

Jo - You should have some kind of shut off valve like the one shown in step six of this guide, "How To Upgrade an Intex Pool Pump and Filter System".

User: Jo

How do I stop the flow of water while I service the pump?

User: Inyopools

Liz - If your pH is that low, I would guess that some of your other chemicals are also out of range. Once you get the chemical balanced, your cloudy water should clear up. If you can, have a local pool store check the chemical levels in your water to establish an accurate baseline. Then see our guide on "How To Maintain A Swimming Pool Part 3 (Adjusting Chemicals)".

User: Liz

I got rid of the green but now the water is cloudy. I checked pH and it is 6.8. What should I do to get the water clear again?

User: Inyopools

Ken - Normal run time is 8 hours, but if your pool is clear at 4 hours, I'd stay with that. As the days get hotter during the summer, you may have to increase it to get ahead of the algae.

User: Ken

I have a 15' above ground pool (4' deep) and I want to know the correct amount of time I should let my filter run. I have a cartridge filter and usually let it run 4 hours a day. This always works and I never have problems but should I run it longer?

User: Inyopools

Frustrated - Make sure all of your chemical are within acceptable ranges, starting with chlorine. With all the debris that was in your pool, you may have to shock it again. See our guides in the in pool maintenance section "Pool Maintenance". Read the four part series on chemicals. There are also guides on "How To Go From Cloudy To A Crystal Clear Pool" and "How To Remove Calcium Scale Deposits From Your Pool Wall" which can lead to cloudy water. Although these guides are written for in-ground pools, they are also applicable to AG pools.

User: Frustrated

Hello! We did not use a cover on our above ground pool last winter. It was like a pond and we added algaecide to clear it up. The green faded to cloudy. When we scooped the leaves out of the pool, it stirred up the brown debris from the bottom of the pool. We repeated the shock/algaecide treatment and swept the debris out of the pool and not through the cartridge filter. Over the weekend I added floc to the pool and turned it off a few hours later as instructed. I swept it the following day with little result and the pool is still cloudy. When we have the pool water tested, it reads no chlorine, even though we add shock and have chlorine tablets floating around in the pool. Also, the walls of the pool feel gritty, which I am told has something to do with calcium. I'm beyond frustrated already! Please help! What should we focus on first? Cloudiness? No Chlorine read? Low stabilizer? Any help is appreciated!

User: Inyopools

Empty pool – From your question I am assuming that you have an in-ground pool. Your biggest risk in leaving your pool empty for the summer is having it heave up out of the ground or crack from the upward pressure. If you live in an area with a high water table or have a heavy rain that saturates the ground, the pressure from that water will tend to push up on your pool shell. Without the weight of the water in the pool that pressure may damage your pool.


Can you leave a pool with no water in It for the summer? Will it affect the rock in the bottom?.

User: Inyopools

sueann71 - Make sure all of your pool chemicals are balanced before you shock you pool, especially the pH. After shocking, use an Algaecide.

User: sueann71

I poured one bag of shock and changed my filter and its been 14 hours and my pools still green? Can anyone help me with this?

User: Inyopools

dedicated mother - Here's a link to some more suggestions on cleaning cloudy water: How To Go From Cloudy To A Crystal Clear Pool.

User: dedicated mother

I have well water. I know I have to treat my pool with metal begone before adding chlorine. I added 32oz of metal balance to my pool as it filled ( 5312 gallons) let it filter all night. The next night I added one gallon of liquid chlorine again ran all night. Next more the water was slightly cloudy but could still see the bottom and it was tinted greenish yellow. How do I get it back clear without spending a butt load or draining?

User: Inyopools

Ritaclay - If you have connected the vacuum hose to a suction port or to your skimmer port and all the connections are under water, you should have enough pressure to vacuum your pool.

User: Ritaclay

I shock the pool once a week I have an inter and there is no vacumn how do I clean it I have a thing that hooks to the hose they say the pressure of the water forms a vacumn but it doesn't work what am I to do

User: Inyopools

Lin - I can't tell from you description why your liner is coming off but, if it comes off with 1" of water, it will not stay up with more water. If you have an overlap liner, you may have to take the top coping strips off and let the liner down a little. If you have a beaded liner, you may have to buy a new one.

User: Lin

After 2 years of my pool being closed I tried to clean the black water for a month and ended up emptying it. When I put the water back the liner came off . I emptied it again and put sand under the liner and started filling it up but after one inch of water the liner started coming off again. Should I fill it up fast or replace the liner ?

User: Inyopools

Jojo - We would not recommend leaving your AGP empty during the winter. The water in the pool is what give the wall support. The wall would collapse and crease without it. Also, there's a good chance that the ground under an empty pool would heave with freezing and your bottom rails may bend.

User: Jojo

Just empty my AGP after a 3 week fight the algae. Since the summer is coming to an end, can we leave the pool with no water during the winter or will that damage the lining?

User: Inyopools

vacuuming setting - If you have a lot of debris or algae in the pool, use a "waste" setting so that it doesn't clog the filter. Otherwise, use the "filter" setting for normal vacuuming. See our guide on "How a Multiport Valve Operates" for more information.


I am wanting to know about the settings on the filter. When I am vaccumming, which setting should I be using - the backwash or waste?

User: InyoPools

Pat - See our How To Guide on eliminating algae at this link: https://secure.inyopools.com/General/SubmitComment.aspx?ID=9

User: pat

I dont know which chemical to use first when you have a little algy in the pool.
What do I use first and how often do I do each one?

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Tips & Warnings

If you experience any problems with unbalanced pool water and can’t correct them with chemicals, you should take a water sample to be tested by a local pool professional.

Please Note:

Inyo Pool Products is not responsible for any injury or damaged equipment
while using our guides. Using our guides is doing so at your own risk.
These guides are suggested use of your pool or spa equipment and may vary
depending on which product you are using.