How to Clean an Above-Ground Pool Without a Pool Vacuum

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Whether you have an in-ground or above-ground pool, it's important to keep it clean. While a specialty pool vacuum makes the cleaning process easier, it's not always a practical solution, especially for above-ground pools. Fortunately, it is possible to keep your pool clean without a pool vacuum, although doing so may require a bit of creativity and patience.


All types of pools can be cleaned using the same methods, but you must take care to use the right brushes for the pool's surface. A very stiff, coarse brush, for example, could not be the best choice for pool with a soft vinyl liner. For vinyl pool liners like those used on most above-ground pools, a brush with softer rubber or nylon bristles is the better choice.

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1. Remove Large Debris with a Leaf Rake

Even if you had a pool vacuum, it wouldn't help you much if the floor of your pool is covered in big items such as leaves, flower petals, acorns, and other large plant droppings. To remove these items, use a leaf rake to gather them into a pile on the bottom of your pool and then remove the debris pile by hand. A plastic rake is best for this task as it won't scratch the surface of the pool. If the debris is completely organic, you can add it to the compost pile or take it to your local gardening waste recycling center. If not, bag it and throw it away with your regular garbage.


Surface debris floating on the water can be removed by a simple skimmer net running along the surface of the water.

2. Remove Sand and Algae

Algae can discolor water and fine sand particles can make the bottom of your pool feel slimy, so you'll want to eliminate these two contaminants as part of your regular pool cleaning routine. Your method of removal will depend on if your above-ground pool has a mechanical filtering system or not.


If Your Pool Has a Filter

Sand, algae, and other small debris particles are easy to remove if your swimming pool has a filter. Here's how to get the job done:

  • First, clean the filter thoroughly and make sure it is in good working order.
  • If it is, turn your filter off and then brush the sides of your pool to remove any algae or debris that is settled there. (Nylon-bristle brushes are safe for vinyl pool liners. Never use a stainless steel or metal brush on vinyl; these are appropriate only for concrete pools.)
  • Once the particles have been removed from the sides of the pool, turn your filter back on and agitate the water.
  • If the pool isn't extremely dirty, you can have a pool party and get as many people swimming, playing and agitating the pool water as you can.
  • This will lift small debris off the bottom of the pool so your filter can process it and remove it.
  • If the pool is too dirty for a swim, use a garden hose with a pressure attachment to lift debris off the bottom of the pool and into the water, where the filter can take care of it.
  • If the water is very dirty, you may need to clean the filter system while cleaning in this way. It's not uncommon to clean the filters several times in order to restore the pool fully.



If Your Pool Doesn't Have a Filter

If your pool lacks a filter or is too dirty for your filter to handle the mess, removing small debris from your pool is a bit more labor intensive. Here's how to get the job done:

  • First, brush the sides of the pool to remove algae particles and other small debris.
  • Then you will need to slowly sweep the debris on the bottom of the pool into a pile. Slow movements are key during this process so you don't make waves or currents that spread the sand out again.
  • Once you have the sand in a pile, dive to the bottom of the pool and gently collect it in a dustpan.
  • Upon returning to the surface, you can scrape it into a bucket for disposal.
  • If you have a large pool, you can try duct-taping a hose extension onto a wet/dry shop vacuum and using it to vacuum the pool floor. (Be aware, however, that the vacuum cleaner will fill with water quickly and will need to be emptied often. For best results, sweep the sand into a pile and then use the vacuum to remove the pile, rather than attempting to vacuum the entire pool floor.)


3. Remove Oils

In both above- and in-ground pools, the swimmers themselves are a source of debris and stains. Oily stains and debris are the result of suntan lotions, insect repellents, and natural skin oils left in the pool by the people who use it. Fortunately, sopping up excess oily debris in your pool is easy. Just throw a few tennis balls in your pool and let them float around. The felt on the balls will absorb the oil. When the balls start to look dirty, simply throw them away and replace them.

How to Keep Debris Out of the Pool

It is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is true of swimming pool maintenance. If you'll be cleaning your pool manually, you can make the job easier by limiting the amount of debris your pool collects. Here's how to keep debris out of the pool:

  • Always keep your pool cover on when your pool is not in use.
  • Before removing the cover, sweep off any debris or use a leaf blower to whisk it away. This ensures you don't accidentally drop more debris into your pool when uncovering it.



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