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9 Things Your Pool Wishes You Knew

Goggles
If your pool could talk, it would have a lot to say. Elphantasmo/Thinkstock

The life of the average backyard pool isn't all sunny days and gentle waves. Life can be a beach for a busy family whose main source of outdoor entertainment is a swimming pool, but there's one thing to keep in mind between the belly flops and birthday parties: Your pool may need some TLC.

Sometimes being a major water feature -- even if it's the backyard variety -- can be a lot of work. Taking a few steps to protect your favorite outdoor rectangle can go a long way toward preserving the fun for years to come. Here are a few things your pool wishes you knew:

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Cleaning pool
Make sure you clean the debris in and around your pool before taking that first dip. Photitos 2016/Thinkstock

Sure, swimming is all about the water. So when it's time to open your backyard swimming pool for the season, it makes sense to concentrate on the wet stuff. Or does it? Turns out, the first rule of swimming is one of the most overlooked: cleaning the area around the pool.

Those beautiful annual blooms that withered with the first cold snap? Their leaves have blown all over the pool deck. The same goes for the tree that provided so much shade last year. Be sure to clean up plant debris from flower beds and patios -- as well as the pool deck -- before officially opening your swimming pool. Trim nearby hedges and low-hanging branches. Although these steps take time, clearing the detritus that stands between you and a satisfying dip in the pool will not only save maintenance later, but also will keep your pool's filter from working overtime [source: Swimming Pool].

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Restrooms
It might seem a little inconvenient to leave the pool to go the bathroom but it's way more sanitary. Akchamczuk/Thinkstock

It may seem just too easy to take pee in the pool. It's very convenient, no one will know and the chlorine should kill any germs, right? Actually, urinating in the swimming pool can have a potentially harmful effect on the swimmers.

Along with other organic chemicals introduced by humans to pool water -- sweat, body oils, cosmetics -- urine reacts with sanitizing chemicals to create additional chemical byproducts. These byproducts, although still under study, can include cyanogen chloride and trichloramine, two compounds that can damage the health of humans. Cyanogen chloride can affect the heart, lungs and central nervous system, while trichloramine irritates the skin and mucus membranes [source: Wiant].

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Pool in denim shorts
Don't be tempted to take a dip in your jean shorts. They make swimsuits for a reason! Oppdowngalon/Thinkstock

You've decided to take a break from mowing the backyard and find yourself inexplicably drawn to the cool, blue water of your swimming pool. Before you throw off your sneakers and dive in, cutoff jean shorts and all, take a moment to reconsider. There's a reason you normally change into swimwear before jumping into the drink.

Jean shorts, cotton T-shirts – in fact, any type of regular clothing not made specifically for swimming – can pose a hazard to your pool. These clothes, underwear and all, can introduce contaminants to the water. On the flip side, these same clothes will absorb chemicals in the water, upsetting the chemical balance in the pool. Plus, garments not made for water-wear become heavy when wet, making it harder to keep your head above water [source: WTOP].

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Children's pool buckets
Use a bucket -- even a child's plastic one will do -- to determine if your pool has a leak. Luis Santos/iStock/Thinkstock

You may not see a leak or a water level drop yet, but there could be trouble afoot. You can prevent a big problem from making waves by taking time to check your pool's structural condition. Tears in the liner, cracks in the concrete surrounding it or dropping water levels are all signs of larger issues.

To discover whether your pool is losing significant amounts of water, try the bucket test. Turn off your pool's automatic fill valve, then place a bucket on one of the pool steps so that the rim is above the waterline. Place a brick or large rock in the bucket and then fill it with water until the level is equal to the water level in the pool. After two or three days, compare the water level in the bucket to the water level in the pool. If there's a significantly higher water level in the bucket, you may have a leak [source: Southern Nevada Water Authority].

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The good news is that by taking quick action and making necessary repairs, you can preserve the life of your pool -- and your family entertainment -- for years to come.

Dog in pool
The pool is not the greatest place for dogs -- and the people who own them. Hoby Finn/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Swimming is ideal exercise for humans -- and dogs -- but there are a few things to consider before allowing your pooch to take the plunge. The chlorine in your pool water can make your dog's skin dry and itchy. In some cases, it could even slightly bleach the color of his coat. Further, letting him swim in the pool regularly could cause some harm [source: Adamson].

Your dog's paws can scratch and tear a vinyl swimming pool liner, though a fiberglass shell will be unharmed. And, all that dog hair isn't so good for the filter system. Some say a single swim by a lone dog is comparable to 50 people in a pool. While this won't necessarily cause long-term damage, you'll want to clean the filter as soon as Fluffy's done getting wet [source: Sheridan]. Oh, he just may be taking a pee in that pool too.

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Pool filter
All kinds of hair and debris can get trapped in your pool's filter or strainer. Al Kane/Thinkstock

Want to preserve the quality of your pool's water? Then do one simple task every day: check and empty the strainer baskets. Strainer baskets are usually located in the pool deck. Most have a liftoff plastic lid and a removable plastic strainer basket inside. Remove the basket and shake out the debris, which can range from elastic hair bands to toads, depending on your pool users and locale. Keeping the baskets clean aids in water circulation and lessens the amount of chlorine that will be required.

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Pool exercise
You can use weights to perform exercises in the water. Georgiy Pashin/Thinkstock

Spending time at the swimming pool isn't all mojitos and cannonballs. Water is a great way to get a workout. And with a swimming pool right in your backyard, spending some time doing water exercises can pay health dividends in spades.

Swimming is a whole-body exercise that cushions joints from impact. Whether you freestyle or doggy paddle, swimming requires all the major muscle groups and helps build strength while burning calories and increasing cardiovascular endurance. If you don't exercise regularly, start by swimming for 10 minutes and then work up to 30-minute swims, three to five times per week [source: Samataro].

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You could also try water aerobics. For instance, by using a paddleboard or foam needle for buoyancy and balance, you can concentrate on leg-toning kicks.

Pool
Pool alarms are useful, but they are no substitute for supervising any kids near your pool. Microgen/Thinkstock

Swimming pools are a big attraction to children who should never be unsupervised around any body of water. Additionally, it's a good idea to invest in a pool alarm. There are several types [source: International Association of Certified Home Inspectors]:

• Alarm wristbands: A child wears an alarm, much like a watch, around his or her wrist. The alarm will activate when it becomes wet.

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Surface wave sensors: This alarm has an electrical circuit with two points of contact: a sensor that floats in the water and one that's attached to the pool deck just above the water surface. When a surface wave contacts the deck sensor, an alarm sounds.

Sub-surface disturbance sensor: This sensor is mounted to the pool wall below the water surface and is activated by wave-induced pressure changes.

These sensors should never take the place of supervision and a locked gate or other restricted access around your pool.

Pool products
Make sure you give your pool a thorough clean at the end of the season. Davizro/Thinkstock

Long before the kids start lacing up their ice skates and zipping up their parkas, your pool needs some attention to see it through the winter. Unless you live in a climate where it's warm year-round, you'll want to take a few steps to winterize your swimming pool.

The process begins about a week before you close the pool by using a high dose of chlorine (or other chemicals recommended by your pool care team) to shock and then balance the alkalinity in the water. Once this is complete, clean and backwash the filter according to manufacturer's directions, lower the pool's water level about 6 inches (16 centimeters) below the lowest plumbing line, then drain the water from the pool pump, filters, heaters and chlorinating equipment. Lastly, you'll want to empty the chemical feeder. Top it with a cover, pack away your pool accessories and start looking forward to next summer's poolside fun [source: Swimming Pool].

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Originally Published: Apr 6, 2011

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Author's Note: 9 Things Your Pool Wishes You Knew

If only swimming pools could talk. On second thought, it's probably better that they can't. But just in case inanimate objects ever do land the ability to share their thoughts with us, it's a good idea to keep your pool happy. It's not so hard, really. A little maintenance, some TLC and, of course, proper swim attire, and you'll be friends for life.

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Sources

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