How to clean and maintain an above ground pool

Cleaning an above ground pool can feel like a huge hassle to the uninitiated. With the right tools and know-how, however, it’s much easier than you might expect. On this page, we’ll be running through how best to clean your favorite summer chill-out spot.

We’ll also be exploring the fundamentals of above ground pool maintenance. This way, you’ll be able to return your water to its former glory and keep it that way for many months to come.

If you think your regular pool vac is all you need, we may have a few surprises for you further down this page. Keep reading to learn about how an above ground pool cleaner robot can transform your approach to pool maintenance.

1. Filtering and Skimming

Wondering how to keep an above ground pool clean? Your filter and circulation system are your two best friends here. Even if your pool is on the smaller side, you should be running your filter pump for at least 8 hours a day.

In some cases, running it overnight is enough. It’s important to note, however, that the most effective time to have your pump running is during the day when the pool encounters the most traffic and use.

Those first learning how to keep an above ground pool clean often overlooks the importance of regular skimming. This is especially important if your pool is underneath a tree or other plants with falling leaves.

Keep an eye on your water and skim regularly with a pool net to reduce build-ups. Installing a skimmer basket to the side of your pool is another good idea. This can help ‘automatically’ collect debris from your water. Just remember to empty your skimmer basket regularly!

Run the pump

Above ground pool maintenance can be tedious enough as it is – remembering to set the pump doesn’t have to become an obstacle to keeping your water clear. Check to see if your filter pump has a timer (most do).

Decide when you’d like to have your system running and set the timer accordingly.

To keep your filter pump running smoothly – and safely, more importantly – it’s necessary to keep an eye on the pressure of your system. Your manufacturer should have provided information about the optimum PSI for your product – call them or check the manual if you’re unsure.

If the pressure becomes too high or too low, cleaning an above ground pool becomes much harder and things can even become dangerous. If the pressure is creeping too high, it’s time to backwash.


Once the PSI of your unit has risen by 10 or more, it’s time to backwash the pump. Over time, debris can build up in your filter and make it much harder for it to clean your water effectively. A backwash forces this debris out and helps bring things back to normal.

After backwashing, check your filter and the PSI of your pump to see if things are fixed. If your pool water stays dirty, it’s probably time to clean or replace your filter.

Clean the filter

Without an effective filter, your pool water can quickly become a hotbed of bacteria, algae, and other contaminants. Check your cartridge filter (if your system uses one) regularly for best results.
Learning how to care for an above ground pool involves looking after each of its components –

How to clean your cartridge filter? follow these basic steps:

  1. After backwashing, remove your cartridge filter and inspect it for dirt and damage
  2. Using a garden hose or lighter pressure washer, wash away any stubborn bits of debris or dirt
  3. Reinstall your cartridge filter and keep an eye on your system’s pressure – once it’s around 10 PSI higher than the manufacturer’s recommended level, something has gone wrong.

Remember that even with regular cleaning, your filters will need to be replaced frequently. This depends on how often you use your above ground pool and how well you maintain it, but once or twice a year is a good benchmark to aim for. Want to learn more? Use our guide to pool circulation.

2. Cleaning of pool interior

Cleaning an above ground pool is about more than just filtration. Brushing and cleaning the interiors is another key component. Even a decent circulation system can leave certain spots on your pool that are missed. Dirt and grime can easily build up in these areas.

Brushing the Pool

Using a nylon pool brush is the best way to go here. This material is strong enough to remove debris and algae while soft enough to avoid damaging the walls of your pool. Our advice is to methodically brush down the entire surface of your pool, not just its ‘trouble spots.’

This way, you’ll be disrupting potential algae and bacteria colonies that you can’t yet see. Pool chemistry is another weapon against these colonies which we’ll get into a bit further down this page.

You may like to hand brush parts of your pool rather than rely on the telescoping handle alone. This all comes down to the size and depth of your pool. Don’t forget to brush the ladder! It can be easy to overlook.

After cleaning, you might like to sanitize your brush using hot water or bleach.

Above ground pool cleaner robot

Does all this manual cleaning sound like a hassle? You’re not alone. That’s why thousands of people trust an above ground pool cleaner robot every year.

While the detailed benefits of using this kind of product are beyond the scope of this article, we outline some key features below:

  • Automatic pool cleaning
  • Fantastic for above ground pool maintenance
  • Powerful suction for debris
  • UV lighting to stop contaminants from thriving
  • Great way to clean the bottom of the pool
  • Much more

How Often Should You Change the Water in an Above Ground Pool?

The specific answer to this question will depend on the size of your pool and the climate you’re using it in. In general, however, it’s best to replace the water about twice a year. Test your pool chemistry regularly and use common sense when making this decision.

3. Pool’s Chemicals

The balance of cleaning chemicals in your pool is another huge factor in your fight against dirt and infestations. If your free chlorine, CYA, or pH levels are out of whack, algae and bacteria are never far away.

Regularly testing and tweaking the chemistry of your pool’s water is essential.

Test pool water

Using a pool test kit, analyze the various chemical levels in your pool and adjust them accordingly.

Balance pool water

In most cases, adjusting your chlorine (and resulting free chlorine) levels will be enough.

Shock the pool

A pool shock is what you’ll need for this – we explain this process below.

If your above ground pool is still green or dirty after a shock, the following may be the culprit:

  • Oxidized copper or other metals in your water
  • Incorrect pH levels
  • High phosphate levels
  • Your CYA is unbalanced
  • Dead, floating algae in the water

How to Get Rid of Algae in an Above Ground Pool?
Wondering how to get rid of algae in an above ground pool? The answer is a pool shock. This is essentially a ‘bomb’ of chlorine (and sometimes other chemicals) designed to kill the algae and bacteria in your pool. This can help return your water to a crystal-clear state.
Just pay attention to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. The specific steps you’ll be taking and the amount you add to your pool will vary depending on how much water you’re using.

After shocking and letting the filter run for a while, most pools are returned to normal. Just keep in mind that if you don’t test and tweak your pool chemistry as described above, the underlying cause of your algae won’t be addressed.

What chemicals do I need to keep my above ground pool clean?

To keep your above ground pool clean, you’ll need the following chemicals:

  • Pool chlorine (to sanitize and prevent bacteria growth)
  • Cyanuric acid (to help your active chlorine last longer)
  • Calcium chloride (to prevent damage to your tile and other materials)
  • Flocculant/ clarifiers (clumps particles together so they sink to the floor of your pool for easier vacuuming)
  • Algaecide (prevents algae from taking hold)

When adding these chemicals to your pool, check the guidance provided by the manufacturer. The amount you add is determined by the amount of water in the pool.

4. Keep pool water clear

Learning how to care for an above ground pool is just as important as knowing how to clean it when things go wrong, green or cloudy. In this section, we’ll run through how to protect your water year by year.

  1. Maintain Good Water Chemistry
    The chemicals used in your water are one of your best tools against infestations and algae. Testing regularly and tweaking the levels as you go is the only way to make sure things are running optimally.
  2. Clean Little and Often
    It’s so much easier to brush and vacuum for 20 minutes once a week – trust us. Staying on top of the debris in your pool can work wonders for its overall health. Use a flocculant in your water to make it easier to collect dirt and debris when cleaning.
  3. Maintain Your Circulation
    You should be monitoring your filtration system frequently and cleaning out your filter as often as you have the energy to do so. Don’t fix things once they’ve gone wrong – change out your cartridge before it’s too late!Installing a skimmer basket and regularly skimming your pool yourself will help too.
  4. Use a Pool Robot
    A great way to stay on top of your pool’s maintenance is to rely on a good pool robot. You’ll be able to schedule automatic cleans, use bacteria-busting technology, and much more.

5. Clean your pool before and after winter

The changes that winter brings can throw several challenges at pool owners. Check out our guidelines below.

“Winterizing” an Above Ground Pool – Checklist
To get your above ground pool ready for winter, follow these basic steps:

  1. Thoroughly clean your pool.
    Cleaning your pool as thoroughly as possible before closing it down for winter will make it so much easier to reopen. If you’re wondering how to clean your above ground pool after winter, don’t neglect this step.Brush, vacuum, and sanitize every single inch.
  2. Get your chemistry perfect.
    Do one last chemistry test and make any necessary adjustments. Topping up things like algaecide and chlorine is essential here. You’ll want as much protection as possible against potential contaminants.
  3. Clean your filter and drain the pump.
    Remove any drain pumps and thoroughly clean your filter cartridge before closing for the winter. Any removable pipes can be stored somewhere safe through the colder months. If you have a skimmer cover, it’s a great idea to put this on now.Any other accessories like ladders can also be stored away.
  4. Reduce water levels.
    If you think freezing is likely to be an issue, it’s a good idea to reduce your water levels slightly to avoid cracking your skimmer and other elements. Carefully drain your pool to the desired level before closing.
  5. Cover your pool.
    Finally, cover your above ground pool using an appropriate pool cover. This will not only protect the water from changing temperatures but will also prevent debris and dirt from getting into the pool.

how to clean an above ground pool after winter

When opening an above ground pool up after winter, the process is much like that described above, only in reverse. Follow these basic steps:

  1. Remove your pool cover and inspect for damage/ debris
  2. Reconnect and fill your filtration system
  3. Thoroughly clean and vacuum the pool if necessary
  4. Test your water’s chemistry and adjust accordingly
  5. Increase your water levels if necessary

Get ready to enjoy the summer months!

Want to learn more? Prepare for winter / how to clean a pool after winter.

We hope you’ve found the information above helpful. Remember that the mantra ‘little and often’ can work wonders here. Preventative measures are almost always better than fixing things once they’ve gone wrong.

Need help doing things little and often? A robotic pool cleaner is probably the answer! They can automatically maintain your pool and transform your approach to keeping things clean.

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