Easy Guide to Opening a Swimming Pool for The Season

So you’re finally ready to use your inground pool (or above ground pool) after a long, cold winter, and you’re wondering how you actually go about opening a swimming pool.

Many pool owners seem to believe that they need help from a pool professional to open and close a pool but that certainly isn’t true. Read our easy guide on how to open a swimming pool safely and successfully and you should have no problems.

How much work is involved depends to a large extent on the climate where you live. If you live somewhere that gets very cold in winter you will have had to take more precautions to prevent damage than if you live in a mild climate. It follows then that opening your pool for the season will take more effort.

Easy Guide to Opening a Swimming Pool for The Season 1
An inground pool ready for opening
Affiliate disclosure

The week before you open the pool

If possible you should lift the edge of the pool cover up, perhaps a week before you open the pool, to see what state the pool water is in.

If it is clean and clear then great, there is nothing more to do before opening your pool.

If the water is green due to algae, or you can at least see some algae growth on the sides, then give the pool water a dose of liquid shock (a double shock if the water is very green). This will hopefully mean that the algae will be dead in a week’s time when you go through the process of opening your pool.

Also read: Easy guide to pool startup chemicals

Things you will need to open your pool

Here is a list of everything you will need for pool startup to ensure this gets done as quickly as possible. Here’s what you will need:

  • A soft brush
  • Pool cover pump
  • Winter cover cleaner
  • Pool brush
  • Manual pool vacuum
  • Pool equipment (ladders, diving board etc)
  • Test strips or test kit
Equipment needed to open a pool
Pool equipment needed for cleaning

How to open your pool

Step 1: Clean your pool cover

Assuming you have covered your pool for the winter, your pool cover will likely be covered with leaves, dirt and dust from the winter season, which will need cleaning up before you even think about removing the cover.

If you have a pool cover pump, now is the time to use it. This device will suck up any standing water on the cover plus dirt and debris that is also in the way. Use a soft brush to manually sweep any other messy bits.

Step 2: Remove the cover

You will now need to remove the winter pool cover for a deep clean. To do this, you may need a little help to move the entire cover over to a flat area. Once your pool cover has been successfully removed, use cover cleaner and a soft brush to wash away any remaining dirt. 

This is also a good time to inspect the material for any wear and tear. Winter pool covers are generally pretty durable, but that doesn’t mean they are invincible! If you do notice any rips or holes, you may want to purchase a new one altogether. If this is the case, at least you won’t need to spend time deep cleaning it!

Step 3: Time to inspect

Pool season may come to an abrupt end if you fail to spot damage. That’s why we have put together a short list of ‘to-do’s’ so you don’t miss a thing.

  • Inspect the deck and tiles for chips or cracks
  • Don’t forget to reinstall any pool lights that were removed when closing. Swimming at night won’t be the same without them!
  • Do the return lines, filter or pump need replacing? Now’s the time to check for damage.
  • Take a look at your pool tiles and remove any scum or stains with a household tile cleaner. Baking soda is a fantastic stain remover that works a charm.

Step 4: Clear debris from the water

Using a net, skim the swimming pool for any debris that may have fallen in during the removal of the winter cover. You may find small bits of dirt in the water if the winter cover was damaged.

Step 5: Remove winterizing plugs

When winterizing a pool, the pipes are normally plugged to prevent water from entering and freezing during the colder seasons. Make sure you place all plugs somewhere safe so that you won’t lose any and so that you don’t have to hunt for them at the end of the pool season!

When you open a pool, you will need to put the drain plugs back in place. Opening your return side valve is essential as this allows water to enter from the pump. If your pool has a multiport valve, you will need to choose the ‘waste’ option and replace the sight glass, pressure gauge and air bleeder.

As the water rushes back into the pipes you may see some movement or bubbles in the pool water. This is completely normal and just a small sign of your pool coming back to life!

Step 6: Fill pool water

During the winterizing process, it is not uncommon to drain your water level slightly below the skimmer. This reduces the chance of damage caused by ice expansion. You will need to raise these levels once again by filling the pool up a few inches using a garden hose.

This part should always be done before adding chemicals or filtering. Using a garden hose filter is the best way to ensure the water does not get contaminated with metals or other unwanted chemicals.

Step 7: Balance chemical levels

The water chemistry in your swimming pool may not be too bad if you have regularly tested it during the colder months. If not, there’s no need to worry as it won’t take long to settle these levels once again. If this is your first time opening a pool, you may want to purchase the following pool chemicals:

  • Chlorine
  • Algaecide
  • pH increaser
  • pH decreaser (baking soda or soda ash)
  • Pool shock
  • Clarifier/Flocculant
  • Metal sequestrant
  • Calcium hardness increaser
  • Alkalinity increaser

They will be available in your local pool supply store or online. Let’s take a brief look at what your levels should look like when balanced. You can buy a whole kit of startup chemicals on Amazon – In The Swim Super Pool Opening Chemical Start Up Kit

Total alkalinity (TA)

This is the water’s ability to neutralize acids and should be between 80 and 120ppm.

pH level

The pH level of pool water is very important and can irritate the skin and eyes when it is too high or too low. A good pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.6.

Calcium hardness

We don’t want to go too deep into the science of calcium hardness but an imbalance of calcium can cause significant damage to a pool. 

Too much calcium can cloud the waters and leave scale lingering on your tiles and equipment. Low levels of calcium aren’t too appealing either as the water will start to attack plaster pool walls, metal fittings and heat exchangers. 

However, all you need to know is that it should be between 200 and 400ppm (parts per million).

Free available chlorine

Free available chlorine is basically chlorine that hasn’t yet reacted with contaminants. A good level is anywhere between 2.0 and 4.0 ppm.

The difference between the different chlorine terms can be confusing so read my post Free Chlorine vs combined chlorine vs total chlorine explained which will hopefully explain it fully.

Cyanuric Acid (stabilizer)

Cyanuric acid (CYA) is one of the most important chemicals in any swimming pool and is commonly referred to as ‘pool stabilizer’‘. This should be between 30 and 50 ppm.

To read all about it in my post – Cyanuric acid: What is it and how to use it

Step 8: Vacuum the pool

vacuuming the pool to waste

It’s now time to scrub your pool from top to bottom! Brushing the walls of the pool will remove any stubborn scum or algae that has grown during the winter. Vacuuming your pool manually is recommended as opposed to using an automatic pool vacuum at this point.

The aim of this step is to remove as much dirt and debris as possible to ensure your pool is clean and ready to swim in. If the pool is very dirty now, perhaps with dead algae, then you will need to vacuum to waste.

Step 9: Add chlorine shock

Adding some shock treatment to the water is the best way to clear up a cloudy looking pool quickly. Not only is this product great for cosmetic reasons, pool shock works to eliminate algae and microscopic bacteria. Here are a couple of different ways to use it.

  1. You can pour pool shock directly into the pool if it is liquid shock or if the instructions on the packet say it is ok to do that. A good rule of thumb is to pour it a few inches away for the pool wall so that it disperses evenly throughout the water.
  2. The other method is to fill a bucket with pool water and add pool shock before pouring into the water.
    Read the instructions printed on the back of the bottle to get a rough indication of how much shock you will need to use. We wouldn’t recommend combining a mixture of pool shock products as this may cause a chemical reaction.

Step 10: Turn on pool filter and pumps

Before powering up, it is wise to inspect the filtration system and other components for leaks or damage including return lines and the filter. Be sure to clean any debris in this area before switching the pool on. Also check your solar heating panels for leaks if you have them.

Once you have completed a thorough inspection, turn on your pool pump and filter to get the water circulating. Filtering the water will get rid of any leftover dirt and debris such as pool algae and other bacteria.

This is a good time to check once again for any leaks or cracks. If you do come across any leakages, shut the power off immediately.

Step 11: Reinstall pool accessories

Reinstall pool accessories on pool startup
Check the pool ladder and other accessories

Now is a good time to ‘dress’ your pool with the usual accessories which may include ladders, rails, diving boards, etc. Once installed, check each piece for signs of rust or damage. You may want to use a metal lubricant such as WD-40 to loosen the bolts. This won’t affect the water chemistry.

Step 12: All done

Perhaps all you need to do now is either switch on your heating if you have it or get your solar pool cover out of storage and put it on the pool to allow the sun to heat up the water.

Sit back and get ready to enjoy a summer of pool fun.

The best time to open your pool

It only takes a slight rise in temperature and a glimmer of sunshine to get us fired up and ready to open your pool for the season, but when is the best time to open up?

Clearly this will depend on the climate where you live as you will be able to open your pool much earlier in California than you will in Michigan.

You should consider opening your pool as soon as the weather starts to get consistently warmer or temperatures are 70ºF and above. Waiting too long will only give algae and other bacteria a chance to multiply in their millions.

The best time to open your pool
Pool opened and ready for fun

How long does opening your pool take?

You’ll probably spend a good few hours cleaning the pool, adding chemicals and installing equipment. Then you will need to run the filter for 24 hours to get the water circulating.

This means you will need to wait at least 24 hours before taking your first dip of the year after following the above instructions.

Pool Maintenance Course

When I first bought my house with a swimming pool, I knew nothing about cleaning and maintaining it. I was recommended Swim University’s Pool Care Handbook and video course so I bought it and have never regretted it.

It was probably the best money I spent that year as I have saved thousands by doing it myself.

EXCLUSIVE OFFER to visitors of this site
Use the discount code EASY10 at checkout to save 10% on this Swim University course.

Pool care handbook

Frequently asked questions

Does a filtration system need to run for 24 hours a day?

Although you can run pool filtration systems 24 hours a day to keep the water clean and free from bacteria that is not necessary. You would use much more electricity that way and your pool pump will need replacing more frequently too.

You should run the pool filter system long enough each day to filter the entire volume of water once, which often means running the circulation system for between 6 and 8 hours.

For help in working out how long to run your pump read my post – How long should a pool pump run?

How often should I use algaecide during the summer?

Pool algae thrive in hot, moist conditions, so your pool is the perfect breeding ground! We recommended adding algaecide to the water on a weekly basis during the summer. You may not necessarily be able to see algae growing, but prevention is better than cure.

Should I tend to the pool daily?

This depends on your situation (overhanging trees, windy, dusty, heavy rain). A pool owner should check the skimmer baskets once a day, check the pool level and see that the pump and filter are running smoothly. Read my pool maintenance post Pool Maintenance schedule checklist

How often should I vacuum my pool?

We recommend vacuuming your pool at least once a week. Similarly, you might want to scrub the tiles above the waterline as they can become grimy and stained. This job can be made a lot easier if you purchase an automatic pool vacuum or, even better, a robotic pool vacuum.

See my post – How often should you vacuum a pool?