March 31, 2021 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Out of nowhere and over two decades of avoiding bodies of water, I have had the sudden desire to luxuriate in a pool. I bought the biggest inflatable kiddie pool that will fit in my back yard. The question is: how can I/should I/do I maintain this thing over the summer? I'd like to minimize the need to empty and refill the thing and also not marinate in a stagnant puddle of filth if I can help it.

Also accepting suggestions for other ways to make this nice, as a person who usually doesn't go outdoors. I already have all the sunblock. I even bought a swimsuit.

The only ones who will be using this pool are me, a human adult, and maybe but unlikely my small dog who hates buoyancy and being wet.
posted by phunniemee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, you need to empty, wipe and refill that every few days. You can use the water to flush the loo, water the plants, water the lawn so as to not waste the water but you can't treat it with chemicals like you can with a pump pool.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:55 AM on March 31 [5 favorites]

You could, if you wanted, pour some chlorine/bleach in it, which will boil off over the next few hours and kill everything inside.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:59 AM on March 31

You'll be astounded at how cold the water can get. Put it in a spot where it'll get as much sun as possible. But yeah, the water's going to get gross pretty quickly.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:04 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]

If you put it on grass and leave it for a long time, the grass will die, and you will spend a while trying to figure out why your pool smells terrible. Ask me how I know.
posted by FencingGal at 9:05 AM on March 31 [6 favorites]

You might get a little more time by showering before hand, ensuring your pup does not enter and covering when not in use. But you'll still need to replace it frequently.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:07 AM on March 31

Um... my recommendation? Don't open the box, take it back, and get a pool in this style that has a pump & filter. You'll be a lot happier in the long run. It's one heck of a lot less work to do the maintenance on that kind. Get a cover and use it. A solar one is nice and can help, but not perfect. If you just have grass, it will work, as long as it's reasonably flat and not rocky. Put a tarp underneath for additional protection for the pool floor.
posted by stormyteal at 9:10 AM on March 31 [29 favorites]

Oh, and additionally - the type I recommend, a (clean) dog could use, too. Just keep on eye on the nails so they don't damage the pool. It usually takes a pretty warm day to warm the water enough here in Oregon that my small dog is happy about going in, though.
posted by stormyteal at 9:12 AM on March 31

I did find this pool care article that suggests you can use chlorine (as opposed to bromine) floater tabs and Shock (in tiny doses) in inflatable pools.

You're going to end up maybe only maintaining usable water for two weeks* at a time at best - and that's with pristine-clean feet every time you get in. One of the things you're flirting with here is brain amoebas, which make you die very expensively, so you would absolutely need a test kit to make sure that water is staying properly chlorinated. But not too much, because then you're dealing with chemical burns. It's a very slim safe margin in 300 gallons of water.

*from the article: For most inflatable pools or plastic kiddie pools following my guidelines above, the water should still be changed every two weeks. If you are not adding chlorine to kill bacteria, the pool should be drained every other day. Stagnant water without chlorine, can become unhealthy water in just 24-48 hours.

You'd have been better off with one of the Intex pools that's deep enough (and high-volume enough) to run a filter on, but you'd still need to do water testing and chlorinating/shocking etc. Those are built to be kept filled, though, unlike the little inflatables.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:13 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Get a bucket or basin to keep on the ground near the pool, fill it with water, and dunk your feet before getting in, especially if your grass has been cut recently and you're going to be in and out. Wet feet collect bits of grass and plants and then the junk washes off into the pool. Empty and refill the basin regularly.
posted by SeedStitch at 9:15 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]

Oof. You will be able to wring two, maaaaybe three consecutive days at most out of it but they will get progressively less nice after the first day. Leaving it full of standing water will make everything slimy. Sorry. I assume/hope it has a drain valve on the bottom for easier draining, and once it's mostly empty, I either cover or flip ours over so as to get ALL the water out and keep it from getting dirty or accidentally filling back up with rainwater.

It will be freezing at first so definitely fill first thing in the morning and let it warm up in direct sunlight for a couple hours.

And yes, leaving it in the same spot all summer will kill the grass underneath, if that's a concern.
posted by anderjen at 9:23 AM on March 31

I'd like to minimize the need to empty and refill the thing and also not marinate in a stagnant puddle of filth if I can help it.

I have always treated them like bathtubs and emptied/filled them accordingly (so, once a day). This is a pain but, well, it's way more of a pain to deal with chlorination etc. Also, it's not "germs" that will be a huge problem unless you drink from it. It's more that it just will get physical dirt in it.

If you didn't have a dog I might say otherwise (I'd say shower first then get in) but the dog will be in there with dog stuff and it'll smell like dog pretty soon.

You'll also want to tilt the pool on its edge if you can after emptying so that the grass gets some sunlight and so the pool drains all the way.

Agreed about foot rinsing.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:25 AM on March 31

Keep it as far away from trees as possible, shower and wash your feet immediately before entering, no lotions, a couple of capfuls of bleach each day, this will get you . . . four or five days maybe? I couldn't get my kids to go into ours after day 2 ever, but I think it would have been fine for another day or so.
posted by skewed at 9:33 AM on March 31

We have done this type of pool. and the inflatable ring with a small pump/filter one. I second what others have said about getting the kind with a filter if at all possible. But we have also managed to get a week or more out of unchanged water in a pool just like your picture. The tricks we have is: Chlorinate it every evening. Use the pool dip sticks to make sure you have a small but measurable level of chlorine in it. Put a ground sheet underneath it, to protect the bottom from tearing. Keep the dog out (stinky and claws can tear the inflated parts sooo easily. Puppies get a small hard sided pool of their own!. This small pool is also perfect for rinsing feet in before you get into the people pool. Get a cover to keep stuff out of it overnight and helps keep the warm in. A weight tarp will do. Get a 10$ skimmer and pull any yuck out of it as needed. If you do go the way of inflatable ring pool the above all apply as well except USE STABILIZED CHLORINE. This saved my sanity last summer. It's MUCH easier to keep the levels reasonable in a small pool with just adding a little bit of the stabilized stuff than trying to do it with a small pump and wildly changing levels. Also, remember even small pools need appropriate safety precautions if there are any smaller humans who could get into them! Have a great summer!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 9:39 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]

We have used stormyteal's suggestion for a whole summer. It takes some care, just like a regular pool (I assume), because you need to make sure the filter runs (we didn't have it on all the time, but would run it at least once a day for a couple hours, definitely before getting in), add the chlorine tabs as needed, regularly test the water with test strips, etc. I would suggest using a cover as well.
posted by odin53 at 9:42 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]

If you leave water in the purchased kiddie pool overnight, cover it. Keeps animals out. An open pool of plain water will attract animals. I have seen everything from a small animal getting stuck in the pool to a deer walking through it and ripping the bottom.
posted by AugustWest at 10:48 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]

A standing pool without a sealed cover is a mosquito hatchery. Empty it.
posted by emjaybee at 10:59 AM on March 31 [6 favorites]

You can empty it with a siphon - I use a section of old cut-up hose for mine. It's kind of fun to set it up, if you are easily amused. Put a tarp underneath to minimize poke-through from whatever is underneath.

Also this reminds me of the summer when I was a kid and we filled up the kiddie pool when it first got warm and then covered it (poorly) and then let it bake all summer. When we finally went to dump it out it was full of black slime and had 1.5 inch white ...things... swimming in it. I remember being simultaneously interested and revolted.

Also - agreeing with above advice to put it in a sunny place. Water will absorb a LOT of heat before it actually warms up.
posted by Vatnesine at 11:01 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Seconding emjaybee, standing water attracts mosquitoes, just ask my welty bites :(.

We still loved and used our big-enough-for-multiple-adults inflatable pool (almost exactly the same model as yours! Just no fun polka dots :) ) regularly over many New England summers. But it was always a "set it up in the morning, drain it that evening and let it dry" kind of deal, so we mostly reserved its use for weekends when we were going to be home most of the day to enjoy it. (We were also in a duplex situation, though, so additional conscientiousness around the shared yard helped drive how we used the pool.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:41 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

I have the smallest possible version of this same pool AND on a high-story balcony with no way to easily dump the water! (Seriously, it's smaller than my bathtub, but was soooooo soothing last year when my building pool was Covid Central.) I washed my feet, threw a sheet over it at night, skimmed it with a mesh colander and watered all my plants with it about once a week. Enjoy!
posted by cyndigo at 1:17 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

We have the similar size pool from target and were getting ~2 weeks between water changes last summer using all of the following:
- pool test strips, tested at least every other day
- stabilized pool chlorine
- in a floater
-with a slime star sponge (sucks up some of the lotion residue as far as I can tell)
- a skimmer
-the intex brand pool cover, and
-using a dish pan to clean our feet before entry.

We'd siphon it out to the street and let it drain into the storm drain rather than flooding the yard. Bonus about the cover is that it is dark and so keeps the pool water WAY warmer - almost too hot at times! The chlorine was the key to keeping it not slimy, imo. When our levels were low the slime started getting a toehold much faster.

It absolutely will kill the grass. We leveled the ground as best we could and then put down two 4x8 sheets of pink house insulation panels where the pool was going to go. Make it much less rocky and hopefully protects the bottom of the pool.

All these accessories were probably another $150 but worth it to be able to go lounge on what we called the Lido Deck after work without having to fill the pool first.
posted by foodmapper at 2:39 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

Scrounge up a cheap polyester blend fitted sheet to use as a pool cover; this is to keep out whatever the trees shed, bird poo, and mosquito larvae. Skeeters are horrid and a health problem, this is important. A dark sheet will warm it a tiny bit more. Look at how many gallons it holds, be prepared to use a pump and ideally, a hose to direct the water someplace useful.
posted by theora55 at 3:27 PM on March 31

If changing it infrequently is your top priority, I'd suggest a hard-sided stock tank instead, so that you can use disinfect without worrying about it weakening the plastic too quickly. We used a 6' diameter stock tank from May to September with no ickiness, but it did take me 2-3 active hours of maintenance a week to keep it that way.

As stated above, the most important part of the equation was keeping it chlorinated. I am not sure how this would effect the longevity of an inflatable or if a saltwater system would be any less damaging. We plopped a chlorine tab floater in it any time a person wasn't in the pool, used basic pool strips to test & adjust the levels every few days, used a leaf skimmer net + $20 manual aquarium gravel vac to handle particulates, and did a partial water change every so often. A simple siphon would work for that part too, but I splurged since small messy humans were using it. We also covered the pool with a drawstring tarp pulled tight like a lid anytime it wasn't in use. One tiny snail made it inside but it was otherwise critter & insect free all season.

For general making-the-outside-more-pleasant purposes, I love our $10 mister stand attachment for the hose for added cooling. Some sort of shade that you can move around is also fantastic, so you can have the pool in full sun to warm up but then add a little cover if you get too warm while you're in there - beach umbrella, towel on a clothesline, whatever is convenient. The other necessity (IMO) is some place to sit your drink within reach while you float!
posted by Ann Telope at 8:24 PM on March 31

Just a note as someone who has both a small in-ground pool and a stock tank fishpond: sunlight equals algae, and even with filtration and chemicals it's an uphill battle (my fish don't really eat the pond algae, it would be helpful if they did). You want a lightproof cover, but that's also a good way to draw heat, if you use a dark cover (you may also want a light side to your cover, for when it's too hot).
posted by Lyn Never at 11:06 AM on April 1

I had a pool like this last summer, which was delightful and good for a few days at a time, although we were mostly sitting around it and sticking our feet in it. We would leave it up for the weekend, and then drain and refill the next weekend.

What did it in was curious neighborhood raccoons, who ripped the sides to shreds, beyond my ability to patch. So beware your local trash pandas!
posted by gingerbeer at 11:38 AM on April 1

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