I ain't swimming in that!
April 16, 2008 4:54 AM   Subscribe

How do you remove brown, swamp-like water from a swimming pool?

We moved in last year and enjoyed the pool for the better part of the summer. The previous owner had a "leaf net" cover for it, and not knowing any better, I left it on all fall/winter.

I went to take the cover off last week and the entire pool is filled with nasty water. I assume it's from the decaying leaves that had fallen onto the cover and were steeping in the pool for the last six months.

Shock and copious amounts of chlorine and particle remover have done nothing. So now... what do I try now?
posted by Hugh2d2 to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Pump it all out, and start afresh with it. A submersible pump attached to a hose will create a small but steady trickle, that shouldn't affect your drains. Get one with a float valve that will turn itself off when it runs dry.
posted by Solomon at 5:01 AM on April 16, 2008

You can clear that right up with some (nasty) chemistry. I've never resorted to drain-and-fill, and have seen some pretty nasty water.

I Am Not A Pool Guy, so go see your friendly pool supplies shop with a liter of water from your pool, and they'll sell you some stuff. You'll want the approx volume of the pool, too.

Wear old clothes and don't carry shock in the passenger compartment.
posted by so at 5:17 AM on April 16, 2008

My family had a pool. We used to drain the whole thing every spring, get into the pool dressed in old clothes and wielding scrub brushes to scour the slimy, brown liner back to its orginal blue, then fill it up with clean water.

This works best if you have about five kids who are so anxious to swim in their pool that they don't mind walking barefoot on slime. I don't remember minding the task at the time, but I don't think I'd do it now!
posted by orange swan at 5:56 AM on April 16, 2008

You don't say whether it is an above-ground or in-ground pool but don't drain it without talking to a pool professional.
posted by Morrigan at 6:03 AM on April 16, 2008

Response by poster: It's a 24' above ground pool. Which I think is about 14,600 gallons, so I'd like to not have to drain (not sure I'm allowed to drain to the street) and refill (not sure how much 14.6k gallons will add to my water bill).

Hmmm.... guess I'll taake a sample in and see what the professionals have to say.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 6:09 AM on April 16, 2008

Was the motor/pump running over winter? That may have attributed to the nasty water.
posted by doorsfan at 6:57 AM on April 16, 2008

Don't drain an above ground pool. It can damage the liner, or at the very least cause wrinkling of the liner. It is also a waste of water. Put some clarifier into the water which ionically binds with the small particles floating in your water and causes them to sink to the bottom of the pool. Then vacuum the pool to waste not through the filter. I assume you have a sand filter. Another trick which can also work is to put a small amount of DE for a DE filter on top of the sand until the pool clears and then backwash the filter. The clarifier is the preferred solution. Clarifiers have names like "Drop and Vac" etc., just ask at the pool store. After you have vacuumed out the particles shock again and you should be fine.
posted by caddis at 7:18 AM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Drop N Vac
posted by caddis at 7:20 AM on April 16, 2008

I'd hate to have to buy (and dispose of) 15,000 gallons of water if I didn't have to.

If it was me (non pool expert), I'd get one of those scooper things to remove all the debris, get a scrubber on a long stick and scrub the sides from the outside. Then I'd make sure the chemical levels are correct (without shocking it yet). Then run the filter constantly for about a week, maybe backflushing it daily. Then shock it. At that point, the water should be darn near clean.

Pool filters combined with proper chemicals are pretty powerful- pools are just big bathtubs after all.
posted by gjc at 7:28 AM on April 16, 2008

Were I in your position, I'd ask, as a corollary question, if there was a way to avoid it next time. (I'm not saying this because I have an answer to that question, mind you; it just popped into my head as I was reading this.)
posted by WCityMike at 7:49 AM on April 16, 2008

To avoid it next time use a solid cover. Leaf net covers are better for in ground pools with bottom drains. Even with a solid cover, by which I mean a specialized tarp which is liquid impervious so that rainwater etc. will not pass through into the pool, you have to be careful when removing them. I know about the floculent/clarifier from being careless removing the cover from my pool. You have to get all, not most, all of the water off that cover prior to removal, otherwise it is remarkably easy to screw up and dump a big batch of nasty leaf infused water right into the pool, and sometimes if there is more than a few gallons left the cover tears and dumps the leaf infusion into your pool. Don't do that. Even if you do, skim and vacuum out the big bits, add floculent to settle the small particles which won't sink on their own and then vacuum them out to waste. After a shock your pool will be crystal clear, although realistically sometimes you have to vacuum to waste a couple of times as stuff gets stirred up and you may even need to redose with the floculent.
posted by caddis at 8:01 AM on April 16, 2008

Get some vinyl-safe shock treatment -- lots of it. The only way it's going to clear up is some heavy-duty chlorine treatments and daily filtration.

Is it a sand filter? If so, buy some extra sand... you'll probably have to dump and clean the filter before this all over with. If it's a paper filter, buy a few extras and keep them clean.

Don't fall for the "crystal blue" crap pool stores sell. It'll only make clear water more blue, it won't do anything to eat the grime.
posted by nitsuj at 8:09 AM on April 16, 2008

So now... what do I try now?

Relax. Keep filtering, clean the pool filter frequently to keep it effective, use minimal chemicals (bad for you and everything else), don't waste all that water, don't try to make it perfect, and... don't be a chicken. Swim in it. If you've ever swum in a pond or river or lake or ocean, you've probably been in a real soup of stuff and enjoyed it. Why does your pool water have to be as clear as glass?
posted by pracowity at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2008

Why does your pool water have to be as clear as glass?

Because it is gross otherwise. ;)
Really, with the floculent it will be as clear as glass, and no, do not clean the pool filter frequently to keep it effective. It actually filters out small particles more effectively when it is dirty.
posted by caddis at 8:52 AM on April 16, 2008

Sorry, but I have to disagree with pracowity. Pool water that is brown isn't healthy, and I wouldn't swim in a lake that looked nasty either*. Brown water is like a blinking warning sign (or should be!).
Shock the heck out of your pool, and if you have a Pinch A Penny or similar near you, scoop some water in an empty water bottle and take it down. They will analyze it for free and tell you what products to use to make your water safe to swim in.

*True story: boy died in a lake down here just last year from some nasty parasites getting into his brain through his nose. Ewwww.
posted by misha at 11:33 AM on April 16, 2008

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