Dirt in the Bottom of Your Pool? Here’s How to Fix It

An uncovered pool is a massive catch-all for debris of all kinds: leaves, twigs, bugs, perhaps even an unfortunate critter, and yes, lots of dirt. That’s why it’s recommended that you skim out your pool with a skimmer on a telescopic pole once a day to move all that gunk floating on the surface of your pool. It’s not always a pretty sight, and you’re not always in the mood, but the five-minute exercise does wonders for the health of your water.

So what about dirt? Well, that’s one kind of debris that can’t be skimmed out—but that doesn’t mean your job is done. If you’re finding patches of dirt gathering on your pool floor, it’s time to make a move.

I’ll explain why you shouldn’t leave dirt in your pool, explore where your dirt is getting in there, and cover some of the other potential invaders that can look a lot like dirt—as well as how to get each one out of your pool, and keep them gone. Dirt and lookalike substances, you’re going down.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave Dirt in Your Pool

So why not just leave dirt in your pool? It’s not harming anyone, is it?

Well, it’s actually hurting your sanitizer, whether that be chlorine, a saltwater cell, or any other of the varied options for sanitizing your pool. In the case of all sanitizing systems, dirt will be a strain and deplete its ability to work at an accelerated rate.

Your pool’s sanitizer recognizes dirt as a pollutant, and will be hard at work to sanitize it. But because dirt is far larger than the microscopic debris that chlorine and other sanitizers are actually intended to neutralize, a patch of dirt will exhaust your sanitizer faster than you can say “hypochlorite.”

Dirty pools will require additional sanitizer and more of other chemicals, too, thanks to how depleted sanitizer ripples out to adversely affect almost every chemical in your water balancing arsenal. This increase in consumption will cause a dent in your wallet, and more labor to more frequently balance the chemicals. And if you aren’t vigilant about constantly balancing, you could experience one of the negative effects of an unbalanced pool, such as an algae bloom or swimmers potentially getting sick. Additionally, dirt can stain the bottom of pools if left for too long.

It’s much better, then, to tend to your dirt problem the right way, right away. Getting dirt out of your pool the second you see it will save your sanitizer the heavy lifting, keep you from having to be on constant chemical duty, and keep your swimmers and your pool healthy. But before we remove the dirt form your pool, let’s consider how it got there in the first place.

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How Did Dirt Get There, Anyway?

Dirt, dust, sediment. It’s all bound to end up in your pool at some point. So how did it get there, anyway?

Well, first look around at the landscaping in your backyard. How much dirt is around your pool, and how moist does your environment tend to be? And how much wind can you usually expect? The more the wind and the drier the dirt, the more likely it is to pick up and move right into your pool. Dirt can also work its way in on the feet or bodies of dirty swimmers, though that kind of dirt takes longer to accumulate. Unless your swimmers are coming from a mud run!

While larger debris like leaves get sucked up and caught in your skimmer basket, dirt is too tiny to be caught by any netted filters. Instead, it usually falls to the bottom of your pool, and doesn’t get circulated through your pool system.

That’s why you might see dirt piling up in the bottom of your pool. But before we go through the process of getting rid of all that dirt, let’s make sure it’s dirt in the first place.

Are You Sure That’s Dirt?

Dirt seems like a straightforward contaminant in your pool, but it could also be a more serious issue in disguise. Let’s cover its lookalikes: sand and mustard algae.

Not sure if your dirt is straightforward dirt? Use a pool brush to move the pile of dirt around. If it quickly disperses into a cloud, it’s mustard algae. If it doesn’t, it’s either dirt from the area around your pool or sand from your pool filter.

Sand from Your Filter

If you suspect the dirt in your pool might actually be sand, the first and most common place to look is at your pool filter type. You have a sand filter, don’t you? Yeah, I thought so.

The reason why you’re finding sand in your pool is that the sand filter media of your pool filter is somehow coming back through your pool’s return lines. That means that some section of your pool filter is broken and leaking sand out. This is not going to be a situation where you just let your powerful robotic vacuum take care of it on its own.

A faulty pool filter means that the contaminants in your water continue to exist in your pool, which greatly reduces the effectiveness of your sanitizer. Seeing sand in your pool also indicates that all those contaminants your sand is supposed to keep out of your pool are coming right back in. That means you can’t count on your sanitizer to be keeping your pool safe from bacteria—including the type that can potentially make you sick—until the problem is fixed.

Mustard Algae

Mustard algae is a chlorine-resistant form of green algae that often resembles dirt or sand on pool walls and floors. It creates compounds that act as a defense mechanism against the oxidation of sanitizers. This means that it can survive even when your sanitizer is top-notch.

This algae type might make its way into your water on the backs of debris such as leaves and twigs, phosphates, or even pollen. If your pool chemistry is off, especially the pH or alkalinity of your pool, mustard algae is more likely to move in.

Since mustard algae is chlorine resistant, it can survive outside of the pool. Mustard algae can cling to bathing suits, pool equipment, anything that might come back into the pool or be exposed to water sometime soon.

If you have mustard algae, you can be certain that your chemical balance is out of whack. All forms of algae are known to exhaust your sanitizer. Once your sanitizer uses up all its juice on algae, it doesn’t have any left for the other microscopic bacteria in your pool, including the kind that can potentially make you sick. And if that microscopic bacteria is allowed to run amok, the rest of your chemicals are going to be harmed in the process. That’s why it’s important to get out algae as soon as you see it, and pause swimming in your pool until you can be sure it’s gone.

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How to Get Dirt Out of Your Pool—In 3 Steps

No need to call in an expert for this particular service. Getting dirt out of your pool is as easy as 1, 2, 3: brushing, vacuuming, and letting your pump finish the job.

1.Brush Your Pool

If you’re seeing dirt on your pool floor, there’s a pretty high chance that it’s clinging in less noticeable patches to your pool floors and walls. Just like you want to do a few times a week, brush down the entirety of your pool. This will dislodge all the dirt you can see and the dirt that you can’t see for this next step.

2. Get Out the Pool Vacuum

Now that you’ve brushed down the pool, the dirt is floating in the water or sinking back down to the bottom of the pool. For the dirt that sinks back to the pool floor, a pool vacuum comes in handy. But you might not even have to use your hands at all. If you have an automatic cleaner, it can do the job for you.

Got a manual vacuum? Get ready to do some strenuous pushing. You’ll want to vacuum the entirety of your pool floor. If you have an automatic cleaner, simply power it on and let it do the job for you. No need to wait until it’s done to start this next step.

3. Run Your Pump

Vacuuming your pool was to take care of the dirt that’s settled again on your pool floor. Running your pump will take care of the dirt that’s now floating in your water, thanks to that brushing you gave it.

Power on your pump and run it for longer than you normally would. You want to filter out that dirt before it gets a chance to settle on your pool floor—which is another reason why you should be using an automatic cleaner that vacuums over time instead of a manual vacuum.

It’s also a good idea to rebalance your water’s chemicals while your pump is running. Remember, having dirt or any other similar contaminants in your pool will throw your chemicals out of wack and could potentially provide a breeding ground for bacteria. Ick.

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How to Get Sand Out of Your Pool—In 10 Steps

In order to fix your sand filter, you’re going to need to replace at least one part, usually either what is called the standpipe or one (or more) of the laterals.

The standpipe is the long plastic pipe that runs down the center of your pool filter. It spans the entirety of your pool filter, from the multi-port valve at the top down to the laterals.

The laterals are the most common part to break. There are usually eight to ten laterals in sand filters, and they keep sand from entering your pool along with all that newly-cleaned water. Laterals do this by having tiny perforations that only allow water through.

All you have to do is replace the cracked part—that process is common sense—in a series of steps that also involve changing the sand in your filter. Here’s how to fix a broken sand filter.

  1. First, power off your pump. Drain your filter by removing the drain plug at the bottom of the filter.
  2. Next, remove the multiport valve by gently turning it and twisting up. Pulling too roughly here can crack the laterals, so no Olympic moves!
  3. Open the tank and cover the standpipe with duct tape so that sand doesn’t find its way in.
  4. Use a Shop Vac to suck up the old sand. Then, rinse out the laterals the tank with a garden hose.
  5. Next, replace the parts!
  6. Using the garden hose, fill the tank halfway with water. Hold the standpipe and laterals centered and in place while you do this. This water will cushion the laterals from the incoming sand.
  7. Add the new sand media. This time, it’s staying in your filter.
  8. Fill the tank to the top with water. Replace the multiport valve and make sure all connections are secure.
  9. Prime your pump and power it on. Backwash the filter for at least two minutes, or until you see the filter’s sight class is clear.
  10. Run the filter—no more tiny islands in your pool!

Once you’ve fixed your sand filter, use the same steps as you would to get dirt out of your pool to get that sand out of there. Thanks to the fact that you solved the problem (a broken sand filter), you’re kicking out sand for good.

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How to Get Mustard Algae Out of Your Pool—In 7 Steps

Uh oh, you’ve got mustard algae? That’s the worst possible culprit, but pay no mind. Follow these steps and you and your water are in the clear.

1. Pre-Wash… Well, Everything You Can

Mustard algae is particularly persistent because it can live outside of the water. Take care of the stuff outside of the pool that mustard algae might be clinging to. Machine wash your swimsuits, disinfect and clean pool toys, and put any pool brushes, hoses, or other equipment in the shallow end of your pool—that way when we shock your water, we’re also sanitizing these tools.

2. Brush, Brush, Brush

Mustard algae spores might be clinging to your walls completely invisible to the naked eye, so you’re going to want to brush the entirety of your pool walls and floors. I suggest you use the antimicrobial patented 360-degree pool brush. When that’s done, manually vacuum your pool. A robotic cleaner might reintroduce mustard algae in, so it can be tabled (and disinfected!) for now.

3. Test Your Water… & Just Keep Brushing

Using water test strips, balance your pool water. You’ll want to give special attention to your pool’s pH and alkalinity levels. For pH, an optimal range is 7.4–7.6 with an ideal level of 7.5. Alkalinity should be between 100 and 150 parts per million (ppm), with an ideal level of 125 ppm. Once you’ve rebalanced your chemicals, brush the entire pool again.

4. The Shocking Solution

Triple-shock your pool. That means three pounds of pool shock for every 10,000 gallons of water your pool contains (and if you’ve never calculated your pool size before, now is the time). Do this at dusk or else the sun will stop the shock from working, so do this next step and then call it a day.

5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Remember, this type of algae is known to be stubborn and persistent. To really make sure you’re getting it out of your pool, you’ll need to dedicate a few days to the process. For about 72 hours following your shock treatment, keep brushing the pool and rebalancing your chemicals at least once a day.

6. Shock Again

After 72 hours or so, shock your pool again—but this time, make it the normal dose. That’s one pound of pool shock for every 10,000 gallons of water your pool contains. The same guidelines about applying shock after dusk apply, and you’ll want to wait until the shock has cleared in your pool water before moving on to this next and final step.

7. Is That Mustard Algae Packing?

The secret to making sure the mustard algae is gone? Check your chemical balance! If it’s stable and on the mark, you’ve handed your mustard algae an eviction notice. Great work.

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Prevention is Key!

Congratulations, you just sent that dirt—or its lookalikes, sand and mustard algae—packing. If that contaminant really was dirt, you’ve got a few easy prevention tools for keeping it out of your pool: using a pool cover, making sure your filter is properly backwashed or cleaned when necessary, and, if the problem really persists, installing an outdoor shower for swimmers to rinse off in before getting into the pool. Whatever extra measures you decide to take, you’re going in the right step for the health of your sanitizer and your swimmers. Enjoy.