Water Safety for Dogs – 5 Quick Tips

dog-days-of-summer-2Some dogs are natural swimmers. The Labrador retriever breed originated in Newfoundland and worked alongside fishermen, according to the American Kennel Club. Top-heavy, short-nosed breeds, such as the French bulldog, find it more difficult to stay afloat. All dogs need humans to practice pool safety on their behalf as circumstances arise that put even strong swimmers in danger.

Here’s 5 Quick Tips on Water Safety for Dogs (and other pets, too!).

1. Secure the Pool Area.

If your dog belongs to one of the breeds that find swimming difficult, if not impossible without help, install a pool fence. Both temporary and permanent pool fencing options are available, for inground and above ground pools.

safety-turtle-on-dogAnother way to secure the pool area is electronically. Pool alarms emit a loud alarm if a body enters the water. Even better for dogs, strap a Safety Turtle to his collar, which sounds an ear-splitting alarm if the 1″ square sensor is submerged in water.

2. Teach your dog to Avoid the pool when Unsupervised.

Training also is advised for these breeds for when other dog pool safety practices fail, in the event that the pool gate is accidentally left open. On her blog, noted dog trainer Victoria Stilwell recommends positive-reinforcement methods, which in this scenario would involve purposefully leaving the gate open and using motivation to teach the pet not to enter without you. Allow your dog to approach the open gate, then call him away and reward with treats, play or even just praise if that gets the job done. Repeat in short sessions until your dog will not go through the open pool gate without you.

3. Teach your dog to swim.

If your dog belongs to a breed that can naturally swim, start lessons at a young age. Sit beside your new puppy (or an older dog new to you or the pool) on the top step so he can grow accustomed to the water, providing praise throughout the session. Move on to holding the puppy while walking in the shallow end, allowing his legs to paddle. Throughout this session, repeatedly walk back to the steps so the puppy will learn where to safely exit the pool.

Slowly move on to solo swimming, but no matter how strong a swimmer never let your dog in the water or elsewhere in the pool area unsupervised. A tired dog or one who falls into the pool accidentally may panic, try to climb out from the deep end and fail. Always supervise your dog when swimming, and train your dog to not swim unsupervised (it can be done!).

4. Invest in a doggy life vest.

Just because your dog isn’t a natural swimmer, that doesn’t mean he won’t like cooling off on the top pool step or watching the action from a shady spot. To ensure a non-swimmer’s safety, invest in a life vest. A vest also will allow a dog who is not a natural swimmer to enjoy the activity, and those with arthritis also enjoy the extra help while getting the health benefits of swimming.

Be sure to buy the correct dog vest! One that not only fits your dog, but can support his weight as well. Do this by measuring his length from neck to tail, chest and neck while in a standing position and taking his weight. The life vest should fit snugly, and should not be too constricting.

5. Add a ramp or dock to the pool.

Dogs with arthritis or other health conditions that make using steps a challenge, install a dog pool ramp if you have such a pet. Just as with pool fencing, permanent and temporary options are available, with the latter an excellent option if you have dogs who regularly visit, but do not live with you.

pet-stepConsider Skamper Ramp, a portable floating escape ramp for swimming pools. For larger breeds, or heavier dogs over 90 lbs. look at the Super Skamper Ramp.

A new Pet Step is now available, a much longer ramp that works great for larger dogs or deeper water, as shown here being used by a clever dog!


Keeping Dogs safe around pool involves barriers like fences and safety covers, or ramps for pools without an easy “Wedding Cake” type step exit. Life vests are also a wise choice for around the pool, or a day at the lake or river.

Most importantly, teach your dogs where to find the pool exit – steps or ramp. Even if your dog won’t go near the pool, they may fall in the pool one day and panic, unless you teach them how to exit safely. An important skill for all family dogs.

Sheryl Sollis
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


How to Winterize Above Ground Pools?

pool-closed for winterIt’s time to put away the summer fun and button-up the pool for winter.

Even if you are located where it rarely freezes, if you’re not using it, you may as well cover and close the pool for winter. It saves energy and water and reduces wear and tear on equipment, and prevents costly freeze damage from a cold snap.

Here’s How to Winterize an Aboveground Pool ~ in just 7 Steps! :-)

The first thing to do before putting the pool to bed is to make sure that the pH is 7.4 – 7.6 and the Alkalinity is 80-120 ppm. Low levels can damage pool liners and high levels can cause a dirty scale to form. Calcium Hardness should be at least 150 ppm. Good water chemistry prevents stains and allows the winter chemicals to work most effectively.

After you test the water and make any water balance adjustments, you can shock the pool with a double-dose of shock. Pre-dissolve chlorine shock by pouring it into a bucket of water (not needed with Lithium or Non-Chlorine Shock), and then adding it carefully around the edge.

Vacuum the pool or run the pool cleaner. If you don’t have a pool vac hose and head, you can use a garden hose powered pool vacuum, and pool leaf rake nets to remove leaves and debris. Brush the pool with a good pool brush several times in the days before closing, to help the filter remove the small particles.

Don’t close a pool with algae blooming or any sort of non-blue colors. Before closing the pool, the water should be in the best shape it’s been all summer. Over-Filter, Over-Sanitize and Over-Circulate the water in the days and weeks before closing an aboveground pool.

A winter kit or closing kit is the best for closing an aboveground pool. The floater is guaranteed not to stain the pool, like chlorine floaters, and Closing Kits also include winter algaecide, stain & scale protectant, pool shock and an oil absorbent sponge. All for under $19, for a kit that covers up to 7500 gallons.

Once you have the pool clean and chemical-ed, it’s time to cover the pool to keep it clean and block out the sun. Use a quality aboveground pool cover, inspecting it closely before installing for holes or seam separation. Use an air pillow under the cover to absorb ice expansion, reduces cover stress and reduce water warming during spring time. Use a Leaf Catcher for larger pools with even larger trees.

Not too low! The pool needs the support of the water during winter. It’s best for aboveground pools to be mostly full, or lower it just below the skimmer opening. Install an Aquador face plate or use a Skimmer Plug and you don’t have to lower the water level at all, just snap on the skimmer cover to keep water out of the skimmer during winter, preventing costly damage from ice.

For above ground pool systems with hoses from the skimmer and to the returns, just plug the pool using winter plugs, and drain the hoses. Underground pipes can be blown out with a wet/dry vac and then plugged, or you can pour in non-toxic pool antifreeze before plugging the pipes. 

Drain the pump, filter and heater if you have one. Just remove the drain plugs on the bottom, and it should drain out on it’s own. Cartridge or DE filters need to have the elements removed and cleaned thoroughly before storage. Small aboveground pool pump and filter systems should be disconnected and stored indoors, if possible.

7 Steps to close an aboveground pool. Now you know! Give us a call if you have any specific questions about winterizing your own above ground pool!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor


Natural Swimming Pools

natural-pool-by-bionovaNatural swimming pools use plants and self-contained ecosystems to maintain a clean, natural swimming environment.

Many people think a natural pool is too expensive, tough to maintain or “gross,” like swimming in a pond – but these environmentally friendly pools are a good choice for anyone who doesn’t want the harsh chemicals and enviro-impact of regular pools.

No Pool Chemicals

Also called “swimming ponds”, natural swimming pools use plants and other biological elements to filter and keep the water clean. They require no chlorine to maintain, which is healthier and safer for you and your family as well as the local plants and animals.

Chlorine and other traditional pool chemicals can irritate skin and eyes and even cause other health problems. In natural pools, aquatic vegetation, a circulating water feature and stratified soils are used to filter the water and remove any impurities; naturally!


Image Credit: SplashMagazine.com.au

Easier to Maintain

If you use a designer, natural pools cost about the same as a traditional pool, according to HouseLogic. However, the annual cost of maintaining a natural pool can be less than a traditional pool, because the natural pool maintains itself without the need for traditional equipment, chemicals or cleaners.

Because natural pools use aquatic vegetation to filter the water, you don’t have to do a lot of laborious maintenance, either. A small amount of brushing and skimming to remove leaves and occasional clean-up around the plants is all you really have to do. Natural pools will take on a naturally healthy water balance, and there’s no need to constantly test and adjust water balance to protect surfaces or equipment.


Image Credit: GartenArt Swimming Ponds, UK

Many natural pools have built-in natural skimmers, but there is no traditional filter that requires maintenance and repair. Instead, there is only a pump, which draws the water from the pool and floods it into large area of specially stratified layers of soil and rock, using the surrounding flood plain as a natural filter!

And forget about the thousands of dollars snow belt pool owners spend each year on winterizing services and products. Most pumps are submerged, or in sumps, so winterization is not a concern. For natural pools in milder climates, the pump can be run just a few hours per day in winter.

Environmentally Friendly

One of the main benefits of natural swimming pools is the beneficial impact they have on the environment and native landscapes. According to Permaculture Magazine, traditional swimming pool owners drain about 20,000 gallons of chemical-filled water into the environment each year. Natural pools never have to be drained, and the water is clean and free of harmful byproducts.

turtleNatural pools can be safer for any wildlife that might come across your yard, and they can attract native and endangered plants and microorganisms. Turtles and frogs, butterflies and dragonflies will all make a natural pool a home.

aquatic-plantsThe best part about natural swimming pools? They work with the environment instead of against it to provide a safe and beneficial addition to your native landscape. Plus, you can re-create the environment with new plants each year, and be an aquatic gardener!

Customizable and Personal

Natural pools can fit into any space and environment. The shape and size can be customized to your yard, and the plants and other features can be tailored to your native landscape and plants. Natural pools can be heated, but most are heated naturally, by the sun only.

Have fun choosing aquatic plants that you like, those that grow below water, and those that grow above the water line. You could add a water feature like a fountain and a wooden dock or walkway around the edges of the pool. If it gets cold enough in your region in the winter, natural pools freeze over just like ponds do, providing you and your family with a small ice-skating area.

The materials used for a the swimming area of a natural pool can be varied. Some companies use heavy gauge pond liners, or pre-fab fiberglass or thermoplastic shells. Other companies lay down a floor of gunite, which can be topped with natural stone, with beautiful effect, as shown below.


Image Credit: Look4Deco.com

Before you think it’s only suited for a small backyard pond, or for southern climates, at Webber Park Pool they are finishing details on a huge public natural pool – the first of it’s kind. At 660,000 gallons, it’s not small, and in Minnesota, it’s not in the South!

Besides all of these benefits, natural pools are beautiful additions to any home with a large yard and a unique feature if you plan to sell your home.

Brett Rotelli
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


4 Earth Friendly Alternative Pool Water Treatments

alternative-pool-chemicalsPool owners know what a chore it is to maintain a clean and balanced swimming pool. And, a lot of the harsh chlorine and chemical-based cleaners and products we use to maintain our pools can be harmful to our health and the environment.

What’s more; chlorine-based pool products may not be completely effective against germs and bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are other, greener ways to keep your pool clean - read on:

Natural Pool Purifiers

Here’s 3 ways to dramatically reduce the amount of chlorine needed to keep your pool sanitary and free of algae. Ultraviolet light systems bombard the water with UV light, used for thousands of years for sanitation purposes. None of these are touted as “stand alone” systems, but allow you to reduce your chlorine consumption by 50% or more.

alternative-purifiersAnother ancient water treatment is Minerals; copper and silver, which have natural bacteriostatic properties. Modern science has harnessed the O³ molecule. Ozone is a gas that is injected into the plumbing line, where it kills anything it comes in contact with.

Switch to Salt or Go Natural

Saltwater pools are self-sanitizing and naturally break down bacteria and germs. By the use of electrolysis, the salt turns into chlorine, and can be regenerated again and again. Saltwater Systems produce fewer disinfectant byproducts and side effects (including irritated skin, itchy eyes, lung problems and asthma-like symptoms) than chlorine pools. Chloramine buildup is less common in saltwater swimming pools, and users report a softer, silkier feel to the water, and fewer pH problems.

While saltwater pools have definite benefits over chlorinated pools, the most chemical-free and eco-friendly way to go is with a natural pool. These are pond-like swimming pools with plants inside shallow water areas that naturally purify the water. Natural swimming pools rely on vegetation, filtration and circulation to keep the water clean.

HGTV Gardens says these types of pools natural-pool-33usually use three types of plants: floating, deep-water and emergent. Common types of plants used in natural pools include water lilies, reeds, grass and swamp hibiscus; so they’re beautiful, too!

Natural Pool Chemicals

Production, transport and storage of chlorine has environmental costs. When you buy less chlorine, or you make your own with a salt system, it reduces the overall demand, and production declines. Think about this: Just one pool owner using a natural water purification alternative can reduce the amount of chlorine in the environment dramatically, according to the website ChasingGreen.org.

natural-chemistry-family-2There are many green pool products and chemicals that reduce your chlorine use. Eco-friendly product lines like Natural Chemistry, for instance, clean the pool water and keep it balanced without using chlorine or harmful chemicals.

Pool Covers and Landscaping

Keeping your pool covered when not in use and using strategic landscaping to block wind can reduce the debris blown in from wind and cut down on cleaning needs. These methods can also reduce water evaporation and heating costs. Solar pool covers reduce the need for chemicals, help heat the water and lower evaporation by up to 95 percent, Earth911 reports.

plants-around-poolPlants and shrubs help absorb carbon dioxide and some of the other byproducts from traditional pool chemicals. Even if you don’t have a natural pool, you can still plant some purifying plants like reeds and irises near the pool, to help filter the soils around your swimming pool, and purify the air!

So think about adding just one natural purifier or natural clarifier to your pool, or consider switching to a salt chlorinator or go au naturel. You can reduce your reliance on chlorine and algaecides, but still have pure and safe pool water.

Christine Silvestri
InTheSwim Staff Blogger



Eco Friendly Pool Care

ecofriendly-pool-productsOwning a pool comes with responsibility. There’s the necessary upkeep and maintenance, of course, and then there are the safety measures you must take to ensure no one gets injured in your pool.

But what about responsibility to the environment? Swimming pools are great fun and entertainment, but can also be an ecological hazard.

Pool owners, even the most eco-conscious of us, often overlook the harsh chemicals and energy consumption that goes with pool ownership.

Fortunately, there are many green pool products available that will help you maintain your pool and our fragile ecosystem at the same time.

Energy Efficient Pools

Saving heat is important; if you like a warm pool. Sunshine and pool time go hand in hand, and pool owners can harness solar heat to reduce pool heating costs.

dollar_sign_with_wings_150_wht_13589-2If steam rising off your pool in the early morning looks like Dollar Bills with Wings – solar blankets can reduce evaporation during the day and retain the pool heat at night.

Saving electricity is easy too, with modern pool pumps and pool lights. Variable Speed pumps and VS motors use much less electricity than standard pool pumps of yesteryear.

hayward-colorlogic-ledLarger, more efficient filters will reduce your pump run time and LED underwater pool lights use just a fraction of the energy of their gluttonous Incandescent ancestors.

Finally; robot cleaners are clean and green because they don’t require a booster pump – plus, they filter the water as they clean the pool!

Natural Pool Chemicals

Chlorine is a harsh chemical, and according to the CDC, exposure to high concentrations of chlorine can can burn your skin, irritate the eyes and cause long-term respiratory complications. Chlorine can also kill organisms in the soil near a chlorinated pool, leaving the earth damaged and barren. The conscientious pool owner can find other, less harsh means of treating a swimming pool.

Though the terms “environmentally sound” and “chemical treatments” are scarcely heard in the same sentence, several innovative products are making this unlikely pairing a reality.

vanson-SeaKlear-crab-logo-2Chitin is the active ingredient in SeaKlear; a chemical treatment made from crab and lobster shells, designed to correct murky water as well as remove stains from your pool surfaces.

Enzymes are used to clean-up huge ocean oil spills, so imagine what it does in your pool. Pool Magic is an enzyme compound made for swimming pools that consumes oils and organics. Naturally!

pool-frog-systemMinerals like Copper and Silver are natural purifiers, attacking algae and bacteria in the pool. Pool Frog uses mineral cartridges that are replaced every 6 months, and has chlorine “Bac-Pac” cartridges that also fit into the Purifier unit, and can last up to a month. Convenient!

UV Light systems are another Earth-Friendly pool treatment; UV Systems use the power of UV light rays to bombard bacteria and pathogens. As water passes through a clear pipe, the spooky blue light zaps impurities and particles. Cool!

ozoneOzone is the world’s most powerful sanitizer; Ozonators harness the O³ molecule,  a tiny gas bubble that kills everything that it touches. Ozone is created by small wall mounted units and injected into the pool return line. Easy!

Salt Chlorine Generators

You can take your pool green-ification a step further by modifying your purification process. Green pool purification systems like salt chlorine systems use electrolysis of salt water to produce your own chlorine.

Why are Salt Systems Green?!? Because when you make your own chlorine, you no longer have to buy, transport, store and handle dangerous oxidizers. And, now that over a million salt chlorinators are installed in the U.S. – factory chlorine production and distribution also declines, which is a good thing.

With just a few modifications to your pool products, supplies and systems, you can take care of your pool and our environment at the same time.

Talk to you Later;

Brett Rotelli
InTheSwim Staff Blogger

Throw a DIY Pool Party Everyone Will Love

pool-party-decorationsWhen decorating for a pool party, you don’t need to spend your hard-earned money on pre-made party supplies or spend hours decorating every single square inch of your backyard.

Instead, focus on the essentials – Food, Games and a simple pool party Theme – and the rest will fall into place.

Set the Stage

Just because the party will be held in the backyard doesn’t mean it can’t start in the front. With construction paper and markers, include a welcome sign beside or beneath the wreath, suggesting guests either come on in or use the side gate to head directly to the pool area.

Cafe-LA-umbrella-pick-wreathShow guests they’re in the right place with a simple round Styrofoam wreath, two or three packets of umbrella picks and a pack of kids novelty sunglasses. Use a glue gun and small-head sewing pins to attach the flowers and sunglasses to the wreath. The umbrella picks should fit nicely in the Styrofoam without glue, but you can add glue for a windy day. There are many ideas for pool party decoration inspiration on Pinterest.

Pool Party Food

In the rush and excitement to gather pool party supplies, don’t forget that some of the party snacks can double as decor. In addition to hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza or Popsicles®, consider displaying treats in clean sandcastle molds. Fill brightly-colored buckets with salsa and Tortilla chips, using toy shovels as serving spoons.

party-snacksMake handmade display tags encouraging party-goers to “dig in!” Other castle sand molds or small pails could hold themed treats, such as Swedish fish candies and Goldfish crackers. For less obvious associations, include more display tags and get creative. Cheese puffs can be labeled beach balls, colored licorice make great pool noodles and blue Kool-Aid becomes ocean water with just a bit of imagination.

In the Pool

You can’t have a pool party without a beach ball, but they aren’t the only options you have for functional decor. Before the party, fill the pool up with floating water balloons. Simple to make, you can fill normal balloons with a bit of water for weight and then finish with air. Water balloons are also great for pool party games with kids. Organize a race where participants have to get their balloon from one end of the pool to the other without using their hands.

glow-stick-ballonsAnother fun idea is to put glow sticks in some of the balloons, which adds a cool layer of light and color to the party once the sun goes down. You can easily find more creative pool party game ideas online.

Little Extras

Some guests will forget towels and sunscreen. Set these items strategically around the pool—these little stations will not only help a friend in need, but they’ll also give your pool party an extra bit of charm.

DIY-Life-Buoy-completely-CoastalIn one corner, use a basket or empty cooler to hold rolled beach towels. In another, set up a sunscreen station with colorful hanging pails, a DIY Life Buoy, or a blown-up pool tube. It’s not only useful to guests who forgot to bring some, but it will serve as a reminder to reapply as the party presses on.

Save your hard-earned money, and throw a pool party on the cheap. Remember, the big attraction is the pool, so keep it simple with Food, Games and cute DIY pool party decorations!

Dana Katz
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Goodbye Summer – Closing My Pool

inground-safety-covers-cost-vs-benefitMany people hire a pool pro to close their pool for the season for a myriad of reasons, and the prominent reason is really fear of doing it wrong.

Burst pipes and cracked pumps, filters and heaters can all be easily avoided if you abide to a handful of simple steps.

I’ve found that closing the pool is much less time-consuming than opening a pool for the season. However, an easy, clear pool opening starts with closing your pool for the season like a pro.


All pool owners know the importance of having an inventory of pool chemicals on hand in order to be prepared for any curve balls that may come your way. A few weeks before you plan on closing your pool, it’s best to take stock of your pool closing accessories and pool closing chemicals.

You’ll want to have plenty of non-toxic anti-freeze, winter cover accessories, plugs for your returns, pH and Alkalinity, as well as an extra bottle of algaecide to add under the cover a month before opening the pool. It may seem far away now, but that extra bottle of algaecide will pay dividends with a much easier pool opening.

Several days before closing, balance the pH, Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness, and super-chlorinate the pool, turn up the chlorinator and add 1 lb of shock per 10000 gallons. Do you need a new pool cover this year?


clean-the-pool-5On the day of your pool closing, once you’ve recovered from mourning the passing of summer, clean your pool as thoroughly as possible. Every leaf and twig will absorb your pool chemicals and make them less effective as well as throw-off your pH balance. As we learned in an earlier post, clean the pool deck too.

TEST-AND-BALANCETest and balance the pool once more, to be sure your pH, alkalinity and calcium are correct. If your pH normally rises, reduce the pH level to 7.2. If your pH normally is low, boost it up to 7.6. Good chemistry will protect your pool surfaces and your winter pool chemicals, too. If you see any algae, an extra dose of algaecide is in order.


Backwashing your filter is the best method for this as you not only lower your water line, you clean your filter. Once you’ve backwashed for about 15-20 minutes, switch a multiport valve from “backwash” to “drain to waste” and continue draining through the waste or backwash line.

lil-giant-water-wizard-cover-pumpIf you have a separate main drain valve, close the skimmer valve or plug the skimmer, to continue pumping exclusively via the main drain. If you don’t have a an easy way to go below the skimmer (like me), use a submersible pump* to lower the water the rest of the way.

*I learned my lesson last year while waiting for the somewhat slow-moving pump to drain water – Cover the Pool while waiting on the water to lower. You can still close the pool with it loosely covered. It’s no fun cleaning your pool twice in one day!


inflatable-sharksNow, gather up all of your pool equipment and accessories that made your life easier over the summer so that they may continue to do so next summer. A cracked skimmer basket here, a rusty handrail there, warped pool cleaner hose, can all add up fast and leave you with less money for giant inflatable animals.

Proper storage of your pool equipment and accessories is a small detail that can have a big impact on your opening. Remove your pool ladders and handrails; skimmer baskets and return fittings. Store where they will not be exposed to the elements, and far away from chlorine, which can oxidize stainless steel parts. Check lids and caps on all pool chemicals and store safely separated and secure, out of reach of children.

Remove your pool cleaner if you haven’t already by this point, be sure to thoroughly drain all of the water from it, and store it mindfully. Remove the hose  and store it in a big trash bag in large loops. Do not hang pool cleaner hose on a hook. Suction cleaners should have the hose segments disconnected and stored flat in a box or large trash bag. Store the main unit so that there is no pressure on any part of its components, and place in a safe location. I have a storage box I use for mine, and it hibernates peacefully for the winter.

If you own a DE or cartridge filter, open the air bleeder and remove the drain plug on the bottom, pull out the grids/cartridge and thoroughly clean them with a hose. Hose out the tanks, filter o-ring and replace the grids or cartridges. Reassemble the filter fully and firmly. A loose filter clamp could be dangerous when you fire up the system in the spring.

For sand filters (like me), just remove the drain plug and let the water run out on the ground. Be careful not to remove the entire drain assembly, so that sand falls out – just remove the drain plug only.

Now it’s time to remove the pump and heater drain plugs, most pumps and heaters have two drain plugs while filters typically have one. If you have a chlorinator that has a drain plug, remove the plug, and remove all tablets and tablet remnants. Replace the lid securely; store drain plug in the pump basket.

Salt cells should also be removed and stored for the winter after you blow the plumbing lines. Speaking of which…


skimmer-sticksYou drained the equipment and used your pump to remove as much water as it could. It’s time to blow the lines. I use a 1.5” PVC pipe, glued to a 1.5” threaded male fitting (or 2” if your skimmer holes are larger). The PVC pipe should be 2-3 ft. long, so it protrudes from the skimmer. If you have a second skimmer, make a second skimmer pipe, or use a hose adapter and connect your vacuum hose. Duct tape the big black wet/dry vacuum hose to the skimmer pipe. Wrap it up good; air tight.

With the valve at the pump closed, or a winter freeze plug tightened into the pump intake, blow air from one skimmer to the other. If you only have one skimmer, blow from the skimmer out to the main drain.

cyclone-blower-at-InTheSwimTo blow a main drain, even a 5 hp wet/dry vac may not work; unless the water level is very low in the pool. Call in some reinforcements with the high volume, low pressure Cyclone blower. It’s designed to tackle bigger jobs like main drains or pipes buried deep in the ground.

After blowing the suction-side pipes, double check that the filter and pump lid and drain plugs are snug and let the air flow into the pump, and thru the filter. This will help drain any lingering water from the equipment. Unscrew the drain plugs while air is passing through, to let all the water spray out, loosely tighten the drain plugs again (pump, filter, heater), while the air continues to blow through all the way to the pool returns.

Once the pool returns are bubbling for about a minute, plug the returns. Plug the return that is blowing the strongest, first. Further away returns are plugged next, and a cleaner line is generally plugged last. Be sure to tighten the plug fully, no tiny air bubbles should be coming out.

If your pool returns are not vigorously bubbling, check for air loss between the skimmer and returns, or move the wet/dry vac to the pump. Open the pump lid and pull out the basket and insert the hose right into the volute, (may require a smaller section of hose to adapt). Hold the hose tightly over the impeller and turn on the blower/vac. When the returns start bubbling, have a helper plug them up tightly. Another tip is to set a filter multiport valve to Recirculate, to bypass the filter and reduce resistance. Oh, and be sure the return valve is open, and there is no air loss on the heater or chlorinator.

winter-plugsWhen plugging the lines use high quality rubber expansion plugs or Hayward return plugs. the threaded one with o-ring. Do not use old, dry-rotted plugs or threaded plugs that are missing the o-ring. Again, this is a minor detail that if overlooked could cause major damage to your plumbing. Winter pool plugs are inexpensive ways to avoid expensive problems.

Now, if you want to use non-toxic pool antifreeze in the pipes – if you’re not sure that all the water was blown out, or for insurance against failed plugs, pour some in before you plug the skimmer. It’s hard to get antifreeze into main drain pipes or return lines, but if you have a screwdriver and an old beer bong from college, you can usually figure a way to pour it in through a valve or other opening in the pipe.

skimmer-guardYou can also use Antifreeze on top of the skimmer plug, to keep the water inside the skimmer from freezing. Or, use the Skimmer Guard, combination skimmer plug and ice expansion absorption device!


If you covered your pool during the draining process you are already ahead of the class for the next step: Put the cover on! If it’s a windy day and leaves are blowing, place the cover on the pool before you blow the lines. To plug the lines, simply reach under the cover.

winter-closing-kit-300x229BEFORE you cover the pool, be sure to add the winterizing chemicals to the water. Disregard instructions that suggest adding the chemicals before lowering the water to “allow for circulation”. It’s a waste of chemicals and not the best move for the environment either, beside being a flat-out waste of inflatable swan bucks.

Add the chemicals after the water is lowered, but before it’s covered, so you can walk the chemicals around the pool edge to distribute them evenly. If the pool is covered already (to keep it clean), just pull it open on one side and add the winter pool chemicals, or your winter chemical kit.

Take the time to be sure your pool cover is tight and snug to keep debris from blowing underneath. If you use a solid cover, fold over excess material underneath the cover, so rain water can run off the edges, and the cover sits tight and relatively wrinkle-free on the surface. For safety pool covers, the springs should be about halfway compressed.

At this point it’s time to start planning your first pool party of 2016, saving up for that flock of inflatable duck floats you’ve had your eye on. Enjoy your winter with the peace of mind knowing you’ve closed the pool correctly.

Ryan Dornan
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Host a Luau Pool Party!


I loved the White Pool Party ideas that Christine recently shared; for a more colorful summer pool party idea, why not host a Hawaiian Luau?

Nothing beats a sunny day by the pool with delicious BBQ right off the grill. As Emeril would say, kick it up a notch, and instead of a regular BBQ, it’s easy serve a Hawaiian BBQ, with a Luau theme!

Bring the taste of the islands with fruity cocktails and Hawaiian-style barbeque recipes. Add more island flavor with Lei floral necklaces for the guests, and grass skirts for the hosts. Buy a few tiki torches and other island decorations. For $20 at a Party Store, you can get all you need!

Char Siu Glazed Pork on Buns

Photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Photo: Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Char Siu, which is Chinese-style barbecued pork, is a popular dish in Hawaii. Below is an easy recipe. To make the brine, you’ll need to mix up Kosher salt, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Chill the liquid until it is cool. Next, put two, 1-lb. pork tenderloins into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, cover with the brine and put in the fridge for 3-12 hours.

Meanwhile, make a char siu glaze with ketchup, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Cover the pork with glaze just before laying on the grill, and use a brush to coat while cooking. Serve with grilled and glazed pineapple slices,  stuffed into a Hawaiian roll. See MyRecipes.com for the whole recipe.

Huli Huli Chicken

Photo: Allrecipes.com

Photo: Allrecipes.com

Combine chicken pieces with pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, sherry, ginger, garlic, and green onions in a large sealable plastic bag, stirring until brown sugar has dissolved. Place chicken into bag, squeeze out air, seal bag, and refrigerate 4-12 hours. Crank up the grill to 475°, and turn every 10 minutes, for 35 to 45 minutes. Baste with marinade after each turning. AllRecipes.com has all the details.

Hawaiian Island Surfer

Photo: MarieClaire.com

Photo: MarieClaire.com

For a fun and fruity non-alcoholic beverage, look no further than the Hawaiian Island Surfer recipe from Love to Know. To make it, combine a half cup of orange sorbet with a small can of pineapple juice, an ounce of coconut cream and a cup of crushed ice. Blend the ingredients until they are the consistency of a smoothie and pour into tiki cups or colorful tall plastic cups, topped with fruit and maybe a little umbrella!

Pineapple Drops

Photo: BakedNorthWest

Photo: BakedNorthWest

For your guests who are 21 and up, consider serving the Pineapple Drop, also from MyRecipes.com. In a pitcher, mix pineapple juice, vodka, and lime juice, then chill until cold. Rub lime wedges around rims of 6 martini glasses. Pour sugar onto a large plate. Dip rims of glasses in sugar. Divide vodka mixture among glasses. Push a few pineapple chunks onto each skewer and set one in each glass.

Frozen Coconut Dessert

Photo: RecipeTips.com

Photo: RecipeTips.com

Taste of Home has another great recipe. In a saucepan, bring 1 1/3 cups of water and 2/3 cup of sugar to a boil and then cook for five minutes. Once it cools, stir in 2 cups of coconut and 2 teaspoons of vanilla. In another bowl beat 1 pint of heavy whipping cream until it forms soft peaks, and then fold the whipped cream into the coconut mixture. Pour into a pie dish, cover and freeze overnight. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and chopped macadamia nuts.

Pre-Pool-Party Planning Tips

Buy a set of tiki torches and set them up around the edge of the pool for a beachy glow at sundown. Get a few other decorations at the dollar store or your local party store to really set the theme.

When it comes to seating, it’s always better to have too much than not enough, so enhance the backyard living experience with some additional pool furniture; for both serving and eating.


Sheryl Sollis
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Labor Day White Pool Party

labor-day-white-partyAs Labor Day is fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about one last pool party! Since it’s a fashion faux pas to wear white after Labor Day, what better time for an all white pool party?!

So gather up all your friends and get ready to transform your backyard. It’s time to throw the perfect Labor Day White Party!!

After you invite all your guests with the perfect all white invitations, the first thing you need to do is decorate. Make sure you have as much white as possible! Grab some white streamers and white (clear) Christmas lights, or floating Chill Lites (shown below).

white-pool-lightingYou can use white table cloths and chair covers, and even float a giant inflatable swan in the pool! This is also the perfect party to have candlelight from white candles in all shapes and sizes.

Don’t forget to hang some white pom poms and flowers around for an extra elegant touch, and make sure you have white plates, cups, and eating utensils!

Now for the food! There are so many possibilities for all white party foods, especially if you’re willing to be a bit creative! For the main dishes, why not try a white cheddar mac ‘n cheese, a chicken Alfredo pasta, or grilled scallops? For your sides, you could include things like white rice, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, and even white asparagus!

pina-coladaDrinks are a great way to add some fun to any pool party. For your guests who are over 21, there are so many adult beverages you can make. White Russians are a great choice! You can also offer white chocolate martinis, white wine, white sangria, and pina coladas. For your party goers who won’t be drinking alcohol, you can make non-alcoholic pina coladas or vanilla shakes- or milk and coconut water!

Desserts are always a really important part of any good party spread! Anything with white chocolate works for an “all white party”! You could have a white chocolate fountain with all kinds of sweet treats for dipping, like marshmallows, hunks of angel food cake, and bananas. You can also make white chocolate dipped pretzels or some white chocolate mousse, and don’t forget to make the white cookies and cupcakes with white cream cheese frosting!

white-flip-flopsWardrobe: Well, obviously you want to wear as much white as possible. Pull out some extra white shirts for guests who may have forgotten about the white rule. You could also supply white party hats or white flip flops for everyone. Another fun idea is a Toga Party and have your guests arrive wrapped in white!

Music sets the mood, and is a fun way to really develop a party theme. Make a playlist including all your favorites, like Barry White, Average White Band, Jack White, White Snake… well, you get the idea.

Now you’re off to a great start in planning your Labor Day White Party! Have fun!

Christine Silvestri
InTheSwim Staff Blogger


Pool Safety Covers Save 6 Ways

safety-cover-meycoIt’s that time of year again, folks. The summer is winding down. The kids are back to school, and it’s time to drag the pool cover out of the garage and prepare for pool closing.

A safety cover is an investment in your pool, which is another way to say something is expensive.

If you’ve ever thought about upgrading to a safety pool cover – did you know safety covers can actually save you money?

SAVE WATER: A mesh safety cover will save you money on refilling your pool at the beginning of the year. Since they are made of a highly durable mesh material, all of the snow that collects and then melts on the cover is collected into your pool, and it’s the same for rain water. The money saved by not adding 500 gallons per inch is a welcome sight and makes melting snow more enjoyable. Don’t think of it as snow, think of it as money sprinkling down from the sky, collecting on top of your mesh safety cover, melting down like liquid gold into your pool and back into your bank account where you can save it up – for a rainy day.

SAVE EFFORT: If you’ve ever pumped and dredged, scrubbed and clean, hung to dry and then folded and stored a solid, water bag type pool cover – you know why pool service companies charge upwards of $200 for the service. A safety pool cover is so fast and easy to remove, that service companies charge 75% less. This adds up to loads of money over 15 years time. After only a few years, a safety cover will have paid for itself in reduced effort, or from reduced service fees.

SAVE ACCESSORIES: Pool safety covers are so durable and hardy, you may not even spend $50 in replacement hardware over 15 years. A few anchors, maybe a replacement hex key. But solid covers – every year you need new water bags and every few years a new cover pump. If you bought just 2-3 water bags per year, and one cover pump every 5 years, you’d spend nearly $500 over 15 years time.

SAVE REPLACEMENTS: A mesh safety cover is a tough, durable and safe pool cover. Safety covers can last 4X longer than the best solid, floating pool covers. The average safety pool cover lasts 12 years; and some last years longer. You’d go through 3-5 solid pool covers during that same period, not to mention dozens of water bags and a few cover pumps. Sure, a solid pool cover is a quick fix and much easier on the wallet, but in the long term a safety cover is a better buy.

graffe-in-poolSAVE LIVES: Besides saving money, a pool safety cover saves lives and protects people and animals alike. If you are like me, and have an elephant roaming your backyard, but can’t quite afford a long-necked giraffe (safer around pools), it’s important to have a cover that won’t collapse when an animal or toddler runs across the pool cover.

Solid, floating pool covers are quite dangerous, and even if nearly dry, are unsafe for kids and animals to be around.

SAVE ENERGY: I know it’s fun to watch a hardworking cover pump blast water off the of a solid cover on a slightly warm day as the snow just begins to melt. If you imagine it as money being blasted out of your bank account dollar by dollar – it’s not quite as fun to watch. Cover pumps use electricity every time it discharges water from a solid pool cover. Sure, not a lot, but over the long term, little expenses add up, especially over 15 years time.

looploc-bubblesAside from the money saving aspects of a durable, dependable mesh safety cover, you cannot put a price on the peace of mind you will have knowing that your pool in the off-season is not a trap for your dogs, wild animals, or elephants.

Rest easy knowing that kids or grandchildren are safe no matter how carefree, clumsy, or even daring they maybe around the safety cover.

Once a pool safety cover is installed, it requires no extra effort in resetting or adjusting because it is rock solid and secure. A safety pool cover is the wise investment that ultimately pays for itself in just a few seasons of use.


Ryan Dornan
InTheSwim Staff Blogger