Inflatable kiddie pools are one of the highlights of summer play for many a kid (and some parents who are proudly still kids at heart). Who needs a full-sized pool when you’ve got a personal-sized one shaped like a pineapple? No matter how fun the backyard pool party is, however, I dread the moment it’s over and I’m tasked with draining and cleaning that bad boy. Knowing how to properly clean an inflatable pool is crucial for keeping your kids safe and healthy all summer long — and if there’s one thing parents are hyper-vigilant about after this past year, it’s germs. Inflatable pools can become super nasty super fast, so it’s important to stay on top of things.
To be clear, inflatable pools can harbor some serious bacteria. In fact, everything from E.coli to the Shigella bacteria can lurk in the kiddie pool. Dirty pool water can cause anything from stomach upset to pink eye, AKA things you don't want your kid catching during playtime. “The issue is that there’s a lot less chlorine in the water we drink versus what we see in [larger, chlorinated] pools,” Michele Hlavsa, R.N., M.P.H., chief of the Center for Disease Control’s Healthy Swimming Program, tells Romper. A large pool at your school or gym is going to have water that’s carefully treated to be safe and sanitary even with tons of different people swimming in it. The little backyard pool you fill up with water from the hose, however, is not going to have the same amount of chlorine or filtration.
The solution, however, is not dropping a little chlorine into your mini pool. The CDC is unable to give an exact amount recommendation because they vary so much in shape and size, and there are dangers that come with adding too much chlorine to the water, explains Hlavsa. With that in mind, your best bet is to thoroughly clean the pool with care after every single use, and monitor your kid’s pool time.
Cleaning Your Inflatable Pool
After your kids are done splashing for the day, drain the pool, wipe it clean, and let it completely dry in the sun for four hours, instructs Hlavsa. You may already be cringing about the effect that will have on your water bill, but it’s an important step. If left out for several hours or even days, the pool water basically becomes a stagnant pond. Additionally, whatever germs were on your kids or in the tap water will still be there for the next play session.
Keep in mind that the drying time, four hours, is not arbitrary. Four hours is about the amount of time in the sun it takes to kill Crypto, the germ most often responsible for causing diarrhea outbreaks on the water. To help prevent the growth of slippery, slimy algae or mildew in the pool as well, thoroughly wipe it down with a dry towel as well. Getting rid of all the moisture is a big part of keeping the pool clean and pristine for the next swim session.
If the pool is too large to empty daily, then you'll want to do a little more work to keep it clean. Any pool of this size requires filters and disinfection systems, according to the CDC. Because appropriate chlorine levels can be difficult to determine for these smaller pools, follow the manufacturer's directions for sanitation. Even consider reaching out to your local pool experts for advice about keeping your medium-sized pool sanitary. And if the water ever becomes seriously cloudy, dirty, or otherwise questionable, don't hesitate to dump it, sanitize, and refill.
In addition to the filtration and possible chlorination, large pools require even more traditional cleaning practices. A skim net on a pole can remove leaves and other debris — these things are pretty much drawn to pool water like a magnet — from the surface. You might even consider investing in a pool cover to keep more leaves, bugs, and anything else out of your pool, as recommended by Top Cleaning Secrets.
Safely Storing Your Inflatable Pool
It’s important not to fold and tuck away your inflatable pool until it’s been thoroughly wiped down and dried for four hours in the sunlight. Once you’ve confirmed that it’s completely dry, you can easily store it in the short-term by putting it in a clean trash bin, bag, or hanging it on a hook. If you’re using it frequently, it’s OK to just plop it on a garage shelf.
When the summer has come to an end and it’s time to put your inflatable pool into storage until next year, however, you’ll want to be a little more meticulous with your storage method. After thoroughly rinsing off and drying your pool, place it in a sealed, plastic container or airtight bag that will keep out bugs and other critters. Stow it away in an enclosed and dry space — a shelf in the garage, a corner of the backyard shed, or anywhere that it’ll be protected from the elements.
When summer rolls back around and it’s time to break your pool back out, examine it thoroughly while you unpack it. While a sealed container should keep it in good condition, you may want to hose it off before the first use to remove any dust, grime, or even a rogue spider (shudder). If there are any signs of mold or damage, it’s unfortunately time to retire that kiddie pool and invest in a new one.
Keeping your inflatable pool clean requires a bit of extra time and effort, but it’s worth it to keep your kids healthy and smiling. By following the proper steps for cleaning, drying, and storing, any size kiddie pool can be kept in clean working order all summer long.
Michele Hlavsa, registered nurse, chief of the Center for Disease Control’s Healthy Swimming Program
Edit note: This post was originally published on July 6, 2018. It was updated on September 10, 2019.
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