inflatable pools can be gross, so they should be cleaned after each use
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How To Properly Clean An Inflatable Pool

Because wow, they get gross super fast.

by Lindsay E. Mack and Caroline Hogeveen
Originally Published: 

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 clean an inflatable pool properly is crucial for keeping your kids safe and healthy all summer long — and if there’s one thing parents are hyper-vigilant about after the past couple years, it’s germs. Inflatable pools can become super nasty super fast, so it’s important to stay on top of it.

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 issues like stomach upset and pink eye, AKA things you definitely 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 (CDC) 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 pools 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.

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How to clean your inflatable pool

To begin cleaning your kiddie pool, dump or drain out all the water, then wipe it clean. Use soapy water or gentle dish detergent to cut through the all of the dirt and germs that have built up. Pro tip: Wear gloves while cleaning to protect your hands from any chemicals. Once you’re done scrubbing, thoroughly rise the pool with water to remove all the leftover soap or detergent and leave it out to dry in the sun for four hours, as Hlavsa instructs.

Keep in mind that the drying time of 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, 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.

How frequently should you clean an inflatable pool?

After your kids are done splashing for the day, complete the whole process: Drain the pool, wipe it clean, and let it completely dry in the sun for four hours. Yes, you read that right: every day that it’s used. You may already be cringing about the effect that will have on your water bill, but it’s an important step to keep your kids safe. 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.

If the pool is too large to empty daily, 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. You may even want to 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.

How to safely store 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 and pool floats 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 to 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

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