Inflatable kiddie pools are one of the highlights of summer play for many a kid. Seriously, what's better than a personal-sized pool you can splash in at any time? But knowing how to clean an inflatable pool is important for keeping your kids safe. These fun summertime toys can become super nasty, super fast, and potentially make your kids sick.
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,” as 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. It’s hard for the CDC to say how much chlorine to put in these inflatable pools, however, because they all vary so much in shape and size, and then there’s the danger of adding too much chlorine to the water, explains Hlavsa. With that in mind, your best bet is to clean the pool with care after every use, and monitor your kid’s pool time.
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, explains Hlavsa. I know that’s probably making you cringe about the 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. And whatever germs were on your kids or in the tap water will still be there for the next play session. Also, the drying time 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. With a little time and effort, any size of 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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