by Rob Cox, October 17, 2010
Leaves in the Pool ~ Heavy Duty leaf removal
If you have older trees surrounding your pool - you probably have the same love/hate relationship with them as I do. Pretty to look at, nice shade - but so messy around the pool. My trees started small of course, and I trim them regularly, but every autumn, the leaves always seem to fall a few days before I manage to get the pool cover on.
We have shown up to customer's pools many times to find over a foot thick carpet of leaves on the bottom, and a thick layer still floating on top. And with this many leaves, the water begins to resemble ice tea, making the cleaning effort more difficult.
In this article, we discuss ways to prevent leaves from entering the pool to begin with, methods to get them off the surface quickly before they sink, and best practices for dredging leaves from the bottom of the pool.
How to Keep Leaves out of the Pool
1. Use of a Leaf Net (not the skimmer type) laid over top of your pool during fall can keep the leaves out of the pool very effectively. Usually, leaf nets are used as a top cover for solid pool covers, to make leaf removal from your pool cover very easy, but they can also be used by themselves. Leaf Nets are held in place with a few heavy objects around the pool, or they can be hooked onto deck anchors. You can also connect thin rope or twine to the grommets on the edge of the leaf net, and tie these off on a fence or tent stakes off the pool deck.
2. Trim those trees! A major trim every 5 years, in addition to pruning every fall, will keep your work load down. Just yesterday, I was out using the Pool Pole Pruner on an oak tree and a walnut tree - and these aren't even surrounding the pool. By attaching the pole pruner to a regular pool pole, you can reach up and trim overhanging branches or palm fronds. My wife won't let me climb the trees anymore, so the pool pole pruner comes in real handy. Very sharp, it cuts through a 1" branch with about 5 minutes of saw time. Even good for reaching over the fence to cut your neighbor's poplar tree (Hi, Tom)!
3. Automatic Pool Covers really keep a pool clean. Maybe a dramatic fix for the problem, but auto covers will keep the leaves out of the pool! Cleaning the auto cover, certainly is easier than cleaning the pool.A technique is to pump most water off, then, as you roll up the cover, use a hose or a leaf blower to clean it as it comes out of the pool. Using a pool brush on a pole can help push the leaves and water to one area, where a leaf rake on a pole can scoop them out faster than having them spread over the entire cover.
Mesh pool covers can also keep a pool clean during fall, but require some effort to put on and off than do the automatic covers. You could just attach the corners, but remember that this may not be safe.
Solar blankets? Many people put these on during fall, but if you've ever had to clean one full of leaves, you may put it away earlier next year. Solar blankets don't usually come over the edge of the pool, and with rain or pool water on top, become hard to clean. In dry areas however, the Cover Catch accessory makes a helpful tool. A floating net, approximately 2'x4', the CoverCatch slides under the end of the solar blanket, and catches the leaves as you sweep off your solar blanket, to keep them from falling in the pool.
4. Hedges, fences and other windbreaks, set up to block the prevailing wind across the pool, can have a small effect. As part of the overall landscape design around the pool, if trees are called for, bushes and ground covers and decorative fencing can help keep the leaves up against a barrier and out of the pool.
How to Get Leaves off the Surface Quickly, Before they Sink
1. Reduce the suction from the main drain of the pool, so that the skimmers are pulling their strongest. If you have two Skimmers, you may also need to adjust the valves to equalize their suction. For example, open the far skimmer fully, while opening the near skimmer only 75%, to adjust for the closeness to the pool pump. Better skimmer action will keep the leaves from sinking to the floor.
2. Make sure that your skimmer weir is in place. Skimmer weirs really improve the speed of the water flowing into the skimmer, and when the pump shuts off, the skimmer weir floats to a vertical position, trapping leaves inside of the skimmer.
3. If you have a vinyl pool, using a skimmer diverter arm will help direct leaves into the skimmer basket. These must work, because they are such a good selling item.
4. Direct your return fittings so that there is a slight ripple on the surface, to keep the leaves moving. Arrange your eyeball fittings so that they both point in the same direction, to create a circular flow pattern around the pool. The slight ripple on the surface should fade as you get closer to the skimmer, or else you will speed up the surface too much, and the leaves will blow right past the skimmer opening.
5. If you have problems with broken skimmer baskets, from too many hard packed leaves, try the Skimpro cloggless skimmer basket. This innovative skimmer basket keeps the water flowing to the pump, which protects the pump and also keeps the skimmer skimming, even when the basket is full! The Skimpro also makes a nice handle for pulling the basket out of the skimmer.
6. Keep your water level mid tile, don't allow rain to raise the water level so much that the leaves have trouble entering the mouth of the skimmer.
How to Remove Leaves from the Pool
1. My favorite tool for removing leaves from the pool will always be a Leaf Rake. Not to be confused with a "dip & flip" type of flat skimmer net, the Leaf Rake has a bag or a deep pocket. This allows it to be used as a "drag bag" pulling it behind you, or push it across the floor and scoop up leaves from the floor. After practice with a leaf rake, one can become quite proficient in cleaning a pool. Even if a pool is dark green and filled with a foot deep layer of leaves - patience, a strong back and a good leaf rake can clean it in a few hours.
The technique is to feel the bottom with the leading edge of the leaf rake, slowly pushing forward not too fast, or bouncing slightly to create a very small current. When you reach the far point, a quick flip over of the net with a sharp pull towards you creates a counter current. Too much current created as you scoop will send leaves hurling toward the surface, but not enough and the leaves will come out of the bag. The leaf rake is also used in the same manner while removing heavy surface debris. Once around the edge of the pool fast, and then back and forth across the pool, as if you were mowing a lawn.
2. If lower back strength is not your strong point, the Swivel Skim has mounted two rope floats on a swiveling axis inside the supersized net. Popular with commercial pools, the Swivel Skim relieves you from holding the leaf rake level with the surface - and, also no spine twisting quick-flip needed when you reach the other side. Just push and pull the Swivel Skim.
3. Pool Blaster - a tool that attaches to a garden hose and your telescopic pool pole. It has a very large bag attached to the top, and the pressure from a garden hose sprays dozens of jets upward into the bag. This creates a venturi effect, and as the Pool Blaster rolls over leaves, the venturi current pulls them up into the bag. The greater the hose pressure is, the faster it will clean. A great tool in any leaf removal arsenal, the Pool Blaster is sometimes used with pool owners whose filter pump system is not large enough to vacuum with a standard hose and vacuum head.
4. In Line leaf trap. If your pump is large enough to vacuum manually, but you're tired of stopping every 5 minutes to clean out the pump basket, an in-line leaf strainer can be the answer. Attaches the incoming port to the end of the vacuum hose, and a short 3' piece of vac hose that attaches into the skimmer or vacuum port. The in-line leaf trap is very large, probably equal to 20 pump baskets full, and a real time saver. It can also be used with suction side automatic pool cleaners.