Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cleaning Pool Tiles

How frustrating is that white, hard water calcium line around the your otherwise clean and refreshing swimming pool?

I've scrubbed at my pool tiles with different types of cleaners over the years, and I've paid hundreds of dollars to have the tiles professionally cleaned, but that white hard-water line always comes back. My brother-in-law offered a suggestion of replacing all the blue tiles with white tiles, but that's not the solution I was after.

Instead I decided this year to talk with the folks at the local pool supply store, who recommended either a chemical bath product to soak in the pool (which I'm not thrilled about trying) or a synthetic pool stone to scrub with (creatively called Pool Stone.)

I decided to give the Pool Stone a try.

The stone itself is light - like a piece of styrofoam, but after it soaks in the pool for 20 minutes it becomes much heavier and harder - more like a pumice stone.

Unlike a pumice stone, though, this synthetic stone works wonders. Sometimes I pressed hard and scrubbed with attitude to aggressively clean a tile in about a minute. Other times (when I got tired) I would rub the stone without much pressure at all and it still managed to clean a tile, although it would take two or three times as long per tile.

I didn't take a "before" picture of my pool, honestly because I didn't expect this stone to work any better than anything else I tried, and I didn't expect this project to go so quickly and smoothly. But here is a picture of one section of the pool tile after I had scrubbed a handful of tiles:

Here is another section of the pool where the tiles are mostly done:

And finally, here is a side of the pool where all the tiles look blue again:

This is one of those DIY projects that isn't difficult at all, and which can save you a ton of money compared with having a professional do it for you. A few extra thoughts and tips regarding the process:

  • Slow and Steady - my pool has 186 tiles around the perimeter (if I counted correctly), so this wasn't something I could knock down in a day. I spent 20-30 minutes at a time over the course of a few weeks, cleaning 8-10 tiles in a session, before the whole pool was calcium line free.
  • Clean Completely - the big thick white line usually comes off in just a few seconds, but if you look closely you'll see a smaller, fainter line as well. Many of the tiles also had a faint line under the water line. Whenever I didn't clean the tile completely, these faint lines showed up the next day and stood out from the "clean" tiles. I learned quickly to clean the tile completely if I wanted to have shiny clean tiles.
  • Pool Stones wear away - I think I used up 5 Pool Stones during this project. At $10 each that's a chunk of change, but it's a fraction of the cost of a professional cleaning service.
  • Soak the Stone - the stone will wear out very fast if you use it before it's soaked full of water.
  • Maintenance - I'm going to buy a couple extra Pool Stones to have on hand; maybe I'll be proactive enough to scrub the tiles before they get really bad so I don't have to do this major clean up again in 2018.
  • Wear Gloves - I scrubbed the first two days with bare hands, and on the third day my thumb was worn just about raw. I wore work gloves for the rest of the project and didn't have any other problems.

And that's all there is to it.

I'd love to hear if you have a different / better way of keeping your pool tiles clean, of if you give this a try and it works for you too.

- Chris Butterworth