If you have spent most of your career working exclusively on
concrete pools, it’s crucial to learn about the distinct
differences between vinyl and concrete before accepting maintenance
jobs that involve package pools. Following is a closer look at the
care and maintenance of vinyl-liner pools.
One of the biggest differences between vinyl-liner pools and
plaster pools is how sensitive they are to sanitizers and other
chemicals. Vinyl-liner pools can be much less forgiving when it
comes to water care than plaster or pebble aggregate finishes. So
it’s important for the water chemistry variables to be
regularly maintained within the recommended levels.
Some experts warn that if there is anything under the recommended
ranges — particularly calcium, pH and alkalinity — the
water can become corrosive and destroy copper. If it’s over
the proper ranges, scale formation can ensue.
|Total alkalinity||100-150 ppm|
|Calcium hardness||200-300 ppm|
|Cyanuric acid||30-100 ppm|
|Free chlorine||1-4 ppm|
With vinyl-liner pools, you have to be more particular about the
chemicals you use. Many techs say that chlorine gas should never be
applied in these pools because it will lower the pH.
Others also avoid liquid chlorine, or sodium hypochlorite —
because it can concentrate and bleach the liner if the product
isn’t broadcast evenly throughout the pool.
Instead, they’ll opt for calcium hypochlorite. If you use cal
hypo, though, first mix the powder well with water, broadcast it in
the deeper end and be sure to brush the walls and floor afterward
so nothing settles or clings to the surfaces. This should reduce
the risk of the liner fading.
Others suggest placing the cal hypo in the skimmer to ensure even
dispersal, though some warn that this may send too much
concentrated sanitizer directly into the plumbing and equipment,
which can damage them.
If the source water is high in calcium, techs recommend avoiding
cal hypo and calcium-related products altogether. Why? Calcium will
calcify the walls and cause the total alkalinity (TA) to
In such cases, liquid bleach would be a good alternative, as long
as it’s distributed evenly throughout the pool while the
circulation system is on.
The use of stabilized chlorine products in vinyl-liner pools is
something experts still debate. Some techs say they use them
without repercussions, while others warn that these chemicals can
harm the liner.
Trichlor, however, probably won’t be strong enough to get the
job done if problems such as algae develop. And, be warned that
trichlor floaters can bleach the liner if allowed to sit in one
place for too long. Also, if your total alkalinity is already low,
don’t use trichlor tablets because they have an acid base,
which will force the TA level even lower.
For customers seeking an alternative sanitizer for package pools,
biguanides work particularly well, though they can be
Using the right kind of sanitizers and chemicals is all well and
good, but if you don’t keep the water balanced and all
variables in the proper ranges, you can still harm the liner.
The recommended chemical parameters for vinyl-liner pools come in
an array of ranges. The chart above shows a compilation of some of
the most common ones.
When levels drift from these recommended ranges, the liner can be
affected, depending on which direction the levels turn.
For instance, when the total alkalinity goes too far out of range,
techs warn that the liner begins to break down and can lose its
And while industry standards allow for a chlorine range of 1- to 4
ppm, some techs recommend keeping it as close to “1” as
possible to avoid bleaching the liner.
The shocking truth
If service techs need to pay close attention to which chemicals
they put into vinyl-liner pools, then it would follow that shocking
the water in such vessels could be a dicey proposition. However,
techs say that if you use the right products, it’s no more
difficult than shocking the water in any other kind of pool.
For superchlorinating (aka shocking) vinyl-liner pools, nothing
beats lithium chlorite, say veteran technicians. The advantages are
that it won’t bleach the liner as readily or calcify its
walls. Lithium hypochlorite probably would be the choice of
vinyl-liner pool techs for their day-to-day sanitation chores if
its high price didn’t make it cost-prohibitive.
If you choose to use lithium chlorite for shocking, mix the powder
into a slurry and distribute it via the skimmer basket for even
circulation throughout the pool.
Before shocking the pool, keep in mind the chemicals you have
recently put into the water. Certain combinations of chemicals
that, individually, will have no effect can cause bleaching if the
concentration is allowed to remain high in the vicinity of the
liner, techs warn. You should allow the chemicals to disperse
throughout the pool through the circulation system after adding the
Dirt and grime that accumulate at the waterline also can play a
major role in shortening the life of a liner. Similar to a
“bathtub ring,” the phenomenon usually is caused by
airborne debris mixing with body and suntan oils and other
organics, and collecting on the liner. It’s then baked in by
the sun, which can cause the vinyl to dry and crack prematurely,
especially in the area of the pool where sunlight appears the
brightest and longest.
Care must be taken to wipe down the waterline on a regular basis.
Use a plain sponge or one in conjunction with a recommended vinyl
cleaner to stave off dirt and grime buildup.
Be careful what you use to wipe down the walls. A soft sponge is
recommended. Anything abrasive can cause a problem with the liner.
You can rub the pattern right off.
In addition, the technique you use when wiping down the liner is
important. Don’t be overly aggressive. If you rub too
vigorously, you can move the liner back and forth. Sand can work
its way right through the liner. Some techs say that if the
buildup is so bad that you must rub it hard, maybe you just
need to replace the liner.
If grime has accumulated, it’s important to use only cleaners
approved by the manufacturer for use on vinyl. Never use
petroleum-based products because they can rapidly deteriorate
vinyl. If you decide to go with a vinyl cleaner, though, test it in
the pool first. Do it in an inconspicuous area to ensure there are
Regular brushing is recommended to keep excessive chlorine from
clinging to the walls and fading the liner pattern, experts
Once the waterline is clean, it’s a good idea to add a layer
of protection. Many products that are not petroleum or
alcohol-based are available. They will protect the liner from
Try not to drain the pool unless you’re planning to do some
major repairs or refitting. But if you find that some draining is
unavoidable, do not lower the water less than 1 foot in the shallow
end. If water pressure is removed from the liner, even for a short
time, it could shrink and become unsightly, or possibly tear around
the fittings and in the corners.
When it comes to cleaning equipment (brushes, vacuums and even
automatic cleaners), be sure to choose those suited to vinyl-liner
pools. Every implement that is made for cleaning swimming pools is
also made in a vinyl-liner form. As long as you use the implements
made for that type of pool, you should never have a problem. For
example, a gunite pool brush has square edges while a package-pool
brush will have upturned, rounded edges.
If the pool has an automatic cleaner, or the homeowner is in the
market for one, be sure it’s a brand designed for use in
Use a vinyl-liner vacuum, one that has brushes instead of wheels.
While the liners are surprisingly durable, you still want to be
careful, especially in the corners.
One final tip to help your brushing and stain-fighting regimen:
Keep the water level as high as possible. That way, there will only
be 2- or 3 inches of exposed vinyl that you’ll have to keep