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Having a pool is a great way to keep cool during hot summer months, but large pools – whether in-ground or above – can be expensive to install and a hassle to keep up. This is especially true for families with young children for whom time is already often in short supply.
A popular alternative is a “kiddie” or toddler wading pool – a fairly inexpensive temporary pool that you put in your yard for the summer, then usually get rid of or store away during colder months. Check out our ultimate kiddie pool setup guide.
These pools can be great fun for the kids, but many parents get frustrated when the water gets dirty and the kids stop playing.
You may be surprised to know that there are quite a few ways that you can keep kiddie pools clean.
The following is a guide to keeping your kiddie pool clean and ready for hours of wrinkly-fingers-and-toes-fun.
How To Keep A Kiddie Pool Clean
Keep the kiddie pool covered
The first in how to keep a kiddie pool clean is having a kiddie pool cover.
Just like a full-sized pool, a cover can really help in keeping leaves, bugs, bees, and other debris out of your kiddie pool. If you have a small kiddie pool, then you can use a camping style tarp to cover the pool. Don’t forget to use some bricks or pavers to weigh the tarp down so that it does not blow away.
If you’ve read our reviews, you know we recommend the Intex Inflatable Kiddie Pool as our top pick. One reason that we choose this as our recommendation is that Intex also makes a custom fitted cover for this pool which fits perfectly and attaches securely.
Related: The Best Kiddie Pools You Can Buy
Use chlorine to keep the kiddie pool water clear
You may be surprised to know that you can use chlorine (in small amounts) to fight bacteria and algae in your kiddie pool. Chlorine is a natural chemical element. It is one of the most potent elements we have to destroy and deactivate infections, viruses, and other illness-causing bacteria, according to the American Chemistry Council. We’ve been using it for over 150 years, and it’s one of the only things that can be used to fight things like E. Coli and Salmonella.
Clorox makes small chlorine tabs that are meant for a spa tub or small pools. They are 1″ chlorine tabs and they also work great for small kiddie pools. These should only be used in pools that hold 100 or more gallons of water.
You should use one tablet per week for a kiddie pool of 200 gallons or less, and two tablets weekly for kiddie pools of over 200 gallons.
An additional benefit of using chlorine in the kiddie pool is to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the pool.
The correct way to use these chlorine tabs in your kiddie pool is to use a chlorine float dispenser. The dispenser below will hold one or two tablets and you simply let it float in the pool when the kids are not using it. Do NOT just throw the tablets directly into the pool.
Keep the kiddie pool free from floating debris
One easy way to ensure the kiddie pool water stays clean is to remove the floating debris like bugs, leaves, and other dirt. Simply use a handheld net each day to remove the debris.
Regularly clean debris from the bottom of the kiddie pool
We took care of the floating debris with the net above, but eventually, there will be debris accumulated on the bottom of the kiddie pool. You can try using the net to clean the bottom, but it is likely that it will not completely suffice.
We found this really awesome mini pool vacuum that works great for kiddie pools. We suggest using this weekly (if using the pool cover) or more often (if you are not using a pool cover).
Keep sunscreen build up off the sides
What do you do right before the kids head outside to the kiddie pool? Cover them in sunscreen of course!
The damage caused to our skin from the sun is well documented, so using the best sunscreen is important. No matter what sunscreen you use, you will surely see a film of oil on the top of the water surface soon after the kids enter the pool.
There is nothing inherently bad about this, but over time you will see a build-up of this sunscreen oils on the sides of the pool.
There are two ways to combat this build-up. You can either scrub it off when you are draining the pool, or prevent the build-up in the first place. To prevent the build-up, we recommend the “Scum Ball”!
Make sure the kids are clean before entering the pool
Another way how to keep a kiddie pool clean is to first make sure the kids are clean!
The CDC says that one of the most beneficial ways to reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria is to wash your kids off BEFORE they swim.
Years ago, summer camps and public pools would have a shower room you had to walk through to get to the pool. These rooms rinsed you off before you got in, which helped reduced the spread of many germs.
Now, showering before entering is almost always optional, but it’s a great idea if you’re swimming with other families to hose kids down with a light body wash before they hop in the pool.
Drain the kiddie pool and scrub it down when necessary
Sometimes when attempting to keep your kiddie pool clean you will just simply need to drain the pool, clean it thoroughly, and re-fill it.
This makes it especially important to choose a kiddie pool with a built-in drain. Without a drain, you need to find a way to dump the water, or even worse, bucket it out!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Kiddie Pools Need Cleaning?
Many people fill their kiddie pools with water from a backyard hose and call it a day – which, we might add, is a perfectly fine start. Actually, many towns and cities include ingestible amounts of chlorine and other chemicals in their water supply as a way to keep citizens healthier. If you have well water, you may already know exactly what is in your water.
No matter your water content, though, once little human bodies enter the equation, all bets are off because although kids are adorable they are also tiny hotbeds of germs. At any given time, they may be carrying a virus in its incubation stage. They can unwittingly pick up viruses or colds virtually anywhere – the grocery store, daycare, the park – and whatever is on your child before they get in the pool goes into the water.
Most kiddie pools do not have a filter or circulation system and that means it is a body of standing water just waiting for debris, bacteria, and algae to find its way in.
So don’t fill the pool and forget it! Although a small pool is still considerably less work than a large pool, you should do a little more upkeep to be sure your kids stay healthy.
Can I use bleach in a kiddie pool?
The short answer is YES, you can use bleach to help keep your kiddie pool clean. We recommend using very basic bleach. Be careful when using the Clorox brand, as many now contain additives such as scents. Use generic bleach or Clorox Regular Bleach. Use 1/8 cup for every 100 gallons in your kiddie pool.
How do I get rid of Algae in a kiddie pool?
There are a few ways to try to rid your kiddie pool of algae using chemicals. However, we recommend simply draining and cleaning the pool which can be easier than fooling with the chemicals.
Drain the pool, then create a cleaning mixture of 5 parts water and 1 part bleach to scrub the pool. Allow the pool to dry completely before re-filling.
How do I keep a kiddie pool clean without chemicals?
If you simply do not want to use chemicals to keep your kiddie pool clean, there is an alternative. Rather than chlorine, use Distilled White Vinegar.
Add 1/2 Cup for every 100 gallons of water in your pool.
*Important: If you choose to use this method to keep your pool clean, then it is important to note that Vinegar is a known weed killer. If you drain your pool in your grass, expect your grass to yellow severely. Alternatively, drain the pool in the driveway.
How long can you keep water in a kiddie pool?
If you use the advice given in our guide, using a chlorine float and keeping the pool covered from debris then we recommend changing the water every 3-4 weeks.
If you do not use our advice, then you will likely need to change the pool water every few days.
How can I test the water in my kiddie pool?
You can use the same types of test kits/strips that are used for larger pools. Here are some inexpensive test strips that test everything you need.
OK, So What is The Scoop on Poop (in the Pool)
1 out of 4 adults say that they’d go swimming even if they have diarrhea, according to this survey. It’s pretty certain that if those adults have kids, they’d go swimming if sick, too.
If you or your child have any diarrhea, the answer to that question needs to be no.
Swim diapers are made to keep solid waste in while not soaking up all the water in the pool. However, they do not keep bacteria from poop from getting into the water, whether the poop is of the normal variety or filled with a virus or bad bacteria. The only thing that works well for containing that mess is covering a swim diaper with tight-fitting plastic underwear.
In the case of an “accident” in the kiddie pool, the only solution is to drain and clean the pool.
Before You Buy Your Kiddie Pool
Make this your new habit: when you buy your pool, buy the supplies you’ll need to keep it clean.
We hope this guide was useful in keeping your kiddie pool clean.
Photo by larrywkoester