In the words of Jack Beane, owner of Jack's Magic products, "there are two types of pools, those that are stained, and those that are going to stain". However, while maintaining a stain-free pool is difficult, it's not impossible.
We'll discuss some ways to prevent stains at the end of this post, but for now, let's look at the types of stains that occur in vinyl liner pools, and how you can identify the stain type. Knowing what causes a pool stain is very helpful in selecting the best stain treatment method.
Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?
In the words of Zach Livingstone, your humble author, "there are three types of pool stains, Animal, Vegetable or Mineral".
Animal Stains: Most commonly worm stains, but also includes insects or the unfortunate demise of a small wood creature which has sunk to the bottom, or come to rest on a step. Algae blooms can sometimes leave behind a residue or faded marks where they once were.
Vegetable Stains: Leaves, sticks, dirt and oils. When these fall into the pool and aren't promptly removed, they begin to leach their tannins as they start to decompose. This is especially noticeable after spring opening, or if you have an area of the pool with poor circulation that accumulates debris or dirt.
Mineral Stains: Non-metallic minerals such as calcium and others that make up your hardness test, can come out of solution, mix with dirt and deposit on pool surfaces as a stain. Metals such as iron and copper, also considered minerals. or metallic minerals, can stain any pool, in a rainbow of colors.
Jack's Magic Stain ID Kit
Jack's Magic produces a line of stain removal chemicals for pools, that are quite magical - if you use the right treatment for the stain. To help customers select the right product, the Stain ID Kit includes 1 oz. sample pouches of 4 different pool stain removers.
Step One: Balance the Water Chemistry. The Stain ID Kit won't work properly if the water is not balanced to these exact parameters. If CYA or CH is higher than the maximum, drain a portion of the pool and refill with fresh water.
Step Two: Shut Off the Pump and allow the water to become still.
Step Three: Sprinkle the contents of stain pouch #1 over a stained area, allow to sit for 45 seconds, then brush away. Repeat with the other 3 stain pouches, in different but similarly stained areas.
Step Four: Decide which of the four treatments yielded the best results, then purchase a bottle or two of that Jack's Magic product for treating your pool stains.
TIPS for SUCCESS with the STAIN ID KIT:
- The water temperature should be at least 70 degrees for best results.
- Test your water and adjust to the chemical levels listed in the chart above.
- Use the stain testing chemicals in shallow water areas if possible. For stains on a vertical wall or deep end area, pour each pouch into a piece of ladies hosiery or cheese cloth and hold it over a stained area with your pool brush for 45 seconds. Repeat for the other test pouches.
- If the stain is only lightened, or partially removed, you may need more than one stain treatment.
- If none of the pouches produced any visible stain removal, use Jack's Magic Blue Stuff for Vinyl Liners for several weeks, and test again, with another Stain ID Kit.
Zach's Magic Stain Identification
Not a real system or kit that you can buy, but here's some similar ways to to test different stain treatments in a vinyl pool, without worry about harming the vinyl liner.
Step One: Clean the Pool. Vacuum, skim, brush - run the pool cleaner, to remove all forms of vegetative matter.
Step Two: Balance the Water. Just like Jack's method, it's very important to balance the water, to the same parameters listed in the chart above. In many cases, simply balancing the water can lighten or remove stains.
Step Three: Shock the Pool. With chlorine pool shock, or non-chlorine shock. Try the shock you normally use. If that fails, try the other type. For vinyl pools, be sure to pre-dissolve chlorine shock by pouring it into a bucket full of water, stirring for several minutes, and then pouring around the inside edge of the pool.
Step Four: Make a Stain Sock. If you still have pool stains after steps 1-3, pour in a granular stain remover for vinyl pools, like our EZ Stain Remover into the pool, following label instructions. For spots or isolated stains, pour into a tube sock or hosiery, and move it around to each stain, allowing it to sit over the stain for a minute or less.
Step Five: Rub with Vitamin C tablet. If the ascorbic acid in Vitamin C removes your stain, treat the pool with Stain Free, a granular form of Ascorbic Acid that works wonders on many types of vinyl pool stains. Rubbing with a Stain Eraser for Vinyl Pools is useful for isolated stains, or waterline marks or 'bathtub rings'.
Step Six: You still have stains? Like Jack's method, if all else fails, use a sequestering agent like Metal Free or Jack's Blue Stuff. Unlike cheaper chemicals, these two add no phosphates to the pool, and after several weeks, increases the size of most metal ions to a point where it can be removed by your pool filter. Another great method for metal staining is the CuLator pouches, which absorb and trap metallic minerals in a disposable, biodegradable pouch that you drop in the skimmer.
Preventing Vinyl Liner Pool Stains
Knowing what type of stain you have in your vinyl pool goes a long way to preventing future stains - so back to my original question - is it Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?
Organic stains from small animals, leaves and oils can be controlled with a good fitting winter cover and using enzymes during winter, and keeping the pool clean during summer.
Mineral and metal stains are best controlled by powerful sequestrants that will keep the minerals tied up in solution, until the particle size enlarges enough to be filtered out.
SPP Pool Expert