Photo: J&J Flawless Pools

Green to Clean

The ins and outs of making a pool sparkle again

The process of taking a pool from green to clean is an extremely marketable skill for pool service companies, using before-and-after images of black or green pools that have been restored to showcase what they’re capable of doing for potential customers. Promotional benefits aside, however, is this process worth it in terms of a company’s bottom line?

For John Chakalis, owner of J&J Flawless Pools in La Quinta, California, the answer is ‘yes’ for multiple reasons. For starters, it makes money. “We find that cost [for the customer] is rarely an issue when it comes to green-to-cleans,” Chakalis says. “Our average green-to-clean [charge is] around $500 with a minimum of $300.” But, Chakalis says, his company’s cost to clean is typically between $100 and $200.

Taking a customer’s pool from green to clean can also be a gateway into additional business. “It’s a great feeling to be able to save a customer’s pool,” Chakalis says. “One of the first things we ask our clients at the initial estimate is ‘How did we get to this point?’ The last thing we cover with the client is how to prevent this from happening again. Almost always, the end result is a new service account and/or repairs.”

Ashley Webb, owner of Webb Pool and Spa in Ramona, California, echoed Chakalis’ sentiments about promoting self-care for their customers on this matter. “We probably do about 10 green-to-clean jobs a year,” Webb says. “We like to encourage our retail customers to do it themselves and give them the steps to achieve the same results. For the customers who choose to do it themselves, it will usually cost them around $75. If we do the clean up, we charge the customer roughly $200 to $300, depending on the severity of the pool.”

Additionally, Webb says her team shows customers that draining their pool is not always necessary to get the water looking clean again. But a lot depends on the severity of the issue.

“If the pool has been green over a month and the customer has white plaster, we like to use 99% trichlor,” Webb says. “We turn off the pump, sprinkle a few pounds throughout the pool and let it sit 24 hours.” From there, they scoop debris, turn on the pump for 24 hours and keep a close eye on the cleanliness of the filter.

If the pool has only been green a week or two, Webb uses Swimtrine Plus by Applied Biochemists, which requires 15 ounces per 20,000 gallons, plus a gallon of liquid chlorine and running the pump for 24 hours. Webb says pools are usually clear after those 24 hours; filter clean and possible addition of a clarifier wraps up the job.

Chakalis says J&J Flawless Pools uses a four-group classification system to determine the severity of green pools (see sidebar). Chakalis agrees that one 24-hour period is appropriate for dealing with a pool that is not too far gone. For the more severe cases, he has a structured approach, monitoring pH levels and going about a specific order of operations for chemical usage.

Photo: J&J Flawless Pools

Chakalis suggests multiple pool cleanings to ensure the filter is clean. After cleaning the filter and inspecting it for issues, he tests the water, looking for a pH between 7.4 and 7.6. After brushing the entire pool, Chakalis verifies that the chlorine is less than 2ppm. This is followed by the addition of 2 pounds of Green to Clean from Coral Seas per 15,000 gallons of pool water. After five minutes, he adds 1.5 gallons of liquid chlorine per pound of Green to Clean product used. From there, the 24-hour wait starts and Chakalis will add chlorine again as needed. He says vacuuming dead algae is often necessary as well.

Specific chemicals, processes and price points vary from company to company. For Brad Williams, owner-operator of Spartan Pool Service in Orange County, California, there is usually two to six hours of labor involved. “[The green-to-clean process is] definitely worth the time as it’s not that labor intensive,” he says. “The chlorine and filter will do almost all the work — you just need to add it and clean it.”

Williams says Spartan Pool Service typically spends $30 to $50 on materials with costs to the homeowner between $400 and $1,000. He says it takes 24 to 72 hours for the pools to clear up, depending on severity.

For chemicals, Williams over chlorinates with liquid chlorine — one to three cases depending on pool size (between 5,000 and 30,000 gallons). “For the really difficult ones that don’t clear up in a day or two, I use an algaecide like Blueray XL,” Williams says. Chakalis also uses Blueray XL, as well as PoolRX, the aforementioned Green to Clean from Coral Seas and the LaMotte WaterLink Spin Touch for water testing.

Routine, preventative maintenance is essential when it comes to the green-to-clean conversation. “The bottom line is that well-maintained pools with properly functioning equipment do not turn green,” Chakalis says.


J&J Flawless Pools’ Green-to-Clean Classification Process

G1
A pool that is just starting to develop some cloudiness and a green tint, but the pool light and the drain at the bottom of the deep end are still visible. A G1 pool can usually be fixed in 24 hours (assuming equipment is functioning correctly).
Time: 24 hours
Process: Teardown filter, clean and inspect for worn cartridges, tears in grids, broken manifolds, etc. Test water, drop pH to between 7.2 and 7.4 and brush the entire pool. Next, depending on the size of the pool, we use anywhere from two to four gallons of liquid chlorine and add a mineral treatment like PoolRX or Blueray XL. Set pump to run for 24 hours. Come back the next day to check progress. If clear, test and balance the water.

G2
A pool that has recently turned green and cloudy with visible algae blooms on the floor and walls. The pool light is still visible, but the main drain is much harder to see.
Time: 24 to 48 hours
Process: Tear down filter, clean and inspect for worn cartridges, tears in grids, broken manifolds, etc. Test water, correct pH to between 7.4 and 7.6. Brush the entire pool. Verify pool has less than 2ppm chlorine and add 2-pounds of Green to Clean from Coral Seas per 15,000 gallons of pool water. Wait five minutes and add 1.5 gallons of liquid chlorine per pound of Green to Clean used. Set pump to run for 24 hours.  Return in 12 and 24 hours to repeat chlorine dose.

G3
A pool that has been green for a while, water is very murky, pool light fixture is barely visible, but the bottom of the pool is not. 
Time: 3 to 5 days
Process: Repeat G2 cleaning process. These pools will have a lot of dead algae that will need to be removed. If possible, vacuum dead algae to waste, backwash and breakdown filter again for a cleaning. Having clean filters is critical, so multiple cleanings are needed to be successful and to speed up the process. Maintain a minimum of 10ppm chlorine and keep pH between 7.2 and 7.6.

G4
A pool that is green or black and has been neglected for quite some time. Neither the light nor the bottom of the pool is visible. It’s basically a pond with a very thick algae coating and debris throughout. A lot of these pools have been flagged by the city and/or visited by Mosquito & Vector Control. 
Time: 2 days
Process: At this point, we find its best to drain, clean and perform a chlorine and acid wash.

“After all successful green to cleans, we do a complete water analysis to find out if there was an underlying cause that contributed to the pool turning aside from neglect. We drop-in a PoolRX or Blueray XL, educate the customer, offer solutions and balance the water to LSI.”

— John Chakalis, owner

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